Welcome, New Guy

WARNING:  THIS POST CONTAINS MIXED METAPHORS.

Well, last week after much teetering on the edge of the pool, I finally held my nose, closed my eyes, and jumped into the deep waters of computer purchasing.

Just to kick things off, I drove to the brick-and-mortar store and looked over the selection like a hunter needing a new gun dog visits a kennel and surveys the young pups. Expecting two or three aisles of selection, I instead found a puny litter of five towers on one shelf. Three brands. Each one not much different from the next. After all, when you’re looking at a litter of yellow Labrador retrievers, you’re going to see yellow, yellow, cream, yellow, and gold. This store’s choice included HP, Dell, or ASUS. When I asked for Sony, the clerk blinked like a vacant android for a few seconds, then a brain synapse fired and he told me those were no longer made. (I wonder whether it was this decade or the last when Sony’s Vaio bit the dust.) Meanwhile, I stood there, clutching crib notes of what to mention and ask for, and trying to remember the sage advice and suggestions from more computer-savvy friends who’d kindly coached me ahead of time.

Then, like many modern consumers, I asked three questions before bolting from the store to go home and look everything up on Amazon. However, my attempt at this additional research resulted in glassy-eyed absorption of 9,000 one-star customer reviews from gamers that freak out over spotting a single dead pixel in the top right-hand corner of their mega-expensive monitors. I read countless complaints about the absence of some kind of special wall mount that’s apparently a case of life-or-death to certain individuals. Then there were discussions of glossy surface versus matte, bevel-edged versus non-bevel, too wide, too low, too much blur, insufficient refresh rates, and a long stream of additional gobbledygook that quickly had my eyes rolling back in my head.

Who knew–in the decade and a half since I last purchased a computer–that you no longer buy a bundled system in a box, complete with a piece of paper featuring nearly incomprehensible connection instructions that usually begin with the command of STOP!!!! Do not push the power button until … lest the world as we know it erupt in flames, or–worse–invalidate the warranty. Now, it seems to be that you either buy a laptop or enter the astonishing world of computer a la carte. Choose your tower, boys and girls! Pick those speakers! Do you want a subwoofer to go with them? Step right up here, and select a monitor. Do you want LCD, LED, blue-light filters, rapid refresh rates, high resolution, tilt stand? And just how BIG a monitor do you want? Twenty-seven inches? Thirty-two inches? How about two monitors? Or three?

I didn’t expect my computer monitor to rival the size of my living room TV. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, it’s analog but of such good quality it won’t die to justify my buying a new one. And if that identifies me as a Great Depression grandbaby, then so be it.) As I was leaving the store, I saw a man with a pickup and flat-bed trailer, loading a ginormous TV with the assistance of two employees, and I took a double-take to make sure it really was a television and not the latest thing in monitors.

Even so, modern monitors are certainly seductive. I’m now dreaming of having sixty inches of monitor hanging on my office wall, with the two-foot-tall words of my next novel looming over my head. After all, isn’t the saying “Go big, or go home?”

Up till now, I’ve been thinking that I was really up-to-date in my campus office, equipped as it is with an ample-sized Apple monitor. HAH! When I took a ruler to it, I found that it’s a mere minnow among the wide-mouth bass. And so, for grins, I measured Ole Faithful’s little monitor. A thirteen-inch pipsqueak. There are laptops with bigger screens. How did I ever write a dozen novels on that thing?

New Guy’s monitor is by no means the biggest on the market. Thank goodness! Because I can barely fit this monster on my desk, and even then it’s set at a slight angle so I can open the printer’s paper feed. My retinas still don’t know how to handle all this generous size.

Even the simple world of keyboards has changed. What I’ve used for years is now trendy with gamers and called a mechanical. The keys are big and take effort to push. They can come backlit with a rainbow array of colors. And you can turn on the clicking sound, or silence it.

Woo.

Or you can move with the times and use a membrane keyboard with flat little keys and a slight amount of lag time that will slow you down if you’re a smokin’-hot typist.

New Guy came with a wired membrane keyboard. Because I’m a smokin’-hot typist and in no mood to be slowed down, I intended to use Ole Faithful’s keyboard. It’s a mechanical which has held up under years of heavy use, but it needs an adapter to connect it to New Guy and even then it might not work. I think I can buy an inexpensive wireless keyboard that probably costs about the same as adapters, connective cords, and drivers capable of translating Win 10 to old keyboard; however, I must confess that deep in my heart what I really, really, really want is that expensive keyboard with the multi-colored lights glowing around the keys. Yeah, I want more than woo. I want wow. But that’s a want, not a need. I’ll wait until my wallet’s no longer smokin’ from this purchase.

As for the tower, with disk drive or without? Do you prefer that drive tray to open horizontally or vertically? As for the innards, solid-state drive or conventional hard drive? How about two internal drives? Do you want a thunderbolt port, or can you–sigh–live without it? Even the kid at the brick-and-mortar couldn’t explain exactly what a thunderbolt is or will do, once the gizmos it’s supposed to connect actually come on the market. But it’s great! It’s coming! It’s … still a mystery to me.

I didn’t get one, thus ensuring that New Guy is obsolete already.

And I didn’t order my new system online, despite potential price savings. I finished my research and returned to the store, where at least employees could follow me to my car, carrying boxes the way grocery stores used to send out a teenage porter to carry your food across the parking lot.  And guess what? No longer does any box contain a piece of paper with connection instructions. Presumably I’m supposed to perform a monkey-see/monkey-do procedure from YouTube video guidance, although how to do that when the computer isn’t online remains as logical as the Geek Squad notifying you by email that your computer is ready for pickup.

That’s fine. I can match the shape of a plug to the shape of a plug. (I think I learned that skill at eighteen months with my first set of blocks.) But I didn’t know that new computers come with an extra cord that you should not connect unless you’re going to use two monitors. This small piece of consumer ignorance caused a great deal of frayed nerves, frustration, phoned-in tech support which did NOT identify the problem, appointments with technicians that shook their head over the baby, and a great deal of bodily contortion connecting and disconnecting, plus driving back and forth across town in heavy traffic to bring the tower in, to take the tower home, to bring it back, to fetch the monitor, to bring a cable, to not bring a cable, etc.

Fourteen years ago, I went through an equal amount of heinous running to and fro with my new computer tower, trying to get Ole Faithful set up and functioning. It seems to be simply a part of the process, like ritual initiations or being hosed down with Betadine before going under the surgical knife. But, unlike torture by bamboo shoots under the fingernails, once setup is complete and successful, the horrors of the ordeal eventually fade and you resume writing.

Next I have the joy of figuring out Windows 10 and all its quirks.

What happened to the spellcheck function key?

UPDATE:  Thanks to much advice, support, and assistance from my friends out there . . . I have finally ordered a keyboard adapter as this membrane thing is sleek, cool, and w-a-a-a-y too slow. Product reviews say the adapter works great, or it glitches. I’m hoping for the former, but if the latter happens, I can order another adapter or cough up the funds for the wowza, super-snazzy, completely and utterly extravagant rainbow-hued, lighted keyboard. Which, by the way, costs as much as a monthly payment on the new machine. Alas!

 

 

 

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Welcome, New Guy

  1. My empathy senses are in top gear after reading this! Within the past month I was faced with a similar situation, when my most-used machine, the one that’s home to all my writing, suffered catastrophic capacitor failure of its motherboard (multiple cardiac arrest complicated by strokes, in other words) and I learned that replacements went out of production more than five years ago.

    Fortunately, I was able to locate a source that still had one on the shelf, so I didn’t have to match your search for New Guy, and I’m even using Mehitabel to send this reply.

    In my 50-plus years in the computer industry, one of the first things I learned was this: If it’s in production, not even on store shelves yet, it’s obsolete. Thus obsolescence is nothing with which to concern one’s self.

    As for your keyboard, your old familiar one will probably work just fine once you add the necessary PS/2-to-USB adapter, which can probably be found at either Office Depot or Staples. Like you, I prefer the old mechanical feel, and the one beneath my fingers at the moment has been here for more than 20 years (and at least three computers).

    Windows 10 is going to be your steepest learning curve, because it seems to be an attempt to create an overgrown Smart Phone and really wants you to use a touch-screen monitor to navigate! Can’t offer much assistance there, except to note that third-party software to restore the “classic” look and feel of WinXP or Win7 is available on line. By the time WinXP came on the scene, I had switched over to Linux — specifically to the Xubuntu version of it, although these days the Mint version seems to be more popular. I was quite gratified to learn that Steve Miller, co-creator with Sharon Lee of the Liaden Universe (r) SF series, has done the same and uses it in production (although Sharon has stayed with Windows until very recently — they are both quite active on FaceBook).

    You’ll find the next couple of months to be quite interesting, in the Chinese sense. If I can pay forward with any help, don’t hesitate to e-mail, message me via my web site, or pick up the phone — I’m just 25 miles north of you!

    • Jim, thank you so much for the help and suggestions! I do plan to hunt down a PS/2-to-USB adapter at my local stores and see if it’ll work. And another kind friend has already located this gadget on Amazon for me. Rolling back two or three computers ago–which is a long time–I used to get keyboards that lost the letters atop the keys after my kind of daily usage, but my current keyboards have held up better than that and should be fine once they can talk to New Guy. (Or, rather, they can hear what New Guy has to say.) I’m not a disposable-age kind of person, so it’s hard for me to simply recycle keyboards that are still usable.

      Sorry to hear that your equipment suffered a catastrophe, but sounds like the heart transplant was successful.

      As for Windows 10, I’ve had the Geek Squad set things up so that I can dodge its quirks as much as possible. I use Word and Internet and email, and that’s really it. They kept asking if I wanted the iTunes app installed, and I said no. Apps on a computer? Absurd! No doubt down the road I’ll check out a few apps, but at present there’s nothing I need touch my screen to accomplish. I have a long-time practice of avoiding as much of the newest and coolest tech as possible. I just want to push the power button and write.

      🙂 Deb

      • laurances

        Amazon has the USB to PS2 cable you need for about $6. Enter this search: “Monoprice PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse to USB Converter Adapter, Black (110934)”

        LauranceS

  2. Robin Cormier

    Congratulations Deb! I have had Windows 10 for more than a year and I don’t know anything more about it than when I started. I believe it was designed only for my frustration! The younger users seem to be the only ones who understand it. Thankfully, I had Josh with me when I purchased my new laptop. He came to shoot down any costly choices that the salesman was pushing.
    Hope you enjoy your new computer and have many happy hours writing.

    • Thanks! You’re lucky to have Josh to say no to things you didn’t need.

      I had the computer set up so that I can get to the Internet, my email, and my word processing without having to fool with Windows 10. That way, I’m not slowed down on work, and I can explore if and when I ever want to. It sounds fairly useless to me, from what I’ve heard.

  3. I am glad New Guy is home and functioning. If you were confused at any point during the purchasing process, then the system is working as designed. I feel like they make things intentionally confusing so that they’ll have the upper hand. As a former employee of the place you purchased your computer… Oh, the stories I could tell. Let’s just say they sell as much snake oil as anything else.

    New Guy needs a better name. As someone with a dozen computers that perform various functions, I had to come up with a rule system. Mine is Star Wars based: servers are named after planets, workstations are named after people, and laptops are named after ships (they come and go, after all). One of my friends names all his computers after heavenly bodies (constellations, not Baywatch characters) and another one names his after characters from Shakespeare’s works. 🙂

    • Okay, I’ll consider giving New Guy a better name. Seems kind of rushed and generic, doesn’t it? Unworthy of any belonging of mine. After all, my first IBM Selectric typewriter had a real name. Hmm.

      As for the place where New Guy was purchased, I believe you! And sometimes when I get home I wonder why I fell for the latest tactic there.

      It’s kind of like purchasing a car–although much more stressful. But years ago, I realized that I would NEVER make a good deal on an auto. I was never going to beat any dealer. I was never going to win. So I made up my mind to accept that and just make a deal that I could live with.

      As I always have to tell one of my dogs when we go for a walk, this is not a race.

      Strange how I can be calm and philosophical about almost anything EXCEPT buying a new computer. Then I freak out and become uber-dramatic. Well, gotta be a diva somewhere.

  4. You made your computer growing pains so entertaining! But, yes, the whole process is still a pain. It’s never just “bring it home and hook it up.” There’s always one more piece of equipment to buy. Argh. Glad you are figuring it out!

    • So true! And then my computer-savvy friends always urge me to buy a new computer every three years. Not sure I could handle the stress load. My upbringing ran along the lines of make it last until it’s totally used up, and as long as it’s working, leave things alone. The Great Depression mentality, I suppose. Can’t get used to this throwaway modern world.

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