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Out with the old and out with the new

Do you really want to buy that new computer? Gigglebytes hed: Out with the old and out with the new dek: do you really want to buy that new computer? dek: my desktop was as crowded as a microsoft bug report. by Lincoln Spector

Slowly, over the course of a year, my computer had grown less reliable. When it reached the point where my word processor wouldn’t work with my word processor, I knew there were only two possible solutions: I could buy a new computer, or I could back up my data, format my hard drive, re-install Windows, re-install everything else, restore my data, and recreate from scratch the data I couldn’t restore.

I bought a new computer.

More specifically, I bought a Bellway Suburban 2468. It only cost me $1,295, plus $395 shipping and handling, $295 for the service contract, and $995 for the necessary cables.

The new toy arrived two weeks later. I eagerly set it up, plugged it in, and turned it on. The computer was several times faster than my last one; Windows came up in seconds. Then all of the various pre-installed programs came up in 10 minutes.

By the time it was done, my desktop was as crowded as a Microsoft bug report. What’s more, the tiny icons in my system tray stretched leftward until they met the Start button. It’s a good thing I’d sprung for a 19-inch monitor, or they might have stretched over the Start button and into another computer.


My next chore was obvious: I had to figure out what all these self-loading programs were and how to get rid of them. The first turned out to be Introduction to the Bellway Suburban 2468. Double-clicking this icon treated me to a 10-minute commercial filled with fancy animation and people smiling like toothpaste addicts.

Then there was Scent Analyzer 2001, the control program for the Millennial Scent Analyzer, a PC Card that comes standard with all Bellway notebook computers. Since I had bought a Bellway desktop, the program was of little use to me. I right-clicked the icon and searched fruitlessly for an option to keep it from loading at startup.

Next was a little icon called Clean Start. Finally, something that might be useful! I double-clicked it, and it cleared out everything in My Documents. I right-clicked the icon and found, then unchecked, the option to load it at startup, despite a warning that such an action would cause my computer to be devoured by angry cats.

Figuring that music would help calm me down, I popped in a CD-“Gordon Lightfoot Sings Every Song Ever Written.” Up came one of those media-playing windows with buttons that look familiar to anyone who has ever been befuddled by a VCR. This was quickly followed by a window displaying a blinking, constantly changing series of advertisements. Finally, up came a playlist that autodialed my modem. When it didn’t make a connection, it dialed again, and again, and again. My son was on the phone at the time.

That reminded me-I needed to tell Bellway about my DSL connection. I did so without serious trouble (the biggest surprise of my week), rebooted the system, and double-clicked the Internet Explorer icon on the desktop. And up came a friendly wizard for signing up with Bellway’s own ISP, the Bellway Internet Line Gateway Enterprise (BILGE). There was no option for skipping the wizard and just using my own Internet connection-I had to go through BILGE.

I cancelled the wizard and clicked the Quick Launch Internet Explorer icon, and up came BILGE. So I tried the IE icon on the Start menu. BILGE. An icon pointing to a particular URL. BILGE. I clicked the Start button, selected Run, typed a URL, and pressed Enter. BILGE, BILGE, and more BILGE.

I read the documentation and searched the online help, where I found detailed, well-written instructions on how to get online using BILGE. Finally, in an obscure section of the help file called “Violating Your Warranty,” I found the following statement: “If you decide to access the World Wide Web via a connection process other than the Bellway Internet Line Gateway Enterprise, we cannot guarantee that you will receive from Bellway regular monthly service bills. Bypassing the Easy BILGE Sign-up Wizard requires editing your Windows Registry, something that should only be done by trained professionals or desperate criminals.” It then listed the URL for detailed Registry-editing instructions.

I tried going to that URL. BILGE.

The only solution

At that point, I realized that I had no option but to junk the whole thing. I would reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch.

Reformatting the hard drive was easy, but I ran into a slight snag in the reinstallation routine. My new computer didn’t come with a Windows CD-ROM. A quick call to Bellway technical support and 45 minutes on hold got me an answer.

“We no longer ship a Windows CD,” the technician explained. “If you need to reinstall Windows, you’ll have to use the Restore CD that came with the computer.”

“And that will give me a fresh, untouched installation of Windows?” I asked.

“It will do better than that,” he explained proudly. “It will restore your hard drive to the exact condition it was in when we shipped it to you … Sir? Sir? Are you crying, sir?”

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