Grant’s New Computer

Last Thursday Grant sent me an e-mail and said he would like some help in buying a new desktop computer that he could use for e-mail, internet, and QuickBooks. I asked him if he wanted a monitor and he said it should include that. So I went to Dell and priced out a pretty decent system. I had to add a couple of small extras to get it over $600 and get free shipping.

It arrived earlier this week. It still needed a few things. One was some way of getting on Grant’s wireless network. His router is tucked away and he didn’t want to run a cable to the new computer (I don’t blame him). Dell doesn’t seem to offer internal wireless cards for desktop computers. Fortunately Mom had given me her wireless USB thumb drive when Fry’s replaced her laptop with one that already had wireless installed. Also I told Grant I could give him some speakers which saved a few dollars.

I went to Athens today to deliver the goods. There were things that were really easy, and things that seemed harder than necessary. I tried to installed the software for the wireless drive and it wouldn’t do this since the software was only for Windows 98, 2000, and XP. Grant has Vista. This was a problem because I couldn’t get to the internet to download updated drivers. I plugged the drive in anyway and when it asked, I pointed it to the installation CD. It installed the drivers no problem.

Now I opened Internet Explorer, but nothing was happening. So then I had to go to Control Panels and look for the wireless settings, which they have put in with Networking. It seems like Windows should have done this when it installed the drivers for a wireless internet device. Once I was in the right control panel Windows did find Grant’s network and we connected without a problem. So that was really pretty easy considering how hard it can be to get a wireless network going sometimes.

One thing that took me a really long time was getting the monitor resolution right. Grant had gotten a widescreen monitor but everything looked really fat on it. I played around with some different settings, but *everything* looked fat. When I chose something that should have fit a widescreen, it matted the screen on the top and bottom and still made it look fat. Eventually I figured out that I had to select the aspect ratio setting to stretch to fit the entire screen. I finally found a setting that looked right.

The other thing that was vexing was all of the garbage that is installed. Google Toolbar installed itself on the desktop with an automatic splash screen on startup. And Dell service and updates kept popping up. Then Norton kept popping up asking if it should be installed, updated, scan, etc. Even when Norton was installing, Norton was asking whether I wanted to allow Norton to install. I don’t think Apple would ever allow that to be the out of box experience. Of course all of these things come with dire warnings, like “Allowing this activity could put your computer at risk.” Reminds me a lot of the Mac vs. PC ads where the Vista secret service guy asks PC whether he wants to “cancel or allow” every time.

So I got a lot of that stuff to stop coming up at startup and got Norton all happy. There were also desktop widgets (a new thing in Vista), one of which was set up to tell the weather in Round Rock, Dell’s headquarters. I’m thinking not a lot of Dell’s customers care about the weather in Round Rock. Why not set that to the city where the computer is being delivered? There were a couple of other widgets: one that scrolled through pictures and one that popped up news headlines. I wanted to configure that to sports scores which I thought Grant would be more interested in, but nothing doing. It listed all of these different countries I could receive headlines for, but that was it.

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