The $650 13″ screen Toshiba laptop that I purchased a year ago was running slowly with multiple browser windows open. I poked around using the (excellent) performance tools included with Windows Vista and found that the machine was page-faulting like crazy. Windows Vista by itself took up 650 MB of RAM and browser windows running gmail, Acrobat, Flash, etc. were chewing up the rest of its 1 GB. I spent $45 at Amazon on two new DIMMs to bring the machine up to its maximum of 2 GB. and thought it would be a good time to reflect on one year of experience with Windows Vista.
The worst part of the machine is the keyboard, which works if you type with just the right touch but otherwise will drop characters. The second worst part is some software that Toshiba larded onto it. When you roll the mouse up to the top of the screen a bunch of pull-down menus appear that seem to be related to function keys. These are hard to get rid of and conflict with the Windows user interface. I think that the solution is to click right on the desktop and disable anything that says “hot keys”. An annoyance is that the fan kicks itself on and off loudly, making it seem that the computer is laboring mightily.
Hardware failures: none, despite cheap plastic lightweight construction.
Networking: Windows often puts up a dialog box saying “Windows needs your permission to continue”, e.g., when accepting a wireless connection at a hotel. This on a machine that has only one user account, which is configured with no password. On the other hand, the machine is often able to get a connection, e.g., from an 802.11N base station with WPA security, when expert Linux and Macintosh laptop owners are unable to connect.
I have installed the following software on the machine:
- an open-source ssh client
- Rhapsody streaming music
- Netflix streaming video
- AOL Instant Messenger
- Google Earth
- iTunes (I admit to owning an iPod)
- Real Player
- OpenVPN (virtual private network to get into a cluster)
- Picasa (free Google tool for converting camera RAW photos to JPEG)
- various Adobe products, including Acrobat and Photoshop
There have been no conflicts or incompatibilities with the operating system and no calls to tech support for the OS or any of the apps. I have not done any manual updates or system administration until today’s 5-minute RAM upgrade. I disabled all virus protection and firewalls when the machine was new and yet there have been no viruses of which I am aware.
Things that would add a lot of value to this product: better keyboard, fan-free cooling design.
Changing the operating system to something other than Vista would have saved no time and enabled no additional capabilities.
Vista hasn’t proved too scary or complex for someone like me who had a bit of Windows XP experience (though I’ve never programmed or administered XP), but for the average person a mobile phone that can be used as a home computer would make a lot more sense.
[If anyone wants the old RAM, two sticks of 512 MB DDR2, please send email to email@example.com with your mailing address. This is a $20 value but can be yours absolutely free… ** UPDATE: these were claimed very quickly by a starving graduate student in Pittsburgh **]