Monday, November 06, 2006

New notebook, finally

This is basically a continuation of the previous post as it concerns a new laptop. Ya see, when it comes to possessing a laptop, or a newer more modern laptop in my case, unlike the desktop/tower box arena, you have to go with an OEM machine. Yes, it’s possible to build a laptop from scratch about like it’s possible to build a car from scratch, but I, as do most folk just don’t have that much time not to mention skills required to engineer and construct a custom laptop. My previous laptop was a Gateway Solo 1100 that initially had Windows 98 SE on it, but I had years ago installed Windows 2000 Professional and the corresponding Win32 drivers required for the SoundMAX integrated audio and NeoMagic NM2160D integrated video. But it works quite well, yes it STILL works. The only hardware that has been replaced on it is the original 4GB IBM harddisk. And several important keys on the keyboard became dysfunctional when a drink was spilled upon the counter. To remedy the harddisk, I bought a replacement 10GB IBM TravelStar harddisk from Priority Electronics back in May 2004 and reinstalled Win2k and not had any problems since then. I haven’t bought a replacement keyboard since those run around $80 give or take at various and sundry vendors and because of the age of the machine. Instead, I’ve opted to connect a wireless fullsize keyboard I had lying around unused into its one PS/2 port and install the driver. Works like a charm.

The overriding issue with the Solo 1100, and the main impetus to purchasing a new laptop, is its age (circa 2000) and therefore it’s overall sluggishness with today's apps. I’ll probably end up installing FreeBSD on it eventually.

So, I shopped around for a new notebook recently before Halloween to take it’s place. I decided on the HP DV9008nr from BestBuy. It’s not a hardcore gaming lapper by any means, true, but it’s all I need or want in a notebook; besides, I game almost exclusively on the desktop. I do like the 17in. display, however ;). Needless to say, I’m quite happy with the assorted hardware, being pretty much exactly what I want and/or need, nothing more, nothing less. However, one big negative is that the notebook came pre-installed with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. There’s a number of reasons I would’ve preferred XP Professional, but the most significant reason is that it cannot join an active directory domain without modification. Since I’m not one to forgo modifications, especially if required, I did just that. I performed the well-known registry hack to make that possible and I’m good to go there. The LightScribe-capable DVD writer is nice but it wasn’t a must-have feature; nevertheless, the labeling works as advertised. It does, however, take an average of 15-25 minutes or so to fully burn a label, depending on the amount of solid black required for the grayscale image being used as a label. Not bad, though.

The one additional negative with the machine, besides the XP MCE OS, as with just about all OEM machines, be they desktops or notebooks, is the glob of software that’s pre-installed. I’ve never had to deal with that in the desktop arena since the 386 era because I’ve always built my own, but with a notebook it’s a pain. So I had to uninstall most of the crap for my purposes and install some of my own software also, of course. PuTTY was one of my first installations since I continually need to SSH to my FreeBSD boxes and that’s been for many years my main tool for doing it. That, and I use WinSCP periodically as well.

Overrall, I’m quite content with this notebook and so far have not found any defective hardware and no crashes so far ;). I always worry about such things when a notebook is involved because the entire machine has to be shipped off to be worked on.