Denise: J is chuffed to bits. He’s been looking on ebay for a replacement screen for his old notebook: a used item of course as new it would be the best part of £800-£900. But he’s found better: a reconditioned notebook of exactly the same type (Dell Precision M65, J tells me), but with even better processor, memory and hard disk – only two to three years old. And not only found, but bought it – an ebay auction – for just £148. Apparently it has a Finnish keyboard, but he’ll just swap the keyboard from his old notebook. Engineering work will pay for that in less than a day’s labour, so money well spent. But let’s hope nothing else goes wrong – we’ve had enough troubles of late.
Jonathan: You love them, you utterly hate them … and every feeling in between all in the space between booting up and shutting down. That of course assumes the damn thing does boot up properly, or for that matter actually gets round to turning itself off rather than going into a coma.
Both our notebooks were originally bought for my engineering work: until a couple of years ago I’d buy a new high spec computer for engineering every two years, and pass the previous on to Denise to use for another two years: the engineering work was so demanding that a four year life was the best that could be expected. But the way things have gone in recent years, that scheme fell by the wayside, and our current computers are over four and six years old, and still running Windows XP. What with the at least seven years of very frequent automatic software updates piled up on top of the original installation, these computers are struggling. Denise’s in particular has become extremely slow and unpredictable: start-up and shut-down rarely working correctly, the display sometimes taking an age to refresh, a growing tendency in the processor to sneak off to the bike sheds for a smoke and gossip, and the hard drive to examine its dimmest recesses in minute detail for a couple of hours just when you urgently need to open a spreadsheet. We were saying to Becky it makes us really want to just chuck the damn things out and go back to a simpler life: but she rightly pointed out that all our economic activities here are very highly dependent on computer technology – the internet in particular: rather than abandoning it we need to reinvest – we have to. So …
Despite the dire shortage of funds – we recently bought a new notebook for Denise: quality build but inexpensive as the applications Denise uses aren’t too demanding (basically Open Office, Firefox, Thunderbird, Publisher). This is now up and running and the difference is just astonishing! Her day is now much more productive, and that means she’s able to produce more stock for the Hebridean Woolshed, amongst other things.
Unfortunately we quickly discovered that Windows XP and Windows 7 computers connected via a router and network can’t see eachother, so I could no longer access the printers! The engineering software I use is pretty much tied to Windows XP and other drivers and utilities of the same era: I can no longer afford to update that software (maintenance contract costs over £2000 a year), and that means I need to make sure my Windows XP notebook (which is so high spec that I couldn’t afford to replace that either!) lasts as long as possible, so we decided to buy another new computer exactly the same as Denise’s, and that too is up and running with all non-engineering stuff transferred to that.
My old notebook sat unused for a few days – alas engineering work is far from full time these days and in any event it isn’t all about the special design software. Then something came up and I needed to do a bit of a design work. I switched on the computer for the first time in its new role. And would you believe it – the screen had developed a fault! At 1920×1200 resolution, it’s a very expensive – a replacement would cost as much as both computers we’d just bought!!
Without a moment’s hesitation, Denise said – it knows it’s been demoted, and it’s not happy about it one bit! So there you have it, computers too have feelings.
For the moment I can just about use my old computer, but I’m going to have to do something, or else I won’t have any engineering work at all!
Jonathan: Just back from 8 Askernish to look at a couple of problems the guests have reported: TV not working – turns out to be that the remote control has packed in (batteries good); and the immersison heater timer is permanently ‘on’ regardless of programme or what it says on the digital display. I seem to recall that in the early days of electronic consumer goods (the first I can think of would be transistor radios from the late 1960s) it was said of them that there were ‘solid state’ with ‘no moving parts’ and ‘nothing to go wrong’. So how is it that plug-in electro-mechanical time-switches (the ones with the tiny levers or pins all around the circular clock dial) are not only still made, but are actually available in more designs than are the electronic/digital models? Over the past 30 years or so I can recall many ‘electronic’ timers we’ve had going haywire or stuck permanently on or off, or just giving up the ghost entirely, but the ‘analogue’ type just keep going. A case in point are the clocks for opening/closing the hen-house pop-holes. Although enclosed in a ‘weather-proof’ box, the holes in it for pulley cord and cables mean they are exposed to a lot of damp and dust, yet they have kept going reliably through thick and thin. Anyway, I’ve just ordered a replacement remote control, and I shall have to remove the timer for the immersion heater until we can replace the timer and entire hot water cylinder (latter as planned) at the end of the year: until then the immersion will have to be worked on manual.