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 1024x768, prefer­ably 1400x1050), 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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  • steve allder

    Steve, have you seen this guys work — Mark Buchanan, for­mer edi­tor of nature physics–12-06/mandelbrot-beats-economics-in-fathoming-markets-mark-buchanan.html

    He has new blog physics of finance

  • koonyeow

    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.

  • Luke Davis

    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.

  • Sam Court
  • Sam Court

    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.

  • 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.

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

  • swio

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

  • koonyeow

    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.

  • koonyeow

    Title: Blame The QWERTY Key­board


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

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

  • Michael Hei­decker

    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.

  • Bren­dan

    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.

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  • +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.

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

  • 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.