On Computers

New Computer Time and Tips

By Jack Imsdahl

18 July 2004


Jayna and I got a new computer, Monday last. It's a Compaq Presario R3000 series (exact model # is R3120US) equipped with an AMD Athlon 3000+ mobile processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 60 GB hard drive, 15.1 inch display driven by nVidia graphics chips and every bell and whistle Compaq could cram in. Wireless, a wired nic and a modem, too. Good sound and surprisingly good speakers, considering their small size. It runs Windows XP Home Edition and will continue to, though we may partition the drive and add some flavor of Linux in the future.

We rejected the temptation to spend a couple hundred extra dollars and get a laptop based on the Athlon 64 processor. Not that we didn't want one; but concerns over battery life and heat dissipation kept us from making the leap. There's not any doubt that 64 bit computing is both the wave of the future and here now, but there is still plenty of life left in the 32 bit world and we consciously chose not to go too far toward the leading edge.

This laptop is a true desktop replacement. I've not run much in the way of benchmarks but I can tell you it runs Seti units as fast as 2 hours, 20 minutes and the average time seems to be right at 3 hours, flat. It is, by far, the most powerful machine we own.

(An aside; Shopping for “big ticket” things like cars and computers is often a source of stress for couples. I must say we found it fun. There was no hurry (always a plus, that) and the two of us think pretty much alike when it comes to what we want in computers. We quickly narrowed our choices down to three models which were on sale at attractive prices and then started arguing the virtues of each in an enjoyable debate. In the end, we both chose the same model.)

So; we have a new computer with an operating system new to us (Windows XP Home Edition). What do we do first? Windows Update, of course. Being the conscientious geeks we are, we hardly fooled with it at all until just under 18 Megabytes of critical updates had been downloaded and installed. I was surprised there were so few updates required. Compaq is obviously keeping up and sales outlet's tendency to keep inventory moving works in the user's favor in this because the machines are fairly “fresh” as far as updates go.

After the critical updates, we had a few driver updates from Compaq and some lesser updates to XP from Microsoft. These were dispensed with in their entirety in less than an hour, over dial up. That short time included a couple reboots.

Next came the anti-virus software. In this case, Eset's Nod32 was the choice and we installed it, let it update from the web, then scanned the drive. With a brand-new computer, a complete scan is probably over the top, but a scan with Nod32 doesn't take too long and, well, you can't be too safe, can you? Incidentally; the machine came with Norton Anti-Virus installed and a short-term subscription, but I've become such a fan of Nod32 of late I won't have anything else. The Norton CD went into the drawer in our file cabinet where I keep outdated software; just in case it is ever needed.

Next came the great uninstall fest. The computer came with trial versions of a game package, Microsoft Office Standard Edition and several other applications which we removed. This took a bit of thought and doing. We left a lot of the bundled software on to give it the trial the publishers want us to. Particularly intriguing to us were things like Hewlett Packard's Memories slide show creator, which you might remember Giant One did a review on a year ago. We kept all the various multimedia applications, too.

Then came the installations. I installed 30 applications, from Macromedia's Dreamweaver to Cursor Arts' Image Forge, Mozilla, Microsoft Office XP, Matrix Y2K and several other apps I use for working. We did not complete our software suite, by any means, but we got enough on there to have us up and running.

A new factory installation doesn't have much in the way of fragmentation because of the way it's installed. But with all the temp files left behind during installations and updates we did and with removing those resulting in some inevitable fragmentation, we ran Disk Cleanup and defragmented at this point. The amount of temp files and fragments was rather surprising, though the machine is fast enough that the fragmentation was not noticeably slowing things down. Nevertheless; the cleanup and reorganization was obviously needed. I'd forgotten how boring it was to wait on those operations and will soon set them up to be automatic; probably using a third party defragmentation utility.

The amount of free space on the drive increased by 190 Megabytes after this operations. I had installed just under 1 Gigabyte of software to get to that point.

Besides our “standard” applications, I had installed a number of utilities I intend trying out for review on the show. An installation of the size I did is hardly necessary, but in the interest of reviews I installed 3 defragmenters, I don't know how many spyware cleaners a couple image editors I have no intention of using beyond reviewing them and more. And of course, my inevitable 11 text editors of various sorts.

One thing we have not yet settled on is how to synchronize the laptop with our “primary” computers. We have two user logins on the laptop and each user is tied to a specific desktop machine. Mail and news accounts, plus personal and business files need to be synchronized regularly over our LAN. I've downloaded 3 free applications for this purpose and will review them for you as soon as I can.

For now; the best thing you can remember for a new computer is to update, update and update. Then do it again. (I didn't mention all the Microsoft Office updates we did, intentionally.) And don't forget to do a little disk maintenance during the setup process. I suspect taking time for a defragmentation run now and then during installations will result in a longer-lived, happier installation. At the least; it certainly won't hurt.


© 2004 Jack Imsdahl

Back • Home • Up • Next

© 2002 - 2004 by On Computers and the Videotex Services Coalition.VSC -- Videotex Services Coaliton