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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sorry. (Plus: The laptop rant)

There was no posting yesterday. I'll try to have something political up later today.

It's computer-fixin' time. My own system is not down, thank god. But a nasty old problem has nearly killed my ladyfriend's laptop computer, and now I'm trying to squeeze a few more months of life out of the thing.

Time for a minor rant: Laptops. Don't like 'em.

If more people understood how a hard drive works -- how inherently frail the thing is -- they'd treat their laptops and netbooks very differently. Have you ever seen the guts of a hard drive? The things are delicate. Imagine a bungee cord for an elephant woven out of butterfly wings. How can something so fragile do such a tough job? You should be perpetually amazed that your drives work at all, even when they are kept cool and immobile.

Whenever my lady's laptop would do something to piss her off, she would bang on it -- literally whack it. This is, of course, a very human reaction. But now her hard drive is acting like it has bad sectors. Well, file that one under D for Duh.

We've rescued the data; the problem now is getting a freshly-installed OS to stay alive for more than an hour or so. (That's a big problem with laptops: Having your programs and your data on the same drive is barbaric.) I've told her that from now on, she must vent her anger in other ways. If she wants to take a rifle up to a university bell tower, who am I to judge? But under no circumstances is she to strike another computer for any reason. Better she should hit me; I'm not so delicate.

I wish there was an alternative to CHKDSK and Spinrite for finding and repairing bad sectors. The problem with Spinrite is that it tries to save the data, while I just want the nasty parts of the disk marked "no go" so I can do a fresh install. As I said: All we need another three months. Please, digital deities. Hear my prayer.

Y'know what else I don't like about laptops? If I spill soda on my keyboard, I just buy a new keyboard for ten or twenty bucks. (I like 'em small and cheap.) But if you spill anything on a laptop keyboard, it's a different story.

Same thing with the screen. A laptop screen is replaceable, but the job's not easy. Also, I'm a two-monitor kind of guy. Even if monitor #2 is an old CRT found by the side of the road, it's better to have that second monitor than not to have it.

Don't get me started on the issue of heat management. Right now, they're selling laptop systems with quad-core cpus from AMD. Well, jeez, I wouldn't run a thing like that without a big ass cpu fan and a big ass heat sink and two big, big ass case fans.

Sorry, but 'puters simply are not meant to be portable. Maybe when SSD drives are cheaper, but not now. Besides, how can you trust any system you did not assemble yourself?
You have said a lot of hateful or controversial things, but his takes the cake!

I only use laptops. Nothing, but laptops! I throw mine in the back seat because it's easier than placing it there gently. Even now, my laptop is is vibrating violently to the angry tap of its keys.

I don't blame you for hating laptops - and the final sentence - "how can you trust any system you did not assemble yourself" - perfectly echoes my feelings on the matter. My desktop PC was initially assembled in 2003, running XP. Just in the past few months have a begun considering building a new one from scratch. Computers aren't supposed to last for nearly a decade, I've been told. Most store-bought computers don't, namely because of all the crap which is on them (assuming no operator abuse).

Portability is why I use a laptop for my live performances. It would take too much manpower to package up a full desktop and unload it onto a stage with my other equipment. However, in the time I've had my desktop I've already had to replace the laptop I originally used for shows. Despite treating it nicely, it simply died after a couple of years. As for the new one, I spent four hours the day I got it just clearing off all of the garbage which was pre-installed on the hard drive.

Give me a nice sturdy desktop I put together myself any day. And when I have to use a laptop, it gets bolted in on a proper musician's stand or placed on a table. Never have I placed a laptop in my lap.
I don't blame you for hating laptops - and the final sentence - "how can you trust any system you did not assemble yourself" - perfectly echoes my feelings on the matter.

I used to skydive. I would not jump any chute I had packed.
I read this post and mulled it over for a couple days before writing this...

I've traditionally been a desktop user, but bought a new laptop last spring. While I understand the criticisms leveled here against laptops, and cannot necessarily disagree with them. I see things from both sides.

One of the primary reasons I wanted a laptop was I had recently purchased an HDTV. I get all my digital media needs satisfied for free through the internet, and needed a reliable playback device that could interface with the TV. The WDTV I had purchased left me wanting due to audio/video codec support problems. The laptop naturally has no problems whatsoever since it opens media with VLC.

Generally I'm very pleased with the laptop - my "ladyfriend" also got one this spring, and runs it 98% of the time as a replacement for her desktop: monitor-out to the LCD monitor previously used for the desktop, headphone out for speakers, wireless USB keyboard and mouse, and her machine normally sits on a computer desk, lid down. Since the most important thing for me is a readily available computer, I typically use her machine as a matter of convenience to surf the net and the like.

On the other hand... I had a hard drive failure maybe 6 months into ownership my of machine. I moved it from a countertop to a table whilst the hard drive was being read, jarred the HDD and caused utter failure. The manufacturer (Asus, which I would recommend) serviced the machine for free - that time. When I experienced a subsequent software failure, I was told they'd already given me one free servicing and I would have to pay for a second. I wiped the drive, re-installed Win7, downloaded the necessary drivers and off I went.

So... first, don't slap a piece of electronics when it isn't working. Ever. It doesn't help, except to make you feel better... until the next time there's a problem, which is now YOUR fault for slapping it around - no one to blame but yourself.

Second, I think that with a modicum of understanding a laptop can be preferable to a desktop - particularly if it travels rarely, is moved only when it's turned off or the HDD is idling, and if it's left on for long periods of time, get a cooling mat - the internal fans are NOT as effective as desktops and a lot of heat is transferred to the outer housing. Placing my laptop on a pillow, on my lap, can block the outflow and cause a heat rise. Similarly, if I place my laptop on a heat-retaining surface, I can tell - the dissipation of accumulated heat is less since it sinks into and is retained by the surface upon which it rests.

Generally speaking, it's like any high-end piece of electronic equipment. Only an idiot buys a $500 iPhone and tosses it around like a burner Tracfone. If you make the investment, understand what you have and how to treat it to maximize it's useful life. If you're a musician or otherwise require portable computing, like Seth, at least know how to care for your equipment. I don't have a lot of sympathy for a car owner who doesn't know they need to change/check the oil periodically to keep the damn thing functional.
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