State of the world +1

Okay. I have an Ubuntu CD now, thanks to David. The computer boots and runs off of it -- a bit testy, but that has more to do with running the OS off a DVD than with the actual equipment, I think.

I did, eventually, get Ubuntu 12.10 to install to the HDD. After three crashed installations, it finally took me seriously when I told it to nuke the drive and all partitions on it from orbit. (Google already has possession of my soul my really important files.) The computer admits to having an OS now, and will boot to it about two times out of every three. The DVD method works fine, but there's quite a bit of access, and I suspect that if I tried this over the long term, it would eventually result in the slow, painful death of my optical drive. I have asked nicely in every way I know how, but for reasons unknown to me, the system is quite adamant that without an HDD to work from, it will not give me a bootable flash drive.

Something in the chain from HDD to RAM/processor is toast. I consistently get I/O errors upon doing absolutely anything that involves trying to read from or write to disk. Ubuntu complains about read-only file systems. It helpfully tells me to run Package Manager or apt-get whenever an attempt to start Firefox crashes, although since I'm not a native Linux weenie (I grew up working with DOS, then Windows, PCs) I don't have the foggiest idea where the Package Manager is on this thing, and digging up term and typing apt-get only gets me a mysterious list of switches and flags that I dunno what to do with.

I'd look it up, but it seems rather futile at this point.

There's a 90% chance that the drive basically bonked its head when I dropped the computer -- that is, the read/write head crashed through the air gap and took off some of the mag coating on the media-- and that I could fix this by replacing the HDD. But I don't know that. There's still a 10% chance that it's a crack in the disk controller on the motherboard, and I'd have no idea until I coughed up for another HDD. And I still wouldn't know if anything else is dodgy until I patched that back together.

Bottom line is, Maleficent is unreliable at the mo, and I don't have time to screw around with that. So tomorrow, after I hike deep into Medford and vote for Obama as hard as I fucking can, I'm taking the train down into Cambridge and walking out of Microcenter with a $250 computer. Their inventory of refurbs is ever-changing, but a lot of the ones listed around that price right now are Dells, which I'm actually fine with.

I've never owned a Dell, but two of Moggie's last three laptops have been Dell Inspirons, and the only reason the third isn't is that she's a PC gamer and Alienware was running a special on something very pretty. (Balthasar, subject of one of my previous entries, is an Inspiron. Still in the present tense, sort of. He was purchased in 2004, and he's only in a closet now because he and I think Red Hat had a slight difference of opinion about drivers -- if he were still running XP he'd likely be fine.)

NAU had some sort of unbreakable symbiotic deal with them, and all the PCs in all of the computer labs, plus the lender laptops at the library, were Dells. I have to say, they stood up to considerable punishment. I don't have any experience with their consumer support, but their institutional support lines were some of the most rational people the IT department ever got to deal with -- there was one year they had a slight problem with exploding capacitors on the motherboards of the model of desktop they happen to have sold us, and their solution was just to ship us a giant box of the corrected mobos and say 'call back if you need more'.

[I still refuse to buy an HP. Every one I've ever touched has been an unholy conglomeration of proprietary widgets -- like Compaqs used to be, except without the excuse of once having been a separate computer company with their own architecture. If they work, great, but I have never, ever, not once, heard anyone with anything nice to say about HP Customer Service. They're especially pissant about warranty repairs. I was once privy to the saga of a friend of mine, who sent her -- broken -- HP laptop to HP for repairs three or four times after only owning it a couple of months, and each time waited several weeks to have HP ship it back -- still broken -- so she could start the round of complaints all over again.]

My Toshiba baby will eventually get fixed, but if I'm not pressed I have the luxury of waiting for things to go on post-holiday clearance, like her favorite flavor of RAM, and reasonably-sized SSDs. (And screwdrivers. FUCKING SCREWDRIVERS. I tried replacing the keyboard with a paring knife and it just barely won't work for the screws holding the old one in place. Also, popping off the bezel makes a lot of scary noises I don't like a computer case making when I have no backup machine.) Will post pictures of the new (likely Dell) baby when I get it home, not leastly to make sure the damn wifi works.


  1. If you want a computer that will stand up to abuse, stick to your guns and stay away from HP. My first two laptops were HP-made, and neither lasted more than 2 years.
    My Acer notebook is much smaller, nicer, lighter, faster, and cheaper. I can live without a disk drive.


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