Friday, January 18, 2008

When a laptop crush burns you

I have not yet admitted it in this journal, but for the last 2 weeks I've been conducting a torrid love affair with another laptop, a Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010. In this post I identified it as my newest laptop crush. Well, our romance was tumultuous and crashed spectacularly. Such a seducer, it was! Spectacularly thin (though not anorexic like the new MacBook Air ;-)), light as a feather; small, but with a comfortably sized keyboard. I thought it would make a great companion for me everywhere I go.

Long on beauty, short on capacity

I knew this extreme portability came with some sacrifices. For example, it lacks a CD / DVD drive. This didn't matter, because I use CDs and DVDs very rarely; I keep all my data on external hard drives or flash drives. What did give me a pause was that this laptop had only 512 MB memory. That's the same amount of memory I have in my old Fujitsu laptop (the one that had mouse-ectomy performed on it), and I bought it 3.5 years ago! It gets bogged down easily when I run the minimal number of applications I need every day: Firefox, emacs, Open Office and Photoshop. So it wouldn't make much sense to buy another lappy with just as little computing power.

I blame the wingmen

Why did I buy it, then? It's not that infatuation made me blind: I blame the wingmen -- sales guys at Fry's Electronics -- for my bad decision. :-) (Let's see how far can I stretch the analogy!) They assured me I can upgrade the memory to 2GB, and that it's very easy to do it at home. At home, Steve and I opened the memory compartment and peeked inside. Not only it didn't have the promised levers that let you lift the memory out and replace it with a new one, it didn't seem to have the same kind of connectors as the memory chip I bought. So I took the laptop to Fry's service department to see if they can upgrade it for me (for a price, of course). They kept it for a day, then called me and said the memory was not upgradeable: it was soldered on the motherboard!

I still didn't want to return the lappy at this point. I had already made 4 trips to Fry's within a week (the 4th one was to pick up the laptop's power supply, which I forgot the previous time) and I simply felt I have invested too much time in this laptop to write it off. So I tried to pretend I could work around this. Only I didn't get very far.

I don't click links that say "Click me!"

Steve set it up to access our home wireless network, but the laptop was unable to connect. I took it to a few coffeeshops with public, unencrypted access points, and it could not connect to any of them. Finally I called Fujitsu tech support from one of those coffeeshops. The tech support guy told me there's an icon on the desktop entitled "Click Me" and that I needed to click it before I could do anything else with the laptop. Clicking it will unpack a bunch of drivers and programs that are necessary for the laptop to work, he said. When I idly wondered why weren't those programs installed on the laptop to begin with, the guy replied only that Fujitsu has always done it this way. A compelling explanation if there ever was one.

I did not even see the tricky little icon at first, because I guess my brain has wired itself to tune out spammy word combinations such as "click [here|me]". Links that beg me to click them without making a compelling case why I should, are usually the kind I would never click if I knew what was behind them. :-)

But now I had to, so I did. I got a bunch of errors. After making me repeat the operation twice, the tech support guy concluded that the operating system (Windows XP) on the laptop was corrupted, because I had not clicked the icon before doing anything else on this laptop. I asked, "so you are telling me that the operating system got corrupted because I tried to access internet without unpacking those programs?" He said yes. I said it was beyond ridiculous.

Sometimes it's best to let that one get away

But then he asked me if by any chance, the laptop I bought was a a store loaner / demo unit. Why, yes, I replied. Indeed it was a demo unit. Part of what fueled my romantic fervor towards this laptop was that it was the last unit in store! In fact, they've been discontinued, and this was my last chance to buy a laptop of this kind. Nothing can inflate an item's desirability like knowing that this is your last chance to nab it! The tech support guy said, ah-ha! You never know what its previous users did to it, that might have corrupted the OS. Well, uh, maybe, but Fry's told me they wipe the lappy clean and reinstall the OS from scratch! Still, the guy said, my only recourse at this point was to reinstall Windows myself from recovery discs.

Thank you, I said. And I went back to Fry's and returned it.

So now I'm back to the laptop meat market. :-) I'll be more careful next time -- with my time and money, if not my heart. :-)

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