Sunday, 24 June 2018

My new used laptop

Friday evening, and my nose detects the fainest whiff of hot oil, like that from a model train-set locomotive after a few laps round the track. It's coming from my laptop... I press the 'start' button - it's dead. So on Saturday morning, I'm off to Master computers (Al. Ken 105). I'm a happy long-term customer of this shop, run by two guys who are trustworthy and dependable. They built my desktop computer (the one I'm writing this on) a few years ago; 11 years ago they built its predecessor and upgraded its storage in 2010. I enter the shop; it turns out that a circuit in my Samsung laptop (bought new in November 2011) has indeed burnt out. A replacement board will be 600zł, more than the whole thing is worth, and in any case the screen was doing funny things (green lines scrolling up and down when set at certain angles to the keyboard).

The data was saved; I lost one file (which I backed up eight days ago anyway). Unlike the crash last September, where I lost many files, this time it was still all there on the hard drive. This was extracted from the laptop, and for 50zł I bought a connector and casing that turns the hard drive into 320 MB of external storage. The old Samsung will fetch 15zł-20zł as elektrośmiecie. There's a lot of gold and other precious metals in there!

In place of the Samsung, a second-hand Dell Latitude E7440, "ex-corporate leasing, from Germany, never been out of the office, 18 months old". Why not new? Circular economy. If you can fix something, fix it. If you can't, buy slightly used. If you can't, then and only then buy something straight out of the factory. And my Samsung replaced an earlier Dell, which I also bought second hand, and that lasted me six years. It still works, I use it for the old, licensed version of MS PowerPoint from time to time.

For 1,900zł (compared to new price of 3,590zł), I get the laptop with a set of Polish keyboard stickers over the German ones (for some strange reason the German keyboard has the Z where the Y is and vice-versa) and Windows 10 operating system in English (I cannot get to grips with Polish as a language of IT). The process of installing everything takes the guys in the shop around an hour and half. There will still be other things that will need doing once I'm in the office tomorrow; I expect at least two more hours of work to get the new computer back to where the old laptop was.

Windows 10. I cannot see the sense. I don't want it, I'm entirely happy with Windows 7 - but that's no longer possible. Yes, the guys from the shop can get me a licensed copy for Monday, but they warn me that from 2020, drivers for peripherals will no longer support Windows 7. So a short-term fix. Windows 10 is pointless. It's for babies. It's silly little pictures. Windows 7 for me was the ideal; a step forward over Windows XP, I don't want to play games on my laptop. I use it for work - LibreOffice installed (the successor to OpenOffice) - again, MSOffice lost the way replacing the simple File-Edit-View-Insert-Format-Tools-Help menu with a load of pictures - along with Chrome browser. Mozilla Thunderbird for emails - I will need help from IT support in the office to get that back. And I still need to reinstall Adobe Creative Cloud (I have a subscription for Photoshop) and that's that.

IT events such this become like markers in one's life; once upon a time I was cars and TVs. The computer, the laptop, the smartphone, have become integral parts of our lives and reflect our personalities. Mine tend to be spartan, ascetic, bereft of games or other toys; a tool for writing, processing images, creating presentations and spreadsheets, a tool for communicating.

The future will be different. The human-computer interface will get smarter; the keyboard will surely be gone in the next 20 years. My new laptop features Microsoft's Cortana - but if it's as dumb as Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri, it will take a while to take off. Voice recognition software has been around since the 1990s but has as yet failed to gain traction. It will happen as advances in artificial intelligence (AI) begin to accelerate the pace at which computers can teach themselves. Machine learning will take hold and will touch our lives in many ways. But the big changes are still around five years away. My new second-hand laptop should be OK until then.

This time three years ago:
Face to face with Mr Hare

This time five years ago:
Central Warsaw vistas

This time six years ago:
Future of urban motoring?

This time nine years ago:
On foot to Limanowa

This time ten years ago:
Crumbling neo-classicism in Grabów

This time 11 years ago:
Bike ride into deepest Mazovia


student SGH said...

The content of this post somehow falls into line with my recent post on how to save wisely. I see how people treat their laptops in my office and even how badly my company laptop works after four years and would be wary of such purchase. Same as I would never buy a post-lease car, since I see how badly their users treat them (after 3 years I hand back the keys so why I should I care).

a second-hand Dell Latitude E7440, "ex-corporate leasing, from Germany, never been out of the office, 18 months old"

I burst out laughing, that sounds like Panie, Wieśwagen od starego Niemca, tyle co do kościoła i z powrotem jeżdżony

Oddly enough, for 1,950 PLN I bought a brand new HP laptop (dual core Intel Core i3 processor, 8 GB RAM, all stuff I need to use MS office, browse the web, listen to music, watch films, process photographs. My previous HP laptop packed up after more than 10 years, time will tell how long laptops of my parents ('17) and mine ('18) withstand. I bet currently manufactured devices are less durable than those put out in mid-2000s, but I somehow trust the brand

Michael Dembinski said...

@student SGH:

Time will tell. My laptop has 14" screen and IntelCore i5 processor; very solid metal casing. Above all, I can see from the keyboard the 'shift' and 'space' keys aren't shiny, like they are on a well-worn laptop. As I said, my previous experience with an 18-month old Dell was excellent, it was replaced not because it broke down, but because it was very, very heavy. Plus the retailers are trustworthy guys; I've been happy with their service for a long time (see above).

All comes down to brand trust. My guess is the next five-six years will see huge progress in software rather than hardware.

Circular economy = practising what one preaches.