Friday, May 21, 2010

Computer Hell

I needed a netbook. I don’t travel THAT much, but I do, sometimes, and I’m usually an hour early at work because … well, it’s nightshift. I’ve been looking at laptops for a while, and netbooks seemed like a pretty good option. Comparatively small, cute looking, and about the size of a hardcover, so I can stuff it in my purse if I need to. I decided since I have an upcoming trip and plan on going more trips, that it’s time I actually bought one.

Little did I know, I was about to enter Computer Hell.

Buying the thing

Best Buy has the better selection of cheap/good netbooks. I decided on a small-ish three hundred dollar Gateway, which cost slightly more than the ACER I had wanted. I sweet-talked my dad into helping me buy it (which somehow segued into him buying it for me at hundred-dollar increments, so somehow I wound up giving my dad a loan to buy my own computer. I don’t ask about this stuff anymore, and if I’m short rent this month I can ask him for money guilt free) so he is standing right next to me.

And we move into the first part of Computer Hell. The case is locked, and there are no employees in sight. Normally I would wait patiently, playing with my soon-to-be new toy, but my dad has the patience of a two-year old with ADD and an ear infection. He starts pacing the store, fiddling with cameras and making grumpy sounds in my direction. We manage to flag down a guy in a blue shirt after about seven minutes of waiting (not a big deal to me, but Dad wanted to go in and out fast). The guy says “let me go get a key” and vanishes into the aether for another ten minutes. Dad also vanishes. Later I find him looking at iPhones. The guy produces his key, gets the box with my netbook in it, and heads for the cash register. Dad’s over by the keyboard phones, trying to make his thumbs fit (they don’t). I lasso him and we go to check out.

Whereupon I answer at least fifteen different questions with the word “No”. Do I want to pay for the extended warrentee? No. Do I want to buy Norton Antivirus? No. Do I want to pay for six months of Geek Squad tech support? No. After the fifth one of these, he could have offered me a coconut tapioca drink, a back massage and a free vibrator and I would have answered “No.” Finally he scans a couple items and we get to leave.

I look at my receipt and realize that even though I told him no, I’ve wound up paying for the Geek Squad tech support. I let him scan it because he said it “Came with the computer”. By now Dad is making sounds like a bull in Pamplona, and as there was a mystery discount on the computer, the math comes out even. I don’t give a shit anymore. They can have that extra fucking nineteen dollars. Bastards.

Basic stuff

I take it home, throw my purse on the couch, and open the box. There is the computer itself. It’s shiny. There are advertisements attached to the packaging. I locate the quickstart guide, which is written in about nineteen different languages. The tiny little not-so-quick booklet is only printed in English, so the nineteen different languages thing makes no sense. Also, our area has a LARGE Spanish-speaking population, so I’d expect the booklet to be printed in English/Spanish, but it’s not.

I find the battery buried under packaging materials, and the power cord, which is somewhere below that. I briefly theorize that they package these things in an archeological manner, carefully creating layers of packaging material to protect the fossilized power cord. I should have a brush and a really tiny chisel. I attach the battery to the back of the laptop, attach the power cord and start to plug it in.

At which point I realize there is no plug attached to the power cord. There are only two little metal prongs sticking out of a circle. This looks like a medical tool from Star Trek. I return to the archeological dig within the gateway box and find the plug, a separate little circle with all required parts attached. I guess this is so you can detach/attach different prongs depending on where you are, hopefully including a car adapter for road trips. This would be brilliant, except that the prong was VERY well hidden and there are NO OTHER PRONGS IN THE BOX. I wonder how often Gateway has gotten calls about this.

Customer: “I can’t charge the computer!”

Gateway Tech: “Check your box for the prongs to the adaptor.”

Customer: “…I already threw the box away.”

Gateway Tech: *headdesk*

With everything properly attached, I plug the computer in and promptly fall asleep, It’s about eight pm. I wake up the next day at seven.

Turning it on

The power button is on the keyboard. I HATE it when they do that. If anything hits that part of the computer, everything goes bye-bye. I had to disable that key for my tower, because my kitty-cat learned how to aim.

I hit the button, it glows bright blue. I guess so the sheep will know the computer is on. The power indicator also turns bright blue. The LED under the power button is redundant.

First thing it does is ask for an internet connection. Because NOBODY in the UNIVERSE would exist without the ‘net attached to a computer. (/sarcasm) I give it all the required information. It makes a small, happy burping sound and moves on to asking me about names and passwords. Because the internet is more important than the user.


I give my name as Christwriter, as that’s my computer identity, and just for the hell of it, decide that the company owning the new computer is Christwriter Studios. Because it sounds cool. The computer becomes Away Team. Because when I am Away, it is my new BFF.

Then it gives me the license agreements. Okay. And then registration, which always drives me crazy. I really wish computer companies could be a little LESS anal-retentive about who uses their products. I don’t want to steal your programs, your system tools, or anything else. I just want to use the computer. Stop making me jump through hoops to get to the fun, clicky bits.

A couple loading screens later, we get to our desktop, where the first thing we are asked is if we want to activate Norton.

Norton, in my mind, is somewhere below the plague but above syphilis. It’s expensive and whenever my Dad installed it growing up, he broke the computer. No. We don’t want to activate Norton. I close all the windows and move on to my favorite part of Computer Ownership:

Removing Programs I don’t need.

I kill everything that is not obviously Microsoft and/or Norton related, including the ebay program (I haven’t used ebay in years. Why use eBay to buy a CD when I can get the MP3’s from Amazon?), though I leave the netflix icon alone. I might want that later. I also leave the gaming console alone, because what the fuck, I might want that too.

Now we kill Norton.

I get my first view of the “Do you want to let this be changed” screen. I think I am going to hate this. Yes, I do. Leave me alone. It comes up twice when I try to kill Norton. Jesus.

Norton begs for its life. It’s worse than syphilis. It’s not getting saved. We get rid of it.

Then we restart. I check to make sure that Norton is gone. It’s not. It still has a couple of Norton related peripherals. I kill these. Then I start looking for leftovers. A search uncovers a shitload of things that are, somehow, still on my computer. I delete these one by one. The last set are the sixty-something foreign language .png images Norton decided not to delete the first four times around.

Worse. Than. Syphilis.

Finally I believe my new baby is Norton-free. On to the next phase:

Getting the Programs I will Actually Use

I use Internet Explorer for the first and only time, ever, to download Firefox. Then I go get Avast!, which is free anti-virus and better than Norton. Installation takes a while. I spend this time contemplating the murder of everyone who has ever written a virus. If I ever become famous and you virus-writers are here, fans, and reading this several years later, you all suck. Permanently. Unless you quarantined your creation on a password protected flash drive, you deserve to have your cranium hooked up to the internet without a firewall. Thank you so much for creating an industry where fucking Norton is the standard pre-install on everything. Go stick your head in an industrial strength oven.

Avast asks me to install Google Chrome. Which I don’t want. Bastards, this shit has even infected the good guys. After a few more questions and a long wait, we have Avast up and running. We update virus database, make sure the program itself doesn’t need to be updated ( who knows, maybe the brand-spanking new download isn’t nearly as brand or spanking as it says) and we’re off and running. We didn’t even have to restart.

Fuck you, Norton.

Then we go get yWriter and Open Office, two tools without which I would die. MSWord does not handle novel-sized documents well. I need Word for its formatting, as that’s Industry Standard, but anything I do with Away Team won’t require formatting yet. Open Office can handle Word’s formatting (the reverse is not true) and yWriter is just to make organizing the novel easy. Also, when you try to print, say, chapters nine through thirteen, Word will crash and Open Office will print. I’d ask Bill Gates to take note, but he’s too busy swimming in a pool filled with dollar bills and processor chips.

Okay. We’re all set up. Now we start moving files over. Music. Writing files. .jpgs of my projects. Away Team has no cdrom, otherwise I’d load Photoshop 7 on it for later use. This takes a WHILE. The good news is, it results in backups of everything I would hate to lose, and backups of the backups. Sweet.

I decide to create a brand new background because the old one is bland. After twenty minutes of poking around the netbook, it finally tells me that I have Windows Seven starter. This has all the necessary system peripherals to let me run Word (gag) or Open Office (love!) surf the net, listen to music (God Bless Sirena) run the webcam that was NOT on my list of required or even desired devices … but I can’t change the desktop. Because I’m not allowed to personalize my own computer unless I spend ANOTHER 119$ on the upgrade. Also, no way to adjust the sound channel-by-channel. You have to use the pre-set equalizer. Which sucks, because there is WAY TOO MUCH TREBAL.

Fuck it, I have an MP3 player, and I didn’t buy a netbook for multimedia experience. But the no-personalization thing … fuck you, Bill Gates. It would make more sense if you made, oh, that Snap thing (which I love. That is so cool) the things for file organization and whatever other cool features I haven’t worked out yet part of the Premium package and let people put a new background on their screen. I am not spending another hundred bucks so I can make my desktop have my characteristic shiny. You’re a bastard too, just like Best Buy, fucking Norton and Google. In fact, you started the bastardy. It’s all your fault!

But you also basically invented the modern computer, so I can’t hate you completely. I’ll just deny you the hundred bucks I could have spent on the upgrade and use it on a mouse and a keyboard that doesn’t aggravate my carpel tunnel.

There you go. The first twenty-four hours of New Computer Ownership, AKA Computer Hell.

And one more time, because it needs to be said:

Fuck you, Norton. You’re worse than syphilis.

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