My New Computer is Fast

The new Dell computer I ordered a while ago actually arrived ahead of schedule, two weeks ago, but I came down with a cold the evening it arrived, and am only just feeling good enough to write about it.

In short: it rocks.

Its processor actually has a slower GHz rating than my old computer, but it's a Core 2 Duo, and each of its dual processors is much faster than a similarly-rated Pentium. It's fast. My old computer's name was “WINFOO”. This one is “ZIPPY”.

It showed up one Wednesday at about noon. I pulled it out of the box, and while wondering what a little slidy thing on the top did, I was surprised to find out that it released the side of the computer, so I could see inside.

Inside guts of my new Dell -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Inside guts of my new Dell

Cool. I remember when you had to remove five screws, then slide the wrap-around cover off of the guts of the computer, just to see inside. Maintenance was a nightmare; this is much nicer.

After hooking it up, I booted it, and over the next week or two, roughly in order:

  1. Removed a bunch of crap I don't want (anything related to MSN, Windows Messenger, or Outlook).

  2. Did a Windows Update. Not much was updated, so I guess Dell ships with the latest patches installed.

  3. Tidied up the Start > Programs menu (why can't items be kept alphabetized automatically?)

  4. Launched Internet Explorer to fetch something, and ran into my first unexplained program crash.

  5. Tried again, successfully, and was able to install Windows Defender.

  6. Downloaded and installed Firefox and configured it:

  7. Downloaded and installed English-language drivers for my Canon Pixma MP810 printer/scanner.

  8. Mapped old computer's drives to virtual drives on the new computer. (Why can't I map a whole drive? I had to do them in parts.....)

  9. Installed this photo as my desktop background image.

  10. Downloaded and installed Yahoo! Messenger and spent time configuring it to remove a bunch of crap.

  11. Installed Adobe Photoshop CS2 and copied over the scripts I'd written for it (such as the Calendar-Template building script I wrote about earlier). And wouldn't ya know it, just my luck — I activated a new copy of CS2 a week before CS3 is announced!

  12. Downloaded and installed Adobe Lightroom and was pleased with its speed on the new hardware.

  13. Downloaded and installed Cygwin and brought over my home directory from the old computer.

  14. Remapped the keyboard so that the caps-lock key functions as a control key, as God intended, by creating and using the CapsLockIsCtrl.reg file as described here.

  15. Cleaned a bunch of random stuff from C:\Program Files\, but found that I can't remove the “MSN Gaming Zone” and “xerox” directories. Why on earth can't I remove these directories?

  16. Downloaded and Installed IrfanView.

  17. Downloaded and installed Adobe Reader.

  18. Downloaded and installed MySQL.

  19. Downloaded and installed Fidelity Investments' Active Trader Pro.

  20. Downloaded and installed Apple iTunes.

  21. Spent ages moving files over from the old computer. I'm still not done.

  22. A bazillion other things I can't remember....

I ran into a few odd things during this process:

  • After three or four days, suddenly, Windows Updated installed dozens of items. I guess Dell really doesn't ship with the latest patches installed, which I can understand, but why did Windows Update wait so long?

  • A fantastic feature of Firefox is that you can type words or phrases in its address bar and have that turn into a web search (via Google or Yahoo!, for example). This no longer works for me. Even if I reset keyword.URL to its default, and ensured that keyword.enabled is true, it still doesn't work. This is very frustrating for me because I'm so used to using that feature. If someone has an idea on how to get it to work, I'd love to hear it.

  • My old machine, which needed to be reboot every hour or two whether being used or not, did not require a reboot from 18 hours before the new computer arrived, to almost a week after. Very strange.

  • The new machine has four disk drives in it, but it's eerily silent. Very weird, but I appreciate it. My old one sounded like a jet engine at arm's length.

The most wonderfully odd feeling I have with this computer is that it hasn't crashed yet. Not even once. When you're used to crashing every hour or two, it's a weird but happy feeling to have it not crash.

Comments so far....

It is possible that one of your extensions is interfering with the address bar search.

One possible workaround for your address bar problem: learn to use search shortcuts.


The way that I have set it up, I perform the following actions: yquery

I have similar shortcuts set up for ‘g’, ‘az’, etc which lets me choose which search engine. I have completed disabled the separate search box since I find the keyboard approach much more intuitive. I also like getting the screen real estate back.

Granted, it requires an extra 2 keystrokes, it does give you slightly more power and flexibility.


— comment by Brian Acton on December 27th, 2006 at 5:19am JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Yes, the new Core 2 Duo processors are great!

I replaced an old AMD processor with one of those in our fileserver at home and even with ~7-10 disks (7 then, 10 now) it made a HUGE difference in how much heat it emits.

Spent ages moving files over from the old computer. I’m still not done.

Apple have done a really nice job on that in OS X. Start up new computer. Put old computer in “target disk mode”. Plug in firewire cable in both. Wait a little while. Now your new computer looks and acts just like the old one, except faster.

I used it for my G4 PowerBook to MacBook Pro upgrade and it was Really Smooth. My mother used it for her iBook to MacBook upgrade and again, completely smooth sailing.

– ask

— comment by Ask Bjørn Hansen on December 28th, 2006 at 8:29am JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Which monitor is that? The 20, 24, or 30″?

— comment by Jeremy Zawodny on December 29th, 2006 at 2:28am JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

20″, which I bought when I moved to Japan (2.5 years ago)

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on December 30th, 2006 at 7:01pm JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Excellent suggestion, Brian, thanks. It turns out that yes, Tabbrowser Preferences is dorking it. I’ll try running without it and see what I miss. (I have the feeling that much of what made Tabbrowser Preferences such an excellent extension was included in the mainline Firefox 1.5 build, and likely continues to this 2.x build. We’ll see)

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on December 31st, 2006 at 7:33pm JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

You can save a few pixels of screen space by removing the useless “go” button:

browser.urlbar.hideGoButton: true

(it also wins the award for the most poorly named preference)

Tab Mix Plus is a good replacement for Tabbrowser Preferences, and includes a session saving/restoring feature that is more powerful than the one built in to Firefox 2.0.

— comment by Andrew S on January 7th, 2007 at 4:02am JST (7 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve found that both Tabbrowser Preferences and TabMixPlus break the address bar search, regardless of the value of keyword.URL in about:config. TabMixPlus has useful functions but it’s very bloated, and it messes with settings that have nothing to do with tabs.

— comment by bananananana on March 22nd, 2007 at 5:11am JST (7 years ago) comment permalink
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