liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] liv
So I'm in the market for a new laptop yet again. My Toshiba is getting on for four years old, and it's getting a bit old and tired, but it pretty much does everything I want, so I'm happy to keep it in service. However, a couple of days ago it overheated spectacularly and died. After I propped it on its side and left it to cool for a couple of hours, it started up again without any visible problems, so this isn't an emergency yet. But when my previous computer started overheating when I tried to play games, it became more and more unreliable, dying due to overheating several times a day, then several times an hour, then pretty much all the time, and when I tried to get it repaired I was told the motherboard was fried and it would be cheaper to buy a new computer than replace it.

Whatever computer I get will primarily be used for work. So I don't need anything with cutting edge mindblowing specs, but I probably do need something fairly vanilla which will be compatible with standard tools, I can't afford to be too ideologically purist about proprietary software. I want a laptop that is going to function more or less as a desktop replacement, so I'm not too fussed about weight, and I would rather have a bigger screen than a tiny one, but 15'' with modern display tech is probably plenty. I am willing to spend extra money on something I can trust to be robust and reliable, than on a super-fast processor or a high-end graphics card or that sort of thing. But I'm starting to suspect it's not actually possible to spend more money on a computer in order to get something that will actually last more than three years, it's the whole built-in obsolescence thing.

Hardware: I certainly want 4GB RAM, because modern software is so bloated that anything less than that will probably be unbearably clunky. The question is whether it's worth paying more to get 6GB or 8GB? Probably the most memory-intensive thing I do is image processing. I would be surprised if I could ever use more than 200 GB of memory. (Gosh, those numbers are scary to someone who grew up in the 80s.) I would like some kind of graphics card, mainly because I sometimes do play games, albeit casual ones. I want to be able to play DVDs but I'm not interested in stunningly high definition and I'm not looking for a computer that's primarily a media centre. Similarly I wouldn't want a computer with no sound at all, since I do tend to listen to background music while I'm working, but I'm in no way an audiophile. I assume all computers these days come with wireless and wired networking capability? Is there anything I should look for that's worth spending money in terms of improved internet capability?

Any ideas about brands? I'm inclined against Dell because of their lousy QA. My previous computer, that started dying after less than three years, was a Lenovo; I liked it very well until it failed on me. My current one is a Toshiba; it's lasted a little bit longer before it started showing problems, but it's always seemed surprisingly sluggish to me compared to its theoretical specs. I didn't even get the boost you usually get from upgrading from a cluttered, ancient machine to a three years newer, post Moore's law brand new beast.

OS: even though it feels slightly treasonous to say so, I am actually pretty happy with Windows XP. However, putting XP on a new computer is not actually a sensible plan, especially not since it's about to be EoL'd. I'm kind of horrified by everything I've read about Windows 8, because I really seriously do not want a computer that's pretending to be a tablet and completely designed around entertainment, I want an expletive work machine. So the question is, should I go to effort to get something that's still running Win7 (I use Seven at work and it's a bit irritating for someone happy with XP but not actually dire), or should I put up with Win8 and research tweaks to make it a bit less awful?

I'm not in principle against Linux but it does bring compatibility problems; I have managed so far only putting Open Office on this machine, but it's increasingly an irritation, I really ought to bite the bullet and pick up an academic licence to Microsoft Office. I honestly truly do need Photoshop for work purposes (see: image manipulation), and no, the GIMP is not an adequate substitute, sorry geeks. And they're not essential but I do kind of like having access to things like Steam and Spotify. I'm also not really interested in having to do a lot of fiddling about under the hood to make things work. I know this makes me prime Microsoft bait, and I do feel bad about it, but I want to prioritize actually using my machine for work, rather than becoming empowered by learning how to modify it. It used to be the Ubuntu was the thing for non-geeks, and I have an oldish version of it on my netbook, which I quite like, but apparently it's gone all flashy special effects and trying to be Windows 8 these days. So if I do go for Linux, possibly even dual-boot with a Windows partition for when I need Windows-only software, which distro do you all recommend?

Budget is about £500; I will spend more than that if you can put a convincing argument why I'm really getting more bang for my buck, let's say something that will last me five years rather than three. I really do hate having to upgrade my computer so frequently. It's bad for the environment and contributes to serious exploitation, but I have the kind of job where a computer is a pretty vital working tool, so I can't really skimp on it. Just poking around, without having done any serious research, I'm thinking something like this low-end Acer; any good reasons against it?

Annnnnd computer overheated again while I was composing this, though I had nothing more exotic running than a browser with three tabs open. That confirms I need a new machine sooner rather than later. I have decent backups, though I'm sure they could be better, and I don't have hugely redundant backups, so I'm mainly relying on my external hard drive not failing. If the computer actually irretrievably dies tomorrow, I won't lose anything irreplaceable. Any ideas how to export settings from Firefox, that's one of the things that always trips me up when I have to upgrade my computer?

Alternatively, any suggestions for what I can do about a three-year-old laptop that's overheating? I'm now working with the computer propped up so air can circulate under it, but I have no idea if that's more than just a placebo. Is there a component I can replace that in fact costs less than 80% of the price of a brand new computer? Is there anything I can do at the software level?
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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