The time finally came. It was Monday night...'Shank was over at stately Rifleman Manor watching the Stars beat up on San Jose as I struggled to reload Windows XP onto my laptop, keeping one eye on the game and one on the electronic piece of shit sitting on my coffee table.
It wasn't always piece of shit, but it'd had a rough life. I'd acquired the machine in 2002--ancient history in computer terms--and since then it's been on four trips to Ontario, a trip to Illinois, Houston and Austin several times, as well as a week in Colorado and New Mexico. And it's served me well--letting me write a novel in the comfort of Starbucks, storing digital pictures from my camera on vacations, acting as a portable mp3 player before I invested in an iPod...and so on.
It's served me well, but over the last couple of years, little issues started to pop up. It survived a four-foot fall off a table a few years back that didn't affect its functionality, but did break it in such a way that the battery wouldn't stay locked in place, sliding out at the most inopportune times on occasion. Then the battery itself decided to stop holding a charge for more than 15 minutes, which kind of negated the purpose of having a laptop (I know, I could've bought a new one...but I'm cheap...sort of). Then the screen developed some sort of short in it, making it so you have to jiggle it on occasion to keep it clear rather than scrambled. The latest issue manifested itself sometime last year. The CD-ROM drive (that's right...four years ago, it was hard to find an affordable CD-RW drive, let alone a DVD drive, for a laptop...so I cheaped out (again) and got the CD-ROM) started to randomly eject. I'd be happily typing along when out of nowhere, the drive would pop open. Close it. Pop open. Sometimes this would go on for several minutes. Finally, I got into the habit of just taking the fucker out...only using it when I actually needed a drive.
A few months back, the ol' laptop was starting to run really slowly. Software/OS bloat finally catching up with it. It was time, I thought, to reformat. So, I saved off all the important stuff to my desktop machine via the network and started to reformat. Then it hit me...I'd dabbled in Linux in the past...why not load Linux on this machine? If anything, it'd run faster, as the Linux OS doesn't have the massive memory footprint that Windows has. And I'd been reading about Ubuntu...a fairly pain-free (a word that should never be included in the same paragraph as anything based on Unix) Linux distro that's been garnering a lot of praise and attention lately. (Don't get me wrong...I'm all for Unix and Linux and the OSS movement, but sometimes it's just quicker and easier to rely on boxed OSes like Windows or Mac OS). I'd never used Ubuntu, but had previous experiences with Red Hat (Fedora), SuSE, Mandrake and a couple of other Linux distros, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Twenty minutes later, my desktop's DVD drive popped out a freshly-burned install disc and I was ready to go.
I installed it. I used it. I liked it. But--and here's the problem with Linux and OSS in general--sometimes you can't beat commercial software. As neat as The Gimp is, it's still not as polished as Photoshop. Abiword and StarOffice are great, but they're not MS Office. Luckily, Firefox is Firefox wherever you use it. And, no matter how much diligent developers try, it's still easier to install new software on Windows than in Linux. I shouldn't have to mess with Yast or Make or anything like that...I should just be able to open the installer file and it should go, never complaining that I don't have the newest version of this C++ library or that, instead just automatically install them.
So, eventually, as with my previous flirtations with Linux, I grew tired of it. I missed Photoshop. I missed Winamp. Hell, I even missed Microsoft Media Player. So, Monday night, I said "fuck it" and decided to reinstall Windows XP.
So as the Stars headed towards overtime (once again) on the TV and 'Shank sprawled himself out on my floor to take in the game, I inserted my Windows CD into the CD drive and rebooted. The CD-ROM drive popped open. I closed it. Again. Again. It took about fifteen reboots before the fucker stayed closed and actually started loading XP. I was, to say the least, fucking frustrated.
Thirty minutes later, XP was installed and I was browsing over to the Dell website. Fifteen minutes after that, about half-way through the third period of the hockey game, I'd ordered a small form-factor Dell XPS laptop with all the nifty features. Five minutes later, I received an email saying that the expected shipping date was Tuesday, February 7th. Not bad--I could wait. And since I'd gotten next day delivery, it'd only be eight days until I could have my new laptop. Yay!
The neat thing about Dell's site is that you can enter an order number and it'll give you the status of said order. This "status" is utter bullshit. Why? Because on Tuesday, I checked it every couple of hours, following the progress of my new machine as it was kitted, built, tested and, finally, sent to the process they call "boxing". Yay!, I thought...this is going quicker than I imagined...could it be possible that my new machine would be shipped Wednesday? Or Thursday at the latest? Surely something as simple as "boxing" would take, at most, a few minutes. An hour if they're using slow adults to do it. I mean, afterall, they define "boxing" on their website as "Completed systems are placed in boxes along with the mouse, keyboard, power cords, documentation and manuals as requested by the customer. Once the Boxing is complete, the system box is sealed and placed on the appropriate truck for shipment to our customer."
Shouldn't be too difficult, eh?
Apparently it is. My new machine has been in "boxing" since Tuesday night. Unless, for some reason, Dell uses the most complicated boxes in the world that'll take me an equal amount of time to unbox, there's no reason that my laptop shouldn't either already be in my hands or speeding to me aboard a FedEx airliner. But no, the estimated ship date is still February 7th. And it's still in "boxing". And that's why I think that the Order Status page is just there to make people think that they're actually making progress and in no way reflects reality. So I'm still waiting for my new machine.