s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: New computer

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New computer

About a month ago, my old laptop's motherboard died. Since my laptop was too old to be worth fixing up, I decided to buy a new one, which just arrived last week.

Things I like:

1. The color

Online, the laptop colors looked like something out of the late '90s iMac era. In real life, though, the colors are actually much more muted and opalescent. It's a pity, since I would probably have gone with purple if I'd known what it would actually look like. (I went with blue.)

2. That it's not a Mac

Don't get me wrong — I am infinitely grateful for the the loan of my roommate's school computer over the last six weeks. However, I am greatly fond of keyboard shortcuts and I find my style rather cramped without access to Home, Delete, Pg Up, and Pg Down buttons. (The Mac has a key called "Delete," but it functions the same as a PC "Backspace," which is to say that it deletes characters to the left of the cursor. What I was lacked was a button that deleted characters to the right.)

3. The Vista widgets

I was not at all excited about upgrading to Windows Vista, and even looked into Dell's program where you can pay extra and stick with Windows XP (but it wasn't available on the model of laptop I wanted). I'm not a fan of change, generally, and I'm still having some trouble finding my way around on the thing, but I actually kind of like some of the little widgets that came with it, including the clock and weather button.

4. The super long battery life

It probably helps that I don't have many programs loaded on this computer, but my battery life is crazy long right now. (I'm sure it also helps that I opted for the dual battery option.)

Things I don't like:

1. The twitchy trackpad

I don't know how to describe my trackpad issues any better than to call it "twitchy." I've turned down the sensitivity quite a bit and slowed down the cursor movement so that I don't go flying across the screen unexpectedly. In all likelihood, my old laptop was so old that the trackpad had become very unresponsive, so that's what I've gotten used to.

2. The lack of a 10 key pad

I know that laptops don't generally have 10 key pads, but my old laptop had one on the main keypad that you could access by holding down the blue function key. One of the main things I used it for was special character shortcuts, such as Alt + 0233 = é. Inexplicably, the shortcuts don't work with the top row numbers — with the keypad numbers — and I'm already getting annoyed at having to find workarounds to pull up the em-dashes for this sentence, for example.

3. The keyboard

In addition to the trackpad being twitchy, the keyboard is squishy.

4. Virus software issues

My computer came with a McAfee trial, but I'm supposed to get a free version of Symantec through the university. I had to uninstall McAfee in order to install Symantec, but the Symantec version that's supposed to be compatible with my operating system isn't working properly. So my computer is currently immuno-compromised. (This isn't technically Dell's fault, but it's still a problem until I can get our IT people to fix it.)


At August 02, 2009 11:48 PM, Blogger BJ Homer said...

So, while I'm glad you're at least somewhat-happy with your new laptop, I feel duty-bound to point out that all the shortcuts you were missing on the Mac are, in fact, there. I know you won't need them now, but for anyone else reading this. Tianna and I are both huge keyboard shortcut people, and you know I'd go insane without them.

Forward-delete = Fn-delete.
Or, if you have a full desktop keyboard, there's already a delete key. Perhaps they should have called it backspace instead of

Home = Command-Left.
End = Command-Right.

Some older Apple laptops have Fn-Left and Fn-Right labeled as Home and End. These don't mean the same thing as they do in the PC world, and I almost never use them. Cmd-Left/Right is what you're looking for.

Page-Up/Page-Down = Fn-Up/Fn-Down
Unlike the mislabeled "Home" and "End" keys, Page Up and Page Down usually do exactly what you're wanting. In a web browser, though, I usually use space for page-down and shift-space for page-up.

Anything else you wish you had:
Just ask me!

Anyway, I hope you get the issues worked out. It's fun to have a new computer. We're probably getting a new one soon too.

At August 03, 2009 12:15 AM, Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

I'm a fan of new toys. You should post some pictures.

At August 03, 2009 8:02 AM, Blogger Katya said...

BJ - Yeah, I know it's possible to do all of that on a Mac, but it's a royal pain to have to use two button keys if you're used to one button shortcuts. (I'm already having enough trouble switching back and forth between Mac and PC because I keep hitting "Alt" at work when I really want to hit "Ctrl.")

However, if you (either of you) know how I can download a keyboard that will let me have my 10 key pad back, I will be highly grateful.

Saule - You assume that I have a camera. ;)

At August 03, 2009 2:09 PM, Blogger Th. said...


I could NEVER switch to a Mac. Everytime I use one I want to punch it in the face; primarily because of the keyboard issues you mention. It's like learning a language that was purposefully designed to be different than my native tongue just to irritate me.

At August 04, 2009 9:47 AM, Blogger Melyngoch said...

Yeah, man, I hate squishy keyboards.

At August 05, 2009 10:05 AM, Blogger Peter said...

With respect to em dahes, there is an html entity you can use. I don't think I can write it here without it appearing as the em dash, but you can see how to do it in the Wikipedia article on dashes.


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