Cutting edge proves double-edged

It's upgrade time again and, frustratingly, instead of being as happy as a dog with two tails I'm as sad as an IT journo with a PC that doesn't work.

It’s upgrade time again and, frustratingly, instead of being as happy as a dog with two tails I’m as sad as an IT journo with a PC that doesn’t work.

It’s interesting how easily swayed I am by the latest toys. Shiny new baubles dance enticingly and catch my eye, urging me toward a state of even more rampant consumerism. So when colleague Aimee pushed off to Europe, I swooped like a magpie on her desk and relieved it of the tiresome burden that was her new Dell PC. I got the tech boys to upgrade it with a better graphics card so I could finally hold my own in the games we play at interval (sorry, lunch) and sat back, ready to marvel at the kind of processing power a supercharged, fuel-injected, chopped suspension, stainless steel piston, hand-turned Celeron could deliver. Boy oh boy, would I rule the roost.

It wasn’t quite like that. Swapping over the software was a pain and odd things happened, such as my “quick correct” words disappearing from WordPerfect, but on the whole I coped. And then I couldn’t log on to the game.

Must be a dodgy install, I thought, coming over all technical. Quick, dump the software, get the disk, find the upgrades, download the maps and try again.

Still nothing. In fact, this time it crashed the said new PC and caused no end of tears and tantrums in the newsroom. After they’d finished playing games, the boys came back and over a period of hours, if not days, decided the new card was stuffing up the system and they took it out. Of course, uninstalling is never that easy and it left software entrails in the registry to poison and annoy, and now about all I can do is word-process and surf the net, which is a bit of a bugger, really.

The other new toy I received is a loan model of the new Nokia 6210. Long have I drooled over a colleague’s 6110, which is a more stylish version of the workhorse 5110, and I have my own 7110 to dazzle and annoy. (Can’t we have names for these products? I hate this whole 7000 series business.) But now the sliding key cover is a bit bent and the model’s looking a little dated, and I have trouble hearing things. The chance to play with the new one was jumped at and it arrived a couple of days ago. The best thing about it was that it was also a Nokia, so there shouldn’t have been any compatibility problems to stuff up my phone lists or caller groups or whatever.

Yeah, right. I swapped the SIM card over and, sure enough, all the numbers were there, which was great. But it didn’t take my ring tones, carefully bought from Vodafone, and didn’t put my calls into their respective groups. In fact, it switched back to the default groups, rather than taking my own personalised ones, and it ditched all my saved text messages. When I downloaded a replacement Pinky and the Brain ring tone it gave me Fur Patrol’s “Lydia”. These kind of things are stored in the phone’s brain and not on the SIM, so need to be reinstalled, which is a hassle. I couldn’t beam infrared them over to the new phone because I had to have a SIM card in both phones to use the IR port, and I don’t know if it would beam anything other than phone numbers anyway.

The moral of the story is this: in a world which encourages you to personalise your workstation, PC, phone, handheld devices and laptops, don’t. If you don’t have the bog-standard, out-of-the-box set-up, you’re only making trouble for yourself. This of course goes against everything every hardware and software vendor has been promoting forever — everything from snap-on covers to skins to themes to ring tones has been personalised, yet it just adds to the wonderful world of upgrading. It’s plain vanilla for me from now on. Well, maybe with a few nuts sprinkled on top. And maybe a Flake. Mmmm, sprinkles. I love sprinkles.

Brislen is a Computerworld reporter. Send email to Paul Brislen.