After -what has it been now, two weeks? Close to three?- of trying to use a Lenovo K1 tablet like a laptop computer and a ten-year-old Dell Latitude laptop as a “desk” or home machine, I am both encouraged and frustrated by the results so far. I think I could pull it off with a few more tweaks to the tablet and a more stable environment on the desktop, but my success so far has come at a high cost of time, effort, and lost productivity.
I intend to keep going with it for the time being, but I reserve the right to change direction if needed. It will be great if I can make it work, and my ability to carry out an alternative plan is, shall we say, constrained. Meaning, I can’t go out and drop several hundred dollars on a new computer. Third, I’m a bit stubborn about letting go of ideas unless they are clearly unworkable. But what brought me to this state of affairs in the first place, where I’m trying to cobble together a functional system from such rags and scraps? It’s something of a long story, but I will try to summarize.
I’ve never owned a brand-new computer. The closest I’ve come was a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad, which lasted me all of two years. Frankly, I haven’t owned a brand-new anything, save for a pair of work shoes or a wristwatch, for quite some time. Thus, I’ve learned to be somewhat resourceful with regard to the service and repair of expensive things. I’ve overhauled a washing machine in an apartment hallway; replaced the head gasket and timing belt of an old Volvo in an unheated garage; and repaired an overheating Dodge van with a flashlight. All in all, I’ve got a pretty good track record.
These computers, though; they have proven vexatious. Between incompatible hardware and obsolete software, with my stubborn yet impatient nature in the middle, I’ve had a devil of a time keeping the second-hand machines that I inevitably acquire in operable condition. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that the computer manufacturers and software producers were deliberately trying to render their own products obsolete. But that’s just silly, right? I mean, why would they do that?
At any rate, I’ve owned a laundry list of old machines and built up a fair working knowledge of both hardware and software, especially Windows. Then I got to thinking that perhaps an operating system that required me to keep a three-ring binder of troubleshooting articles handy might not be an ideal solution. At college, I was exposed -albeit not indecently- to the Linux and Mac environments, but resisted switching due to concerns I had about the learning curve of a new operating system and the cost of a Mac machine.
Last winter, when my Thinkpad ate its first hard drive, I thought long and hard about crossing over to one of the alternatives. I even went as far as installing a version of Linux on the replacement hard drive I got for that machine, but it never quite took. When finally that computer would not boot at all, I deduced that something had gone very wrong indeed. A good friend happened to have a used MacBook Pro and graciously gifted it to me, and I gradually adapted to the new environment.
All was well and good until the only thing that goes wrong with the older MacBooks went wrong with mine. The graphics card overheated, taking the main logic board with it. Apparently, this is a well-known issue both to the manufacturer and the user community, with a number of variations on the method of repair. The idea is to re-heat the board and re-flow the solder, thereby repairing the connections. My attempt at this repair proved unsuccessful, unless you count white-hot sparks and acrid smoke a success.
So there I was, up the proverbial creek, but not entirely without a backup plan. I had just replaced our oldest son’s creaky desktop computer with one from the university surplus store, so I went back and nabbed a Dell laptop for $50. The school sells these machines, as-is, but with a current version of Linux installed, so they are ready-to-run. I figured it would tide me over until I got the Mac fixed properly.
Then I got an estimate for a replacement logic board- nearly $600, plus labor! Suddenly, that $50 computer was looking better and better. The trouble was, with its bricklike nature, short battery life, and overall modest performance, I didn’t think I’d be prone to getting out and about with it. Nor was I convinced that a computer of that vintage would last me a long time. Naturally, I needed a backup to my backup plan, and my shiny-thing-loving self had been eying the cool new tablets, so…