You might be able to tell from the subject that this is not my usual debt-oriented post. Instead, it’s sheer frustration with malfunctioning computer technology. I don’t know whether the cause is the Dell Studio 17 itself, or Windows 7, but I have just endured over a dozen “Blue Screen of Death” crashes since about 1pm today (New York time–it’s currently 4pm), and this has taken the tally of crashes with this machine to well over a thousand since the first one occurred when I was making a live presentation to the U (short interruption here–the bugger crashed twice in the last 5 minutes and I am now editing this in safe mode!) UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), back in September of 2009.
Like most computer problems, it has been an intermittent one: long periods of stability have lulled me into hoping that the problem was over, only to have the problem recur just when I started to relax (it reminds of some relationships I’ve had in the past, but let’s not go there…). Not long before the warranty expired on this beast, I had Dell come by and try to diagnose the problem; the service technician found nothing, but replaced the hard disks, RAM and keyboard just in case (the numeric keyboard has always been dicky, both the old one and the new–I’ve given up using it because you have to type with the subtlety of Conan the Barbarian to be at all confident that a number you type will actually turn up in your document).
It then worked for a while, only for the problems to recur. At this point, I thought that perhaps it was a Windoze (sorry Bill) problem. I’ve had plenty of experience with flaky previous versions of Windows, and maybe, despite (or because of?) the hype about how great Windoze 7 was, maybe this time it was once again the operating system rather than the hardware.
So about a month ago, despite the hardship this causes with copy-protected software (where the authors seem to think that each new reinstall confirms that you are a pirate, rather than–as in my case–a captive trying to escape), I decided to do a clean install of Windoze 7 (64 bit Ultimate), getting rid of the upgrade version that came with the machine (since I purchased it when Vista was on the verge of being superceded).
For a month or so, that seemed to have worked: not a single crash.
Another half-dozen crashes have occurred since I managed to write the interceding paragraphs…
Then yesterday, I purchased an Ipad (this is just for forensic completeness–one of you hardware/software gurus out there might know that this is a consequential act) and installed Itunes so that I could copy material from the laptop to the Ipad. No obvious problem, apart from the hassles of having to use Itunes to copy files (and it crashed numerous times I should add, freezing in the middle of a file transfer and having to be shut down from Task Manager–PS, if anyone also knows a way to bypass Itunes to copy files to an Ipad, please let me know).
Then as I sat down in the lounge at JFK airport in New York to work on my students exam papers, the crashes began again. And they have been savage–everything from a 15 minute break between crashes (this current break may even beat that reliability record!) to repetitive crashes where the system would BSOD, reboot, and BSOD before I even had a chance to logon.
Fortunately I managed to capture some photos of the crashes–out of focus and with a grainy reflection of me holding the camera as well–and I have the Event Viewer records, some of which I’ll put up here in case any of you computer boffins out there can explain what’s happening.
But the bottom line is that I’ve had it. I actually purchased this beast with money raised from the blog (the balance there now is about $1200, nowhere near enough to purchase a replacement), so for that reason as well as my own financial limitations, I have tried to persevere with it. But I’ve reached breaking point. The tasks I have taken on are difficult enough without throwing unreliable computer hardware/software into the mix, so I am going to trash this machine and look for a replacement.
So can you computer savvy folk please answer the following questions for me:
Am I just unlucky, or have other people out there had lemon experiences with the Dell Studio 17? Personally, I have had a great run with Dell hardware prior to this–Mephisto (as I have come to call this machine) is probably the 20th Dell I have owned, and the only one to be a source of grief rather than power. So is this individual machine a lemon, or is there something systemic with Dell these days that should steer me away from another Dell purchase?
What computer company and hardware would you recommend? My minimum need is for a 17 inch screen running at 1920x1200, since when I work on monster ODE models while travelling I need as wide a screen as I can get (the biggest model, the 40 equation monster, requires both my 30 inch monitors back at home, so small screens don’t cut it for me). I also have about 500GB of data files and programs, and I would like to be able to move to a 64 bit address space at some stage, even though most programs still work in 32 bits (this machine has 8 gig of RAM which is why I have Windows 64 bit on it) so I’d prefer a machine that has the capacity for more than just 4Gig of RAM.
Can anyone suss what in particular might be causing these crashes, from the Event Viewer screenshots here? If there’s any chance to diagnose the problems, I’d take it because I really don’t want to replace a machine that I deliberately featured up so that I could keep it for several years before it became redundant (this beast has 8Gig of RAM, twin 500GB hard disks, and a reasonable pre-i7 CPU).
And, in its usual Mephisto fashion, it is suddenly displaying some stability (about an hour has passed since the last crash) just as I am about to deride it to the world. But stuff it: this machine has made my life a misery while travelling, and I am about to get even.
Rant over. Advice appreciated.