Sunday, February 7, 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining.

Today I bought a printer, USB cable to connect it, and 500 sheets of paper for $0.97, plus shipping and tax.
If you're wondering how that came about, it's a bit of a story...
As some of you may know, I have wanted to get a new computer for some time now. My current laptop is rather slow, has little RAM, has already gone through two batteries, and has no dedicated graphics card, which makes it a poor fit for what I like to do: multi-tasking and multimedia. In its defense, I will say that it is a very stable machine, and despite running slow still runs quite well, although battery-less it is basically a glorified desktop, and one that runs slower than all but the cheapest of those.
But! the point is that, when mom and dad surprised me at Christmas by paying for my current semester here at Hilo (thanks guys!), I decided I would put some of the money I had intended to use to pay for tuition towards a new computer. And that's where this tale really begins.
 Hoping that if I acted quickly I could have my new computer before I left California, I started looking at computers Christmas day. I set myself a $1,000 spending limit, and began to see what I could find. To be honest, I didn't do much research. In fact, since my current computer is a Dell, and our family computer is another Dell, and they had both always run well, I went straight to Dell's site and began looking around. After some looking and comparing, I finally settled on a 17-inch with specs that I could live with. I wasn't perfectly happy with it, but I'm 1) a perfectionist and 2) a bit greedy; what I really wanted was the most powerful computer out there, one that could handle pretty much any situation that had even the slightest chance of coming up. Instead, I settled for a good mix of specs that was just over a thousand dollars, and ordered it.
As I said, my original plan was for it to arrive before I flew back to Hawai`i on the 8th. The estimated shipping date was the 5th, but I was hoping it might ship early, and I had gotten free 3-5 day shipping. To be short, it didn't come. I had known all along that this might happen, so, while disappointed, I wasn't too surprised (I figured maybe they were busy with all the holiday sales).
So, I flew back to Hawai`i, very happy to return to the land of warmth and sun from frigid Northern California (I think I can hear those of you in Nebraska and Washington laughing).
Time passed, until maybe  a week later -- I remember it was close to the middle of the month -- I got a somewhat strange e-mail from Dell saying that my order had been delayed. Not just delayed a few days, but delayed till the end of the month! No explanation given, and a notice that they would have to cancel it if they didn't hear from me in 24 hours. For some reason, I didn't feel right about it, and called mom to ask her what she thought. She agreed that it seemed weird, so I made the decision to let the order lapse and take another look around (I figured I could always re-order it if I didn't find anything better, and it would probably take the same amount of time either way). So, I went back to looking.
Now, you may be surprised to find out that while I know a lot about what makes a good laptop, I had never paid much attention to brands, which is why I had gone with Dell initially: much simpler than actually looking around and comparing from other manufacturers. However, I'd gotten a recommendation from a friend while in California about HP, so I toddled over to their site and started looking around, and what I found completely blew me away. While looking through their laptops, I came across a 17-inch model called the dv7t Quad Edition, boasting an i7 Quad Core processor. Now, if you haven't kept up with the latest in Central Processing Unit designs over the last few years, the i7 is currently about the 4th most powerful the most powerful chip available in the general laptop (or even desktop) market right now. About maybe ten years ago, someone in some CPU design department somewhere had the brilliant idea of making a chip that would be able to do two things at once, instead of merely focusing on making a chip that could do things ever faster. Well, that idea turned out to be golden, and now a fairly large proportion of computers run on dual-core processors (I think 'Dual Core' is actually a registered trademark of Intel, whose dual-core Pentium chips command a very large market share).  Anyway, dual-core chips were a wonderful step forward, because it's extremely difficult to double the computing speed of a single-core chip, whereas simply adding a second core and making the two play nicely together gets you the same effect. It just took someone to take that important first conceptual step. I'm sure almost as soon as it was seen that it could be done, people were already wondering how high they could go, and just a few years ago now, they introduced the quad-core line of chips. That's right, these chips have four, count 'em, four separate computing cores in each chip. Each core, individually, doesn't even have to be all that fast. The things are still incredibly powerful and fast, and, according to reports, nearly impossible to bog down no matter how many programs you have running.
Now, after that long digression, I should say that I have wanted a computer with one of these pretty much since I first knew they existed.  However, computers with them have always been priced above what I was willing to pay for them. Until...I came across this particular model which had an instant rebate of $200 on it. Which put it under a thousand dollars. Now, I am not a very impulsive buyer, I tend to dither a lot when spending large amounts of money (for me, that's more than about $25). I also like reading reviews about things I buy before buying them, so I started looking for some. And lo and behold, what should I find, but a coupon code for that particular model that was an additional $350 off. And not just any configuration, but one that actually increased the system specs way beyond what I had resigned myself to. To put it bluntly, this was truly a heaven-sent deal. I ended up getting a system costing $1,528.99 for a mere $978.99, plus a measly $40 in taxes. The final tally was
  • Processor: i7- 720QM Processor (1.6GHz, 6MB L2 Cache, 1333MHz FSB) w/Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz (That's a really good processor. I mean really good...)
  • Memory: 8GB RAM. (this...made my jaw drop. My current system has 1/16 of this [half a GB]. This is currently the maximum amount of RAM that can be stuffed into a computer. And RAM is, after your processor, the most important factor in how fast your computer runs. More RAM = faster computer.)
  • Graphics card: 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 230M (this is a whoppingly big graphics card. My current laptop doesn't even have a separate one, so there's really no comparison. This card in your computer is responsible for all the graphics you see, so a better card means you can do more fancy stuff with graphics. And I love doing things with graphics...)
  • Hard Drive: FREE Upgrade to 320GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection  (I really didn't care too much about the size of the drive, because I don't regularly save full-length movies on my computer and I'm not a professional photographer, but hey...can't beat free. My current drive is 60 GB, for comparison, and I still haven't filled it up after 2 & 1/2 years, so this one should last me for a long, long time.)
  • Display: 17.3" diagonal HD+ High-Definition HP LED BrightView Widescreen Display (1600 x 900) (I currently have a 15-inch display, so this will be even bigger. Perfect for graphics work.)
 The rest of the specs will probably not be of much interest to you (for that matter, these may not be of much interest to you), so I will leave off raving about it now. Suffice it to say, this is a computer beyond my wildest dreams of what I hoped to be able to afford at this time in my life, and all I can say is soli Deo gloria.

But I realized I still have not explained the printer...
 
When I ordered the computer in mid-January, the estimated shipping date was February 1st. Since I was getting my dream computer, I didn't really care how long I had to wait for it (the fact that it was custom-configured is probably why it was so long). Well, along comes the 1st, and what should I get but an e-mail from HP saying that my order had been delayed. But what a difference! Instead of two weeks delay, it was only until the 4th; and to top it off, they sent along a $50 gift certificate for their online store, which I thought was awfully nice, considering they didn't have to send anything. So that is the origin of the $0.57 printer, $0.29 USB cable, and $0.11 ream of paper. The printer originally cost $29.99, the cord an additional $14.99, and the paper $5.99, which came out to a mere $0.97 above the certificate. The entire rest of the charge was the shipping and $0.26 tax, so the whole thing cost me $6.48. And now I have my own printer, and don't need to rely on printing things at the library anymore like I have (or, I will when it comes in about a week).

Oh, you're wondering about my computer? It shipped on the 4th as predicted, and is currently in Anchorage, Alaska, on it's way here. If everything goes smoothly, I should have it by Wednesday, so perhaps the next update will be written on my spiffy new system. So stay tuned! And remember to watch out for those silver linings!

A hui hou! 

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