Out With The Old, Part 1.2

After purchasing my HP 15 laptop and getting adjusted to it, the time was right to start personalizing it. I use a lot of different programs so this was going to take a while, I started off with the browser.

Every edition of Windows comes with Internet Explorer already installed and set up as the default browser. I wasn’t having any of that so I only used it to download my favorite browser: Google Chrome. While I like Chrome the most, one problem I have with it is that there’s not really any way to download the full program anymore. Now, what they have in place is known as a “bootstrapper.”

Bascially, this is what happens: you go to download Google Chrome or some other program, but what you actually end up downloading is not the full program, but a program that goes to another location online then downloads the actual program from there. So basically, you’re downloading one program just to download another one.

I take exception to this for two reasons: 1) is seems a little redundant. Why not just provide us with a direct link to the full program so we can download it from there? 2) With bootstappers, you don’t get any information on the progress of the download. You have no idea how big the file is, how long it’s going to take to fully download, or anything like that. These are things I’d like to know, it helps me plan out my day. I’m a busy guy, I have a lot of computer work to do so it would be nice to have progress reports.

When you download a file directly through your browser, it gives you information like that so you can keep an eye on it. When you install a bootstrapper, all it tells you is that it’s working on it. That really helps, thanks.

This is what frustrates me the most: bootstrappers take all of the control out of your hands. You’re completely helpless while you’re sitting there waiting for it to download. I have a slow internet connection so I’m forced to wait even longer. I’m not just sitting there twiddling my thumbs waiting for a download to finish, I’m doing other things on my computer and it’s nice to have some idea of how much time I have. It would’ve been nice if I could’ve downloaded the full program file ahead of time and then just installed it, but why should things ever be easy for us?

Suffice it to say, it’s a real pet peeve of mine.

After dealing with my frustrations towards bootstrapping, I eventually installed Chrome and I was able to browse comfortably. The next program that I installed was the second-most important one in my arsenal: foobar2000. It’s a music player and the reason I use it more than another program such as Winamp is because it allows me the most control over how I play my music. When I listen to music, I don’t just listen to 1 or 2 songs from one band, I listen to all of their music. With foobar, I can have multiple playlists open at once and can choose where I want to go at any given time. It also allows for a lot of customization of keyboard shortcuts. If I want to pause or play a song, I can hit the space bar. Turning the volume up or down can be done by using the up or down arrow key. If I want to rewind or fast forward a song by 5 seconds, I can press the left or right arrow key. Going back to the previous song or skipping to the next one can be done by pressing the Page Up or Page Down key. It can be any key you choose, I program it to those keys because most of them are located near the bottom of the keyboard and I can access them quickly.

That was enough for one day, more installing and exploring to come tomorrow.

Out With The Old, Part 1.1

As a computer multimedia specialist, computers are my life. Not only are they essential to my lifestyle, but they’re crucial to my art. Without computers, I can’t create. Well, technically I can, but I’m severely limited in what I can do without a computer so I need them in my life.

The problem is, though, that technology changes so fast that by the time I get comfortable with a system, it’s pretty much outdated.

Take my old computer. No seriously, take it. Please. I’ll pay you.

All kidding aside, I built my old computer from scratch with the help of my dad and a friend of his. I don’t remember exactly when this took place, I think it was around 2003 or 2004. Regardless of the exact time, it was at least a decade ago and in computer/technology years, that’s equivalent to about a century.

I had an even older computer at that time running on Windows 98, I bought it off a friend in Victoria around 2001 or 2002. I’d been wanting a new system but was undecided on which route to take. There were two choices: I could do what everyone else does and buy a complete ready-made system, or I could build my own. I had a few problems with the first choice; for one thing, you don’t have any control over the parts that are included. Secondly, it’s expensive, you have to pay for it all at once. Also, I’ve never been one to just do what everyone else does. I’ve always gone my own way, taking the road less traveled.

Ultimately, I decided to go the latter route because I wanted to have control over everything and customize my system. So I bought it piece by piece, a little at a time and when I had everything I needed I put it all together.

Once assembled, that computer served me well despite a few crashes here and there. Eventually, I upgraded from Windows 98 to XP and stayed with it as other operating systems came and went. As time wore on, it was getting old but it still ran well, it served its purpose.

I’d always been tempted to upgrade and I had been replacing parts here and there but when I got a message on my computer on April 8th saying that Windows XP was no longer supported, it essentially forced me to take action.

I was conflicted: on the one hand I’d grown attached to my custom-built rig, it had been the centre of my life for 10 years. I couldn’t say that I had a “Dell This” or an “HP That” like mere mortals did, it was my system, there was no other computer in the world like it. My computer was not some cookie-cutter rig, I built it with my own two hands. I took great pride in that; it meant something to me.

On the other hand, I was so far behind the pace of technology that I really had no choice but to completely overhaul my entire computer system. There was that, plus the fact that I had gotten a pretty decent tax refund. Since I had money to spare, I was going to spend it on computers. Plural. Not one measly computer, I wanted at least two.

Where to start, though? Would I go the same route as before and build from scratch?

I decided to start with the one thing that I’d always wanted but never had: a laptop. Looking back, considering that I’ve been computer savvy all my life, it’s amazing that I never once owned a laptop.

I do have a laptop that I use at my workplace but technically, that’s not my laptop, it’s KVI’s laptop and I just happen to use it. So while I used it on a daily basis, I didn’t have a laptop that I could actually call my own.

That was about to change. In fact it did change today.

I didn’t really do any research like I normally would. My refund came in on Monday the 28th and I didn’t want to wait until the weekend to go up to Terrace to get one, I decided to go local. I went into The Source here in Kitimat, looked at what they had, and walked out of there with my very first laptop.

I’m planning on getting a new desktop system in Terrace on Saturday so that gives me a couple of days to play around on my new laptop. The first thing that I had to get used to was Windows 8.1, which was not easy. As I mentioned, I’d worked mostly with XP for the past 10 years and had limited encounters with newer versions of Windows.

Vista was something I pretty much avoided. I had a computer at my previous workplace that ran on Vista and I had nothing but problems with it. The first laptop I got at my present workplace ran on Windows 7, and took some adjustment. The newer laptop that I was issued also runs on Windows 7, but up until now I’d had absolutely no experience with Windows 8.

Now, having seen it up close, it appears as though Microsoft is mimicking a tablet/smartphone layout and while it works with smartphones, it doesn’t work as well on a computer. It has a Start button but it brings you to a different screen rather than opening a pop-up menu like I’d been so used to. It took some tinkering before I was able to navigate and get used to the whole layout.

It was a bit frustrating. I expect to see some changes here and there with a new operating system, but it’s usually fundamentally the same thing. This was the biggest, most drastic change in an operating system I’d ever seen in my life. It’s an even bigger change than Ubuntu’s inclusion of the Unity sidebar. This was something completely new to me and I can’t say I was a big fan of it.

I spent the rest of the day getting to know my way around the newest version of Windows and installing some of my programs, my graphics software in particular.

While it took a lot of adjustment, I was satisfied that I finally had a laptop to call my own. This is the dawn of a new era for me, I’m taking a step into unfamiliar territory.

And this is just the beginning, there’s going to be more changes coming. It’s time to go out with the old, and in with the new.