New computers

Tuesday, January 6th 2015

One Sunday evening, six years ago, I was working on my computer when it was suddenly hit by a virus attack from some source online. I recounted the story in my post Under Attack and the subsequent recovery in Back to normal.

At the time, I was using a desktop PC that had been custom made for me by Tigger’s brother. When I went back to the computer repair shop to collect my computer, the technician who had worked on it told me that they had some laptops on special offer and asked if I would like to buy one. Tigger had a laptop that she used occasionally and I had done some work on it and become reasonably used to handling it. The idea of a laptop was appealing, firstly, because of the small size, compared with a desktop model (and in a small flat like ours, size is important!) and, secondly, because I could imagine occasions when being able to take the PC with me would be useful.

The laptop in question was a Toshiba Satellite Pro A300, a small, neat machine of attractive design. The only problem was that the installed operating system was Vista, and I had heard enough about this operating system to know that I didn’t want it on any machine of mine. No problem, said the technician, we can install Windows XP on it if you prefer. Given the good price, this seemed an opportunity not to be missed. I let Tigger know about it and she asked to have one as well.

This turned out to be a very good purchase indeed. The machines have proved extremely reliable and have performed faultlessly for the last six years, though mine did once suffer a hard disc failure the very day before we were due to leave on holiday! (See Cliff-hanger.) We managed to overcome that little disaster and everything has been fine since then.

All other things being equal, I would be happy to continue with the present machine and operating system for the foreseeable future. I have my computer set up how I like it, with my data stored neatly away and easy to access and all my applications arranged to optimum effect for the way I work. The world moves on, though, bringing new challenges for aging technology. Applications and Web sites have become more complex and demanding over the last six years and our Toshibas are now struggling to keep up. The final blow came when Microsoft ceased supporting Windows XP, meaning that there would be increasing security risks as well. We finally convinced ourselves that we would have to update our hardware.

But to what? The most obvious move would be to whatever is the latest version of Microsoft Windows, given that all the applications that we use are Windows applications. Unfortunately, the latest version of Windows is the dreaded Windows 8 which has rightly attracted a huge amount of criticism. Apart from having to cope with the operating system itself, there is the question of to how long it will remain viable: will it turn out to be another Vista and soon drop by the wayside, needing us all to upgrade again?

Another possibility is to move to Apple. As we already have iPhones, iPods and an iPad, this would seem an attractive option and I have given it serious consideration. What is against it is that the software I habitually use would no longer be available to me and I would have to find Apple alternatives, something that would absorb a lot of time and imply a learning curve.

An intermediate solution would be to buy a computer with Windows 7 installed, on the basis that Windows 7 is more similar to XP and I would need less time to become familiar with it. Microsoft will be supporting Windows 7 until 2020, by which time we shall probably be thinking of upgrading our computers again, anyway. I think all of my most commonly used applications would work with it.

Tigger, as you might have gathered from previous posts of mine, is more adventurous and less of a worrier than I am. She has no doubts about it: she wants Windows 8 and she wants a touch screen. Sorted!

It makes sense for us to have the same machines. We think and work in differently from one another which means that each of us discovers things and can pass on the knowledge and tips to the other. If one machine goes wrong, the chances are that we can work out how to solve the problem using the other machine. I therefore decided (with an appropriate display of reluctance, of course!) to follow Tigger’s lead to Windows 8 so as to maintain parity and cooperation.

Because we had been satisfied with our Toshiba laptops, I phoned Toshiba UK to ask for advice. I think the call lasted the best part of an hour and I gained some valuable insights into what was available. This was just before Christmas and the assistant told me that a new updated catalogue would be available after the New Year. We left it that he would call me on January 2nd to discuss matters further.

Happily, by the time he called me, Tigger was home from work so we could both participate in the discussion. We were first advised to go for a fairly average spec machine selling for around £500. However, Tigger noticed the flaw: no touch screen! Adding a touch screen to the configuration took us quite a way up the price range. The model we chose is a lot more expensive but seems to have everything. Tigger gets her touch screen and I get, um, well, I get a new computer. One with Windows 8.1 on it. Rats!

Because we bought two computers, the good people at Toshiba got quite excited and did us a deal which took a little bit of the sting out of the pricing. Not much, but not nothing, either.

As I write this, I am sitting waiting for the new machines to be delivered. Then, textbook in hand, I will have to start familiarizing myself with Windows 8. I shall be keeping the old machine running for as long as necessary during the transition. Knowing that I can go on using it takes some of the stress out of the situation.

Will I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, I mean, Windows 8? Time will tell.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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12 Responses to New computers

  1. PlayswithHorses says:

    Windows 8 isn’t as bad as it is made out to be.I would say the oddest interface is the charms. Once on the intro screen you can easily move to the desktop which functions like Windows 7. Of course, there is the bloatware to remove, but that is the case with most computer purchases.

  2. Great last line.
    I finally made the jump to Apple, but my husband’s company machines are Windows. He’d consider an Apple, but the engineering software and other programs he is familiar with and needs is the biggest issue. Some programs do not translate or do so poorly..so it’s a mixed user household….and I do tend to sneak in there and use his sometimes.
    Touch screen sounds very exciting!

  3. cbramhall says:

    We’re still using XP at work because of one specific bespoke application which hasn’t been updated to run on anything later. In the meantime, the rest of the organisation has moved on to Windows 7. I believe the rest are now skipping 8 and waiting for whatever Microsoft call the next version but our hope is that by then the bespoke application will be updated to run on the latest Windows. However, as someone who has now been a Mac user for a number of years who only uses Windows XP at work, I do wonder what kind of assumptions will be made about familiarity with the operating system, with a consequent lack of training. I’ve already had conversations which run:

    Tech: “Which version of Windows are you on at home?”

    Me: “Mavericks”

    Tech: “?”

    Of course, I keep winding up the powers that be by suggesting we switch to a Unix distro, especially from a cost front as it would mean we could drop MS Office and it’s licensing costs, but alas nobody has been prepared to consider it a serious suggestion.

  4. BFG says:

    What peeves me about Microsoft’s stance on XP is that they’re continuing to support it, but are denying the vast majority of XP users any of the updates. The media continue to claim that XP is no longer supported, and of course that is absolutely not true. If you have oodles of cash and hundreds of installed systems, you’re going to continue to get updates. I hope someone breaks ranks and finds a way to let the rest of us get access to those.

    Windows 8 (already up to its third release) is a pig to use. Some of the functionality that was accessible in XP has been removed. Particularly egregious is the wi-fi interface idiotification. My wife’s notebook runs 8 (if “runs” is the right word) and it’s a nightmare for me to support. I can multitask more effectively on my ageing 32 bit XP box than she can on her 64 bit system and my network access is faster too. Where we live everyone who uses 8 has problems (I polled the support staff :))

    The next version of Windows is 10, for what should have been an obvious reason: Microsoft already have versions of Windows that begin with 9. It’s more like 7 than it is 8, and likely to continue marching away from 8. I’ve been running it (and 7 and 8.1 Update) as virtual machines under XP on hardware that Microsoft insist can’t support any of those OS’ (hah!), and 10 Preview so far looks to be what 8 should have been. It may be too little too late though, and the requirement to wipe your system before installing 10 is going to be a big obstacle to many.

    Good luck!

    • SilverTiger says:

      My initial problem is that some of my most frequently used applications either do not work or do not display correctly. The latter problem seems to be owing to the available screen resolutions are therefore insoluble.

      • BFG says:

        One possibility is to run XP as a virtual machine within 8, and then try to run your app(s) within that. If the link pastes OK, here’s one possible approach:

        http://blog.zeltser.com/post/67023415049/how-to-get-a-windows-xp-mode-virtual-machine-on

        • SilverTiger says:

          An interesting idea to think about. I suppose it won’t solve the screen resolution problem, though.

          • BFG says:

            One possible approach might be to research whether there is an alternative video driver for your new Win8 box that might provide the resolution you need. A number of blogs I’ve scanned through report that Microsoft dropped the ball with their own drivers, and often the graphics chipset has a superior driver available from the manufacturer or distributor.

            If that pans out, another idea worth looking into is creating a virtual machine installation file from your current XP implementation (so you basically get your old machine as a software implementation of itself). I don’t have a specific link to hand but if it’s something you consider worth pursuing I’ll trawl through my stuff to see if I can pull up any notes, references, etc.

            • SilverTiger says:

              I think that for the sake of simplicity (and I’m basically a very simple person!) I will just have to seek out new software that does what I want and does it on this machine. The old tiger will have to learn new tricks.

              I will also try contacting the authors of the softwares in question in case they have a solution.

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