My Dog of a Dell (or is it Windoze 7?)

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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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.