Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A new computer needs a test drive while you can still return it.

Over the past decade I've bought one, two or three PCs each year. When my office was in my house I alternated between getting a new desktop and a new laptop each year, so my oldest machine was never more than two years old.

Lately, as technology reached a plateau, there was less need to make the biennial replacements. I've been quite happy with three-year-olds.

Four years ago I moved my office out of the house, and put my main office PC and main home PC on the same replacement schedule. My system was interrupted a year ago when the office was hit by a MONSTER lightning surge that killed a bunch of PCs and other equipment. I replaced my office machine sooner than I planned to, but my home machine is still fine.

Although the machines are not identical, I minimize my inconvenience by having identical keyboards in each location.

Last spring I decided it was time to get a netbook, I got a nice little Acer that was much easier to schlep on weekend getaways when I wanted to check email and do some webbing, but no major creative projects.

This past weekend I had to go to Florida and planned to do some book-editing, that would not be practical on the baby Acer. My full-size Toshiba has had a chronic keyboard problem (letters are inserted in random places in a document), so it was time for a replacement.

I quickly found a really nice Acer laptop at Sam's Club for $600. It has a huge and bright screen, big keys, plenty-o-ports, and is thin and lightweight. I thought it was perfect.

When I started working with it, one imperfection became obvious. It has no Caps Lock LED indicator to let me know that I've hit the stupid and useless Caps Lock key.

I've been typing for many, many years. I don't think I've ever deliberately used the Caps Lock feature -- but I engage it unintentionally several times each hour.

Years ago I had an IBM keyboard that allowed me to yank off the useless Caps Lock key to avoid accidental locking. Some of My current keyboards don't allow that and I don't know of any software hack to disable the annoying key, but at least the telltale LED lets me know what's happening.

But not on the beautiful new Acer. It's going back to Sam's.

I will be more careful selecting its replacement.


  1. Googling "windows capslock disable" will get you 1,740,000 hits, starting with a registry hack at http://johnhaller.com/jh/useful_stuff/disable_caps_lock/. (I use the capslock key, so I haven't tried this.)

  2. Thanx. Many years ago I was able to disable the key in DOS, but I've never tried it in Windows.