Buying a New Computer

For the first time in…. well, probably 10 years or so, I bought a new computer. The previous one was bought from Cardz computers and was a 386DX-33 with a whopping 1 meg of ram and a huge 100 megabyte hard drive. I don’t recall if it came with anything but MS-Dos 5.0

The computer I bought last night was not for me, but for Firefly’s gramma. She wanted something to write stories down with, but didn’t really know what she wanted outside of that. I toyed with building her one for a while, but in the end a few factors convinced me to convince them that buying a store bought system was far more of an advantage than me building one for them. Now I’ve been building my own systems pretty much since I started in computers, but in this case….

  • Less work for me overall
  • Some of the parts I need to get a box build (ram, case, etc) I don’t have or are unsure of their quality
  • Support, no calls to me about the HD going or whatnot (see first point again)
  • More faith in the hardware overall

So we decided to head out and get gramma a computer, let Firefly set it up, get rid of what wasn’t needed and install what was, load some music on for her and whatnot.

We ended up getting a $599 special from Futureshop. While I know they are evil and the spawn of satan, we’ve gotten pretty decent service from them lately and I figured that at this low end (again, this is a glorified word processor), pretty much every place has about the same prices for about the same hardware. Except for the fact that their salesmen are trained like agents for a ruthless mob leader when it comes to pimping out their extended warranties (which we took, again, so any problems could be avoided), we got it without incident.

Getting the box home and setting it up, I was shocked, and realized the reason that I haven’t bought an in the box computer, much less installed OS (that is to say, windows, which you don’t have a choice about thanks to Microsoft’s lovely OEM licensing deals).

The version of XP Home that was installed on the system included some software, MS Money, Works, and some others, which we wanted so we didn’t have to give gramma pirated software. However, what was presented to us was literally a desktop full of icons.

Lets see, there were links to upgrade quicktax, MSN, a 60 day trial version of Norton Antivirus, two separate “internet sign up” icons, no less than three separate AOL icons, one of which you could not delete from the desktop (WTF?) but only went away when you removed it via add/remove programs. Musicmatch, Windows Media Player and the Real One players were all on the desktop as well, along with two icons for MS Works. Lets not forget the homepages for IE was set to some random address.

Oh My.

No wonder MS keeps their sweet ass and illegal OEM deals, I’m sure they are being paid gobs of cash from companies wanting to get an exclusive in to allow Compaq (in this case) to put icons on the desktop to assault the poor use when they first turn on the computer.

The AOL stuff, by the way, was reported as three separate versions installed when it was removed from add/remove software. Half the software when we did remove it demanded a reboot (I thought that a feature of XP was “less reboots!”?).

Firefly played around with Windows Media Player and MusicMatch and deemed them both to be utter crap compared to good old winamp, especially for someone in their 80s. Musicmatch almost won out due to it’s sort of “playlist oriented” nature, but the fact it’s not a full version means that whenever you start it up (and possibly, everytime you play a song, we didn’t let it get that far) you get a lovely voice telling you how great it would be to upgrade to the full version (and I didn’t have the inclination to go and grab a warez version from somewhere).

We also started up MSN Explorer to check it out and see what the “softer version of IE” (my words) looked like. When it announced that it was going to make a call and needed a credit card number it was deleted quickly. Of course, it wasn’t in the add/remove programs, oh no…

What else? Oh yea, the next thing we did was to install the 28 critical updates needed (as we all know how important keeping windows updated is). This was about 45 megs of downloading, but it looked like it failed partway through because the windowsupdate servers were being pounded by people trying to upgrade their systems due to the latest MS worm making the rounds. I think we got the important ones though.

Part of my shock at the whole thing is that when you install XP from CD you get a desktop that is utterly, completely, blank except for the recycle bin and the wallpaper.

Not all the applications on the desktop whose icons we removed were in the add/remove programs either, so who knows what is running on gramma’s system! Luckily she’s not getting internet access (yet) so some of the extreme locking down can be done later. Right now I just hope she’s happy with the system and enjoys using it to write her stories and letters and whatnot down.

This has of course solidified my desire to never ever ever buy a computer with windows pre-installed (and due to the OEM deals, this means I have to build my own or buy a mac), which is fine by me. The Windows XP experience isn’t all that bad (IMHO) when done from scratch. I can’t see how people can put up with or deal with the crap that they are thrown though, except that they don’t know any better.

3 Comments on “Buying a New Computer”