using an 8 year old laptop out of spite to a newer, worse one

alt title: learned bash because i hate acer so fucking mucha technological post9 min read

In any­where be­tween to­mor­row and a few weeks, of which I don’t know for sure thanks to a track­ing code given to me by an eBay seller read­ing, and I quote, NOTRACKINGLETTERMAIL, I will be get­ting a part for my lap­top. The lap­top in ques­tion is a Thinkpad T460, and while I’ve been us­ing it for five years now, it’s not be­cause it’s only been in use for that long; I got it right around the time you could start look­ing for them on the cheap, be­cause busi­nesses love of­fload­ing their busi­ness-ass lap­tops right as the three year war­ranty runs out.

I can’t say I like it for be­ing a Thinkpad, in the way that I know Thinkpads are in­sanely pop­u­lar, be­cause out­side of me kind of dig­ging the feel­ing of haul­ing a big, chunky rec­tan­gle around, all the things that make up a stereo­typ­i­cal Thinkpad are the parts that an­noy me the most. The red dot in the cen­ter, I can only as­sume, is one of those things peo­ple swear by in the same way there’s still old dudes out there who need to use track­balls, where you can tell they came from an era where the idea of a good com­puter mouse or track­pad was a com­plete pipedream. The down­fall of most lap­top track­pads is when they feel the need to make but­ton clicks all vir­tual, out of some sense of do­ing the Macbook thing, and this in­stead has three lit­tle track­pad but­tons that do ex­actly what you’d want them to. As such, I can only as­sume the dot’s still there to pla­cate a few 60 year olds who know of no other way to point a cur­sor.

The key­board (of which is the thing I’m need­ing re­placed, in fact) is also just kind of an­noy­ing? I think this might be a case of there be­ing no such thing as a well-placed func­tion key, though, be­cause the BIOS very much lets you put the func­tion key in a dif­fer­ent spot, and it’s just as bad, in that dif­fer­ent spot. Especially bounc­ing be­tween a lap­top like this and a desk­top with a rel­a­tively sane key­board lay­out at­tached to it, hav­ing an en­tire part of my lower row be com­pletely dif­fer­ent be­tween the two is, to put it mildly, an­noy­ing.

I do not own this lap­top be­cause I nec­es­sar­ily want to; I own it be­cause, when the RAM went to shit, I could sim­ply buy more.

Let me ex­plain by talk­ing about the worst lap­top I ever owned. It was the Acer Spin 5, and I got it ex­clu­sively be­cause it was the only one with tol­er­a­ble specs of what I had learned was the ul­tra­book mar­ket, which, to this day, I’m pretty sure is a com­pa­ny’s code­word for “we all want Macbook money but we can’t af­ford good en­gi­neers for it”. Until this point, all my lap­top pur­chases were cheap 500 dol­lar things that’d break in a few years, and I gen­er­ally wanted some­thing that lasted much longer. At first it was… I would­n’t say good, be­cause even from the getgo, that track­pad was un­de­ni­ably try­ing to do all the things track­pads should­n’t do, but at the very least, it worked.

For about two years.

And then the RAM died.

If you’ve never had to trou­bleshoot vague prob­lems on your PC, and there’s noth­ing point­ing to an ex­tremely ob­vi­ous cause, the or­der usu­ally goes like this: it’s prob­a­bly your RAM’s fault, un­less it’s prob­a­bly your PSU’s fault, un­less it’s prob­a­bly Windows’ fault. RAM in par­tic­u­lar is the most an­noy­ing thing on planet earth to di­ag­nose a prob­lem with, be­cause to be sure, you’ll have to put your com­puter out of com­mis­sion for po­ten­tially days, while memtest86+ keeps pass­ing the same checks on them, over and over. The key there is that just be­cause it sees no prob­lems does­n’t ac­tu­ally mean there is­n’t a prob­lem, sim­ply that it has­n’t found a prob­lem yet, as false neg­a­tives are com­mon.

Your RAM is frag­ile. If some­one, brand new to build­ing PCs, starts pan­ick­ing that theirs won’t turn on, the ad­vice is al­ways to check the RAM, be­cause 99 times out of 100, it’s usu­ally 0.01mm out of place, and be­cause it’s RAM that’s enough for it to not count. If a part gets fried, it’s usu­ally the RAM, and if you get blue­screens, it’s usu­ally the RAM, and if lit­er­ally any­thing weird hap­pens that can­not be im­me­di­ately ex­plained, that’s usu­ally also the RAM.

The RAM, gen­er­ally speak­ing, is the part you’re go­ing to want to re­place the most. This is re­ally bad, be­cause on mod­ern lap­tops, the RAM is also the least fix­able part.

This is be­cause ul­tra­books want to be thin. There’s no ra­tio­nal rea­son for them to be; it should be noted that, es­pe­cially in the case of this Acer lap­top I owned, this thin-ness does not trans­late to a lighter weight, be­cause ul­tra­books are of­ten made of big chunks of metal that com­pletely off­set any po­ten­tial light­ness they might have. As far as I can tell, it ex­ists ex­clu­sively as a means of giv­ing the prod­uct de­sign­ers some­thing to do, a rea­son to pre­tend that they’re all mak­ing the next big, pop­u­lar prod­uct, and not in­stead a rel­a­tively mid-tier branded lap­top with mid-tier specs.

Without fail, this means the RAM, which would nor­mally be ex­tremely easy to re­place, will nowa­days be glued di­rectly to the moth­er­board, mean­ing that if they fry out, so does the rest of the lap­top. Again, this is all so a com­pany can say a lap­top is mil­lime­ters thin­ner, in a way that does not trans­late to ac­tual porta­bil­ity. There is no gain, only a rea­son that a con­cept artist can say their fin­ished prod­uct was the same as they drew it out, and an ex­cuse for a com­pany to make you buy a new lap­top, the mo­ment the old one goes to shit.

My Acer Spin 5 costed twelve hun­dred dol­lars, over twice the amount I had ever paid for a lap­top; my Acer Spin 5, right af­ter the war­rantly fell off, had its RAM fry; my Acer Spin 5, rep­re­sent­ing all the ways mod­ern lap­tops were sup­posed to be bet­ter for be­ing thin, be­came a pa­per­weight. I had to spend even more for some poor lap­top re­pair tech­ni­cian, who once had a job much sim­pler than they do now, to per­form fuck­ing heart surgery on it, so I could at least pre­tend that I could still use it. It runs at about a third of the speed, likely be­cause re-sol­der­ing an en­tire new stick of RAM to a moth­er­board that clearly over­heated along with it can have many con­se­quences!

I did all that, and I re­al­ized that, even if I could tol­er­ate it, I did­n’t want to will­ingly ex­ist in the world of lap­tops where that could ever be a worry. Instead, I fired up eBay, found a kind of banged up T460 for a few hun­dred bucks, and then or­dered that, get­ting parts over time to fix every­thing that broke in it. I have to run Linux on it, Link to foot­note 1 be­cause I as­sume Windows 11 would make it cry, and there’s just enough things that are start­ing to feel clunky on it to where I’m per­haps won­der­ing if I should have in­vested that re­place­ment key­board into a new lap­top, but it’s also a lap­top that, de­spite need­ing to be hit with a mil­lion lit­tle fixes, still fuck­ing works, faster than my most ex­pen­sive lap­top pur­chase ever could.

This T460 was one of the last of a dy­ing breed, a rel­a­tively strong lap­top that can ac­tu­ally be fixed up rel­a­tively quickly, the mo­ment the parts go to shit. That, and that alone, is why I’m still us­ing it. Even now, Thinkpads aren’t re­ally like that any­more, with the ex­cuse be­ing that they sim­ply need RAM too fast to not be sol­dered; that lap­tops like the Framework ex­ist, and show that you clearly can, is just some­thing that, if you’re still one of the three grand­pas left alive who use the dot on a Thinkpad, you’ll just pre­tend to ig­nore, I sup­pose.

If I ever have to get a new lap­top, push come to shove, I’ll prob­a­bly get a Framework. Yes, its whole sell­ing point is kind of fake, since Framework is the only com­pany that can pro­vide a non­s­mall num­ber of the “upgradeable” parts, but the truth is, it’s a lap­top where you can ac­tu­ally take out the RAM, and put more RAM in, with­out break­ing any­thing, and that is ob­jec­tively an im­prove­ment over al­most any­thing else that ex­ists right now. That it might, the­o­ret­i­cally, also be cheap to up­grade, for at least a small pe­riod of time, is just ic­ing on the cake.

  1. And, hey, Valve push­ing through so much use­ful com­pat­i­bil­i­ties for the sake of mak­ing the Steamdeck made sure that Linux was ac­tu­ally re­ally good for like 90% of the things I’d want to do, so it’s pretty nice, ac­tu­ally. Maybe I set it up on my desk­top? Is this ac­tu­ally a year-of-linux-on-the-desk­top sit­u­a­tion? Return to ar­ti­cle via foot­note 1 by nomiti ityool 2024
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