I so much hate brand computers

You might probably know already that I actually get a good deal of my funds as a computer technician, cleaning up and supporting Windows computers for homes and small offices. Sometimes, this also has the good side effect of having people introduced to the new (for them) world of Free Software. On the other hand, the money comes handy especially given that tinderboxing costs and I’m definitely not paid for most of the work I do there.

Beside actually supporting boxes that are already there, from time to time I also build new boxes for friends who ask for my help to choose a new box, cheap and powerful enough for their needs (and I have to say that between AMD and Intel, prices lately really dropped on desktops).

What actually is my personal bane is with brand computers: HP, Acer, Toshiba, you name it, I most likely detest it. I have already ranted about the stupid way that HP has to allow you create the so-called recovery media; but this is nothing compared to the stupidity I encountered with a 2005 Toshiba laptop of a family friend.

Incidentally, my Dell Latitude came with a standard Windows 7 install DVD, and a separate one with software and drivers… thanks Dell!

First of all, the (valid) XP Home license it’s provided with only works with the Toshiba media, as it’s a System-Locked Preinstallation — basically one huge lock-in that forces you to use the original CD (or DVD) the computer comes with to restore, even though you could easily install from a standard (vanilla) CD or a slipstreamed one. Unfortunately, the Toshiba media in this case wasn’t a complex set of CDs that need to be installed in a given order or anything like that; rather it is a single, huge DVD with a Norton Ghost image of the already-installed system. Oh well.

The problem is that the “preinstall” does not come with simply Windows and a few installed Toshiba-branded components, but rather with a truckload of content of all sorts: Norton Internet Security, Adobe Reader 7, Macromedia Flash (yes, Macromedia, and it’s not even uninstallable because the MSI that you’d have to use to run the uninstall is not present in the system)… just what you need to get a headache that you won’t forget for a month or so. About an hour after completing the imaging of the “preinstalled” system, I was able to get the system in a clean enough state so that I could actually start installing the real stuff that is needed.

I got to say, this actually makes me think something good of Microsoft as, for what I know, they stopped using multiple media on the 6.x series (which, I remind you includes Windows 7), and instead use the product code itself to decide what to install on the system.

What actually depresses me quite a while, though, is what one of my most recent customers told me that they only buy brand-name PCs because that way they “risk less incompatibilities between hardware”… considering that I had an HP computer refused to work at all with its recovery media and worked fine when installed manually, a couple of Dell boxes that that, while having the same model number required half-different installs, one with a Radeon card that doesn’t work with the official ATI drivers and require instead the Dell-provided ones, and requires the monitor to be installed with its own drivers otherwise it fails to reach the correct resolution…

Well, in the past three years I built around ten computes that eventually went to run Windows all the time; beside some idiotic hardware manufacturers with captcha-counter-captcha and interminable license agreements, I really didn’t have much trouble; okay so once or twice things didn’t work just smoothly until I updated the BIOS, but that’s not something that brand-name computers are absolutely exempt from. For instance – and I hope it was just a mistake in lshw – on an Acer laptop I had to replace the harddrive on, only after updating the BIOS lshw shown me the data regarding the Level 2 cache; before it was only showing me the level 1 cache; both time I was booting from the same SysRescueCD USB key.

And then people tell me that Linux has bad hardware support… I’d say not; sure it’s picky… but what it’s picky about is mostly the stuff that brand name computers try to shove on you!