Breaking in the new equipment…

So, I got a fancy new laptop from work last week. Let me lead off by saying overall it’s a tremendous improvement from the five-year-old laptop I was previously saddled with using. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t a few issues.

The first, which I discovered on my first full day of using the laptop away from its “docking station” on my desk at the office, is that there are only two USB ports. Those ports are arranged in such a way that it’s impossible to simultaneously plug in my removable Wi-Fi adapter and any other USB device. The adapter is slightly wider than a thumb drive… but sufficiently wide that it makes the second port unusable. Fine. A $13 USB hub ordered from Amazon later (plus $2.99 for same day delivery) and I can now use my air card and a mouse simultaneously. I won’t comment on the aesthetics of that whole set up other than saying it looks like absolute trash sitting on my desk at home. 

This morning, a piece of software I use all day every day fired up as expected and a few minutes later promptly disappeared. It’s as if it never existed on my machine at all. No trace of it anywhere. 

This necessitated a call to the obviously misnamed “Enterprise Help Desk.” The gentleman I eventually spoke to was nice enough, going so far as musing that it was strange because the last person he talked to was having the same issue with the same missing program. More people with the same problem might sound like it’s worse, but in fact being part of a big problem is much better, because something that impacts many users is far more likely to get attention than if you’re the odd man out in the wilderness somewhere. If it’s a group problem, it might actually get fixed. If it’s an individual problem there’s a pretty even shot that your ticket will just linger long enough for someone to mark it complete regardless of whether they’ve solved your problem or not.

Here I am, hoping that I really am part of the many rather than the few. In the meantime, I’ve been directed to the web version of the program that I need to use all day. Honestly, if there’s anything more problematic than not having the software you need, relying on its underpowered web version is it. As always, my standard disclaimer applies… if Uncle wants me to be able to do something, I’ll be given the resource to do it. Otherwise, I’ll cheerfully report that there’s nothing significant to report or that we just can’t get there from here.

On the up side, at the rate we upgrade our office technology, I could have as few as one more new computer to go before I call it a full career. So, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

What I learned this week…

It’s week two of the crisis, but I’m still learning things. I’m leaning so many things that honestly it’s just easier to list them.

1. Bread, the book says, is the staff of life. In a crisis the breads I like most – sourdough and seeded rye – stays on the shelf longest. Even when most else is picked over, I can usually find one or the other in stock. So I’ve got that going for me in the apocalypse, which is nice.

2. Two monitors isn’t a luxury. I’ve spent the last two weeks working exclusively on a laptop. It’s find for basic word processing, but if you get into any heavy lifting in Excel or find yourself needing to edit the fine print in PowerPoint, there’s just no substitute for dual monitors. If I thought they’d get here before the Great Plague is scheduled to end, I’d order up a pair of cheap screens to retrofit the home office, even if it did temporarily crowd the much prettier Apple rig sitting on my desk.

3. Last and finally, I need to talk to myself more often while I’m working from home. After almost two weeks of having just a few phone conversations and occasionally talking to the animals, my throat feels like ground chuck now that I’ve spent the day chittering with people in the office and fielding the random phone calls. It’s probably also because of today’s distinct lack of afternoon tea and honey.

New computer day…

I’ve put it off for as long as I reasonably could, but today was the day that I finally was forced to send my venerable Dell Latitude E6540 into retirement. Sure, it was five year old tech cobbled onto a platform that’s design traced back to the early 2000’s, but I legitimately liked the big brick of a machine (when it wasn’t hopelessly crippled by security patches and software updates). Over the last dozen years I’ve probably had five different variations of this model and as much as it was big and heavy and generally clunky, it was a workhorse. I toted the E-series all over the country. The only times it ever crapped out on me was when I was working at the office… Which makes it about as reliable as any other coworker, really.

OK, so I’m just trading it in for a newer series Latitude from the same manufacturer and this updated unit as a few extra bells and whistles – some of which the powers that be who run the network haven’t decided to eliminate yet – but I don’t have a bond of trust with this generic black machine idling on the corner of my desk. I don’t have the same level of trust in its quiet, differential being that I had in my obnoxiously heavy silver companion.

It’s probably a better machine on all fronts, but the real problem is every time someone has given me a new computer, something horrific happens during the transition – half a decade worth of saved email disappears, the contents of My Documents disappears, various drives stop working, or the internet becomes “unfindable.” I’m waiting to see now what the form of my destruction this time around will be. Who knows, maybe everything will go swimmingly and the transition will be seamless… although based on historical experience that really does feel like the least likely of all available options.

An open letter to the Enterprise Service Desk…

To Whom It May Concern,

On May 31st I called the Enterprise Service Desk to request support with an ongoing issue of frequent restarts, freezing, running checkdisk, and random problems within Office software products. This was a follow up to a previous call made on March 9th for a similar issue where I was told to call back if the problem happened again. A help ticket was opened as a result of my call on May 31st.

On June 7th, my ticket was closed because it had been “resolved.” No one from the Network Enterprise Center or local IT customer support contacted me on this issue. In addition to this being a missed 3-day response time under the terms of the service level agreement, it also has the dubious distinction of being blatantly false. My issue has not been resolved and my computer performance continues to exhibit the same behavior.

I once again contacted the Enterprise Service Desk on June 7th and was informed that the original ticket from May 31st could not be reopened. The representative I spoke to then opened a new help ticket and the clock started again on a new “3-day” response time. With a computer under warranty exhibiting these troubles, the “no brainer” response should be issuing a new machine and sending the broken/defective equipment back to the manufacturer. I consider this service absolutely unacceptable. I’m simply appalled that I’m now in the second week of trying to achieve more than a “phantom resolution” to my issue.



Then there’s the set up…

I’m coming to you live and direct from a freshly unboxed 2013 MacBook Pro Retina. My assessment after thirty minutes of dinking around and loading software is that it’s a slick little machine. So far I’m impressed with what I’ve seen. Then again, the fact that it didn’t take half the damned day to boot up practically seems like a feat of magic at this point.

The first thing I noticed, of course (aside from how fast it is), is that the screen is absolutely beautiful. I knew it would be better than what I was use to, but I hadn’t realized just how much better it was going to be. Everything is a little “squished” since I’m coming from the 15-inch model, but after adjusting some muscle memory I’m sure I’ll adapt to it fairly quickly. Now it’s just a matter of setting it up the way I want it and making sure it can see all the network drives. Good times on this first day of a 5-day weekend.

Bottom line early assessment: It’s light, it’s fast, it’s a work of friggin’ art. Basically it’s everything that Apple said it was. If you find yourself in the market for a laptop and don’t mind paying the inevitable Apple Tax, it would be well worth your time to give the new Pro line a look.

Out to pasture…

The reliability of my venerable Late 2008 MacBook Pro has reached such an unfortunate state. Despite my best efforts at salvaging the situation, it is time to retire the poor, battered contraption. Assuming all goes to plan, this will be the last post from an aged, and increasingly temperamental machine.

As much as I love new tech, parting company with this first of the aluminum unibody Mac laptops is bittersweet. You see, it comes with history. Or at least some personal history.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple Macintosh. There were six of them squirreled away apple_macintoshin a back room of the library at George’s Creek Elementary in the mists of pre-history (AKA the mid-1980s). I was probably all of eight or nine years old. We eventually added one at home too – my entry into having a real “personal” computer. That little beige box met all of the household’s computing needs for almost a decade.

The year was 1995. Enter Windows. I got my first Compaq desktop and never looked back. I was a committed Windows user from there on – building a series of progressively more powerful machines. That lasted for more than a decade of upgrades, new towers, and laptops until finally it ended with a puff of acrid smoke from the back of a Gateway laptop on March 20th, 2009.

Apple lured me back, not with a computer, but with a phone. I was so enamored with the engineering prowess in that first iPhone that I thought surely they know how to build a computer. And they did. The machine I’m typing this on outlasted generations of new computers, three major OS upgrades, and in almost five years didn’t so much as hiccup on anything I asked it to do. Right up until the point where it started choking on everything, of course.

Like every other bit of electronic kit, my ’08 model has reached a point in its service life when it is simply uneconomical to repair. In the finest tradition of American consumerism, I will therefore shunt it unceremoniously aside in favor of a newer, shiner model. But I won’t do it without posting one last blog from the machine that brought you every single word ever published on, two ebooks, and spewed snarky commentary from one end of the internet to the other. It deserves at least that much for its years of good and faithful service.

The case of the mysterious disappearing blog post…

Under other circumstances, what you’d be reading right now is a blog post that I lovingly spent 35 minutes crafting especially for this evening. What you’re reading instead is filler because my laptop once again decided to choke on all the awesome and pass out.

In fairness, I shouldn’t blame the laptop. It’s a 2008 model MacBook Pro, running with 2GB of memory and in service every single day that I’ve had it. I’ve been consciously ignoring the fact that it’s flaking out more and more often these days. My inner technophile just can’t bring itself to spring for adding more memory to a 5+ year old laptop. Despite my best efforts at triage, removing all but the essential files and programs, and generally treating it with kid gloves, the writing seems to be on the wall that it’s time to either spend the money on an elderly machine or retire it in favor of something new.

After six months of furloughs and shutdowns, I’m vaguely unsettled about dropping the cash, but at the same time having multiple works in progress residing on a machine that increasingly shows its age is untenable for much longer. Hopefully I can ease it along to Thanksgiving in the hopes that our friends in Cupertino are feeling extra generous with their holiday discounts. Until then, it’s daily backups and saving my work every 30 seconds.

Resource constrained…

Everything in life more or less comes down to a competition between wants, needs, and the resources to make those things reality. Needs are fairly basic – those things we must have to sustain life. Wants are more problematic in that the more we have, the more we tend to want. Resources, of course, are very nearly always constrained in one way or another. Having spent six days sitting at home over the previous month and a half when I would have otherwise been working, the constraints are a little tighter now than usual. That’s a shame, because we’re ramping up to that time of year when the wants start following an upward trend. Put another way, it’s the time of year when Apple starts rolling out it’s new mobile toys.

Over the next two months, the boys and girls in Cupertino are set to roll out new versions of the iPhone, iPad, and several varieties of actual computers. Given that I’m currently limping along with a 2008 model MacBookPro, upgrading that really should be my first priority. Of all the machines in the house, it’s the real workhorse and takes the lion’s share of abuse in blogging and general writing. Now that the battery issue is resolved, my iPhone is working well enough and could easily last another year in service. The iPad mini gets its share of daily use, too, but basic web browsing doesn’t exactly tax its considerable abilities. It really should be the last thing I’m looking at replacing right now.

When it comes to new toys, of course, logic and service life remaining don’t exactly play a role in my analysis. It’s almost a mortal lock that I’ll be up in the wee hours of a morning soon after September 10th ordering a new phone on its first day of availability. If I have to make a case for needing a new one, I can always fall back on the fact that the old, standard 8GB of mobile storage isn’t what it use to be. Which is both true and sad all at the same time. I’m a little more hesitant about replacing the iPad at this point. If there isn’t a true retina screen built into the mini this time around, I think I can justify waiting for the next generation in my own mind. Without some exceptional change, a two year replacement on tablets almost feels reasonable. As far as getting over the hump and bringing a new laptop into the family, well, it’s probably going to remain in the easy to justify but unlikely to happen column this time around.

Funny how I can justify a new phone every year in my own mind, but not a laptop unless there is literally smoke poring out of the back of it. Stupid resource constraints always forcing me into the fun decision instead of the responsible one.


I don’t expect alot from my tech, but when I do tend to expect is that it runs quickly when I hit the on switch. Up until a few weeks ago, my laptop delivered as much zip and performance as it did the day I took it out of the box. Now it’s gotten so laggy that I can barely stand to use it. I’ve tinkered around with some of the settings, cleaned things up as best I can without making a major effort, and have pretty much been met with more chop and even less vim and vigor. I’ve got plenty of hard drive space left, sufficient RAM, and a machine that’s acting like it’s severely underpowered. Spending your off hours trying to diagnose a sick laptop isn’t the way you want to spend your time when you’re pretending to moonlight as a real life struggling writer. I need my laptop that just works, to just work and not give me a crap ton of problems right now. I’m going to try to nurse it through the next few days and the dedicate as much time as necessary this weekend to put right. Failing this weekend’s heroic efforts to make a repair, it might be time to bite the bullet and spend some of that tax refund on something shiny and new with some plussed up processing power.

With the impending launch of the 3rd gen iPad, it might be time to consider going back to an overpowered desktop for home using the iPad for all my mobile needs. Sure, it’s another one of those fancy first world problems, but it’s the one that’s in my face giving me fits right now, and that’s the one that always gets tackled first.

Lost in the machine…

I had a fairly hearty post written up for tonight, but at the moment it is lost somewhere in the machine. I swear this isn’t the blogger’s equivalent of “the dog ate my homework.” I really did have a post and now it’s really, really vanished somewhere between WordPress, my laptop, and the vastness of the world wide web. I’m sure it will turn up somewhere sooner or later. I’m going to do a restart and see of anything jars loose. Thinks have been ever so slightly buggy since I installed Lion, so I’m hoping a restart fixes whatever glitch I’m having.

In the meantime, here’s a great read from a Freshly Pressed blogger railing against “The Lack of Holidays in August.” Head over there and give him a like, ok?