A Feature, if You Can Keep It

Austin Dispatches No. 220 Sep. 20, 2019

I blame Microsoft.

Once again, I should have bought a new computer sooner, but I thought Microsoft might relent and release a Windows 11 like everbody wants. Instead, the software firm considers Windows 10 a service, subject to frequent updates that, the company finally admitted after persistent questioning from Forbes magazine, eventually invalidates the end-user license agreement.1 Last year, my co-workers and I dealt with these interfering updates when we were trying to complete work on our computers.

e220fig1Also, buying a new computer, especially for those of us who work in the industry, involves more consideration than buying a car, but less than buying a house.2 Regardless, Microsoft declared it would cease supporting Windows 7 in January.3

Once again, I consulted friends, relatives, industry colleagues, and online experts; and compiled and printed a 70-page survival guide for buying, installing, and adjusting a new computer. If their – your – recommended specifications matched the computers commercially available in August, you'd be reading a sequel to the acquisitive satisfaction I felt when I set up my computer of seven years, which for clarity I'll call “No. 4.” However, that's not what happened.

Rather, I had to sift through Web sites of both online and local physical retailers, trying to find a make and model that retained all the features I want, plus the updated specs. For example, Sis' co-workers recommend a unit with an Intel i9 processor.4 Last month only hard drives designed specifically for video gamers, resembling Cylon helmets from the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series and costing many thousands of dollars, contained i9s.5 Seven years ago, I had a choice among models that offered everything I wanted.

Moreover, the remaining PC manufacturers left me uninspired. Sony sold off its Vaio computer division, which no longer makes desktop units.6 Laptops seem prone to premature failure. The other East Asian manufacturers' products look cheap and flimsy. Despite generally being more expensive than the competition, H-P computers also look cheap and flimsy. Also, H-P failed to hire me for work years ago. Dell at least hired me for four contracts, but for that reason, I had to overcome my aversion to giving it money.7

I settled on a Dell Inspiron as the closest match to what I want for computer No. 5. The main trade-off: Dell doesn't support Linux Mint, the most Windowsesque version of Linux.8 I'd intended to at least download and test Mint,9 and compiled notes amounting to half the survival guide in anticipation of anything going wrong. The research itself was an ordeal. Frequently, to obtain an answer, I waded through a 500-post Internet forum discussion that goes something like this:

Participant A: I have Problem X with Linux Mint. How do I solve it?

Participant B: Poster A, you're obviously a clueless newbie. Nevertheless, I shall deign to explain the solution to Problem X.

Participant C: Poster B, that's not how you solve Problem X.

This, and about four separate steps in the installation and setup processes to run Mint alongside Windows,10 that I reckoned could stymie my attempt to run Mint, meant at best I can describe the matter as a learning experience. Perhaps next time.

Phase Two involved unpacking No. 5, finding out Dell didn't include a video graphics array cable to connect the hard drive and monitor,11 searching stores in town for the right cable, reinstalling the Internet service provider's security software, driving to the stores again to find suitably large-capacity flash drives,12 creating a Windows 10 system image backup on one flash drive,13 creating a Windows 10 recovery disk on a second flash drive,14 creating a system restore point,15 changing the default privacy options to minimize the data No. 5 sends to Microsoft,16 disabling Cortana,17 adjusting Microsoft's update schedule,18 driving to the stores yet again to get compatible external speakers,19 attaching the speakers,20 evaluating alternative browsers to Microsoft Edge (Mozilla Firefox vs. Brave vs. Pale Moon vs. Dissenter);21 blocking taskbar pop-ups, File Explorer advertisements, and “Get Office” notifications;22 connecting No. 5 to the printer,23 installing freeware applications,24 testing No. 5's optical drive,25 testing the Windows Media Player, installing Mad magazine CD-ROMs (which was easier as a straight installation than with the instructions I found online),26 installing nearly 1,100 files from No. 4,27 and batch converting those files to compatibility with the freeware applications on No. 5.

Then I deleted my files from No. 4's hard drive, uninstalled applications, downloaded disk eraser freeware, erased No. 4's hard drive, repacked No. 4, and donated it to charity.

Phase Three, completed Sep. 20, involved investigating the features of No. 5's operating system and applications and noting anything useful in an updated survival guide, which might in turn be useful at work.28 This phase for No. 4 took about 15 months, mostly because I had to wait for other borrowers to return books on Microsoft and Adobe products to local libraries.

The whole process for No. 5 has been more complicated than that for No. 4, but also faster and cheaper. The total cost for No. 5 has been about third that of No. 4. Still, it feels like a regression.

The Sorrows of Young Werther’s Original

Speaking of cars, in 2001 a reader introduced me to his sister. I learned afterward from him she was annoyed with me. “ 'Someone like him should be driving a BMW. Why isn’t he? ' ”

I quite agree. Is she gonna give me a hundred thousand dollars so I can buy a 7 series? No? Then why are we having this discussion?”

In fairness, she uttered aloud what many people think. Unfortunately, I haven't lived up to others' expectations for several reasons. Recently, I saw a video preview of the new 750i.29 Its new features put me in mind of those gold-plated weapons projects that fail field tests.30 That's atop BMWs' growing reputation for unreliability, not something you want to contend with in a car costing six figures.31

Beyond the maintenance and repair costs is my objection to BMW's styling since 2001, coincidentally. I think the antenna housing looks like a vestigial dorsal fin that ruins the models' silhouettes.32 If I wanted a bath toy, I'd visit a dollar store.

Though all this is less a problem for me – a fun, hypothetical problem to rant about – than for BMW.

It Was a Short Summer, Austin Dispatches

The Villager’s Aug. 23 edition proclaims an official end to summer.33 Disparate people, including one Austin Dispatches reader, have already begun expressing anticipation of Halloween.

Austin Death Watch

A new study claims Austin traffic congestion has worsened to become as bad as that of Dallas or Portland, Ore.34 The Aug. 26 Statesman finds dozens of reported auto-deer collisions each year, most in Northwest Austin.35 I can confirm this. I’ve seen much free-range venison in my neighborhood, and even the apartment grounds, since I moved here, as well as the subdivisions between Highway 183 and Spicewood Springs Road, where I walk for exercise. However, I’ve never seen a deer crossing the road while checking its cell phone.

The Aug. 30 Business Journal reports the City’s failed rewrite of its land-use code cost $8.5 million. Now the City plans to spend another $2.8 million for the new attempted rewrite.36

The Villager’s Aug. 23 edition reports Travis County constables intend to patrol school zones to enforce traffic laws.37 If so, the constables will need a lot more manpower willing to beat motorists like Rodney King to get the point across in this town.38 The Sheriff's Office will increase patrols along Texas 71 and U.S. 290.39

An Austin police lieutenant has been charged with sexual assault of a child.40 An Austin police officer has been suspending for neglecting a case to end his shift.41

Cedar Park enticed a software company away from Austin.42 A spot-on editorial in the Sep. 13 Business Journal lambastes the City's outlawing of short-term rentals while permitting homeless encampments as “virtue signaling and pandering to certain powerful constituents” rather than “addressing actual nuisances.”43

Tentacles of Empire

AAA Texas’ magazine reminds its members that standard Texas driver’s licenses cease to be acceptable identification to board domestic flights as of Oct. 1, 2020, when the Real ID Act takes effect.44

Business Roundup

Dell plans to remodel its Parmer South office, where Miss KT and I used to admire a co-worker’s cream puff vintage convertible.45

Cultural Canapés

Specialists had to remove a feral hog from a San Antonio golf course because it refused to play through.46

Neighborhood News

KXAN-TV’s traffic Web page recorded collisions at Braker Lane and Burnet Road on Aug. 20, at Metric Boulevard and Bittern Hollow on Aug. 21, and at Hobby Horse Court and Gracy Farms Lane on Sep. 17. Sep. 14, my landlord reported pool furniture vandalized.47

Three businesses have opened.48 The parent company of the movie theater at The Domain filed for bankruptcy.49


Home Archives


1 Kelly, Gordon. “When 'Free' Windows 10 Becomes Expensive, You Must Know This.” Forbes.com 17 Jun. 2015 <https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2015/06/17/windows-10-free-for-1-year-what-happens-next/#3e6304393b56 >; Rathbone, Andy. Windows 10 for Dummies, 2nd rev. ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2018: 17, 163, 201.

2 Albrecht, Donna G. Buying a Home When You’re Single, rev. ed. New York City: John Wiley & Sons, 2001; Becker, Norman. Home Inspection Checklists. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2004; Bray, Ilona, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart. Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, 3rd rev. ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2013; Cook, Frank. You’re Not Buying That House Are You?: Everything You May Forget to Do, Ask, or Think About Before Signing on the Dotted Line. Chicago: Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2004; Conner, Nancy. Buying a Home: The Missing Manual. Sebastopol, Calif.: O’Reilly Media, 2010; Irwin, Robert. Tips & Traps for Negotiating Real Estate, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2011; Irwin. Home Closing Checklist. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2004; Jacobus, Charles J. Texas Real Estate Law, 9th rev. ed. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2009; Konipol, Don H. Real Estate Investors Guide to Private Mortgage Financing: Asset Based Loans Without Credit Checks, Paperwork or Hassles. Cypress, Texas: Wolverine Mortgage Partners, 2003; Lereah, David. All Real Estate Is Local: What You Need to Know to Profit in Real Estate – in a Buyer’s and a Seller’s Market. New York City: Currency/Doubleday, 2007; Litchfield, Michael, and Roger C. Robinson. House Check: Finding and Fixing Common House Problems. Newton, Conn.: Taunton Press, 2003; Mooney, Steven P. Real Estate Math Demystified. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2007; Willis, Gerri. Home Rich: Increasing the Value of the Biggest Investment of Your Life. New York City: Ballantine Books, 2008.

3 Saran, Cliff. “Use Windows 7 End of Support to Breathe New Life Into Workplace Productivity.” Computer Weekly 13 Aug. 2019: 8-10.

4“Intel Takes Its Core i9 Flagship Processor to Laptops.” Computer Shopper Jul. 2018: 14-15.

5 Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network & Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, 8th rev. ed. New York City: Ballantine Books, 2007: 109; Romeo, Darby, and Bruce Elliot. “Battlestar Galactica.” Retro Hell, 13.

6 Hornyak, Tim. “After Exiting PCs, Sony Pulls the Plug on E-Readers.” PC World 6 Aug. 2014: 1.

7 AD No. 17 (June 10, 2000); AD No. 123 (April 22, 2009).

8 Beekmans, Gerald. Linux From Scratch, Version 9.0. Ed. Bruce Dubbs. Lodi, Calif.: Lulu.com, 2019: 2

9 Prakash, Abhishek. “How to Dual Boot Linux Mint and Windows 10 [Beginner’s Guide].” It’s Foss 10 Apr. 2018 <https://itsfoss.com/guide-install-linux-mint-16-dual-boot-windows/>.

10; McDougall, Charles Phillip. My Linux Mint 18.2 'Sonya' Cinnamon Set Up for Daily Use. Theodore, Qld.: Charles Phillip McDougall, 2018: 9.

11 Inspiron 3670 Setup and Specifications, rev. ed. Round Rock, Texas: Dell, 2019: 4-5; “Video Graphics Array (VGA).” Kobler, 272.

12 Rathbone, Andy. Windows 10 for Dummies, 2nd rev. ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2018: 115-116; Vera. "Fixed - Windows Backup Failed Not Enough Disk Space with 0x80780119 Code." Partition Wizard  27 Feb. 2019 < https://www.partitionwizard.com/partitionmagic/backup-not-enough-space.html>.

13 Kishore, Aseem. “Create a Windows 10 System Image Backup.” Help Desk Geek 30 Jan. 2018 < https://helpdeskgeek.com/how-to/create-a-windows-10-system-image-backup/>; Rathbone, op. cit., 268.

14 Bott, Ed. “Windows 10 Tip: Create a Recovery Drive.” ZDNet 13 Apr. 2016 <https://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-10-tip-create-a-recovery-drive/>; Inspiron 3670 Setup and Specifications, rev. ed. Round Rock, Texas: Dell, 2019: Ch. 2.

15 Rathbone, op. cit., 264, 365.

16 Bott. Introducing Windows 10 for IT Professionals: Technical Overview. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2016: 71-74; Hoffman, Chris. “What Do Windows 10’s Basic and Full Telemetry Settings Actually Do?” How-To Geek 20 Apr. 2017 <https://www.howtogeek.com/273311/the-difference-between-basic-enhanced-and-full-usage-data-in-windows-10/>; Rathbone, op. cit., 325.

17 Rathbone, op. cit., 67.

18 Hoffman. “How to Set ‘Active Hours’ So Windows 10 Won’t Restart at a Bad Time.” How-To Geek 11 Jul. 2019 < https://www.howtogeek.com/264325/how-to-set-active-hours-so-windows-10-wont-restart-at-a-bad-time/ >.

19 Me and My Dell: For Inspiron, XPS, and Alienware Computers, rev. ed. Round Rock, Texas: Dell, 2019: 23.

20 Ibid., 9-10.

21 Babcock, Brian. “Best Free Software.” Web User 17 Oct. 2013: 30-33; Dulaney, Emmett. Linux All-in-One for Dummies, 3rd rev. ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons,, 2009: 255; Hoskyn, Jane. “Block Ads Everywhere.” Web User 7 Aug. 2019: 48-50; Rathbone, op. cit., 191-199.

22 Hoffman. “How to Disable All of Windows 10’s Built-In Advertising.” How-To Geek 4 Apr. 2017 < https://www.howtogeek.com/269331/how-to-disable-all-of-windows-10s-built-in-advertising/ >.

23 Rathbone, op. cit., 170, 248-249.

24 “Freeware.” Kobler, 154.

25 Inspiron 3670 Setup and Specifications, rev. ed. Round Rock, Texas: Dell, 2019: 8.

26 EAD No. 9n49 (Oct. 23, 1999); Hart-Davis, Guy. Windows 10 Tips and Tricks. Indianapolis: Que, 2015: 257; Kevin. “Installing Broderbund’s ‘Totally Mad’ Under Windows 10.” Blog Gordie 26 Nov. 2015 <http://www.blogordie.com/2015/11/installing-broderbunds-totally-mad-under-windows-10/>.

27 Rathbone, op. cit., 385.

28 Paenson, David. Apache OpenOffice Writing for Students. Wakefield, Mass.: The Apache Software Foundation, 2008.

29 Evans, Scott. “2020 BMW 750Li xDrive.” Motor Trend Jul. 2019: 26; Gall, Jared. “Open Wide.” Car & Driver Jun. 2019: 81.

30 Fitzgerald, A. Ernest. The Pentagonists: An Insider’s View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989.

31 Fahey, Jonathan. “Over-Engineering 101.” Forbes 13 Dec. 2004: 62.

32 Lewin, Tony. The Complete Book of BMW: Every Model Since 1950. St. Paul, Minn.: Motorbooks International, 2004: Ch. 32; Rabinovich, Victor, Nikolai Alexandrov, and Basim Alkhateeb. Automotive Antenna Design and Applications. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2010: 20-22.

33 Wyatt, Tommy. “Summer Is Officially Over!” The Villager 23 Aug. 2019: 1.

34 Hall, Katie. “Study: Austin Traffic Worsens.” AAS 23 Aug. 2019: A1+.

35 Karacostas, Chase. “Deer Hit by Cars Nearly Every Week.” AAS 26 Aug. 2019: A1+.

36 Anderson, Will. “What Will the Next CodeNext Cost?” ABJ 30 Aug. 2019: A3.

37 “Travis CO Constables to Enforce School Zone Traffic Laws.” The Villager 23 Aug. 2019: 8.

38 Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. PublicAffairs, 2013: 162-163.

39 Bassman, Leslee. “Patrols to Increase Along Highways.” AAS 16 Sep. 2019: B1+.

40 Wilson, Mark D. “Affidavit: Officer Committed Sexual Abuse Over Years.” AAS 11 Sep. 2019: B5.

41 “Memo: Officer Neglected Case to End His Shift.” AAS 11 Sep. 2019: B5.

42 “Cedar Park Lands an Austin HQ With Incentives.” ABJ 30 Aug. 2019: A9.

43 Weldon, Chance. “Austin Regulations Hurting Neighborhoods.” ABJ 13 Sep. 2019: 31.

44 “What to Know About Real ID.” Texas Journey Sep./Oct. 2019: 10.

45  Cobler, Nicole. “Council Endorses Dell for State Incentives Program.” AAS 23 Aug. 2019: B6-7; Salazar, Daniel. “Dell Seeks Incentives for Renovations.” ABJ 23 Aug. 2019: 10.

46 “Giant Boar Removed From Golf Course.” San Antonio Express-News 17 Sep. 2019: A2.

47 “Folio – Attention Folians.” Folio e-mail to tennants, 14 Sep. 2019.

48 “Now Open.” CIN Aug. 2019, Northwest Austin ed.: 7.

49 “In the News.” CIN Aug. 2019, Northwest Austin ed.: 9.