Wednesday, January 7th 2015
Yesterday afternoon seems a long time ago. I remember a ring on the doorbell, a cheerful delivery man dumping a big cardboard box on the doormat and then time becomes a blur.
Time was when I would switch on the PC, make tea while it was doing its spiritual exercises and then get right to work. I thought something similar would happen when I switched on the new laptop. I was wrong. I found myself engaged in a long progress of informing the computer (and presumably Microsoft) more about myself then I have told many friends, all this in aid of establishing an account and being given access to the Pandora’s Box called Windows 8.1.
In the weeks leading up to acquiring a new computer, I had continually flipped back and forth between pessimism (“I am going to hate Windows 8.1 and it’s going to hate me”) and optimism (“Hey, it’ll be OK. You’re a clever chap and you’ll soon sort it out”). Now suddenly, I was confronted with the monster that had haunted my dreams.
A few weeks before, we had bought a book on Windows 8.1. I had given it some desultory attention but it had spent most of the time on the shelf gathering dust. I now reached it down and leafed through it again. The first thing to do was to move from the kiddies’ playground that is amusingly called the Start Screen to the Desktop. This is where the grownups gather and do serious work.
I was somewhat reassured by the fact that most of what I want to access on a computer could be accessed from here. I might have to hunt around a bit for it but it usually turned up sooner or later. I ran a few applications and learned to pin their icons to the Taskbar. I copied my set of portable programs from the old computer and soon discovered that you can’t pin them, even if you store them on the hard disk. So I put them all on a flash drive with a menu interface and ran them from there. Sorted!
By now I was feeling dangerously confident and this was, of course, the point at which things started going wrong. The main problem was with the display.
The point must be made that the “Windows 8.1 Experience” comprises two main elements, namely hardware and software. You know about the software – it’s the dreaded Windows 8.1 – so I will tell you about the hardware. This is a Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-113 laptop. It’s a nice piece of kit and I can’t fault it. (Well, I probably could if I tried but let’s not worry about that just now.) The only problem with it is the display which is splendid. In fact, it’s a bit too splendid. It is wider in relation to its height than my previous machine and the recommended resolution is 3840 X 2160. Applications, if they could feel, would feels like horses let out of a horse box into a big green field in the sunshine. Acres of space to play in.
But here’s the rub: they are just not used to so much space, poor darlings, and scrunch up small in one corner of the field. You need a magnifying glass to read the menus or recognize the icons in the menu bar. Changing the screen resolution doesn’t help. It just makes the display look ugly without solving the problem. Some of my most essential applications have become virtually impossible to use.
I will admit to going to bed feeling depressed. It seemed that I had bought an expensive piece of junk and would never get any sensible use out of it.
I awoke at 4:50 am (yes, I looked at the clock) and lay there thinking. My problem, I decided, was that I lacked a plan. Things always seem better when you have a plan. So my plan is 1. stop being depressed and think positive; 2. check whether the applications really are unusable or whether you can it fact get some sense out of them; 3. if they are unusable then ask for advice and/or seek for alternative applications, ones that will actually work on this system.
OK, it’s not much of a plan but it’s a starting point and it gave me enough optimism to start working on the computer again in a more positive mood. Since then, I have uninstalled some applications I didn’t want and installed some that I did want and have done some actual work. Yes, real work, not pretend work.
So there is hope.
Just a glimmer.
(P.S. This was written on, and sent from, Microsoft Live Writer, installed on the new machine.)