A Month on a Dell: What It Did Do

Oh, I had prayed this would never happen

Thanks for nothing, Flying Spaghetti Monster.

About a month ago, a power surge fried the motherboard on my MacBook. If this would’ve happened anywhere else in the world, it would be a 1-2 week fix and a $800 or so.

Not is Sudan: a week to arrange to have it carried back to Nairobi. Then another week to get it assessed.

The initial quote: $1100 plus shipping and a six week turn around. (zoom out, kneeling in the rain, a la Shawshank, but calling out in angst rather than elation, a la Shatner in Wrath of Khan)

VS.It was quicker and cheaper to have a new one brought from The States. Luckily, I knew someone on their way.

More on that later.

But in the meantime, I was handed a Dell Latitude 120|L.

I was reluctant, but I did ok.

I installed Safari, Thunderbird, and Pidgin.

I uploaded some tunes from my iPod.

But, as my coworkers can attest, I was curt, irritable, and moody.

I missed my Mac.

I missed the minimalist keyboard, the expansive trackpad, the smoothness of the LCD hinge, the lack of latches, the well organized ports, and I really missed the built-in iSight webcam. While I missed my 2.16gig Core 2 Duo and 1gig of RAM as the Dell had a 1.73gig M and 512 RAM, it was more than the hardware: it was the software.

I adore OS X from head to toe: the dock, Mail, Exposé, and the venerable Spotlight, not to mention apps like OmniGraffle, Sidenote, Adium, and (of course) iWork. It’s a joy to use in so many respects. But I needed a computer for my work, so I had no choice.

It was the Dell or a pink slip.

As I sit now, tapping away on my recently delivered matte black Macbook, I could go on for pages about what Windows was missing in terms of software. But it wasn’t so much what Windows couldn’t do; it was what Windows did do.

Waking from sleep:

It was painful.

It was slow.

I’d press the space bar: nothing.

Then I’d hit the power button: nothing.

Space space, space-ity space space: nothing.

Power Button?

The screen would light up only to shut down. I would subsequently flip my lid and tear out of the tent while it rebooted for four or five minutes.

The Trackpad:

I poked around on the internet a little bit: I could have tracked down, downloaded, and installed a Synaptics driver and accompanying management software, restarted, and eventually turned off trackpad clicking.

But I didn’t have time to do all that.

So I dealt with it.

Switching Applications:

I’d click from Excel to Safari and it would click the link in Safari. Clicking back to Excel it would select the cell. Then I’d bump the trackpad and click open another Citrix connection.

I learned to use alt tab.

The Quicklaunch:

First thing I do when on a Windows machine is turn on the QuickLaunch so I can get to the Desktop and My Computer without using the abhorrent Start Menu.

But for some reason, about two weeks in, the Desktop icon disappeared from the QuickLaunch bar. Maybe I accidentally dragged it off with the infernal and unstoppable trackpad clicking, but I did not have the time figure out how to get it back.

The System Tray

Wireless, ethernet, iTunes, MacAfee, Windows’ Security Center, volume, MediaFour, AVG, Quicktime and Intel Wireless. There were too many icons, but why there were two wireless and two virus tools? I have no idea, but I wasn’t about to delete one and risk breaking everything.

And the bubbles! Good lord, it was like the mustard-tinged comic strip from hell every five minutes:

Take a Tour of Window’s XP.

No thanks. I’ve been to South Dakota already.

Keep your system up to date.

Huh? Do it for me, computer.
You system may be at risk.

You’re at risk of getting shoved off the desk

Virtual Memory is at a critical level.

My patience is at a critical level.

I’m sure these annoyances can be turned off. Well, I’d hope Redmond allows for the bubbles to be turned off. But start/control panel/system/system tray/properties/turn off notifications/OK/Apply, or whatever is may be, is too far into the system for me to spend time looking for it.

And what’s with Apply and OK? Do I need to to click Apply if I click OK? If I click Apply do I need to click OK? I always did both just to be sure.

More Bubbles:

Every time I attached USB device like five different windows popped up:

AutoPlay: scanning


New hardware found.


New hardware installed.


Your New hardware is ready to use.


This disk contains more than one type of content. What do you want windows to do?

I couldn’t find the ‘shut the fuck up’ button.

Ejecting Disks.

One argument I encountered in college was software eject. It was a load of crap then, and it is now as well. I can keep a DVD’s worth of content on a $29.99 flash drive, or 80 DVDs on a $199 hard drive, software eject rules the new peripheral media world.

Yeah, yeah, I know. One can just yank out the USB plug as long as it’s not reading/writing. But when it takes six weeks to get a new hardware, I prefer not to risk it.

Right click/eject was not always an option, for some ungodly reason. On some media it was there, some not.

So back to the damn system tray.

Right click, ‘Safeley remove hardware.”

USB Mass Storage Device.
USB Mass Storage Device.


Which one is the thumbdrive which one is the HD? I’d better click ‘properties.’ That will surely have all the information I could need.

This device is working properly.


Eenie, meenie. . .

Multi-button mouse:

It wasn’t all bad. I was always staunchly on the minimalist side here. Have been since pops brought home that SE in ’87.

I was adamantly in favour of the single button mouse. With clicking and dragging and keyboard shortcuts, I never saw the need for two buttons. Along with the new MacBook came a wireless Mighty Mouse.

Consider me sold.

I’m still gonna use keyboard controls for most of what I would use the right click option, but when it comes to surfing, right click/open link in new tab is wondrous.


This may not have been what the had in mind when Bell Labs fine-tuned the transistor, but I’ll be damned if this (NSFWish) is not the single greatest piece of software in the world.

The day VirtuaGirl gets ported to OS X it’s game over.



4 Responses to A Month on a Dell: What It Did Do

  1. steve says:

    great preposterous movie references. i have a latitude 610 for work……its not all bad, but i guess it is a full 490 points better than yours…..however we are not our own admins and thus cannot install anything ourselves. I had to submit a ‘tech support ticket’ to have them remote desktop into my computer and install flash for firefox. That was stretch, they don’t like to give you anything non work related.

  2. the M says:

    it’s a hoot – send it to apple!

  3. Somavilla says:

    You are complaining like a pampered paraplegic (pamperplegic) who finally has to go through physical therapy.

  4. it was brutal, Supply! Brutal!

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