The L.A. Report New Computer Edition



Hey Everybody,


If I ever need a new computer again, I think I'll just gouge my eyes out instead it would be a lot less painful.


When I temporarily moved to Wisconsin in 2008, I needed a computer so I bought a pretty good Fujitsu laptop. I liked it enough that when I got back to L.A. in 2009 I decided to use it as my main computer and I gave my desktop away.


For the next year or so, it worked great. Then the screen slowly developed a flicker when you moved it, especially when you adjusted the angle to which it was open as if it were developing a short. I got used to it and it was only mildly annoying.


Even though I'm not religious in the spiritual sense, I've always been religious about backing up my computer files every two months. So when my hard drive crashed in March the morning after I had just done a backup (Ha, Ha, Eff You, Mr. Murphy!), I simply bought a new drive, had it installed, loaded my factory recovery disk and restored all my backed up data.


Then in May, the screen flickering problem got noticeably worse. It even occasionally went completely dark a couple seconds after waking from sleep mode. [Come on baby, just hang in there a couple more months and I will be able to afford a new one!] According to some Internet sites, it may have been at least partially a software problem, but its hardware history told me it was not long for this world.


I was due to back up my data on July 1st but I just got busy with work and stuff so I didn't get a chance to back it up. I would just make sure I did it that weekend.


Murphy may have been down but he wasn't out my screen went completely dark a couple days before the weekend! Crap, now what am I going to do? I did have a 2-month-old backup but I'd sent and received a lot of emails in those two months. Even worse, I had spent over a hundred hours scanning my 35mm slides and I would have to rescan almost all of them!


And, of course, I would finally have to get a new computer. Not a real big deal (I thought) I saw plenty of good ones advertised or displayed for around three or four hundred dollars.


This is where the story takes an ugly (and long and boring) turn.


Friday night, July 6th, I went to the Sherman Oaks Best Buy. As I expected, they had plenty of laptops ranging in price from around $200 to well over a thousand, with plenty around $400. There was a bewildering array of choices and specifications and about all I knew was that I didn't want the bottom price range, and since I would probably have it for several years, I wanted something that wouldn't be completely out-of-date in six months.


I walked through the aisles, keyed on a few and read specs, but one really struck me because of its thin, brushed aluminum, solid case. It was a Samsung, which seems to be one of the top electronics brands these days. It also had an Intel Core i7 processor, which seemed to be state-of-the-art from what I had read. With a price tag of $1000 (okay, $999.99), it was priced about two-and-a-half times the amount I had planned to spend. But everything else just paled, once I got it stuck in my craw.


The store was out of stock but there were supposed to be three at the store in Burbank. So I drove over there and bought one.


When I opened the box, I was impressed with the packaging usually a good sign that the product itself is of high quality. It did have one little scratch on the case by the keyboard, which I thought was odd since the lid had been closed ever since it was manufactured. Then all of a sudden I remembered that the one in the store had one, too and in the exact same place! Hmm, somebody should tell them they might have a production problem. Later I looked very closely in bright light and saw that the "scratch" was an itty-bitty teeny-tiny picture of a microphone and the other part of the "scratch" was a tiny hole for the microphone! <blush> Sheesh, it's a good thing I didn't try to return it as damaged!


When I turned it on, the keys lit up and it booted up very quickly in about 20 seconds.


Then the fun began.


I had lots of problems connecting and staying connected to the Internet. Then I had just as many problems setting up my email. After several hours I got it all configured and it seemed to be working okay, if not great. Then I thought I should probably install my security software before I did much on the 'Net anyway.


The only freebie I got with the computer was a free year's subscription for Webroot security. I wasn't super-excited about that, though, because I already used Webroot security software and I thought I had recently paid for three years anyway. I decided I should look it up for sure and it was a good thing I did, because my subscription only had two months left. So I put the Webroot CD in my DVD drive and started to install it. When it asked for the umpteen-digit security code I looked at the CD case there was a sticker on it that said "Lift here for security code". I tried to peel off the sticker and had a helluva time like old-fashioned price tags. I was destroying the sticker trying to remove it (I hope I don't need it, I thought). I could only get about half of it off but enough that I could tell there was absolutely nothing under it. And it really shouldn't be that difficult to remove the sticker anyway. I called Best Buy and they said, "maybe you're taking TOO much off - the code should be very visible." Yeah, right. Then I looked at it again. The part of the sticker that said "Lift here..." was a half-inch-wide black band and, looking at it more closely, I saw that it was just the band that was supposed to be peeled off, not the whole sticker! So I peeled it off and saw the security code plain as day..... Fourteen of the sixteen digits anyway; I had worked on it so vigorously before that I had obliterated two of the digits. I tried several different letters and numbers for the two that I was missing but to no avail. Crap. Oh, well, easy come, easy go. Luckily, Best Buy sent me a follow-up email a couple days later, thanking me for my purchase and reminding me to install my security software and HERE IS YOUR SECURITY CODE! So that's what those two missing digits were! So I was able to extend my subscription for another year, although I had security code unlock problems because of my two subscriptions and screwed around with that for a couple hours.


Now it was time to load my 2-month-old backup onto the machine. The machine successfully copied all of the files from my backup flash drive. However, the new computer has Windows 7 not XP like my old one and Windows 7 doesn't use Outlook Express for the email client. It uses a program called Windows Live Mail, and it didn't seem to recognize my backed-up email files (I found out later that it's very compatible I just omitted one necessary file). Boy, it sure would be nice to be able to copy those old files from my old computer.


I had read that Microsoft FINALLY made a free "transfer wizard" for transferring your documents and settings to a new computer. And you didn't need to buy one of those overpriced "transfer cables"; you could use a flash drive or a CD. The problem was you had to install it on BOTH machines. Normally, that would be fine, but my old laptop had that screen problem so I wouldn't be able to tell what I was doing on it. LUCKILY, I found that if I put my desk lamp about four inches from it and shined it directly on the screen, I could actually read it well enough to work on it. So I went to, downloaded the free transfer program, and installed it on both machines.


The program is called the "Easy Transfer Wizard". It had step-by-step instructions for using it and it suggested you print them so you wouldn't have to keep your browser open, etc. So I clicked on the Print icon. Got an error message about the printer not being connected. I did have it plugged in to the computer and to the electrical socket but I did remember seeing an error that the device was unrecognizable.


So I put that problem on the back burner and decided to try the transfer by just following the prompts, etc. And how hard could it be with a name like "Easy Transfer Wizard"? Well, it was fairly easy but not as easy as the name makes it sound. You have to tell it what to transfer, although the default transfers everything you typically would want, as I recall. I had it copy my files onto an 8 GB flash drive and Murphy's Law was in full force it ran out of space with just a few files to go. Well, I thought I could tell which ones hadn't made it so I decided to just transfer the files that had. I launched the wizard on my new machine and transferred the incomplete set. Wow, it even transferred the wallpaper I used on the old machine. Somewhat impressive. But being one who never leaves well-enough alone, I thought, doggone it, maybe if I unselected some of the files I really didn't need, the transfer would be complete and I'd get a more satisfying "Transfer complete" message or something like that at the end.


First, I would have to erase the flash drive so I could use it again. I knew the entire backup set would be smaller so I didn't bother deleting EVERYTHING; I still left three or four folders on it (why, I don't know). This time all the files fit on the drive.


I transferred that new set onto the new computer but I forgot that I had already transferred most of them so most of them now appeared as duplicates on the new computer once with the original name and once with the name plus a "(1)" tacked onto the name. Even all of my emails. So I had a lot of deleting to do!


The address book in Windows Live Mail is just different enough that it has to make assumptions on what addresses are the default and gets them wrong whenever you have more than one for a contact. So I had to go through all my contacts and correct the default address on several dozen entries.


At some point, I needed my passwords which were in an Excel spreadsheet but I hadn't installed my Microsoft Office suite (which includes Excel) yet. I also wanted to create a Word document so I installed my (vintage 1997) Microsoft Office suite. My old version of Office apparently isn't very compatible with Windows 7, especially the 64-bit version that came with the computer, so it kept locking up and crashing. I even got a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death)!


At this point I'm thinking: Maybe there's someone down in Marina Del Rey that has a boat without a good anchor and I could unload this frickin' thing! But I did some Googling and various Microsoft downloads and managed to pretty well fix all the Office problems.


With that task complete, I decided to look at my printing problem again. My printer is an old HP LaserJet that has worked great for at least 13 years. But it was built back in the era before USB so it has one of those wide parallel connections. What's worse, though, is that HP got greedy and made all of their connectors non-standard so you'd have to buy HP cables, I guess. Parallel-to-USB Converter cables were pretty common when USB came out but they were all for the standard size. Luckily I found a 2-inch adapter that you could clip onto the standard cables and then even HP printers could be used with USB-only computers. However, this method didn't seem to work with this new computer. Scouring the Internet, I found that lots of people were having this same problem with Windows 7. Several people mentioned that if you just get a cable that had USB on one end and a parallel socket on the other end, it would work. But that's essentially what I had been using ("essentially" being the operative word). Apparently, Windows 7 didn't seem to like that little extra adapter when I plugged the cord into the computer it said "unrecognized device". Maybe those new cables that are explicitly designed for HP printers really do work, especially since you don't have to have that extra adapter in the mix. So I bit the bullet (not too deeply; they were less than $10) and ordered one. When it came a few days later I connected it to my computer and to my printer cord and Viola! It worked! One more little success.


At some point I needed to scan something so I hooked up my scanner and installed my scanner software but the scanner wouldn't respond to any clicks so I got on Google again and on Epson's Web site and found that they don't have a 64-bit driver for my scanner (and probably never would, according to one forum's post). They did recommend a third party that had one, though, so I downloaded the free trial version and it did indeed work (although I finally broke down and paid $39.95 to get the full version without annoying watermarks, etc.).


There seems to be a bug in this new Windows Live Mail when you forward an email with embedded pictures; for some reason it doesn't include the pictures. Once in a while it does but usually you have to save the pictures to your computer and re-attach them. What a pain! And in Googling the problem I found that lots of people have the problem but I didn't find a single person who was able to fix it. One poster even said that Microsoft is aware of the problem but hasn't made a fix yet.


So I thought maybe I should try using Microsoft Outlook (not the same as Outlook Express) that I already have but only use for my Calendar. I found a way to transfer your Outlook Express email to Outlook but when I tried it I couldn't see where they went. After digging and digging I found this liiiiiiiiiiitle tiny icon that had all the emails in it. I put them in a more obvious place but when I click on any of the folders I get an error message saying something about the form not found and that it will use an Outlook form instead. Googling the problem I see that lots of people have had that problem, too. I tried most of the solutions but nothing fixed it. So I'm back to using Windows Live Mail.


Well, I'm on page 4 of this document and I could probably go on for several more pages but I have told you most of the highlights (lowlights).


Just be forewarned that if you buy a 64-bit operating system you may have compatibility problems much like people had when Vista first came out.


Hey, I see that Windows 8 has just come out . . . . . AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!