I watched some property development program on TV the other week about a "contemporary" new house with a "streamlined yet powerful" design. The comment from the presenter was that it looked like "a big box with windows". Aha! That's what I've just bought! Though mine was delivered in a cardboard box with Dell labels on. But, at last, I'm Windows 7 enabled! Perhaps you can tell from the increased productivity and heightened user experience of this post.
Or maybe not. Probably because I'm writing this on the old XP box, while the new one laboriously installs endless patches and the several tons of software I need just to make it worth getting out of bed in the mornings. I mean, how can a new machine built only three days ago already need 15 patches just for the operating system? I imagine that, after I install all the applications and other stuff I need, it will spend the whole of next week installing patches for these. All I can say is "Thank heavens for WSUS".
Mind you, it's strange how - despite spending hours figuring out what spec you actually need (or just want) for a new machine - you can end up being surprised at what actually arrives. As usual, my recent purchase is a Dell box, configured through their Web site. You spend ages wondering if you can afford that extra 2GB of memory, what size drive to specify, whether you need a different DVD drive, and a mass of other features and add-ons. There's even an option with the box I ordered to specify any of more than a dozen better graphics cards, one of which adds over $1,500 to the total price. I guess you'd expect that to be somewhat "better" than the standard one I chose - but, there again, I don’t tend to play Tomb Quake or Halo Raider very often.
However, the one thing you probably don't look at in the basic specs is the physical size of the machine. OK, so I did when I ordered a couple of new servers last year, but that's only because my sever cabinet is not very deep and I needed to find something a bit smaller than the standard sized boxes. And you'd think I'd have learned my lesson after the contretemps I had with the old XP box that this new one is replacing. I bought that from the Dell Outlet, spending time choosing one that had the performance I needed at the time, without ever wandering what the "C" after the model number meant. Until it arrived in a padded envelope.
Well, yes, it is a big bigger than that. But not much. It turns out that the "C" meant "compact". It's a small and very pretty silver machine (Hawkwind, anybody?), but runs extremely hot and is incredibly noisy (again, a bit like Hawkwind if their last concert I went to is anything to go by). And it refuses to recognize Vista and Windows 7 as being anything other than programs designed to initiate the blue screen of death; which is why it's finally being retired after I've spent some five years coping with its various vaguarities.
So I made sure the new box is not some weird compact thing. It's described on the Dell site as a "Mini Tower" case with "Vertical Orientation" (you get to choose vertical or horizontal, through surely if it was horizontal it wouldn't be a tower?). But it turns out to be about the size of a football field. Well, at nearly two feet high and deep, nine inches wide, an weighing more than my old 24" CRT monitor did, it certainly is no compact machine. I don't know if they loaded it onto the truck with a fork-lift, but it took two of use to haul it indoors and upstairs to the office. I might even have to put blocks under the desk feet so I can fit it underneath. Thank goodness I didn’t specify "Horizontal Orientation" or I'd have had to move my desk next door to make room for it.
Still, it is a nice piece of kit. Running the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 and tons of disk space and processing power to spare. Though I suppose it will be out of date by next month.