Sohail Mirza, standing in for Peter.

Shiny, new failure

As we come upon another new year, I thought I should dust off the cobwebs on this blog.  While I’m at it, why not a new blog design as well?  I’ve been in the mood for something a little more open, a little more minimalistic.

Though I celebrate neither Christmas or the New Year, this season has always had an air of change about it.  Of course, part of it has to do with the carpet-bombing of Christmas shopping advertisement, but beyond that, there are a number of birthdays in the month of December of close family members.

Historically, I’ve been horrible about birthdays close family and friends.  I never remember the birthdays and when I do, I haven’t made much of an effort to get a really thoughtful gift.  This year though, I’ve got to change that.

A good friend of mine had his birthday in October, so for his birthday I organized a golf outing with a few mutual friends of ours.  We all really had a tremendous blast.

Now, my sister’s birthday is coming up in early December, so I’m thinking, I have to do something really special for her.  What speaks of brotherly love better than a brand new laptop?

I’ve always hated laptops for a number of reasons.  As someone who has always built his own machines from scratch and relies on the interchangeability of standardized parts, laptops really annoy me.  They’re expensive, costly to maintain, come with Windows Vista, and can’t run games at 1920 x 1200.  That said, I know my sister would really like one to browse the Internet in any room of the house and get her office work done remotely.

Yesterday I took a trip to Future Shop here in Canada and settled on a Toshiba L300 (PSLB8C-04P01X) featuring an Intel T5800 Core 2 Duo:

The Toshiba L300 at Future Shop

The Toshiba L300 at Future Shop

The fact that I was able to find a Toshiba with decent specs and a decent price tag as well went a ways toward making me feel better.  I have an impression that Toshiba laptops are built more solidly than other brands.

As well, I have to admit that my hate quickly fades with new technology, laptop or not.

Except when the experience of using it is awful.  As was the case with the Toshiba L300.

For starters, from the moment I turned on the laptop to the moment I could actually use Windows, 1 hour and 45 minutes had elapsed.  The laptop rebooted approximately 5 times during this process, 2 of which happened at points where Windows had become momentarily usable, making you think it was ready for use.  Uber Fail #1. What was the laptop doing in all that time?  Completing the Vista installation, and ensuring I’d be encumbered by software offers that I didn’t want.  Fail #2. What would it take to get a clean Vista installation on the laptop?  An act of God given that laptop manufacturers no longer include the O/S on disc.  Fail #3. Forget Vista, what about XP?  Not supported (no drivers).  Fail #4. Fine, the hell with XP.  What about Vista drivers so I can re-install in case I get a copy of Vista at a later date?  No dice.  The laptop is a model built exclusively for Future Shop, so there are no drivers available online at all, let alone any other support materials for the model on the Toshiba website.  Fail #5!

"Get lost!  We don't have any of your precious drivers here!"

"Get lost! We don't have any of your precious drivers here!"

By the end of Fail #1 I had already had enough, let alone the other 4 points of frustration.  Imagine I had given the laptop to my sister without having opened it.  She would’ve been furious at having to wait so long for the system to become usable.

The other point of extreme frustration that deserves mention is the fact that laptop manufacturers do not include a clean Vista disc with laptops anymore.  They’ve instead gotten into the habit of including a recovery partition on the hard drive.  This is to ensure that:  1)  You have to spend your own time and money to burn a recovery disc that has an O/S on it, and 2)  You’ll never, ever be rid of their annoying software offers since they’ve been backed up onto the recovery disc as well.

Needless to say, the whole experience was an epic failure, and the laptop was promptly returned today.  If there’s one thing to be said about Future Shop, it’s that they took back the laptop without any hassles.  I was slightly taken aback by that!

I have a decent amount of respect for Microsoft as a company, and Windows XP as an operating system.  Even XP took time to mature, but it was never as horrible as Vista.  None of the problems I’ve described here are Vista problems per se (not to say Vista itself didn’t annoy me), but they have to be judged as part of the Microsoft/Vista experience.  This experience is so horrific that one has no choice but to conclude that OS X, Ubuntu, and even Windows XP are an excellent respite.  I’m just sad to say I had to give up on Vista.

By comparison, the simplicity of OS X is a thing to marvel, and the malleability of Linux is empowering.  Neither can be said about Vista or the Microsoft experience.  Instead, I was held powerless and left to marvel at the absurdity of it all.

"You know you want me.  I actually work."

"You know you want me. I actually work."

Based on this experience I’ve decied that if I’m to get my sister a new laptop, it will almost certainly be a sparkling MacBook.  It comes at a premium, but the hassle-free experience is worth it.

Written by Sohail Mirza

November 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm

One Response

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  1. wow i can’t believe this but i had exactly the same experiance with the same purchase and i gave back the laptop today as well. glad i did after reading this review. Im a dj and i recently bought the Rane Serato interface which allows me to play all my digital files via the coventional dj setup but to make it mobile it requires a laptop. Now, im a mac guy and but i couldnt afford a macbook so i did some research and then went to futureshop and looked around and found the same laptop that was mentioned since it had great specs and a fair price at $619. I took it home and like that guy said it took forever and rebooted a few times leading me to believe somethiong was wrong. Once i had it set-up it seemed to be fine but a few days later i noticed the mouse pad wasnt working properly when i tried to scroll up and down, and while on internet explorer, a whole bunch of instances of the browser started to open up like crazy. Then it crashed ! I couldnt believe it, i was choked. So i returned it and i came across this review and hey im back where i was before…should have got the macbook.


    January 1, 2009 at 10:36 pm

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