As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been hanging out at an ad agency recently, which means I’ve been dwelling in the world of Mac. That’s all they’ve got around here. I’m writing this on one.
So as I got ready to get a laptop — I had decided it was a necessity, with the freelance work I’m doing and all — I had a number of people around me telling me I must convert to Apple, for all the usual reasons and more. You’ve heard them: More solid, more reliable, better designed, better software, far better for graphics, cooler, etc. In particular, they said, a Mac would be better for video production, something I’ve wanted to do more of for the blog.
So, of course, I went out and got a Dell. First, it’s about a fourth of the price (my daughter the graphic designer is buying a Mac laptop, and it retails at $2,600 with the software she needs). Second… to paraphrase Billy Jack, I’ve tried; I’ve really tried. When Jean and the kids at the school tell me to practice nonviolence and use a Mac, I really try. But when I’m doing something that would normally call for a right-button mouse click, and my fingers fumble with that one massive button on a Mac… I just go berserk!
Bottom line, I’ve been using PCs too long. The ways of navigating through Windows are built into my body’s muscle memory, and it’s too much work to change.
So I got a Dell. Specifically, this model Dell Studio. Last week, when they were on sale for $80 less than the price on that link. An Intel Core 2 Duo processor T6500, 4GB RAM, 320 Gig hard drive, plus the usual bells and whistles that have become standard — DVD burner, multi-format card reader, Webcam and so forth.
It not only had what I needed on it, but I liked the look and feel of it. It looked and felt solid and well-built. Compared to the Inspiron, it was like a Volvo versus a Trabi. The Inspiron seemed chintzy by comparison. It had little features that don’t mean much, I guess, but which I liked — for instance, it had a slot for CDs and DVDs instead of that flimsy tray that pops out, and which always makes me afraid I’m going to break it pressing the disc in. That seemed clean and smart, better design.
And the first few days went great. I was particularly pleased with my first effort with the Webcam.
Then yesterday, it crashed. Yeah, I know, you Mac folk are sneering now that that’s what PCs do; they crash. And yes, they do. It’s something PC users deal with. Rebooting makes for a nice bathroom break, gets us away from work for a moment. Part of life.
But this crash was atypical. I was running Firefox in two or three windows, with maybe two other low-intensity applications up, when everything froze up. I went to Task Manager, and saw that my CPU usage was at 100 percent, which was impossible. I bailed out using the power button, booted back up, and tried running Firefox alone — and it was showing more than 50 percent CPU usage. One of the cores of the duo core was running at capacity, the other hardly running at all.
So I took the Dell back to Best Buy, where an interesting thing happened. The Geek Squad guy, after pronouncing that I had an incurable hardware problem, leveled with me, saying that he wouldn’t buy a Dell. Yes, once they were reliable, but he had seen too many Studios come back. I should get an Asus or an HP instead.
Funny thing was, the sales guy last week had tried, gently to steer me toward an Asus. But I had never heard of Asus. I had used Dells for years, so that’s what I got. Now, I went back to that same sales guy, and he nodded and said yeah, he liked the Asus better but I had been obviously set on a Dell…
So we went to look at the comparable Asus — same processor, same memory, same hard drive size. The battery was longer-lasting. The screen was smaller (although perhaps slightly sharper). It had the flimsy pop-out tray instead of the slot I liked. It cost $30 more than I had paid for the Dell.
And it looked cheap and flimsy compared to the Dell. Sorry, but aesthetically it was not pleasing, and even though these tech guys were all but beating me over the head with the inside knowledge that it was very solid and reliable, it didn’t LOOK solid. Finally, I was unable to call up the Webcam to try it out, because of some quirk of how they had the machine set up in the store.
So, sheepishly, I said I wanted to try another Dell Studio, hoping that this one wouldn’t be a lemon. The sales guy said he understood, that it was like buying a car; you either liked the look and feel or you didn’t. But I could hardly look him in the eye, because I knew he thought I was an idiot, a guy who just doesn’t learn.
And when we got up to the customer service desk — where I was to leave it to get it “optimized” (cleaning off all the marketing junk such as trial software, and installing service packs), which is why I don’t have it yet — and I realized the Geek Squad guy who had warned me was standing right there and had to have noticed what I was doing… I almost went over and apologized to him.
But I figure I’ve got two weeks to try this one out (and longer, if it has a hardware failure), and if it isn’t everything it should be, I can go back and get the Asus, no questions asked. So I can’t lose, right?
By the way, I really hope I’m not getting these guys in trouble telling about how open and honest they were. Frankly, I think they should both get a raise, because they were going out of their way to help a customer. And they were both obviously good at their jobs, very knowledgeable about the product. Bright young men, a credit to their organization. I felt much better about Best Buy for having dealt with them.
It’s just that in this case, the customer was too stupid and stubborn to listen to them. Proof yet again that in the marketplace, consumers do not make rational choices, notwithstanding all the propaganda. At least, this one doesn’t. Neither do most people; I’m just logical enough to understand how fallible I am.