peeling off stickers
Friday, June 4 2010
This morning I was up early partly because I could no longer sleep and partly because I had to be at a "morning mod" at the state prison in Woodbourne for another hectic round of computer lab maintenance. Strangely, Gretchen had to be up early too so she could pick Eleanor up from the vet and talk to the landscaping people about some edits she wanted them to do to the job they'd done yesterday. Generally Gretchen and I sleep until at least 9:00am, though lately I've been getting up before eight.
After spending the morning installing new workstations and various chunks of missing or corrupted software in the busy prison computer lab, I picked up a falafel sandwich at Bodacious Bagels in Stone Ridge. It's my vegan replacement for my old pizza indulgence. Unfortunately, it's not an easy lunch to eat while driving.
Back at the house Gretchen was hanging out with our patched-together dog Eleanor in the first floor office, which Gretchen had barricaded shut so that the dog couldn't move around too much. Eleanor was wearing one of those cones-of-shame around her neck to prevent her from chewing at her stitches and a plastic shunt to drain a laceration between her legs. There were some cushions for her to lie on, and to protect them from the fluid draining from her injuries, there was a special dog-sized towel made of that papery absorbent material used in large bandages. Eleanor was still recovering from deep sedation and was on a serious regime of pain killers, but she was aware enough to wag her tail upon seeing me.
Eleanor was so sedated and lethargic that the maintenance of the office barricade seemed irrelevant. But at some point this evening our dykey UPS woman dropped off a package, and Eleanor mustered the strength to go out and bark at her.
The package contained a brand new subminiature laptop to replace the old Compaq Evo that had been suffering from a few old-laptop issues such as an unreliable power connector and a bad mousepad button (which I was actually able to fix the other day). The new laptop is a MSI Wind U123 with a 1 Gigabyte of RAM, 150 Gigabytes of hard drive, and an Atom N280 processor. Best of all, its battery is supposed to be able to power the thing for as much as nine continuous hours. Given its small size, usable keyboard, usable screen, and incredible battery life, it should be the perfect travel laptop. And what a day to arrive; tomorrow night we'd be leaving for Portland, Oregon for the next ten days!
First, though, I'd have to completely replace all of its software. It came with some crap version of Windows 7, so I replaced that with Windows XP SP 3. Then I added all the software that Gretchen and I use: Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Macromedia Homesite 5.5, Firefox, Thunderbird, Filezilla, Vuze, XMPlay, Media Player Classic, Pidgin, Adobe Acrobat, and WAMPServer. After that, the main task remaining was getting the little nuances of the user interface to conform with the way I use a laptop. On most laptops, for example, a feature called "tapping" is enabled by default. This allows a user to simulate a mouse click by simply tapping on the sensitive surface of the pad. To me, though, tapping makes a laptop very difficult to use. To navigate around the screen, I have to make several drags across the membrane. But when I do this, the additional "taps" that result are often interpreted as mouseclicks, throwing my interaction with the laptop into chaos. So I hate tapping. It had to go. Unfortunately, though, there was no support for the disabling of tapping in any of the drivers or control panels for the U123. After much searching, I finally found a driver for the U123's touchpad (manufactured by Sentilic, not Synaptics), and after much digging in its interface, I was able to turn off tapping once and for all.
I don't usually buy brand new laptops, but even with the used ones I've had through the years, one of the first hardware modifications I make is to remove all the stickers, particularly those found on either side of the trackpad. They talk about the quantity of memory, the nature of the operating system, and whether or not Intel happens to be inside. These days one sticker will make an EnergyStar claim, and others will tout features like the webcam and number of batteries. I'd ask the question, "Who wants all that visual clutter?" except I already know the answer: evidently most people. I usually find those stickers still adhering to computers as old as five years, their owners blissfully unaware that these stickers serve no purpose. It turns out that part of the reason those stickers last so long is that the glue used to attach them is gummy and hard to dissolve. It took me a good half hour and many applications of rubbing alcohol to cut through that crap to render my wrist wrests smooth and clutter-free.
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