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Windows, ugh!

I've been helping a friend with his new Dell. He got a moderately lowcost desktop, a 20 in flatpanel, an inexpensive multi-function printer and a 2 speaker and subwoofer sound system as his purchase. I helped him on the purchase, too and was quite amazed at how good their support was - at one point I brought up a chat window to ask whether it had a parallel port and I go a no answer within one minute. Then there was some question about the discount and its interaction with a shipping charge deal so he called - there was no wait and the guy (indian) at the other end had a coherent answer in moments.

When it arrived we installed it. I was a bit surprised that the basic video card didn't have a DVI connection but the flatpanel came with both a DVI and VGA cable. For his use, VGA should be fine. The flatpanel came with a USB cable to connect to the computer so the extra USB ports on the flatpanel could be active

We installed his old MS Office and the CD-ROM with his personal files which was the easiest way to move old stuff. He then installed McAfee that comes with his ComCast subscription and some spyware. Everything was OK. We ran out of time and didn't deal with the printer. The next day he called me and said that after various windows updates got installed his machine was essentially broken. I gave him various advices which I assumed had to do with the Vista update on top of the spyware of McAfee. He ended up backing up the installations, letting the Windows updates occur again and then reinstalled the McAfee and everything was OK.

Yesterday we dealt with the sound system and the printer. The printer needed drivers (why doesn't Dell include drivers for their own printers already installed?). This machine wasn't a build-to-order since it was a sale special and it shipped the day after it was ordered. The CD with software mounted OK and went through the installation process fine except for the fact that it never signified that it had completed loading the driver. Apparently it had done it correctly thought, since printing and scanning work fine. The sound system was easy. We loaded a DVD and discovered that Windows Media Player and Vista basic don't include an MPEG-2 codec so it wouldn't play. Huh, why not in this day and age? There might have been a free one but we bought one for 14.99 which was outrageous but a lot cheaper than a Vista upgrade. At least WMP made it easy to do this.

When I mounted the CD-rom with the improved video driver it's automatic mounting stuff never caused the driver to be loaded. We were running out of time so I gave up.

This would have been so much easier with a Mac. (An iMac would have been $500 more and since he uses Windows at work....) I'm sure that sometime in the life time of this machine he is going to break the cheesy plastic disk drawer. I sure like the slot loading solution and also the fact that you have to interact with the OS to remove a device. Many years ago when I still had a windows machine and had a huge number of CDs of various releases of software source (I was working on a patent infringement suit - the case was in discovery phase so I had the enemies' software) I got into lots of confusion when swapping CDs with Windows not knowing that the disk had been changed. I switched to using my Mac for the rest of that project because I found better tools.

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I sure like the slot loading solution

I don't, and neither do two of my housemates; all of us have had them just randomly not be able to handle disks, or take the disk but then decide not to give it back — in one case permanently. (I was able to get away with just sort of prying the slot open with my fingers when I wanted it to eject something.)

It's possible that their desktop slot-loading drives are less prone to these mechanical issues than the ones they put in their laptops, but ugh.

This is without even going into the matter of those weird mini-CDs that one sometimes encounters.

or take the disk but then decide not to give it back

It works better when the disks are clean, just saying.

Personally, I've had no serious problems with slot-loading on either the Macbook or the iMac. Actually, the most trouble-prone optical drive of the seven before me is the tray-loading one on the Pismo. But after 8+ years, it has earned the right to be cranky.

Actually I remember a problem with my now 5 or 6 year old powerbook in that it wouldn't eject a CD. I tried every trick and eventually got it out without much damage. I replaced the stock combo with a SuperDrive at some point. That powerbook still works although it's battery doesn't hold a charge but I don't want to invest any more on it. I wish that Apple had a really small device (bigger than an iPhone though) but I'll probably buy a MacBook one of these days.

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