Archive for August, 2011

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New Laptop Win 7 x 64

August 12, 2011

Has it really been nearly 2 years since I did anything here?  Actually all of my blogging has suffered, but I’m going to see if I can write myself back into the scene.

First I want talk about my newest laptop and Windows 7 and my experience with that, and then will update about Linux in the next post.

In Feb. 2010 I did get a new laptop because my old one, Laptop Alpha, was going to pieces…almost literally.  The power cord was coming unraveled, the case was cracking and breaking and it was just in terribly bad shape.  It eventually just died…would not boot under any circumstances.  So it was time to get a new machine and I knew I wanted something with a more powerful graphics card.  Enter the Asus UL50VT.  The link takes you to a basic list of this laptops features and specifications.  It came with Win 7 x 64 Home Premium.  It also came with a basic Splashtop Linux preinstalled, but in a very nonconventional way which is not listed in the specs.

Basically, there is a separate power button for the other (Linux) OS that will be up and running in about 8 seconds and will shut down in about 4.  It is a bare bones OS, meaning it is designed to get a person on the web or looking at pictures or handling basic media but nothing too sophisticated.  And it was a very handy thing in the very early days of using this machine, but more about that in a moment.  This was a very novel approach to the problem of having to wait forever for Windows to boot up.  Heaven forbid you have not updated or had the machine on for an hour or so to get new virus or malware definitions.  With the Linux part of the machine, none of these were issues.  It turns on and you go.  Period.  But you do pay the price in some of the functionality as far as using any of the programs that are not preinstalled with that Linux program or trying to save on the hard drive.  It was designed for speed and simplicity.  While it did not do a lot, this little Linux always worked and was stable.  It never froze or crashed.  (See another view of Splashtop Linux on the Asus)

Windows 7, on the otherhand, was an entirely different story, at least in this 64 bit version.  I had gotten my wife a new laptop the Christmas before buying this machine and it was a 32 – bit Windows system that she really likes and had few problems with.  But on this machine, it has been a constant struggle to get along with Win7 which I attribute to it being a 64-bit machine.  There ARE improvements over XP with this OS and most programs can be installed fairly painlessly and flawlessly.  But after a month, programs were freezing and crashing all the time, and there was no way to force quit them using the program manager.  It simply would not work.  With subsequent updates and service packs, this condition has improved dramatically, but I also had to do a completely new reinstall from my back up disks in order to make the Windows side work decently enough.  Windows still requires a myriad of babysitting programs to keep it protected from malware and to keep running smoothly.  On a Wednesday morning, after “Patch Tuesday“, I can expect to lose at least 30 minutes while the OS is updated.  However, with Java, Adobe and virus definition files, the updates are kind of continuous, and rarely add functionality as they are mostly security patches.

For the first couple months, I found myself on the Linux side of this machine a lot of the time, because Windows was so awful with the freezes and crashes.  I think most Windows users are used to this and accept this as a matter of course.  But I had been using Linux most of the time on my old laptop and was just used to things working.  I’m not against working through a problem, but there are times when a body just wants things to work!  I give Win7 high marks for being able to work with peripherals like mp3 players and cameras with little or no effort.  You plug things into it, and it knows what to do.  I could listen to music or watch DVD movies with little or no fuss.  It came with a student copy of Office 2007 which I could use for 30 times before I would have to buy and unlock it.  But I use open office and the times I have to use MS Office are few and far between.  It would be nice if I could install my copy of Office XP on this machine, but MS Licensing says I have to register with the mothership and call the home office in order to use the program I bought legally on this machine.  Microsoft licenses are the biggest and best reason to go open source, because they cripple your ability to use their products as long as you want in order to try to force you to upgrade and buy more of their stuff.  I don’t mind paying for something if it can really do a better job.  But rather than adding functionality to new products, MS will make the old product unusable to force you to pay for features you may not want or need.  Screw that!

I do love my Asus laptop, even though I recently had to get a new battery and paid a cut-rate price for a cut-rate battery.  Even if I rarely use the battery, it is nice to have when I need it.  But there is no way I am going to get more than a couple hours with it, as opposed to the 11 hours that is advertised.  The screen and keyboard are spacious and this laptop is relatively thin and light.  But it was installing Linux that made this machine the start that it is, at least for me.