Time To Take The ‘Ol Laptop Out Back

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005, 1:37 pm

My computer has just about had it. I spent nearly an hour trying to get online last night, and even when I manage to get the thing working it constantly farts and spits up and makes my life miserable. I somehow got an irritating virus/spyware thingy on it that I so far haven’t been able to get rid of, and its about time I started saving up my pennies and nickels for a new laptop.

My current computer is, let’s see…6 1/2 years old. Am I running the oldest CPU in the pokerblogosphere? I’d wager I am. It’s a Gateway so old it’s actually a “Gateway 2000” computer. I got it as I entered B-school, Pitt having convinced us that we evening MBA students HAD to have a laptop. In fact, I think we were the last group of incoming students who weren’t required to have one. Though I think I only had one class in where I actually had it open in front of me.

Ah, think back to those halcyon days in 1998–everyone was signing up for e-commerce classes, I was told in my IT class that eToys would bankrupt Toys ‘R Us by the turn of the century, and one marketing professor said that we should rid ourselves of Dell Computer stock because Dell had no competitive advantages to prevent some other build-to-order company from entering the market. Ah, yes, getting an MBA was SUCH a brilliant career move. Especially as Pitt’s B-school ranking fell from #24 to about #54 in 2 years. But that’s another rant, for another day.

I call my computer my “laptop” though it hasn’t rested in my lap for nearly 9 months, and it hasn’t worked as a true portable in about 5 years. That’s when my keyboard suddenly and mysteriously went kablooie. Most of the keys still worked, but, and this may some as a shock, it’s hard to type with only MOST letters available to you. I remember reading once about a guy who wrote a 50,000-word novel without using the letter “e”. And I remember thinking, “What a jackass”. But if I’d only been missing the letter “e” I might’ve been able to finesse the situation. But no, my backspace clonked out, my delete, and if you hit the keys “Y” or “H” or “N”, it would come out “NHY”. The same thing happened with the “BGT” combo. Short of amputating my index fingers, this posed a problem.

I tried cleaning the keyboard myself, removing the keys and getting in there to blow away any debris. No good. I eventually took it back to my friendly Gateway Country store, where they told me, in a very friendly way, that they didn’t do maintenance on laptops. I had 2 options: I could pack up the computer myself, mail it back to South Dakota, wait 12-16 weeks, and probably end up paying $250 to get the motherboard replaced; or, I could spend $12 for a plug-in keyboard and see if that worked. I chose option two, and so for the last five years I’ve had to lug around a keyboard along with my computer.

That’s a minor inconvienince compared to what happed 9 or so months ago. I’d been having trouble with the screen, it’d be shifted out of whack or not working at all, and I’d have to rock it back and forth and give it a sharp rap on the side to get the wires properly aligned. Well, one day I turned it on and no screen at all. I rocked, I rapped, but those delicate calibrations did nothing. And so I had to get my folks’ old, OLD monitor (I think this one is 10 years old, easy) and plug it in. I’ve been deskbound every since.

And now we throw in this virus/spyware business. I really think that the WTO and the UN and, hell, even the U.S. Marine Corps should get involved in dealing with the scum who spam and write viruses and spyware. They cost the world economy billions of dollars, and the human cost is substantial as well. There was an article in Slate by Steven Landsburg that argued that folks like these should be executed. His argument is that, based on the economic damage they do, society would benefit by putting them to death and hopefully deterring like behavior. I’m SO on board for this. None of this “two years probation no computer access consulting job with Symantec” garbage. Your company sends out 3 billion unsolicited spam emails advertising ways to enlarge your penis? How about you spend 30 years in the Federal penitentiary in Marion? You’re some dateless wonder in Slovakia who comes up with an especially nasty virus hidden in a topless photo of Anna Kournikova? Where would you like your ashes scattered?

It’s sad to see my computer glitching and freezing. I remember the day I got it, seeing that big moocow box, tearing it open and there it was, my beautiful new laptop. Oh, how I lusted for a laptop. All that power under my control, and all of it portable! The first thing I did after I booted it up? This is pathetic, but I wanted to test out the CD player (yes, just CD, not a DVD) so naturally I put one in. My music selection? The theme from “Shaft”. Yeah, I’m Superbad.

But now my poor laptop is suffering. I can’t turn it off using the “Shut Down” or “Stand By” commands–it just locks up, and I end up having to hit the off switch and reboot the whole thing, which takes, literally, about five minutes. My system tray is so full of crap I spend another two minutes after rebooting clearing it out. I can’t two-table at Party or Empire anymore–after a few hands I get a message that they have detected an error and I have to shut down and start over. And now this virus nonsense.

I’ve actually been eyeing computers for over a year now, but my current one has worked well enough to get by, and there’s always something more worthwhile to use the money for. But I’m hoping to bank some cash from my writing to put toward a new computer, sort of an investment, as it were. When I started playing poker my plan was to put my winnings toward a new computer, but guilt and vacation prompted me to spend it otherwise. So I’m doing my research again, seeing what’s out there, what I really need in a computer so I don’t overpay for frills I don’t need. Like “RAM”. What the hell do I need that for?

Buying a computer these days is tough. There’s a lot of information out there–too much, in my opinion. Because EVERYONE has an opinion. My dad has a Dell, my friend Mark has a Dell, they like their Dells. So I check out customer reviews of Dell, and read of people who would rather go streaking through Fallujah than deal with Dell. And it’s the same with every big manufacturer. Then you have the little no-name companies who seem to have great products and fantastic prices, but then you find out that Acropolis Computers only supplies laptops with keyboards in the Greek alphabet. How about a refurbished computer? Great money-saving idea, until you hear stories that the sellers always leave secret passages through your firewall so they can use your hard drive to store loads of hardcore pornography–stealing valuable space you need to store YOUR hardcore pornography.

Sigh, the laments of the overwhelmed consumer. I’m not ready yet to make a kill, but I’m assembling data, narrowing the field. Making a list of what’s important (screen size, memory, hard drive) and what’s not (color, street cred). It’ll be a whole new world if and when I get a new computer. One whose speed is measured in Giga, not Mega, who has a bigger hard drive than an I-Pod, with more RAM than a GameBoy. And a keyboard that works–oh, how sweet that shall be.

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