On Buying Laptops And Vista

Saturday was a day of major purchases for me: bought a nice and wide 17″ LCD monitor, a new laptop, a Seagate FreeAgent 160 GB external HDD and 1GB of RAM for the now stuttering PC.

Buying the laptop

The parents were with me, since the laptop is (was?) for them: we went to the Toshiba, HP, Lenovo and Acer showrooms. There was very little product differentiation: The Toshiba laptops appeared to be were priced higher than the rest, and a couple of the Acer models we did like the look of did not have bluetooth. The strangest thing: the lenovo showroom had the laptops packaged, and the shopkeeper appeared intent on pushing the HP/Compaq range at us. We couldn’t really try out any of the laptops, so we decided to just go to the HP showroom. In ideal circumstances, I take my time and talk to 20 friends before making such a purchase. However, the mother was adamant that we pick one up TODAY, and so we did. Since there was very little product differentiation, I told them to choose a screen size that they’re comfortable with, and I just picked up the one that had all the basic features, was fast enough, and had enough USB ports and Bluetooth.

The one problem I did face while buying a laptop: every machine (barring the Acers) had a Windows Vista installed. The Acers had Linux, which I don’t think the parents would have been able to handle. Apparently, HP doesn’t give you an option for an OS, so no XP; not even if you buy a CD and give it to them to install it. The Vista is unbelievably counter-intuitive, going against design and usability that Microsoft has gotten its users used to. Now, every time one starts a program, it asks you to verify that you want the program launched. It took me 45 minutes to figure out where I can add the network settings, and even then, I had to turn off a bunch of settings to make the connection work. Like Shyam said – so much has been made of the security loopholes in Windows, that this time there’s overkill – it’s almost as if they don’t want you to use the Internet with the Vista. That, and the extremely poor usability. What I can’t figure out is – if Vista’s such a pain, why is HP offering its users such a sub-standard product – and not giving users a choice? An OS adds around Rs. 500 to the cost of a laptop.

I’m not very comfortable installing OS’ and partitioning hard drives, so Shyam offered to help switch the laptop to XP: Now it appears that XP doesn’t support the new hard drive format – SATA, and will require additional drivers. Since MS is likely to discontinue the XP updates, and switch/force users to switch to Vista, I might just end up switching the laptop to Ubuntu…which isn’t so bad for me, but might not be so easy for the parents.

The Seagate External HDD  And The Monitor

Some regret about the Seagate external HDD and Monitor… I should have spent a couple O’ grand more and bought the 300 GB drive, and a 19″ monitor. The drive tries to replicate the functioning of a normal desktop, which is silly…but it appears more reliable than the others available in the market — my 40GB one (laptop drive in a local USB casing) is quite unreliable.

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  1. More power to Ubuntu!

    On a serious note, I think that there is an option to load SATA drivers *before* the Windows Xp install starts… Have never tried it though.

    If Xp is giving trouble, just put in an Ubuntu Live CD, and see if your folks face any problems. It should all just _work_; unless there is a specific software they need.

    PS: If you can, email me regarding pricing/availability of the external HDD. I want to buy one; and asking people in the ‘States to get it for me seems like too much work. I’d prefer to buy it locally, as long as it’s cheap.

  2. Really, get rid of Vista. Get XP from wherever. However. 2 GB is just about okay for Vista, XP runs like a dream. And everything you (they) need runs on XP. Do not touch Vista till at least SP1 next year, I’d wait till SP2 the year after.

    Else, like Ankit said, Ubuntu (actually, Kubuntu) 7.10 – With Open Office on it, and Firefox.

    On the monitor, I’m running a 14 – yes, fourteen – inch CRT, and I don’t see the need for anything larger than 17 unless you’re into graphic design or CAD. This monitor is six – I believe seven in a few months – years old, and refuses to give up 🙂

  3. Adi: I spend the entire day on the PC…a larger screen is just more comfortable. Also, glad to switch from a CRT..not good for the eyes, as you probably know.

    Ank…have given up on the switch from Vista…considering Ubuntu, but it’s the partitioning of the HDD that I have an issue with.

  4. WinXP does support SATA disks and if I’m not wrong then then it loads the SATA drivers automatically after detecting the disk type so you don’t need to load it seperately or something! 🙂

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