Tech Stuff

New PC Diary, Part 1

Once upon a time, I had a laptop. Back in 2007, not long after this blog started, I bought a Toshiba Satellite and ran a series of “New Laptop Diaries” about it.

Well it’s finally burned out, a combination of the (in my experience, at least) shoddy hardware that Toshiba provides and the disaster that was Windows Vista. Before I lost all my data to a machine that would barely start and even when it did would shut down when you jiggled the power cord a little, I copied everything important onto my storage and went out and bought an HP Envy 700-214 Desktop PC. Here it is, glowering beneath my desk.

It comes in this box, and is packed full of Windows 8.1 goodness and bloatware. Fortunately at work I’ve learned to deal with much of this. Good specs: 12MB of RAM, a 2 terabyte hard drive, and a speedy Intel processor.

When plugged in my monitor using the DVI port, it looked fabulous. The monitor had been attached to my laptop as a secondary, using the VGA connection, but it really didn’t do it justice. Neither does this photograph:

Setup

Setup was a breeze. I was more cautious than I needed to be, because the instructions were Ikea-ish in their sketchy icon style (only not as good). But I plugged it in, hit the power button and off it went. It found my wireless network, connected, found my Microsoft account information and ported it all over, and after about 10 minutes of watching the screen change color I was ready to start working.

Software Choices

A computer like this doesn’t really come with anything I especially need to use to get any work done. Office is a trial version, the only browser is IE, there’s no Java, no image-editing program, no code-monkey editor. The old laptop had a bunch of great programs that I don’t have the disks for. You know the type. That was actually one of the hurdles I perceived in updating — losing Photoshop, Office, Dreamweaver, Sibelius and several others.

But welcome to the 2010s. Paint.net, Open Office, Eclipse — and there’s probably a nice replacement for Sibelius out there — will do the job fine. I installed them all, and I’ve got what I need. I was happy to see that Open Office can even open my password-protected Excel files.

OMG So Much Mail

Another big task was my email. I’ve been using Thunderbird since forever, and haven’t been too good about purging old emails. And so my profile was close to 10 gigs. Yeow. Just copying it over onto the backup drive took all day (the problem with Vista’s Wi-Fi speed never really went away. It copied files to the backup drive at speeds approaching 150K per second. Yes, K).

Thunderbird isn’t supported anymore, apparently. Which is actually fine since the program kind of sucked. But to get my email archive into a state of availability I needed to get something running, so I followed Mozilla’s directions on moving to a different machine and …. nothing. Thunderbird would launch, and immediately freeze.

I’d heard Postbox was a really good option. I’ll have to pay for it, but I think I will. In frustration, I installed it and on first run it asked me if I wanted to import my Thunderbird settings and mail. And what do you know, it worked.

Next Steps

An FTP client, and bringing back my working files for web development from the backup drive. Stay tuned.

Tom

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he’s also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

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