The Price of Progress

Less than five minutes after turning on my computer after returning from being out of town for three weeks, my computer went to the great junkyard in the sky. For the last few months, it had been ailing; I could hear the hard drive groaning and I suffered regular freezes.

But, it was 10 years old, so for it to have lasted this long is a credit to HP in an era when planned obsolescence is the norm. I had hoped to make it to the online Christmas sales, but missed them by a few weeks. So, off to the brick and mortar stores to see if I could get lucky.

And I did get lucky . Office Depot had a discontinued HP model on “clearance.” The ticket said $379 but when I asked for some informati9on about the specifications, a handheld scanner revealed the price had just been marked down another $30 to $349.

The memory is only four gigs but I can add another four gigs for about $30. And the power supply is pretty puny at maybe 150 watts when about 250 is better, especially if there’s a lot of USB peripherals plugged in. Torturing a power supply with lots of USB devices is not a good idea.

I thought I was going to have to invest $30 for my printer which was connected to a parallel port on the the old computer which new computers don’t have. But after looking close at it, I see it does have a USB option. Probably USB 1.o, since it is an old printer. But, I don’t print much.

I had hoped the operating system would be Windows 7 Professional, which has an XP compatibility mode for “legacy” software and which I could upgrade for free to Windows 10 later next year after I had time to address the older programs. But it did not and so I swallowed and took Windows 8.1. I do have Windows 7 Home which I plan to install on a second hard drive so I can run some, but not all, those legacy programs. Or, I might find an online deal on Windows 7 Professional.

Being prepared for hard drive crashes, I also have a fairly recent image of my old hard drive. So another option is to restore Windows XP and all my other programs onto a second hard drive. When I built my own computers a la carte, I made sure to select a case with a number of open internal expansion bays but these days you rarely have those. There’s always duct tape… 😉 (Whether I’ll have the motherboard connections is another issue.)

Getting used to Windows 8.1 has been a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, there’s Google to ask how to do something. I was relieved that a lot of utility programs which I feared would not work do in fact work.

But my big headaches are from two major programs which Windows 8.1 is not compatible with. My website uses FrontPage 200o, so I’ve had to search for a free one which is most similar to it. To date, the solution is a program called Page Breeze. However, it doesn’t seem to have a “thumbnail” procedure which allows me to set a maximum width or length for a large photo and then shrink it to my preview size while also automatically creating the link to the original.

I do have a stand alone program for creating thumbnails which is very fast. I created 75 thumbnails in about one minute. Problem is, I haven to manually create the link and Page Breeze isn’t a breeze in this procedure. I should be able to just click on the thumbnail, click a “link” button and then choose the photo to link to from a pop up screen of my photo folder. But no…I have to enter a URL, and they aren’t short.

A lesser problem is that I have a lot of work in MS Works, which came free with Windows XP. I have a few years of monthly financial investment tracking in the spreadsheet and other a number of documents in the word processor.

Fortunately, I have a 30 trial of MS Office Suite. I can open the text documents in Word using a free converter and then print those out. I should also be able to convert them to a plain vanilla text editor since they have no special formatting.

And I was able to open my financial tracking spreadsheet in Excel without a converter. I can print that out and then find a free spreadsheet progam to enter the new information. If I’m lucky, I can import the Excel spreadsheet into whatever free program I find.

My “free programs” website of choice is nonags.com. While there are various types of membership, the $80 lifetime membership is the best value. Membership allows you to download the program from the site, where it has been checked for viruses, etc. and there are no “add ons.” Otherwise, you have to go to the author’s site or another site and those versions may have “add ons” or worse.

Progress…. bah humbug! 😉

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