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Please Reboot Your Computer April 25, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in computers.
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I got a new computer from Dell yesterday, running Microsoft Vista. This was a cheap one – about 500 bucks – meant to run as our entertainment center. And I totally understand why people like Mac’s better – starting up this computer as compared to my wife’s new macbook were… well, worlds apart.

After booting and asking me a few simple questions (i.e. what timezone are you in — why can’t it figure that out?), it told me it “was preparing my desktop.” This is normal the first time you log in to a windows computer and usually takes about 5 or 10 seconds. This took almost 5 minutes. Long enough I started to worry something was wrong and had started to consider pulling the power.

When the desktop finally appear, it became clear why it took all this time: all the software that Dell had installed on the computer was busy updating itself over the network. Indeed, the first dialog box that I saw after logging in was the free virus scanner telling me “hey — I’ve updated myself. Please reboot your computer now.” Sheesh! Fortunately, Vista took advantage of that reboot to gather up all security updates over the network.

This time I was able to quickly log in. But this time a window with a EULA from Google popped up. It took over the whole screen and I couldn’t figure out how to make it go away without agreeing to it. I didn’t want to because first, I wasn’t planning on using the software and second because I think Dell gets some cash from Google everytime someone uses their software on a Dell system: I want to do everything I can to discourage installing all these extras. It took me a while to get around this. Google has gone to enough effort to make sure that their EULA doesn’t show up in the task manager — you have to go find the owning process and kill it directly. Ugh.

Finally, logged in, it was time to take back my computer. I spent the next 2 hours uninstalling almost 27 things from the computer. How much does Dell make from these things? Was it worth my time??? What a fight. I was pretty pissed off by the time I had a nice clean computer: I blame Dell for most of that. Microsoft would have caused me one reboot had none of this extra stuff been installed.

Until a year ago I always built my own machines and installed a raw version of the OS on them. Being raw, I never had to deal with all these things that Dell or other companies put on. My desktop was clean, the system was fast, and memory was little used. Of course, I would spend more than 2 hours getting all the various bits of hardwork to work together. So, timewise, this method is still better.

What would be great is if after the first boot they could present me with a large list of software. I’d check off what I wanted and it would be installed. I would probably not install any of it — but it would remain on my system. Perhaps in several months I would decide that the DVD burner they were including was worth looking at — so I would. As it stands, I’ve uninstalled everything, it has no chance of ever being used, and I’m pissed off at Dell. Sadly, I don’t know where else I could get a better deal.

I suppose one thing to do is find a local small systems builder and use them. They wouldn’t have these large agreements with all these companies…

On the other hand, this computer is sweet. Dual AMD 64 bit with 1 gig of memory for just over 500 bucks. Plays DVDs very fast. Too bad I am to busy working to watch DVDs (ha!). Maybe Julia will like them…

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