Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Plunged Into Digital Darkness

Four Netbooks in Two Weeks
© 2011 Leighann Lord

Okay, I’m jealous of Mac People. Mac People have Mac stores, where they can talk to Mac Experts. It’s telling that we don’t have Windows Stores with Windows Experts. We need them. But if we had them it would probably be some poor guy curled up in a corner, crying: “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know how to fix it.” 

Mac people are often referred to as cult-ish, but we Windows folks share a certain solidarity, too. We use an inferior product and we’re proud of it. Windows teaches you a lot of valuable life lessons. You learn to live with:
Loss: Where are my files?  
Disappointment: My computer crashed, again.  
Irony: Running your computer in “safe mode” makes you feel anything but.
Using Windows is very motivating. It motivates you to buy a Mac. I briefly thought about doing just that when the screen on my two-year-old Acer Aspire One Netbook (running Windows XP) suddenly went black. One minute I’m looking at my desktop, the next I’m plunged into my own personal digital darkness. Since Windows has taught me the necessity of being my own geek squad I began trouble shooting. I checked power sources, connections, and settings, but to no avail. Note to self: no matter how frustrated you are, taking a hammer to your hard drive will most likely violate the warranty. I instead vigorously shook my computer like it was a crying baby. 

Clearly It was time to see a professional. I briefly considered bringing my little computer into a Mac Store, hoping they wouldn’t notice, but I was afraid I might set off some sort of Windows loser alarm. They might even smell me coming. Windows users stink of fear and frustration. Mac users smell of candy and cupcakes. But it’s entirely possible Mac Experts don’t actually know how to fix anything since nothing ever goes wrong with a Mac.

So I went to my Local Computer Guy. (I think of him more as my Digital Therapist.) His diagnosis: a dead motherboard. Fixing it would have cost more than the $300 netbook was worth. And so, just like that, it was over. All that was left was the extracted 120 gig hard drive.

We’d had a nice run and I’m going to miss My Precious. I’ve written almost 100 blog posts on it as I toured and performed in Iraq, Haiti, Germany, Kosovo, Singapore and Brooklyn. The latter, of course, being the most exotic. I was actually very lucky my motherboard didn’t expire while I was on the road. Like a salmon, it came home to die. Having technology fail far from home is what we call in the trade, fucked up.

My friends suggested that maybe it was time to get a laptop. I have both Mac and Windows friends because I am very progressive, open minded and hip. When we all get together, we simply avoid talking about technology, and stick with less volatile subjects such as sex, religion and politics. 

I am not so tolerant when it comes to mobile phones. There are BlackBerry people. There are iPhone people. And then there are people who use both. These people are whores. I know the politically correct term is multi-technical but by god, have some loyalty.

All of my computer friends agreed I should bite the bullet and get a MacBook Pro. In fact, the Windows faction was most insistent: “You’re free now! Save yourself! Run! Run and don’t look back!” But I’m paraphrasing.

I am told that MacBooks are expensive, but worth every penny. Unfortunately, at this point, I can only afford the excitement and insecurity that a Windows machine can provide.

I also much prefer netbooks to laptops. I still have an old Dell that’s big, slow and heavy enough for a little impromptu bench pressing. Netbooks are inexpensive and compact enough to fit in my purse. Perfect. The amount of traveling I do requires my gadgets to be small and portable with ample battery life.

I didn’t have a lot of shopping around to do when I bought my Acer two years ago. There just weren’t that many netbooks on the market then, but things have changed. I hoped a rare two-week stretch at home would be more than enough time to find a replacement. Twelve days and four computers later I think I have a winner.

My first thought was to go back to the well and buy another Acer, this time in red. It was cute and I looked cute with it, but a measly three hours of battery life and one gig of memory is a deal-breaker.  

My second choice, an Asus EEE PC would have been great without the schizophrenic cursor that jumped around at will due to a hypersensitive touch pad. It was also very frustrating that I couldn’t remove the pre-installed virus software. Despite five hours of “live computer chatting” with seven technicians (Rod, Kiran, Frederick, Rod (again), Melvin, Anna Katrina and Randy) the software remained, confirming my suspicions that it wasn’t installed to protect me from a virus. It was a virus. 
Maybe that’s the real reason why most computer customer support has moved to India. If it were any closer, say within a two-hour drive, there’d be violence. Next time, the price of airfare and length of the flight may not deter me. 

Amazon and CNET had great things to say about Toshiba. So, with the clock ticking, I bought one. Well actually I bought two. I had to return the first one because after only 24 hours of use it stopped booting up. The programs wouldn’t load and I got more Windows Update errors than I could count, forcing a system restore. I should have known something was wrong when I saw I had both a C and a D drive. In this case, two is not better than one.

I suspect someone bought the Toshiba, tried to partition the hard drive — which made Windows 7 (Starter) freak out —  and then returned it. The store simply repackaged it and put it back on the shelf.
Why bother exchanging it? Because butchered hard drive aside, the specs weren’t bad: two gigs of memory, 250 gig hard drive, and a dual core processor. Sweet. As a writer the nicely spaced, un-cramped keyboard is a dream and the cursor doesn’t go anywhere I don’t want it to. If it was available in red, it’d be perfect but that’s what skins are for.
In the end, I don’t know what’s been more stressful: dealing with a computer crash, shopping for a replacement or watching my Mac friends struggle not to say, “I told you so.” 

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ www.VeryFunnyLady.com. Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

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