THE AMBIVALENCE OF A NEW COMPUTER

side view alienware closeup computer

We all want cool toys. The latest (hugest) iPhone. The hot sports car. We want all of it. Now, please. For this, the credit card was invented. I believe after the world ends and only cockroaches remain, Visa will still be sending threatening letters to cardholders.  The price tag is part of my ambivalence even though I was wild to get my paws on a computer so incredibly hot that it would virtually sear my fingertips. Most of the mixed emotions are because setting up a new computer is a total immersion experience into tasks simultaneously critical and intensely boring.

72-alien-102914_14 computer keyboard

It arrived yesterday. Packed in a beautifully designed box so nice it feels wrong to throw it away. So I haven’t. Yet. It’s on my dining table. Every time I go into the room, I am amazed at how gorgeous it is. That’s just the box.

I was caught short when it arrived. Dell had told me to expect it on or near November 4th. Although I know Dell typically delivers early, this was very early, beating their “expected delivery date” by two weeks. Not that I’m complaining. Just explaining I wasn’t ready to immerse myself in the experience known as “setting up a new computer.” It’s immersive because once you begin, you can’t stop until you are done.

alienware side view computer

Perhaps if you use your computer just a little, swapping to a new computers is a plug-and-play event. Not me. According to my last backup from a couple of days ago, I have 40,000 photographs and 3,000 documents. A lot of stuff. And that’s just data.

Applications needing installation included Photoshop. Lightroom. OpenOffice. Audible. Kindle. Chrome. All the other stuff I’m forgetting. I can’t skip any of it. Setup isn’t only installing. You can’t plunk an application onto the hard drive and you’re done. You have to configure it too. And let’s not forget configuring the computer itself. I have specific preferences for how my computers works. I want it to shut off when I close the lid. Not sleep or hibernate. Turn completely off. I want the power optimized for performance — no dimmed monitors. I want updates to self-install when the computer is not in use and then, only important updates.

I want everything to open with a single mouse click. I need on-screen text bigger than standard. I want the mouse marker thick enough to spot easily amidst text.

I also wanted to make my keyboard glow like a rainbow and the alien head glow green — because on this computer, I can.


alienware computer front full

It was late morning when the carton arrived with DELL splashed across it. My stomach gave a flutter.

Unready though I was, a shiver of excitement with an undercurrent of fear goaded me to action. It unpacked easily. I plugged it in. Turned it on. It went through its self-setup. This is Windows 7 Professional — I’ve never used it before. I’m not clear what the difference is from plain vanilla Windows 7. I’m counting on the computer to know what it needs and where to put it.

72-Alien_103014_20

It asks me to give my new baby a name. I call him “Alien.” What else?

alien specs

Seven hours later, it’s all done but the fine-tuning. I’ve transferred my data from the new external hard drive, programmed my rainbow keyboard (totally cool).

I’ve never had a computer that felt this good under my hands. Beautifully designed and solid. I am surprised how much I miss the larger screen of my 15.6 inch XPS. Alien is 14 inches. Not tiny, but not large. A good portable size and the monitor is remarkably crisp, clear, and non-reflective. I have a 23″ monitor in the other room, so I can always plunk my butt in my office chair and use the big high def monitor. Maybe I will, maybe not.

I have yet to install the printer and I need to make a variety of small adjustments to the computer and various applications. Mostly, it’s done. Including today, it has taken about 10 hours.

Was it worth it?

Alienware keyboard computer side

I love the way Alien feels. I love the keyboard, the graphics. I don’t understand why the hard drive is only 5400 RPS. My XPS is 7200, but that option wasn’t offered on any of the Alienware machines. Why not? So everything is supersonic — except HD read/write. Yes, I can tell the difference. The speakers on this computer are okay, but the ones on the XPS were great. A lot better. If I want better sound, I’ll have to use headphones or a clip-on speaker.

Nothing is perfect. Not the car of your dreams or my new computer, but it’s close. It is definitely what the doctor ordered for what I most need. It handles even the heaviest graphics without a hiccup.

Just to give you an example, while it was importing and sorting 36,000 photographs into Lightroom, the computer also installed 64 Microsoft updates. I turned down its offer to reboot after installing the updates because it was still finishing sorting all my photographs into a continuous timeline, something I’ve wanted to do but never had the strength of character to attempt.

Wow. Really. Wow.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

17 thoughts on “THE AMBIVALENCE OF A NEW COMPUTER”

  1. It’s always exciting to get a new computer but a lot of work to set one up. I don’t have as much stuff on mine as you do Marilyn but like you when I get a new one I can’t leave it alone until it looks and feels right. I have an ageing laptop running Windows XP and a desktop which is now 3-4 years old. After your post the other week I started to seriously think about what I’d like to have when the time comes to get a new one. Your new one sounds fabulous.

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    1. It’s fabulous. The size was my choice and is going to take some adjusting on my part, and I think I’m going to get a small auxiliary blue-tooth speaker. Otherwise, I have no complaints at all. It isn’t even too heavy. Nice balance and the way it feels is really … rich.

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  2. I love your description of the blow by blow event that is the arrival of a new super toy. It’s more than that actually as you’ll be spend more time with your new computer than your family. You get one shot at setting it up right. You’re methodical about the process. I wish Microsoft will leave all the trash off the initial installation disks. I want Chrome as my browser and Google as my search engine. I don’t want Bing or Yahoo getting in the way. I want a light application of desktop toys like calendars, clocks and calculators. I want my RAM memory stuffed to the max with the fastest modules I can find.

    When it come to installing software there’s the initial setup and then the upgrade chores. If you’ve made a change or upgrade to your operating system or God forbid a platform change You’re in for a lot of work and a learning curve. I remember DOS 1.0 held comfortable on one or two 5 1/4″ floppy disks. A lot has changed since then, a lot!

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    1. It is a LOT simpler than it used to be. Changing browsers was a piece of cake. IE installs itself. I found Chrome, installed it and it took over. Google is not to be denied and everything else just steps aside. I’m having most of the problems with the Adobe stuff. I have two different types of licenses and it balks at being installed using normal activation codes. Although my version of CS 5 and CS 6 are standard, the licensing isn’t and it become a total headache. I’m giving their “web based stuff” a 30 day trials. I still hate Lightroom and can’t dope it out to save my life. The new version of PS (creative cloud) is pretty much identical to the old version, with a couple of steps back to reuse features I like better than the newer ones. But I can’t get my filters to download either and that’s because I’ve used up the license. None of which has anything to do with Windows. It’ll be a while before it is sorted out. So far, I really miss my filters, but they won’t download anyhow because they are on too many machines. On the up side, I have them on the computer in my office. It’s just $10 a month for the “Photographer’s Package” … but I wonder when they will drop the other shoe. I can squeak by for $10 … but if they decide to raise it, I’ll have to go back to my earlier versions of PS. Which isn’t the worst fate on earth either.

      I had to turn down the monitor’s resolution a notch to get the text to a readable size. It’s still VERY high def, but I can tell one letter from another!

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  3. Is it shallow to say that I am jealous of your rainbow keyboard? My computer is fairly new and I like it just fine (it has Windows 8,which I have no problems with or opinion about, though I know it matters to others) but I wish I had looked into this option instead. Because it just looks cool. 🙂

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  4. A work of art – your computer. As you know I picked mine up yesterday. I did not have to do so much on the new one as it seems apple takes care of a lot of stuff itself. the programmes are there, just a few updates. Yesterday evening I had a few things to do. it was the first time I had used it in the evening. The lights were not out, just dim and I realised the keyboard had a mysterious illumination in the background. One small problem at the moment, my e-mails are not working, although on my two iPads they are. Mr. Swiss will sort it this morning with Swiss headquarters. Isn’t life wonderful in the cyberworld. Shame the computers do have a built in vacuum cleaner, iron and window cleaning device. Then life would be perfect.

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    1. A lot of what took me so long was transferring all my data from the backup hard drive to the new computer. It wasn’t difficult, just took a couple of hours. As for the applications, Windows comes with applications too, but nothing comes with the Adobe stuff I use — or the filter packs I use with the Adobe software. I won’t pay for MS Office, so I download Open Office which is free, but it is a big application and takes time to install. It’s all very easy, just time-consuming and boring. You just sit there and every once in a while, you hit a key. Yawn.

      As for all the twiddling, that’s pure choice on my part. I can’t see text that’s really tiny and the resolution of this monitor is so high, I finally had to lower it a bit to make the text visible. All the other setting are choices I make. Most people leave them as they come, but over the years, I’ve developed preferences and while they aren’t difficult to set, I first have to figure out where the menus are. I don’t do this very often and forget where stuff is.

      But I love it. Really LOVE it. It is what I wanted, needed, yearned for. I wish it had a bigger screen, is all.

      It doesn’t include a cleaning robot but I bet it could control one if I found one to buy. That WOULD be most excellent.

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    1. The best part is that it has no actual function. It’s just decoration. I think I could make it sync to various sounds, but long term, that would make me crazy. I could also have the touch pad lit up in some color of my choice, but even I thought that might be too much. Still … I’m considering it 🙂

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  5. I would be like a little kid at Christmas – not being able to go to sleep even after 10 hours of transferring data and tweaking it, I would play with it all night long until my eyes could no longer stay open. So happy you are happy with it. It looks awesome! 😀

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  6. Ok, so now apparently all your readers want a rainbow keyboard, and Dell’s switchboard is probably lighting up as well. Dell should give you a commission.

    Thanks heavens I no longer have credit cards – I would be soooo tempted.

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    1. If my XPS weren’t crashing every few hours and sending me blue screens of death, I wouldn’t have done it. But reality bites and I got bit. I’m glad I got such a nice one. NOW all I have to do is PAY for it.

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