Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Laptop

Every so often one has to take the plunge and get a new computer. The old one quits, or else becomes sufficiently outdated as to be troublesome. Over the summer, my Lenovo X61, while generally functional, experienced 1) ever-full hard drive; 2) pen permanently stuck in the pen garage; 3) non-revivable battery. None of these things individually was a reason to buy a new laptop, but I had to ask myself how much longer a three-year-old laptop would work and thus whether it made sense to buy new things for it. At first I hesitated, as it seemed there were no tablet-convertibles on the market that offered the combination of features I wanted (large screen, large hard drive, swappable bay for second hard drive), but then I noticed that Fujitsu (maker of my first two or three laptops) had all of that. So I decided that I might as well get the whole project over with and have the new machine ready to go before school started.

While a large screen was one of my major desires--the small screen on the Lenovo has been the bane of my working life as Photoshop (among other things) is hard to use on it--I discovered that Fujitsu's TH700 had everything else I wanted at such an affordable price that I could get a big separate flat-screen monitor to use for Photoshop and watching movies. That seemed reasonable enough. I may use Photoshop a fair amount, but I don't have to do that kind of thing everywhere I take my laptop. It will be rather exciting to have a 27" screen (I bought a highly regarded model from Dell and it has arrived but I have not had time to do more than unpack it).

A friend with a Mac tells me it's a no-brainer to get everything from one Mac to another, and if so that's one of the few reasons I'd consider switching to Macintosh, because it always takes me days or weeks to get things properly set up on a new computer (mine, that is--I can do this for my parents in a day or two since they use few programs and have few files). I'm not sure how much of the time-sink is the searching out all those files and copying them, and how much is making decisions about reorganizing the material. Merely installing the programs I use takes hours and hours each time.

This installation process is exacerbated by changes in operating system. Once the new laptop arrived, I had to deal with Windows 7 and a 64-bit environment. This is taking some getting used to. At least two of my programs, neither of which I plan to abandon, don't yet work in 64-bit as they are complex and made by small companies that don't have huge squads of programmers. I had to upgrade Windows 7 Home Premium to a fancier flavor so that I could install XP Mode and thus install the said programs. I am still rather inclined to use these programs on the old laptop until the 64-bit compatible versions come out, which I gather should be relatively soon. There's also the matter of how many more times I can "activate" various programs that I've had for awhile, and suchlike.

For now, however, as I have most of what I need set up on the new machine, I may as well compare the two a bit.

Screens: Both have a 12" screen. The Lenovo has a 1024 x 768 resolution, however, while the Fujitsu has 1280 x 800. In other words, the shape is different, with the Fujitsu going more in the wide-screen direction. I don't know how I'll react to that, as wide-screen isn't desirable for most of what I do. The screen quality on the Fujitsu seems better, but I may need to see if I can calibrate the color, as photos that looked good on the Lenovo sometimes look gray-blue on the Fujitsu. This is not something I really want to deal with. Overall, I haven't spent enough time working on the Fujitsu to know how the screen interacts with my programs and tasks.

Keyboards: The Lenovo is the only laptop I ever felt had an uncomfortably small keyboard. I don't expect to have that complaint with the Fujitsu, which is an inch wider. I also detested the fact that the Lenovo keyboard placed special keys, intended to move you through web pages, RIGHT NEXT TO the arrow keys. I don't want to think how many times I hit those damned web keys instead of an arrow key and lost whatever I was typing on a web page. I wasn't opposed to the concept of the web keys (although I never used them), but the placement was terrible. Fortunately I won't have that problem with the Fujitsu. On the other hand, I regret to say that the Fujitsu keyboard also has some odd choices. It has the PageUp and PageDown keys in those locations, which I'm not sure I like as well as the Lenovo's location of these. I may not have any problem getting used to the switch, but more problematic is the fact that these two keys are also the Home and End keys, if you use them with the Function key. I use Home and End constantly when selecting text (or so it seems), and
I really dislike the cumbersomeness of depressing Shift, Function, and Home or End. And speaking of the Function key, the Fujitsu places it where I expect (from the Lenovo, but perhaps also from other computers) to find Ctrl. I keep hitting Function when I want Ctrl, which occasionally has bizarre results. (I will say I like how Lenovo puts everything requiring the Function key in blue.) However, if we speak of Function Keys in the plural (those F1-12 keys that were once so easy to touch-type back in the days when keyboards had them to the left!), I'm relieved to find that the Fujitsu, like most computers, aligns them pretty closely to the corresponding numeric keys. This means I'll be able to almost touch-type them. The Lenovo has F2 starting to the left of 1, so that F8 and F9 are above 7. This meant it was really hellish trying to use these keys, and believe me, I do use them. In some programs I use them A LOT. It causes me pain to watch students and conference presenters laboriously mousing through loads of menus to do things that can be accomplished by pressing (for example) F5.

Touchpads etc: The Lenovo has one of those pencil-eraser-shaped things for cursor movement. While better than a mouse, I didn't like it, as constant use was tiring. The clicker buttons were satisfactory. Thus, I was pleased to get a touchpad with the Fujitsu, although I still regret that Fujitsu phased out its earlier disk-shaped input devices, which were a very comfortable way of moving the cursor. But alas, I'm not sure I'm crazy about this touchpad. In combination with Windows 7, all kinds of weird things happen when it thinks I've gotten too close to it. I've already disabled some special function or other on the left side of the touchpad because my left hand was eternally setting it off. I may need to shut off a lot more things in order to make the touchpad truly usable rather than a weapon of unpredictable disaster. I'm also not crazy about the clicker buttons, which are too hard to find by touch for some reason. I'm always clicking on the edge of the laptop instead, I suppose because it is actually higher than the buttons and I expect the buttons to be what sticks up.

Operating System: I was really entirely content with XP. It was very stable and easy to use; I don't even remember there being much of a learning curve after Windows 98. So, especially after finding Vista a pain when working with my parents' computer, I was not eager to switch to Windows 7 despite hearing that it is considered quite satisfactory. Still, I was curious to see what it could do that I might like. At this point I'm not sure, because on the one hand I was dealing with its quirks most when installing new software, and on the other hand there are a lot of things that may be Windows 7 but on the other hand may be the Fujitsu's touch screen or touchpad instead. I get A LOT of unpredictable weird stuff happening, particularly in terms of things resizing in unwanted ways. Things would gigantify for no apparent reason, so that everything in the browser window with Gmail would be blown up too large to read--even if I closed and reopened the browser, or the desktop icons would bloat so that only about four would fit on the screen, or windows would leap to take over the screen when I wanted them to fill about a quarter of the screen. I was finally able to shut off the Windows 7 feature responsible for some of this mayhem, but it wasn't easy, and as I say that only shut off SOME of it. Also, the Windows Explorer windows are tricky to use. I was used to opening a folder and not having to see the whole directory structure over to the left--well, it's not a big deal to see it, but it takes up space. More to the point, when I'm moving files or folders, I have to be much more careful than ever before. Things really seem to want to go into the wrong place, or something I didn't intend to open suddenly becomes the open folder instead of the one I had very intentionally opened. I don't know if this is the fault of Windows 7 or of the Fujitsu.

Overall shape and contours: Much prefer the Fujitsu. The Lenovo has square corners, which I wouldn't mind except that they invariably caught in my sleeve. One of the first things I ever did after getting the Lenovo was to flip it onto the floor because I hadn't yet learned to move my arms very sedately around it to avoid catching the corners in my sleeves. I found that a very bizarre problem to have. It was partly because the Lenovo is very thin without its base. Let's just say it speaks well to the Lenovo's durability that it survived multiple tosses to the floor. Since the Fujitsu has round corners and a thicker bottom (to accommodate the swappable bay), chances of it catching in my sleeve and going flying are pretty small. Yes, it weighs more, and that's not a plus for portability, but it doesn't weigh all that much more, and I really like swappable bays. So much better than the separate base that I stupidly bought for the Lenovo instead of a plug-in DVD drive. The swappable bay means I can have a second hard drive in most of the time and swap in the DVD drive only as needed, which is rarely.

But enough of all this, classes begin in a week and my syllabi are not yet finished.

No comments:

Post a Comment