Saturday, July 2, 2011

Having ‘a spare’. Or is possessing seven laptops a symptom of early onset lunacy? No, sir, it isn’t! Please read on

One of the jokes at work is that I am something of a gadget queen, and I must admit that the shoe fits quite well. I do love gadgets whether the gadget is a laptop, an iPad (I inadvertently bought one recently), a portable digital TV for use in the car, several sets of handy screwdrivers the various tips of which fit out of the way into the handle, an infra-red gadget for measuring distances, a mobile phone, little wind-up pocket torches which can be attached to your keyring, a thingamajig for testing the voltage on batteries and how much poke is left, a small portable car tyre inflator, several digital guitar tuners in various sizes, a portable wifi radio — and I do mean portable, not one of those design disasters which would make a Thirties Bakelite model look elegant — a flash slave unit (very useful), well the list might go on, but I shall have to be in bed before dawn and there is more to right in this entry than merely a list of all the semi-useful crap I have accumulated over the years.

On the plus side, of course, if the fact that when someone shouts out aloud to the world at large: ‘Has anyone got a . . .’, I can invariably reply: ‘I have. Do you want a red one or a black one? And would that be in metric of imperial measurements.’ And this is not empty boast: a few months ago, a colleague’s reading glasses fell to pieces. ‘Has anyone got a minute screwdriver, so that I can put these glasses back together again?’ And I was able to shout back: ‘Yes, I have. Do you want one made here in Britain or a Russian-made one?’

Actually, that last bit is bollocks, but I did happen to have a tiny, tiny screwdriver which was specifically intended for the tiny, tiny screws which hold your glasses together. So who’s the fool? It is my proud boast that I am most surely the only employee at the Daily Mail who has a knife with a foot-long blade in his drawers at work.

And there’s no need to be alarmed: we have a tradition that whenever it is someone’s birthday, they bring in a cake to be shared with everyone else. And when I brought one in a few years ago, I got thoroughly few up with trying to cut it up with a stupid bloody plastic knife as everyone else did, which not only made a complete mess of the cake and ensured that no slice was as big or as small as the others, but invariably too much of a perfectly pleasant cake was left in pieces all over the desk.

So when I went out and bought a cake, I also went a little further up the road and bought a large knife with which to cut it. It does the trick very well and everyone else now uses it, too, except hacks being the self-centred fucks they were, are and always will be, it never, but never occurs to anyone to wash it and give it back to me once it is no longer needed. But that’s hacks for you: they think the whole world is there simply for their convenience.

There is, however, another, angle to my propensity to collect gadgets: I also, if possible, like to have at least two of then — a spare and another spare in case I cannot immediately lay my hand on the one I want, it gets lost or is stolen or something. I realise that on a rainy day your average pschyoanalyst could have a field day, but quite honestly it doesn’t worry me one little bit. So, for example, I own three digital guitar tuners, two portable wifi radios, at one point owned two of those nifty NextBase portable digital television sets, we have a total of eleven mobile phones in the house (two of which don’t work) and — ahem, six laptops, or rather I own six laptops but have the use of seven.

Now I do realise that all that makes it sound as though I am not playing with a full deck, but that really isn’t the case. I might point out that, for one thing, I am perfectly aware of just how ridiculous it all is and just how whacky I sound, and — this is the crucial point — if I were if I really were ready for the men in white coats, I wouldn’t be writing what I am now writing, but would, instead, insist that the situation is perfectly normal and that, furthermore, those individuals who don’t have, say, eleven mobile phones (working and non-working) are the ones we should be concerned about. But I’m not saying that, am I? See what I mean.

Anyway, if an individual such as me any whackier than all those think herberts who haunt the railway system of Great Britain recording the numbers of every train in service? Or what about all those complete fucking idiots who will travel several thousand miles with nothing but a pair of binoculars and a packet of sandwiches for a fleeting, 15-second glimpse of the Great-crested, lesser-spotted Whatever. Me mad? I don’t think so. My one ‘quirk’ is that I like to have ‘a spare’ in case.

Now let me explain the situation with the laptops. And let me reassure you that I am considering getting rid of at least three. Or at least I was considering getting rid of at least three until I logged onto eBay, looked up Completed Listings and realised what pitifully poor prices the kind of laptop I was think of selling now command.

Until recently, I owned an Mac iBook G4 and a Mac Powerbook G4. The trouble was that when you watch BBC iPlayer on a G4 — and the Powerbook has a top-spec 1.6ghz processor — it is all rather jerky. So slowly I began looking at what Windows machines were available on eBay and, to cut a long story short, I more or less accidentally bought a rather nice Samsung. (By the way, mention of the seven laptops above doesn’t take into account the several other laptops which have previously seen their way into our house but have since departed again. That would be another six — two 1400s, two G3 Powerbooks and two Dells.)

The Samsung became my pride and joy, not least because Windows, for all its myriad faults, allows you to play online backgammon. The iBook (which, like the Powerbook, boots a damn sight faster than any Windows machine) sits in my bedroom and is used first thing in the morning to check my email.

My daughter uses now uses the Samsung as she insists she needs a Windows machine because all the computers at school are Windows (or something — it’s a little hard pinning her down on that one). I suppose here is the place to record that although I loathe, loathe, loathe the whole ‘Mac community’ bollocks with the insufferable attitude of too many Mac users that they are part of the chosen few and Apples’ corporate arrogance, I far prefer Macs to any Windows machine. There, I’ve said it.


However, I finally decided to rationalise my collection of laptops. For the past five years Apple has been producing a new range of laptops using Intel computer chips and that meant that the new range of computers could also run Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 (which as far as I am concerned is the only Windows OS to date which should run off and hide its head in shame, though it, too, can all-too-often give you the runaround). So the plan was to buy two Mac Intel Macbook Pros and get rid of all the other laptops in the house. One would set up always to boot into Windows 7 so that my daughter could use it, and I would use the other one.

I bought the first MacBook Pro a week ago. The price was something of a bargain and I should have know better. Although the seller in insists the laptop was in ‘perfect working’ condition when she sent it off, when I took it out of its box last Sunday and booted it up, I immediately got a kernel panic. That, dear reader, is the Unix technical term for ‘something in this computer is completely fucked and this laptop is going on strike’. I shan’t go into the ins and outs of it all, but I am now assured of shot of the laptop and getting my money back.

In the meantime, I have bought two more MacBook Pros. They have, I’m told both arrived at work but as I haven’t since been to work, I have yet to unpack and inspect them. (I get several items I buy sent to me at work because my wife has a habit of getting into an awful tizzy when stuff arrives here at home in Cornwall and accuses me of ‘wasting money’.

Well, perhaps I do, but my argument is that she has never been left short of money, no bill has ever — ever — gone unpaid and, anyway, I like to have a life of sorts and if having a life of sorts involves buying all sorts of crap I want, so be it. However, unfortunately like so many women, she has a bloody-minded and irrational inability to

see my point of view, so getting ‘stuff’ sent to me at work saves on an awful lot of aggro. Why go looking for trouble? And as I am coming clean, I should also tell you that the three MacBooks I have bought (one of which I shall be returning) have the virtue of superficially looking almost identical to the Powerbook on which I am writing this blog. The theory is that, with a bit of luck, she won’t spot that I have bought a new laptop. Or rather two, but I’m still in the process of thinking that last bit through. Please don’t rush me.

By the way, the astute readers among you will ask: so what is the seventh laptop? Well, it is Lenovo Something Or Other supplied to me by work so that I can log onto the system at work for when I put together the puzzle pages. Rational or what?

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