Latest computer woe

wpid-1230442623352.jpgI’ve been struggling with my main computer for some time. That’s part of why I got the eee pc. The Kowal Portable been crashing a lot and I was afraid to write on it because it would go down with no warning. I’d get a blue screen of death, but it always flashed past too fast to read. Last night after one of these, it wouldn’t restart, so I decided to do a full system restore, back to factory settings. I back up regularly, so I haven’t lost any data at least.

It hung twice during the restore, but the third one succeeded. And then, as I was still in the setup, it crashed, but this time the BSod hung around long enough to actually read. That’s the lovely picture there. We’ve spent today trouble-shooting and have gotten as far as eliminating the RAM as the problem.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be using the eee as my primary computer. Fortunately, I can touch type on the thing, but it takes a firmer stroke than the Kowal Portable. In the short-term, we’re going to get a new harddrive but in the long-term, I’m in the market for a new computer. Underneath the steampunk exterior, the Kowal Portable was an Averatec 1500.

I’m opening the floor for suggestions on a new laptop. For starters, don’t suggest a mac; I’m happy being a pc girl.

It needs to be able to handle graphic design and some audio. I prefer a larger screen, but don’t need a widescreen. I’ll probably mostly travel with the eee, so I’m not as fanatical about it being thin and lightweight as I was before.

Besides that, the field is open. Your thoughts?

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

16 Responses

  1. Charles

    Just want to clarify: does the new computer have to be a laptop? (As opposed to a desktop.)

    And right now my advice is that if you do get Windows Vista, be sure to have more than 1 GB of RAM (that first GB is eaten up by the OS).

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      It does have to be a laptop. There will be times when I’ll need to take it with me to do work and our apartment is small enough that I’d rather not introduce desktop.

      Thank you for reminding me about Vista. I’ll likely be swapping to XP or Linux.

  2. Mary

    I’ve been using a Dell Latitude D410 for the past seven years with only having to do one factory restore (virus). I use MS Office 2003, including Publisher for layout, and Adobe PS CS3 for graphics. Granted, my screen is only 13″, but I like it because it fits in my purse easily.

    I need a new battery too, but that’s a good run on one since it was used when I got the laptop.

    I recommend Dell because they give great customer service. My son’s laptop is a Dell running Vista, but Dell had all the drivers online if I wanted to install XP (he stuck with Vista). Plus, they have all their hardware specs online should you want to install anything. The specs come with visual drawings as well as written descriptions.

    Just my recommendation: my next laptop will be a Dell.

  3. Todd Thorne

    The new hard drive for your existing laptop sounds like a good short term solution. Especially if you were dual-booting Linux and getting occasional core dumps. Other possibilities are to try a CHKDSK on the current hard drive with full surface scan & auto-fix selected (will likely take a while). You might be able to low-level format the existing drive too. Both might be a means to map out bad sectors, but I doubt anything at this point would restore your confidence in that drive short of outright replacing it.

    Of the many notebook PCs I’ve bought the last few months, the one I got for my mother & sister was the HP HDX 16t Premium. Google it for reviews & write-ups and you can get the specs & details on options via I loaded their machines with 4GB of system memory, went with 64-bit Vista (so all the memory is addressable), and stepped up to one of the mid-grade Core 2 Duos. Neither user has legacy apps to worry about, so Vista is OK for their needs. I burned-in both machines for them as part of my family make-ready process and very much liked what I saw. E-mail me if you would like more particulars (

  4. Jeff

    If you want the smexy of all smexiness in laptops (IMO) then Alienware is where it is at.

    It will laugh at your pyooony-human-graphics rendering programs.

    Truthfully, anything dual-core with 2GB of RAM will make your layout and design work go a lot smoother.

  5. Pam

    I’ve been very happy with my Toshiba Satellite. Affordable and reliable. In Feb., I’ll have had it for 4 years with no problems at all. Well, ok, the USB bus at the back got a little wiggly so I sent it in and they replaced it. I had a Compaq Presario before that and it was back in the shop more times than I can count before it died about a month after my extended warranty ran out.

  6. -d-

    Except in the comments here, I have never heard anyone say anything nice about Vista.
    Go Linix so you can help me convert.

  7. John Charny

    Last year I retired my old laptop and got a new Dell. I recommend them.

    That being said, my old Dell kind of died. I carried it with me constantly and had close to a hundred trips in its history. It does work most of the time. What we figured out is that it has a hairline crack somewhere on the mother board. We had taken out all the chips and connectors and cleaned everything. Then we reseated everything. In the process what we found is that if we twisted the board slightly it would either work or not work. Right now it is sitting on my desk. I don’t use it but it does power up and run. It’s too fragile to consider working on though. I kept it for awhile just in case there was something on it that I didn’t have a copy of etc. It will be headed for the trash heap soon. I thought this story might give you an idea of things to try etc.

    Oh by the way. My work laptop is running XP because corporations can still buy machines that way. Microsoft counts it as a Vista sale because it is licensed to run vista. My guess is the number of actual Vista users is much lower than Microsoft claims because of this. We do have a new laptop at home that runs Vista. It’s ok but the lag is noticeable. There are some nice bells and whistles but nothing I consider significant. It might be more resistant to attack, but that’s really hard to know for sure even with fancy testing. If you can manage to get one with XP I would suggest it, but I wouldn’t cry too much if I was stuck with Vista.

    Have a good new year.