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We've got enough money in the business to buy a new laptop ... said Natalie last Wednesday.
As a bloke who earns his money writing software it probably won't come as a surprise to know that we have a number of computers around the house. None of them are especially new, my main development machine turns three this month. I've got a few in the office with me now (not all of which are turned on) making various amounts of noise. Natalie has an enormous laptop on her desk that does important things like transfer The Archers Omnibus to her iPod. Downstairs, in the lounge, is another small laptop that we were given by Natalie's Dad. It's not a bad little machine actually. The kids play on it, Natalie does her Moseley in Bloom business when she doesn't want to haul up to the top floor, and I use it for hacking in front of the telly of an evening. It is, though, starting to show it's age a bit. It struggles to run some of the newer kids games (and by newer I mean less than five years old), the wireless connection (via a card the kids have done their best to smash to bits) never quite drops to nothing but does get visibly faster and slower, the fan starts blowing like a mad thing when you ask to do anything resembling actual computation, and, irritatingly, the hinge on the screen has more or less gone so you have to balance it very carefully or prop it on a cushion or it'll just fall flat. I'm not actually sure how old it is, but it runs Windows 98 so it's no spring chicken.
Natalie has been nudging me in the direction of getting a replacement, but Wednesday night's pronouncement was clearly a coded instruction.
I ordered a new machine on Thursday evening and it'll be here any minute. I read a few reviews, finding a Gateway machine that looked pretty good. I go the Gateway site, eventually find the machine and scan the details. No prices though, but a statement that they sell this particular machine through Tesco and a link to tesco.com. Hmmm. Tesco? I clicked it anyway, and was dropped onto the tesco.com home page, not the page for the laptop. So I search again. And again. Eventually I find it on the Tesco site. It's out of stock. Gah! This actually turned out to be the pattern for most manufacturers and retailers. The manufacturers tell you a bit about what they make then point you, vaguely, in the direction of someone who might be able to sell you one. I know not everyone's interested in the full gen, but for some machines it proved almost impossible to find anything resembling the full spec.
In the end, I went and bought my machine from Dell. Ordering from Dell is not quite as easy as it could be, but it's streets ahead of anyone else. Once you've decided on the machine you want you can, within bounds, jiggle it about a bit (more or less memory, bigger or smaller battery, bluetooth, that kind of thing). Then, and this is the clincher, they'll actually sell you one right there and then.
Once they've taken your money, you get a nice email with a link to a page showing your order's progress through the build'n'ship process. When your machine ships, they give you a link direct through to the courier's package tracking. My machine went on the lorry in Birmingham at 6:07 this morning. Top!
Unless the other laptop makers buck up pretty seriously, I can't see why I'd ever not use Dell again.
My laptop has gone a bit mad as the power connection has gone flaky and the battery lasts about 30 seconds, so keep us up to date on how it goes...
I placed my order for one of their new Vostro at about 20 past 10 on Thursday evening. It arrived at just gone 12 today, which is pretty good.
First impressions are that it's rather nice - very quiet, pleasant keyboard action, touchpad cunningly offset so you don't brush it when you're typing. It's my first time using Vista too, and it seems very pretty. Pleased.