Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sudden Death

Sudden Death

That's the only way to describe what happened to my Dell Inspiron 3500; it was suddenly dead. Now, this was an old laptop, so it really should be of no surprise. It was almost eleven years of age, but was performing just fine.

Most of the time.

In fact, it was very quirky. From time to time the screen would not start properly, being reduced to a quarter of the screen and flickering. It also didn't like to play nice with my Linux laptop tools, so things like battery status were a mystery. It would not go to sleep, and the fan would run quite a bit. This is actually one of the problems with many computers, especially laptops, from the late 1990's; they used too many proprietary components, so not only were you usually stuck with one operating system (Windows), but you were also strapped with drivers that would have to be updated whenever you performed any modest changes, including installing new PCMCIA/PC Cards. It would drive me crazy how you always had to have your Windows CD nearby.

Then there was the construction of those laptops from that period. Aside from the tanks being turned out by Apple and IBM, too many of the components felt as if they were going to give at any moment. In the case of the Inspiron, all of the plastics had become very brittle and there many cracks on the case. Turns out the case is probably polystyrene instead of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a tougher plastic). Compared to my ThinkPads and PowerBooks (and iBooks), the lack of internal metal components is of some concern. Those form a solid backbone that helps the entire laptop stay rigid.

Right now, I am using a far superior computer, an IBM ThinkPad X20, again running Xubuntu. It is of similar vintage but better build. But the battery has long since died, so it must remain plugged in.

It is aggravating, though, that in the rush to produce portable computers that many manufacturers (yes, even IBM and Apple) took shortcuts and turned out products that were, in essence, disposable.

Just what we need, more laptops for our landfills.