Saturday, January 12, 2008

Computer Woes Turned Opportunity

Last month, my laptop (DELL Inspiron 600m) seemingly kicked the bucket. It wouldn't power up, and when it did, it didn't boot. There were hard disk errors, affecting the Windows files. After further troubleshooting, I found an independent power problem. The battery was charging, but pressing the power button didn't seem to power it up, not even the BIOS screen was showing. This power problem had started back in October. It occured roughly around 1 in every 10 times I turned it on. It become more frequent and more consistent over the next couple of months.

As for the hard drive, retardedly, there were some research related stuff on the laptop that I had not backed up. Luckily, it was not affected by the hard drive errors. I took the drive out and copied that stuff out of it using a USB enclosure.

So I was resigned to my fate over the holiday. After all, I did not have a single problem with it since I bought it in May 2004. Khadam 3askareeto (=it served its military service) as we say in Arabic. It didn't take me long, though, after I came back to work to realize that I needed to buy a new laptop. I thought I can tough it out over the next few months and reward myself later for finishing a PhD milestone or something. By then, I would have saved enough money for another one. I am teaching Matlab (applied math software) this month and that requires that I have this software up and running in class (on a laptop). My boss loaned me one of the labs' laptops to prepare lectures and use in class, but I already feel extreeeeemely uncomfortable with that. Objects that don't belong to you, usually have a higher probability of breaking or being stolen. Basic Murphy's Law Thermodynamics. Especially if they belong to someone who has absolute power over your graduation outcome. I took this laptop home to finish preparing for Friday's lecture. It was housed in a very padded laptop case, but I was so paranoid that I set it horizontally on the passenger seat cushion, padded on all sides. I also drove reaaaally slowly over pot holes for fear of "shaking it up."

Being captive to my desktop at work was also getting to me. As a graduate student hoping to finish his PhD this year while working part-time for an unrelated grant... and teaching, my day doesn't typically end at 5pm. It's a hassle coming back to the office after dinner just so I can use a computer. So I broke down and bought a new laptop on Wednesday: IBM Thinkpad T61 with Inter Core 2 Duo T7500, 2 Gbs of RAM, 15.4 wide inch WSXGA+ (1680x1050 resolution), 100Gb HD, DVD-burner, Bluetooth, and NVidia Quadro NVS 140M (128MB) graphics card. Hello neighorhood coffeeshop with free wifi! I can join the ranks of hipsters again! Of course I have been checking the order status every 10 minutes until it ships, which the website says will happen on January 28! It will probably ship earlier, and Lenovo is simply covering their asses with respect to timing.

Then, after I placed my order, the old laptop powered up! I repartitioned the drive and installed Windows again. It's still extremely unreliable as far as choosing or not choosing to power up, but at least when it does, it boots a clean install of Windows. I don't encounter the power problem when I restart from within Windows. I will keep it running all the time, and leave it in my cube as a second desktop for testing/debugging stuff. Definitely won't rely on its failing hard drive.


Paul said...

welcome back!

Jude said...

Woo new laptop! This means that I immediately have laptop envy :)