ALIENWARE 15 R3 — THE GOOD AND THE HUH?

I always have very mixed feelings when I realize I’m going to have to buy a new primary computer. I love technology and I love computers. I love gadgets and widgets and cameras and lenses and software. From the first day I put my fingers on a computer keyboard, I knew I’d found my place in the new order. Computers felt like “home” from the first day.

New computer

However, getting a new primary computer that will be your everything computer is a big deal.

I’m not talking about a tablet. Or a Kindle. Or an old computer you want to keep because it contains software you can’t buy anymore and which you like better than “new improved” versions.

No, in this case, I’m talking about the one item of equipment that you use all the time for years on end. It’s the constant use computer. The machine on which you blog. Take care of your daily business. Banking, shopping, email, photography. It’s where you process pictures. Where you have software and filters. It’s where you write. Design books. It is important.

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Getting a new computer up to speed, configured the way you want it has always been a process that takes anywhere from a few hours to several months of tweaking. In this case, it also involved getting used to a new operating system — Windows 10 Pro up from Windows 7 Pro.

PERFECTLY FROM THE DAY I TOOK IT OUT OF THE BOX

This computer worked absolutely perfectly from the day I got it. There was no start-up time, except the time it took me to figure out where the new stuff was on this computer that was somewhere else on my earlier computers. If I didn’t feel I need to know what’s going on inside, I need not have bothered to find out anything. I’m still finding out things, though more now than before since that BIOS download the other day, but that’s a different issue.

THINGS THEY COULD DO BETTER — AND PROBABLY WILL

The C-port “Thunderbolt” replacements for the USB drives are not very sturdy. They work, but they are fragile. I’m sure they will be improved with time, but as of today’s writing, they should have included more USB ports. I have added hubs, but the lack of a CD drive for a camera card is a real pain in my butt. They should put it back.

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It won’t help me much. However, for future computers … put the CD drive back. Add at least two or three more USB ports. There are a lot of items that only work properly in a USB port. Eventually, maybe everything will love these new ports, but they don’t love them today. My external hard drives and my DVD/CD drive won’t work in the C port … and of course, I also need something for the CD flash card too. In theory, you can use a hub, then put stuff them through the C port, but that’s really stupid. Too many hubs, too much stuff. I’m sure I am not the only one complaining about this.

A FEW QUESTIONS ANSWERED BEFORE YOU ASK THEM

Why did I stay with Windows rather than getting a Mac? Because I actually prefer Windows. It’s a structured, work-oriented system. Its design and the way I think work well together. I have owned Macs and used them, but in the end, I’m much more comfortable on Windows. I’m task oriented. The Mac with its “do your own thing” unstructured style doesn’t mesh well with my style. Of course, there’s also the software I own that runs on Windows, but won’t run on a Mac.

I am not a hardware kind of gal. You won’t find me rewiring anything or prying open the case to get at the innards. Software? No problem.

Hardware? Call the guy with the toolkit. The second-hand market it good for people who aren’t afraid of getting down and dirty with the guts of the hardware, but I’m not one of them … so new was the way to go for me. Windows PC. High end. New.

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My previous Alienware laptop was very satisfactory, but technology has been whipping along at light speed for the past few years. The computer was more than two operating systems behind. I was not interested in overlaying a new operating system on the old one. I tried that and failed. Badly. It was also getting difficult to run new software on the older system. It ran, but not run well. Frustrating and annoying, but the development world is not interested in my opinion.

OTHER QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Why Windows 10 Pro you ask? Over the decades, I’ve found the “professional” versions of Microsoft operating systems are more stable and much less buggy than the “home” version of the same OS.

Every version of Windows has essentially the same stuff in it, but the menus change. The most alarming difference for more was the complete removal of the “Restore” and “system configuration” menus which has been part of Windows since the beginning. The pieces are now parceled out to other menus (Systems and Task Manager).

HOW DOES IT DO?

It boots up in fewer than 10 seconds. I don’t know how many different windows I could open, but whatever it is, I haven’t found it yet.

THE GOOD AND THE WHAT-THE-HELL?

I would have gone all the way and said this is the best computer I’ve ever had. Basically, it still is, but that download the other day from Microsoft was evil. I’m still recovering from it. To be fair, things seem to be working more or less normally — again.

It’s a great computer.

The problem is, you never know what kind of rat poison you’re going to get in downloads from home base. Apple has done it, Windows has done it more. They really need to step back and ponder users and what we need.


THE PARTS AND PIECES:

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  • 16GB DDR4 at 2133MHz (2x8GB)
  • English Backlit Keyboard, powered by AlienFX
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5
  • N1435 & N1535 Wireless Driver
  • 256GB PCIe SSD (Boot) + 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s (Storage)
  • Windows 10 Pro (64bit) English
  • Killer 1435 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Intel(R)Core(TM) i5-6300HQ (Quad-Core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.2GHz w/Turbo Boost, Base frequency 2.3GHz)
  • 15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Anti-Glare 300-nits Display
  • Lithium Ion (68 Wh) Battery

IF YOU DO A LOT OF STUFF ON THE COMPUTER, A GOOD ONE IS WORTH THE MONEY

The computer I had before this one is now Garry’s computer. Aside from not handling newer applications well, it’s a fine computer and will last a very long time, especially with Garry using it. Even if it needs a hard drive or something else, it’s more than worth repairing. You can’t say that about a lot of the cheap, cheesy computers.

They are cheap, but they aren’t good. And they won’t stand up to repair.

RICH AND JUICY, YUM

Yesterday night,  I had no photographic software. But as I lay abed pondering the irrationality of life, technology, and all that … I realized I own Photoshop CS5. Not only do I own it, but without getting complicated, I really own it. Hugely. Maybe even bigly.

Bonnie, always number one

Bonnie, always number one

There wasn’t a whole lot of difference between PS5 and PS6. Nothing so big you’d simply need to own it. These days, I use more filters than the stuff in Photoshop. I use its straightener and change the size of things. I use the rotator and the basic size. I also use the text and sometimes, the various layers when I want to do something — different.

For most pictures, I use Photoshop so I can work with filters.

I’m also very fond of Bridge. It doesn’t get crazy dumping all 59,749 photographs into it. It just does it. I have them backed up. There are another 40,000 (give or take) that aren’t even on the drive because I thought probably, I could live without them.

Gibbs, my go-to subject

Gibbs, my go-to subject

The final issue, since yesterday’s blow out left me with nothing that will work in either of the C (Thunderbolt) ports, is whether the pictures would show up. They showed up. Ready to go, boss.

Considering the horror of yesterday, this was a simple, elegant sit down. Me, with my software gathered about me on the sofa. I made it happen. I did it.

DAILY PROMPT | JUICY AND RICH

ONE THING, ANOTHER THING, AND THEN … ONE MORE THING

Garry’s computer went down, but that was okay because he could use my other computer. The Kindle went down, but that turned out okay because Audible fixed it and then Amazon fixed it more. But when my computer went down this afternoon, that was NOT okay. Not even a little bit okay.

First, there was a download. Turned out to be a BIOS download, but they didn’t mention this little detail to me and in any case, it didn’t matter because it blew out all my recovery backups. I have my photographs on hard drives, but the rest of my world is online.

It blew out Photoshop — the one from 2008 which had been running fine, thank you.

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It also blew out my sound, but after a bit of jiggling, I got that back. It blew out both of my C-port adaptors. They were cheap and I can cope with stuff that cost me ten bucks. Brand new. But when she told me the jpgs weren’t working and I had to call the company that owns my cameras, I got a little crazy. I was trying really, really hard to be normal, you know? I was trying to not breathe hard, not scream in panic or anything. I was doing okay, but that was it for me.

I said “It’s a FREAKING JPEG. It’s not a fancy schmantzy super special thing that comes with my fancy camera. It’s a JPEG. A lousy little JPEG.”

We eventually worked our way around to the point where she admitted there had been a lot of calls today, all pretty much like mine with people screaming “WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY COMPUTER?”

So — everything is working. Except I don’t have software. For pictures. I do, however, have Photoshop on Garry’s computer and the guy from the computer shop is fixing HIS computer. To be fair, Alien is pretty sure they can get me a version of Photoshop, too. It’ll just take a couple of days.

I’m just saying … it was one thing. Then, there was another thing. THEN, there was THIS thing. I’m totally freaking nuts. Except the computer is working … minus the lack of software. Maybe we’ll get that fixed too. Oy.

ANIMUSIC RESONANT CHAMBER

I woke up in the middle of the night with this music in my head. So, here it is again. For me, this is haunting music. and sometimes I really need a fix.

Animusic is music made visual. If music can be seen as well as heard, ANIMUSIC makes it so! Enjoy! I own several of their DVDs and they are wonderful. You can visit their website and see what’s available. The kind of music varies from classical to hard rock to “hard-to-describe,” but all of it has the same ability to let you actually see music, every note. If you don’t normally like music, you might like this because it isn’t like anything else.

I find this piece of music haunting and sometimes, I play it over and over again and can’t get it out of my mind. There’s something about it. Turn up your speakers, then watch, listen and be awestruck!

Click on the graphic (above) to see the entire production.

Animusic specializes in the 3D visualization of MIDI-based music. Founded by Wayne Lytle, it was originally called Visual Music. It became Animusic in 1995.

The company is famous for its futuristic computer animations in which the music actually drives the animation so that what you see and the music precisely correspond. This is as close to “visual music” as you can come.

Although other musical animation productions exists, there are differences. The models for Animusic are created first, then are programmed to do what the music “tells them.” Instruments appear to be playing themselves …  instruments that could never exist yet somehow seem entirely plausible. Many people, on first seeing an Animusic production ask if the instrument or instruments really exist. I thought it was real … strange and remarkable, but real. They are startlingly realistic. Sometimes funny, too.

See also on www.youtube.com

DISCOVERING SOMETHING ELSE – SERENDIPITY IN ACTION

Being a cast member on a movie set wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my experience with working on a film was drawn entirely from the media. Even subtracting 95% of what I thought I knew to align with reality, I thought something should be happening. I guess it was, if you were one of the stars or co-stars. Or even had a talking role.

movie-set-boston

But extras? Which is what I was, though these days the term “extras” is out of favor and “background performer” is in. Whatever you care to call us, we got shuttled from set to set, fed lavish buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Everyone chowed down with extreme prejudice.

Otherwise, we waited. And waited. Then waited some more. While we waited, we had to be silent. Don’t annoy the stars. Don’t be in the way. Don’t go anywhere — including the bathroom — without permission. Permission was from one of the dozens of assistants, those attractive young people running around with headsets and clipboards.

It was confusing, tiring, and dull. You never knew if someone might decide you or your group were needed in a scene, but even if you were never in any scene — entirely possible — you had to act as if you were about to be “up” any moment. Your presence or absence was (apparently) life or death. On a movie set, it turns out everything is treated like life or death. It’s a Hollywood thing.

It was mid-November. Night in Lowell, Massachusetts.  I hadn’t worn enough layers and I was cold. My feet hurt. Not to mention my back. I needed to pee. I was bored.

old favorite books

The director was on the 128th take. Before the night was done, he would exceed 250 takes of this scene. It was the turning point of the plot. It included every member of the cast except a bunch of us “background performers.” No matter. We still had to be there. Just in case.

I wondered how much money I was going to make, just standing around. I didn’t think it was going to be enough especially since it seemed unlikely this would be the night Hollywood discovered me. I wished I’d brought a book, though in the dark I wasn’t sure if I’d have been able to read. That was when I noticed the woman. She was standing just off to my right, leaning against a street light. It looked like she was reading, but whatever it was she was holding wasn’t a book. Something else. It had a light attached.

I sidled over.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“You’re reading? What’s that? I’ve never seen one.”

“It’s a Kindle.”

“OH,” I said, things clicking into place. “I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one before.”

She looked up and smiled. “It’s wonderful. I don’t know how I lived without it. I can bring books with me everywhere, as many books as I want. See?” she said, and she began to show me all the cool stuff it could do. Like being able to bookmark passages, get definitions of words and phrases. And carry a whole library with her in just this little thing no bigger than a paperback.

I held it, turned it this way and that. “You know,” I said. “This might be exactly what I need.”

Certainly my bookcases at home were bursting at the seams. Anything that let me buy books without finding someplace to put them sounded like a really good deal. And this thing would let me take books everywhere without hauling a trunkful of paperback. It seemed a good idea. But the price was still too high for me and I wondered if I would like a book that didn’t smell like ink and paper. It was convenient, but it lacked ambiance.

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Nonetheless, that conversation stuck in my brain. Long after the movie — in which I did not appear, though I had one scene which was cut and left on the editing room floor — had faded into memory, I remembered the lady with the Kindle. When the new generation of Kindles was released and the prices dropped, I bought one.

Then I bought one for everyone in my family who reads books. And I bought another one that plays movies and audiobooks and checks email. Finally, I got an even newer one that does the same stuff, but better and faster. And bigger, lighter, and takes (and sends) pictures.

I can’t imagine life without my Kindle. I don’t want to. I’ve got hundreds of books, audiobooks, music, everything on it. It goes with me everywhere.

A week or two ago — don’t remember exactly when — I had to read a paperback. It was heavy. It was awkward. I couldn’t hold it in one hand. And where was the light?

This may sound like no big deal. Just another toy, one more electronic gadget. But it isn’t. It was a game changer. Finally, I could travel with a whole library of books. Audio and print. I would never again run out of reading material, no matter where I was in the world.

Kindle and iPad

I’ve gone through four or five iterations of the Kindle experience since. By now, all my friends have them. Many of us have several, in different sizes and styles. I can’t imagine reading without them.

And finally, after my most recent upgrade to the next to the latest version of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ super tablet, I gave my iPad to my granddaughter (hers was pretty beat up and mine has 64 gigs rather than 32, like hers). After I got the newest (for me, but there is an even newer version available and probably will be yet another generation shortly), I had no further interest in the iPad which had always annoyed me anyway.

So everyone is happy. Skyping and reading and listening and watching … all because I met a lady when I was briefly (very briefly) a movie extra in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Watson, the game is on!

HOW DO THEY DO IT SO FAST?

It’s configuration central here and has been for a couple of days, though I hope to actual finish today and be able to move on to those other things awaiting my attention. I can hear the little voices of my undone tasks yapping in my ear. It’s like the whine of mosquitoes. I slap at them, but they keep coming back.

It’s not only the computer that is sucking up my time. It’s this stupid, horrible election. So much of my attention has been taken away from the stuff I really should be doing, I’m not getting stuff done, not like I need to. I can’t WAIT for this election to be done and over. I want my brain back.

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Meanwhile, I got my computer. I actually got it a week ago and it was not supposed to show up until the second week in November. Maybe they ought to have waited and sent everything at the same time, but as it is, it didn’t come with the software I ordered — or the peripherals I need. I ordered the computer and software from Dell. Yes, I know. The worst customer service on the planet … but some of the best computers. It’s like having your sister marry a man you really loathe, but they are a package deal.

One of the big changes in this new generation of computers is they mostly don’t come with DVD reader/writers, so you need an external if you are going to install software from physical media. I ordered the external DVD player/writer from Amazon. It’s the same one Dell sells, but $25 less with free shipping and 2-day turnaround. Also picked up a nice zippy 1 TB external drive and a cool mouse that scrolls side-to-side as well as up-and-down. Amazing how prices have dropped on some of this stuff.

Yesterday, the peripherals arrived, so today, I hunkered down and decided to make this computer function.

I installed Photoshop and Bridge. I finished moving files from backup hard drives to the new computer (which has two hard drives, a 1 TB 7200 rpm mechanical drive, plus a 256 GB solid state drive. Everything defaults to the C: drive — which is the 256 GB SSD — so I had to do some configuring. Not going to let that huge, D: drive sit idly by. I put all the photographs and documents there — and the Adobe stuff. I’ll leave the SSD for booting and other applications. Like OpenOffice and Audible Manager.

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All things considered, this has gone well. Smoothly. Photoshop and Bridge installed without so much as a whimper of protest, as did all the Topaz and NIK filters. The DVD external worked fine. The back up drives passed the data to this computer without a problem as fast as their little virtual brains could do it.

Nonetheless, it took a long time and I’m not done yet.

It reminded me of watching (I think it was ) NCIS the other night. Some fiend was copying a gazillion terabytes of data to destroy American via the Internet. Not only was this evil genius able to hack the U.S. government’s most secret servers (which I don’t find hard to believe), but they could transfer this massive amount of data in a mere few minutes. Wow. That I can’t believe.

With my brand new 3.0 USB Western Digital external drive hooked up to my not-all-that slow older Alienware computer (it’s got a core Intel i7 board in it), I’ve been backing up the documents library. It contains 177 GB of data and about 55,000 files. The file count includes a lot of hidden, system files, illustrations inside books and so on. Many of them are tiny. Nonetheless, this transfer from a fast computer to the latest greatest external hard drive has already taken more than an hour and looks very likely to take one more.

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How do they do it so FAST on television? They can transfer the contents of an entire super computer to a flash drive in less than a minute. And where did they get that flash drive? None of mine work that well. I’ve never seen one even close to that large or fast … and NEVER an error message. Nary a glitch. Amazing!

I’m SO envious! While I’m envying fictional TV crime series technology, can I (please, pretty please) have that battery that will run my laptop for a week without having to plug it in? Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the backup on the other computer to finish. Maybe tomorrow?

YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT

An argument is a modifier in computer language. Anyone who writes applications knows this, but most “civilians” don’t.

If you are a computer, you are always arguing. Computer language, unlike regular language, is remorseless. Unforgiving. You do it the right way or it won’t work. Or worse, it will work, but not the way you meant it to work. You misplace, or leave out a comma, or put a space between characters that should not have one … or put an underscore where there should be a hyphen — and who knows what calamitous results may follow?


0x00000116-blue-screenA blue screen error message that begins with STOP: 0x000000116 is due to video card or video driver related issues. 


For those of you familiar with Windows, you would in any case recognize this as a video card issue. Hardware or software. Usually, it’s a driver. Sometimes, it’s more than one thing crunching together. The problems began with installation of a new driver. My system said “No way!” and expressed itself by a black screen crash. I backed out of it and restored the system to before I installed the driver. Lo and behold, all was well. Or so I thought.

I waited until a newer driver was issued. NVIDIA issues new drivers so frequently you never have long to wait. All was well until Topaz sent a new version of its Texture filter. This blew up Photoshop. I backed out of the update, but simultaneously, NVIDIA sent a new version of “GEForce Experience.” An entirely new app.

When I tried to install it, it blew itself out of the system. In all my years of computering in the high-tech world, I’ve never seen that happen. It didn’t even leave a shortcut behind. Nothing. A hole in virtual reality. I could not restore it. For some reason, it would not restore from System Restore, or the external hard drive backup .


I do system backups to an external device. I’ve been doing some version of this for years, first on tape, then on CD or DVD, and now on external hard drives. Never, in all these years, have I ever been able to restore the system or an application using a backup. They don’t work. Never. It’s infuriating.

Thing is, I knew that this would likely be the case. Instead of counting on system backups, I back up data. If my system or a part of it blows, I know I’ll have to fix it some other way. Think about that. Just … ponder it. Save documents. Save pictures. Save music, books, and all that “stuff.” But the system? You’re going to need, as Quinn said in “Jaws,” a bigger boat.


Without that application, I couldn’t update the NVIDIA video card at all, so I went hunting and found a downloadable version on their website. I installed it and it also cleaned up the mess the previous download had caused. I then realized there was a new driver waiting, too. Oh joy. Just what I needed.

I created a restore point (just in case everything went south) and installed the new driver. It worked. But I was still getting way too many error messages involving the video card. Topaz wanted me to change my video settings, which I did. Dubiously, but I’m a good sport. It was working okay until this morning, it blue-screened me in the middle of answering a comment. Not exactly a major graphics project.

I rebooted. I set the graphics card back to its original factory default settings. This computer doesn’t want “better settings.”

My computer has too many arguments going on. I’m losing it because all I want to do is get on with stuff.

Herein lies the problem with running an older operating system on a computer with components that need frequent updating. The updates are not (really) designed for this operating system (FYI, Win7 Pro). My computer was a wee bit wonky a couple of weeks ago. It is a lot worse today.

I am losing all the arguments.

ARGUMENT | THE DAILY POST