Another metablog

It’s not that I don’t have some postings in mind, or that I’ve given up on W.a.R., or anything of the sort.

Heck, last weekend looked like a great time to:

  • Write two or three good, substantive posts, maybe even one relating directly to libraries
  • Write a nice little mini-perspective on Google iconoclasm (looking at the Web4lib streams and the extent to which some people seem to reject any suggestion that Google is not perfect or has limitations, or to call even the mildest criticism “Google-bashing”)
  • Start in on a (c)2 piece, mostly on orphan works
  • Maybe even go back to the public library and check out some pleasure reading: It is, after all, summer.

Ah, but we’d finally started looking for a notebook computer for my wife, now that we have wireless broadband (“wireless” in theory, since the router’s a foot away from my desktop, so using an Ethernet cable’s more realistic than going out and buying a WiFi card for my desktop). We’d spent too much of the previous weekend with her trying out a range of units at Office Depot and Fry’s, with keyboard quality being a critical issue and her making 100% of the decisions as to how much money she wanted to spend for a machine that’s likely to be lightly used for the next year or two, and most of that for writing.

Well, there was one unit that she liked reasonably well even though neither of us is that wild about the corporation involved: a Compaq with a 15″ *non*-widescreen bright screen [a good thing, in this case: for her purposes, the lower resolution--1024x768, as compared to 1280x800 on the typical 15.4" widesdreen--combined with more vertical space makes everything more readable]. It was $699 with a $30 rebate; not terribly well equipped, but enough for what she wants to do, and we both figured that 18 months to 2 years’ life was what we were looking for (and since she’s not planning to port it outside the house, that should be realistic).

And Office Depot had a one-week $150 rebate offer, bringing the price down to $549. That appealed mightily to the cheapskate in both our souls.

Oh, and I’d started agitating for a 19″ LCD display to replace my six-year-old 19″ (18″ viewable) CRT, mostly to cut down on bulk and power consumption–but also because the power switch on the Trinitron was getting flaky. (Odd, after no more than maybe 10,000 cycles, but I’m guessing the power switch is the place to cut corners on a Trinitron.) And Saturday morning, it was *very* flaky: took me six tries to get it to turn on, three to get it to turn off.

So, after the usual leisurely Saturday morning waffles and grocery shopping, she suggested that we go back to OD and look at both–that is, the Compaq and an LCD display.

Which we did. And after typing, noting the problems (primarily that the touchpad’s a little too wide, so it’s easy to accidentally touch it with a thumbbase while typing rapidly, which in Works causes the live cursor to move unexpectedly), and thinking about it, she decided it would suit her just fine. And, to my considerable surprise, she went along with the LCD purchase as well–more specifically, the one I really wanted (a 19″ Sony with the sleekest design I’ve ever seen on a display, along with as good a display quality as I’ve ever seen), even though it was $100 more expensive (after $100 rebate) than the 19″ Samsung that the store clerk recommended. (“We put the Sony right at the end because the picture’s so spectacular, but we sell the Samsung because it’s a better bargain.”)

Which, by the time we were done, pretty much shot Saturday afternoon (and we always walk to dinner, in this case 1.5 miles, then watch a DVD movie Saturday evening). I even postponed my usual Saturday chores (vacuuming, dusting, de-cat-hairing the furniture) until Sunday.

Ah, but here’s where it gets strange:

I needed to make sure that her notebook could access the internet via the wireless router–that it really was a functioning wireless router.

And she wasn’t about to let me set up the LCD until we had something to protect the screen from the ravages of our cats (one of whom can, and will, scratch any surface softer than pure glass, and LCD screens fit that description).

Sunday morning over breakfast, I thought I’d do the trivial steps needed to establish a reasonable-security connection for her notebook on the router. Then we’d figure out how to find or build a suitable protective device.

Bwahahahah…

The steps and documentation provided by SBC had the combined effects of turning off Microsoft’s zero wireless (or whatever it’s called) setup service while not at all even remotely actually making a wireless connection via the software supplied. (Before running the software, a scan showed that our network existed–but we couldn’t actually use it.)

I figure I spent about six hours overall installing, uninstalling, reinstalling software (NONE of this was Microsoft’s fault: I lay it all at the foot of SBC’s software package) before finally finding that, by removing the SBC software (not their special browser, but their connection tools), using Microsoft’s methodology, and trying three different possibilities for what the actual WPA key *might* be, I was able to get the notebook to do something other than sit “Acquiring network access” (or something like that) for an indeterminate period. It actually connected.

Sort of: It couldn’t actually reach any internet sites. That turned out to be a Norton conflict: Norton was bundled, but wasn’t set up to autoconfigure to actually either allow IE (or anything else, *including* Norton’s own registration) to access the internet *or* to tell you something was wrong. Somehow, I fixed that. Nirvana, or at least a reduction in a frustration level that had me very nearly starting to scream (and enjoying lawnmowing, which I don’t, and the Saturday chores simply because it meant I was accomplishing something, no matter how trivial).

So she has a notebook that can access the Internet. It comes with MS Works, and I went out and purchased Works Suite (which includes the full Word, which is what she needs), which I’ll install tonight or tomorrow. I’ve installed the Epson drivers and verified that just switching a USB cable means she can use my printer/scanner (I could set it up as part of the network, but what’s the point: she could only use it that way if my PC is on, since the Epson certainly isn’t network-aware).

Oh, and we spent another 90 minutes looking for possible screen shields. We ended up with a temporary possibility, though it won’t be ready to use for another day or two (until which time the sleek Sony sits in a closet).

Total time available to work on writing, updating this weblog, or doing anything other than shopping, basic weekend chores, and fighting with idiot software (again, not MS this time): Zero.

And, of course, I’ll spend an hour or so putting the pieces together for all those rebates (two on the Compaq, one on the Sony, and a $20 rebate on MS Works Suite).

So that’s how my weekend went. I’m delighted she finally has a home computer that she wants. (She’s the more computer-literate of the household at work–where she actually uses two computers with a keyboard/display switch, because her work requires it. She just doesn’t bring that stuff home much.) Now that I’ve had occasion to use the Compaq head-on, I’m astonished at the quality of the display, particularly for such a cheapo computer. (On the other hand, I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to touchpads instead of mice, and I’m addicted to my ergonomic MS Natural keyboards, but then I already have a home computer.)

And maybe by next weekend I’ll actually have time for some writing and blogging. Maybe not: New crises can always arise.

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