The Laptop Is Dead (sigh). Long Live the Laptop!

Yeah, this is not how I was planning to spend my first week at home. But my laptop, Cygnus-X, started failing on the trip and limped along just far enough to get me back to Boston. In this case it was the screen, not the smart innards, that went bad. I googled the problem and tried the most common fix, which was replacing the video inverter for $20 from Amazon; and that killed it dead. Here’s me, heroically trying to rescue trusty Cygnus, but it was too little, too late.

Given that the little fellow was over seven years old in laptop years—which is I don’t know what in dog years, but old, and slow—I decided it was time to replace it. (But really, two computers in three months? Seems extreme.) Anyway, here is the new beauty, Antares. Named for her glowing red backlit keys (Antares is a red star), and for the lovely Antares in the Chaos books.

Antares is an Asus gaming laptop. I don’t do gaming, but I wanted as much speed and capacity as I could afford, because in two years, it’s going to seem like molasses. So get a running start, is what I figured. Plus, I really like the keyboard!

Antares, live long and prosper! Please.

The Computer is Dead! Long Live the Computer!

My office computer Polaris, five and half years into its five-year mission, has gone to the great computer heaven in the sky. My new computer is a Dell XPS tower, with lots of power and a great deal of memory (by today’s standards; tomorrow, not so sure). It was on sale at Costco for a good price. I decided to name it after another great computer, renowned for its stability and wisdom. Minions, fans, and onlookers, I present to you…HAL! HAL, meet your minions, fans, and onlookers! Long live the computer!


I like my new computer. Windows 10, on the other hand…? Well. Let’s just say that several hairbrained design decisions on the part of Microsoft developers made the transition a lot harder than it should have been. For instance, whose idea was it that when you enter the profile name you want for your account, Microsoft quietly truncates it and uses the short form for all your file paths—rendering impossible what you probably want to do, which is to mirror the setup of your old system. Document paths? Gone. Itunes playlists? Gone. Well, that ought to be easy to change, right? No, actually, it’s not. I did finally fix it—thanks to Google, other users, and a bit of hacking in the Windows registry. (On a new machine! Really?)

I also decided it was way past time for a new monitor for my poor eyes. My new one is much bigger, with higher resolution, and so on. Thought I, this should make all the text on the screen easier to read. Wait, what? Why is all the text now tiny? Oh yeah—more pixels per inch. Smaller letters. Okay, sure—but how stupid is that? My wife nodded knowingly and said she gave up on her office computer and just got used to reading small text. (Yes, you can go into settings and enlarge the text, but you degrade clarity and performance when you do.) Why has nobody fixed this problem? Are all those developers in their early twenties, with great eyesight? That must be it. Same idiots who use light gray font on websites. What did I say about walking on my lawn?

Still, I think HAL and I are going to be great friends. Right, HAL? Could you open the pod bay door for me, HAL? HAL?

How Windows 10 Borked My Computer and Ruined My Life

Okay, it didn’t ruin my life, exactly, but it sure ruined my day. Microsoft laid the “Windows 10 anniversary update” on me—and I was still waiting to discover how the first Windows 10 upgrade was any improvement over 7—and that was the last time my office computer worked right. I’m typing on it right now, but I know it’s only a matter of time before the blue screen of death strikes again. I’m dancing at the edge of a crumbling cliff here. I’ve already fallen a couple dozen times, and I’m feeling bruised.

First place, this machine is only five and a half years old, for Heaven’s sake! Yeah, I know that’s, like, 35 in dog years, and a century in computer years, but I still don’t like how fast these things turn to rust. I also don’t like when “upgrades” break things that worked just fine!* And get the hell off my lawn! spent the better part of a day running updates and diagnostics and doing everything but turn it upside down and shake it, I’m now thinking: Keep spending time trying to make an old computer run right? Or is it time to start checking prices at Costco…?

*Comcast/Xfinity was the subject of my wrath last week, when they summarily removed their very useful online DVR manager from their website, and replaced it with crippleware that I can only run on my Android tablet. I’m still fuming about that. And what’d I just say about the lawn?