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The Work PC

August 1, 2007

In recent weeks, my attitude toward my work PC has gone from grudging acceptance to frustration, general disdain, loathing and, today, hatred.

That’s right. Hatred.

What is it about that silver Dell that brings out such an intensity of emotion? Where to begin?

It…is…very…sloooooow – Want to jump from Word to Outlook to check out that new e-mail that just came in? Be prepared to wait fifteen seconds while the Dell “thinks” about it. And be prepared to wait another fifteen seconds when you Alt-Tab back to Word. Want to switch between the tabs you’ve got open in Firefox? That’ll be five seconds. Want to click on that link? Be ready for two or three seconds of lag…browsing the friggin’ internet! If my Mac is a Corvette, and the four-year-old HP I keep around for writing purposes is, I don’t know, a pickup truck, then my work PC is a golf cart. Or a unicycle.

Battery life of a champion – 45 minutes. Seriously. And with all its speediness, that translates to maybe 35-40 minutes of actually getting stuff done.

It’s awesome at wireless – There’s nothing like being deep in thought, finally working out how to word something, only to have your computer FREAK OUT as it loses the VPN connection and goes absolutely haywire. Even better is how it will randomly lose connection to the Wi-Fi network when it is less than ten feet from the router. None of the other computers in our house have this problem. But the work PC…it’s a drama queen.

If it weren’t for that VPN connection, I swear I’d just use my Mac instead. And you know what? I’d probably be 10-20% more productive.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2007 1:19 pm

    I am a customer advocate here at Dell headquarters in Texas. I found your posted and wanted to check with you to see if you needed any help with the problems you have on your Dell computer.

    For the wireless, I would check to make sure the antennae for the card are not loose. If your system has one of the Dell Wireless cards (aka Broadcom 13xx/14xx card) then you can use the Dell Wireless Card Utility to run a diagnostic on the card, and check the detected signal strength. From what you describe, I suspect either interference from other 2.4GHz signals (unlikely of other wireless computers are fine it the same place) or problems with the card itself.

    The speed you are seeing on the computer sounds to me like you do not have enough memory to work with all the programs you have open at one time. If things work fine, and only lag when you are switching between programs then the delay is caused by the computer swapping data from physical memory to disk (virtual memory, aka swap or page file) and back. The hard drive is a definite bottleneck in that kind of situation, and on older systems can be very noticeable. Which version of Windows are you running and how much physical memory is installed in the computer? From what you describe I would recommend at least 1Gb of memory for WinXP or lower, and at least 2Gb for Vista (especially if you are using the Aero interface).

    Battery life, unfortunately, is a different matter. Batteries are rated for about 400 cycles of use. In ‘normal’ use situations, that comes out to about one year of use before the battery has degraded enough to impact usability. This time can vary greatly based on how the system is used, however. I’ve seen batteries last 2 or 3 years, but it is extremely rare. Most only last about 15 to 18 months of regular use. Because they are rated for 400 cycles, or about one year, they have a one year warranty (separate from the system since batteries are considered consumable items, like ink or paper). If you can provide me with the serial number off the battery itself (20-ish character string of letters and number on a white bar-coded sticker on the battery itself) I can check to see if it still in its warranty period. If it is, I’ll be happy to set up a warranty replacement for it. If it is outside its warranty period, however, the only option would be to purchase a replacement.

    If you can give me the model of Dell system you are using I can give you more information on what to try for both the speed problems and the wireless. If you have any questions for me, I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, lastly, if you want to contact me directly, feel free to email me ( with ‘ATTN: Larry’ in the subject to ensure it gets to me (I’m the only Larry on my team).

    Dell Customer Advocate

  2. Matt permalink
    August 8, 2007 1:40 pm

    Larry, thanks for the comment.

    Unfortunately, one of the further headaches about the PC (Dell Latitude 610, BTW) is that it’s thoroughly and completely locked down by our IT department, and most anything that would actually be helpful requires admin rights (which I don’t have) to address…

  3. August 9, 2007 10:14 am

    I know exactly what you mean about the limitations of not having admin access. Even though it is locked down, however, you should still be able to use the diagnostics for the wireless card, unless it is one of the Intel models (the Intel ProSet software is set up differently than the Broadcom/Dell utilities). Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the other options I talked about are accessible without admin permissions (its been a while since I did not have them myself).

    If you have any other questions about the system I’ll be more than happy to answer them. If nothing else, it can give you the information you need to give to your IT guys so *they* can fix the problem.

    Dell Customer Advocate

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