My old faithful GQ computer

After using a Dell 750 running Windows 2000 as my main PC for a few years, I installed Windows 2000 on a new Great Quality (GQ) PC from Fry's Electronics in January 2006. I built the software environment from the ground up and felt I knew all about it. I was totally in control of what was happening on the computer. An all around good experience, the hardware is excellent for the price, the AMD chip is remarkable, and Windows 2000 Professional has evolved into a very stable Operating System. I know Mr Bill Gates and Microsoft have their detractors, but in recent years I have few complaints.

Time to move ahead

I recently bought a new Compaq PC. It came with Windows XP Home edition pre-installed. But I didn't realize the extent of so many other crappy products that also came pre-installed. Take a look at the list. I suppose sponsorship helps keep the price down. It even came with one of those legendary AOL CDs, yes an actual physical CD, as well as a preloaded invitation to a 3 month AOL trial. Gadzooks!

But I feel totally out of control. With all that installed software, how is it possible to know what is happening under the covers. I thought buying a PC with Windows XP pre-installed was the way to move to XP without paying a fortune for the packaged product, but have learned there is a price to pay.

One example; I installed my Quicken 2004 without realizing that Quicken 2006 was pre-installed. At the end of the install it ran an automated upgrade to "Version 4". Eventually it turned out to be "Quicken 2006 Basic R 4", from the Help About window. The result is that the two versions appear to have merged. It was an unintentional downgrade, so I can't blame the software for not recognizing what was happening. Was the pre-installed version a trial version? Who knows? Bottom line is that it works and appears to be version 2006, even though the icon says Quicken 2004. But will it expire in 3 months? It keeps asking me to register. Will this cost? Probably. Research is needed here. Maybe it's time to RTFM.

A growing list of observations

I've worked on and off with XP for several years while assisting other people, but this is the first time I've actually used Windows XP full time for my considerable regular daily activities. Here are some things I ran into in the few hours of normal usage.

Folder and file lists in Open and Save dialogs appear to display in the last Windows Explorer sequence selected for that folder. In my case this is by descending date/time. Very confusing, almost to the point of being unusable. Maybe there's an option somewhere.

If a window such as a folder list is open on the desktop, and being used, and that window gets minimized, when it is restored gets repainted, and it is displayed as it was when it was first rendered. Doesn't sound right, but that's what's happening.

The Dell Image Expert has somehow changed the DEFAULT application for some file types to itself (JPG etc), so that if you change it manually and later click Restore Default, it goes back to Dell Image Expert, not to the XP default of the Windows Picture and Fax viewer.

The Compaq background on the desktop isn't too bad, but it soon became an annoyance. Changing the background image to None left me with a blood red background. I found a way to change it to the more familiar blue background with "conventional" Windows style windows, more like the familiar W2K appearance. I have retained the XP Start menu, I don't want to be seen as too antediluvian. I am indeed a happy camper.

The mouse pointer continues to hourglass at random times, especially when I go to a Windows Explorer window. Even though the machine itself is noticeably faster, the net result in some areas is slower due to the hourglassing and window repainting. Then I often have to re-navigate to the files I was working with.

The pre-installed Google toolbar popup blocker in Internet Explorer is fighting with the inbuilt IE popup blocker. I guess I need to delete the Google toolbar.

Why do the icons in the bottom right corner populate from right to left?

Unrelated to Compaq or XP

Using Symantec's Norton Ghost to do automated daily backups to a second hard drive is working well. This will allow me to sleep more comfortably at night knowing that my data is safe. I've used older versions of Ghost previously to do monthly backups across the network, but now I don't even have to remember. Life is good!

The Dell All-In-One (AIO) Printer software changes file types and installs other products such as a fax application and Paint Shop Pro without giving any options to not install. The Windows Picture and Fax viewer I have been looking forward to gets lost in the shuffle.

Microsoft Outlook is one of the most difficult applications to set up I've ever encountered. Especially when all I want to do is use the calendar. Frustrating big time!