My last Dell–or HP

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I’ve had it. Sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight to Bangkok, I was casually reading a Sydney Morning Herald story about Kevin Rudd,  when this happened.

Another BSOD! This is the first on this machine-a Dell XPS15z–but it the third machine in a row in which I’ve had this experience.

The first was a Dell Studio 17 which I purchased two years ago, and which had so many BSOD crashes in so many inopportune moments that I finally nicknamed it Mephisto and went in search of an alternatve (see “My Dog of a Dell“).

I went with my university’s purchasing office’s choice of HP–only to have that machine crash with a BSOD on its first overseas trip two weeks later! Having been through the experience of the Dell Studio crashing, I would estimate, about 1,000 times in the year before I decided to replace it, I wasn’t about the repeat the experience with HP, so I returned it and attempted a repair of the Dell–a replacement of its motherboard and memory after having previously replaced memory, hard disks and (for other reasons) keyboard beforehand.

With 4G of RAM installed, it began to behave itself–until two weeks before my trip to England in September/October to launch Debunking Economics. Then it crashed in the middle of a lecture.

My students can put up with such an experience, but it means that I can’t record the lecture for the web–the program doing the recording (BB Flashback) goes down with the operating system. I couldn’t afford a repeat of the problem while launching the book, so I hastily purchased a Dell XP 15z online, and it arrived a day before my departure for England (I can’t fault Dell’s online sales system).

To my great annoyance, I then found that the XPS 15z didn’t have a VGA port, and Dell didn’t supply a mini-DVI to VGA converter. So how was I supposed to give a presentation then?

I reluctantly lugged TWO laptops with me: the refurbished Studio 17 that I hoped would not fall over as I gave my speech at the launch, and the XPS 15z for research (since it’s significantly faster).

I have since tried to find a workaround to the absence of a VGA output on it, to no avail–and I am not the only one, from what I have seen on online discussions. Nothing has worked satisfactorily: the Apple DVI to VGA converter worked when directly linked to a desktop data projector by one specific VGA cable, but it failed today at the Society for Heterodox Economics conference, so I wasn’t able to put my presentation up on my blog.

I was contemplating being forced to buy an ultra-portable with sufficient screen resolution to match a decent data projector (minimum 1024×768, preferably 1400×1050), when this BSOD happened.

So I’ve had it–to repeat myself. I now need an ultraportable that must have a VGA output port, minimum screen resolution as above, plus sufficient grunt to run my software–minimum 4G RAM, preferably +750Gig Hard Disk, and … reliability. I will no longer consider either Dell or HP.

Suggestions please!

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.
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66 Responses to My last Dell–or HP

  1. steve allder says:

    Steve, have you seen this guys work – Mark Buchanan, former editor of nature physics

    He has new blog physics of finance

  2. koonyeow says:

    Title: True

    From Steve:

    If it was KoonYeow, they’d probably all pass with flying colours–even as they crashed! -:)

    That is, a posteriori, true.

  3. Luke Davis says:

    1 Laptop – Bad luck
    2 Laptops same brand – Bad Brand
    3 Laptops different brands and models years apart – The problem is local.

    Possible causes –
    1. Virus Scanner or a Virus or Virus scanner with a virus. If you have a techie at the uni get him to look into it. There are a billion things you can do but chances are if it is a virus your home/work pc of usb sticks/drives are re-infecting you everytime.

    2. Software – Some other process you installed and is running in the back ground may be causing this. Go into services and disable or switch to manual start anything that doesn’t look important. Windows comes with about 30-40 services of which at least 10 can be turned off.

    3. Drivers – Updating drivers doesn’t always fix issues but most times it helps. Memory/Motherboard/IO devices especially.

    3. Environmental – Is the fan getting excessivly dusty – if you regularily work in an environment with lots of dust/pollution then heat may be an issue – but the two weeks before a bsod almost rules that out unless you have a dirt road next to your office.

    4. Direct sun in the car. If you leave a laptop in the car in direct sun then DON’T Especially if unattended and no air con running a black laptop can get up to 80 deg in a car in summer. When I did some work in Mareeba north Queensland one of the guys showed me how to fry an egg on his work laptop while we were in the bush. As a techie I was horrified. But the eggs were delicious. The plastic is non stick too 🙂

    5. Internet Explorer – I have more hassle with this then anything else. Flash and Adobe particularily don’t mix with IE. Chrome should be alright but adobe of flash may be causing an underlying issue if it regularily bsods while adobe/flash or IE is running.

    6. Shock – It may not apply but don’t throw the laptop around, even in its case. Common sense I know but had to mention it.

  4. Sam Court says:

    Keep It Simple Steve:

    Now that they’re Intel based, you can just run Windows on it without running it through a virtual machine or whatever, so performance is good.

  5. Steve Keen says:

    Thanks Luke, 1 may well be the issue–Zone Alarm Pro was on all 3 machines (though it’s on my desktop too and that has been quite stable). I’m trying a drivers update, never do 4 or 6; but IE may well be a culprit in concert with Flash. I get regular issues with those; the program that falls over most frequently for me is IE, which is bizarre. I use Chrome almost exclusively as a result.

  6. Steve Keen says:

    Yep. Good to see an econophysicist publishing in the media.

  7. swio says:

    You do serious work.
    Buy a serious laptop.
    Get a Lenovo Thinkpad.

  8. koonyeow says:

    Title: The koonyeowian Approach


    Basically we are trying to isolate the problem by determining if it is hardware of software related. Both should be tested independently.

  9. koonyeow says:

    Title: Blame The QWERTY Keyboard


    ‘hardware or software’ instead of ‘hardware of software’.

    I blame the keyboard for placing ‘R’ and ‘F’ too close.

  10. Michael Heidecker says:

    Just as a general comment, all major manufacturers of laptops have different lines, for consumers, for gamers, for other multimedia purposes and for business users. Unless you have specific needs, you normally better of with the business lines, which is e.g. the “Lattitude” line for Dell. They will give you less CPU power, display size or harddisk power per dollar, but you end up with a much more stable system.

    And its generally advisable to sign up for next-day world wide on site service agreement as well. This will cost you some money upfornt, but was helpful for myself several times.

    The advise to stay with intel components I would support as well when you are looking for a more stable solution.

  11. Brendan says:

    I had a HP for my last but one. Ran for maybe 18 months then died. Swore off them since then (store assistant for my last computer also had nothing nice to say about HP).

    I personally don’t run flash if I can at all help it. If something is in flash rather than text odds on it is entertainment rather than information.

  12. Pingback: My last Dell–or HP | Economics for People

  13. Steven Shaw says:

    +1 for the MacBook option. If you want an ultrabook, you could get an MacBook Air 13″ which almost has the resolution you are looking for (but you’d have to have carry a portable HDD if you need 750G). A MacBook Pro may be more suitable overall (but of course, more expensive). I’m no Apple fanboi. I wrote about my experiences with what appeared to be a terrific spec’d HP Pavillion. It may be that it was a dud as it overheats and auto-shutdowns.

    BTW, right clicking isn’t a big deal (and certainly you don’t need an external mouse or keyboard). You can Control-click, Control-tap or double-tap. The double-tapping requires enabling in the Trackpad preferences. I missed PgUp and PgDn for a while but now very comfortably use the trackpad to slide up and down.

  14. Steven Shaw says:

    Sorry, “double-tap” is misleading. I should have said “two-fingered tap”. See

  15. Steve Keen says:

    That’s what I attempted to use Steve. Unfortunately getting the tap slightly mistimed while giving a presentation resulted inn”scroll 50 pages from current location” instead. I got sick of it.

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