HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

MY WATERFALL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a small, but picturesque, waterfall and stream in my backyard. It only flows for part of the year when there’s a lot of rain and/or snow. The summers are usually pretty dry. During those months, you can just make out a ribbon of rocks among the trees that mark the spot where the dormant waterfall sits silently.

Spring waterfall after a big rain

This waterfall plays an important part in my life. As a kid, I used to play with my neighbor in the woods on my parents’ 40 acres of land in Connecticut. We climbed all around the waterfall that was in those woods. We perched on rocks at the spots with the best views of the rushing water. We tried to divert the water into different patterns. This proved difficult, if not impossible. But we had fun trying.

Waterfall today

Flash forward 30 years. My mother has given me a piece of her land so I can build a house, next door to her country house. She wanted to keep me and her grandchildren close. We have to decide where to put the house and how to orient it. My ex husband, the architect and I walked through the woods and came across the waterfall, bordered by old world stone walls. Eureka!

This is where the house has to be! How could we not take advantage of this unique and glorious natural wonder? How many people get to look at something like this every day?

Winter waterfall

So the decision was made to place the house near the stone walls and the waterfall. But there was a conundrum. Most people want their houses to have a southern exposure, for maximum sun and light. But south for us meant that the house would have to face up the driveway, looking at nothing but the driveway and the woods. The waterfall was due west. Not the best exposure for the sun.

Southern exposure view

But for us, views were more important than sun (which bleaches out all your furniture and fabric anyway!) So we designed a house with LOTS of windows and angles that maximized the views of the waterfall. Therefore our living areas face west, not south.

Kitchen bay window to left and round porch to right

I have been grateful for that decision every day for the past 29 years! The waterfall played an important part in the design of my house and continues to play an important part of my life every day I live in that house. It never fails to make me smile when I get to drink coffee and look out at it.

View from my bay windows in the kitchen

Looking at my waterfall, I don’t just get the usual sense of peace and Zen that everyone gets when they experience nature. I also get strong memories of my past. I first set foot on this Connecticut property when I was eight months old, in 1950. I took my first steps here. I am still part of my carefree childhood playing in the woods. I am still connected to my parents and their love of this property. Because of my deep love of this piece of land, I have called it “My Tara,” after Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved plantation.

View of the stream from the kitchen and porch

Growing up, we lived in New York City nine months of the year (that’s where I went to school). I think that increased my appreciation of the country even more. It was a special summer treat for me. Also, my grandparents built a house on the property so I got to see them every day when we were all in Connecticut. That ramped the specialness and joys of the place up to eleven!

I moved to my house in the woods full-time in 1990, when my kids were five and ten years old. My mother, still a city lover, asked me why I could move out of the city after being exposed to all the cultural benefits of city life. I responded: “Because I was also exposed to the glories of country life. And that is what resonated more with me at that stage of my life.”

View of waterfall from my round porch

I’m grateful for all the years I got to spend in New York City. All the theater I got to see, all the museums, art galleries, ballets and concerts. But I can still drive in for those things if I want to. It’s more important for me now to be able to sit and write at my kitchen table, enjoying my view of the woods, of my dogs playing in the backyard, and, of course, of my waterfall.

PREVIOUSLY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

As promised, here are the questions from Willow’s post, sans her answers, but including mine. Just in case anyone wants to answer them for themselves, check out Questions Unanswered on Willow’s site. If you do answer them, please paste a link to your answers in the comments. Thanks!



Do you have a nickname? What do you prefer to be called?

No nickname. But please call me Spike.

Do you have books on your shelf (eReader) that are begging to be read?

Are you serious?

Are you a doodler? What do your doodles look like?

Horses.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?

Listen to an audio book and take drugs.

How many days could you think you would last in solitary confinement?

It depends on if I have access to a computer and books. Almost unlimited with enough WiFi.

Do you save old greeting cards and letters or do you toss them away?

Toss them. I am not that sentimental.

Who is the biggest pack rat you know?

My husband.

Were/are you a good student?

Yes.

How often do you look at yourself in the mirror?

Every morning when I brush my teeth, brush my hair, wash my face, put on earrings. Ditto in the evening when I brush my teeth and hair, wash the face again, and remove the earrings.

What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

That my life was normal.

Do you regift items that have been given to you?

No, because I rarely get gifts. The few that I get, I treasure.

Do you know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

Technically, but I probably would miss the subtle differences if I was in the water being dragged away.

Do you still read the newspaper?

No. I was never much of a newspaper reader. Magazines, yes. Newsweek. Time. Life. Look. The New Yorker. But Garry does read papers and he likes to circle articles he thinks I should read. I read them because he’s pretty much always right.

Are there any animals that frighten you?

Big hairy spiders and centipedes.

Are you a collector of something? If so, what do you collect?

I have given up collecting. it’s dangerous to the credit cards. I still, however, have a few hundred antique plastic dolls and several dozen ancient Chinese porcelain pots.

What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will?

At this point? Nothing, really.

What’s a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but no one believes you?

Nothing I know about.

What’s something that amazes you?

The incredible greed and stupidity of many Americans who, like sheep, willingly follow the worst people in the world.

Do you prefer the blunt truth or would you rather people temper their words?

As long as they are polite, I’m fine with blunt.

What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself?

Everything involving housework. All repair work. Sewing. Cooking. Cleaning. Grooming. Dusting. Vacuuming. What have I missed? Oh, I know. A professional driver.

What are the qualities that tend to draw you to someone new?

Intelligence, open-mindedness, a sense of humor, loving dogs, and not being afraid of me.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

Delores. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea.

Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not?

Are you serious?

What (if anything) do you consider unforgivable?

Eavesdropping and rumor mongering. Maybe I should add a lack of commitment to righteousness.

Do you ever break out into song just because you feel like singing?

Yes. Hopefully no one is listening. But the dogs like it and that’s important.

ODD BALLS FROM THE MOB – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 22, 2018


A little light on the party

We went to a party. They aren’t my best pictures, but they were more fun than most.

A word about processing people pictures from parties. I use a lot of creative effects on people pictures because what I want to show is their faces, their laughter, the fun without making every look like they have the neck of a chicken or, as Garry puts it “the chrome dome.”

Everyone wants to look good. Most people our age don’t expect to look young and they don’t mind seeing character in their faces, but they also don’t want to look like they were just unearthed from a grave. Finding a balance is a bit of a trick. I put more time and energy into processing people — especially people in my age group — than I do for anything else.

Trees don’t care if the bark looks grungy, but people care a lot when their skin looks like tree bark.