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I suspect you will see a marked improvement in these columns in the near future. Not because of new creative insights or even new and more interesting ideas for the column but because I’m getting new computer toys or peripherals, as us techno nerds say. First I’m getting a new trackball. A trackball is like a mouse that causes your little arrow to dash around your computer screen, but instead of moving the whole mouse you just roll the little ball with your thumb. It’s pretty cool. I had an old trackball that started to behave in a very sluggish manner. Dirty, I thought. I’ll take it apart and clean it. This should be easy because there only 4 or 5 moving parts. When I finally got it back together there were only 3 or 4 moving parts in the trackball and 2 extra parts that were no longer moving lying on my desk.

This didn’t seem to be a major problem, because the thing worked—after a fashion. Moving the ball would cause the little arrow to move around the computer screen albeit in a somewhat haphazard manner. For instance, when I rolled the ball in a straight line to the left, the little arrow, at first, didn’t do anything—sort of like it was thinking about what to do. Then suddenly the arrow would take off in a somewhat northwesterly direction. It took a great deal of experimentation to get the arrow where I wanted it to be. Finally, I decided to spend a few bucks and ordered a new one. Rob the helpful salesperson called yesterday to tell me it’s in. Wife Lynn is going to pick it up on her way home from work. It is likely that it will be installed before this column is even finished. You are sure to notice an improvement.

The next major peripheral I’m getting is a new laptop computer. “You nerd”, you might say, “A laptop is not a peripheral.” “Ha,” I would say, “You’re probably right.” I don’t really want to get into a major debate about terminology. I’m tired of debating this year.
Call it whatever you want to call it, I’m getting a new laptop computer to travel with me while I tag along with wife Lynn as she satisfies her lust for world travel. Next week, for example, we are going to our timeshare in southern Spain to spend a couple of weeks. “That’s mighty expensive,” you say. “Right you are,” I would respond. However, if I take my new computer (which is a business deduction) and write about the trip, then the whole trip becomes a business deduction. I am, you see, a professional journalist.

I digress. Back to the process of buying a new laptop to go on trips with me. When Lynn and I went to Germany and Mallorca last December I took a computer from my other office with me. We had three laptops that could be checked out for use on the road. The one I checked out didn’t like me very much. It would deliberately do things to annoy me. For instance, when you turned the thing on, it played very loud, spooky music for the several minutes it took for the machine to decide what it needed to do to get started. It just wouldn’t shut up. I didn’t like the music, but I didn’t know how to make it stop. Lynn didn’t like the music either. I often fire up the computer at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. Lynn isn’t even close to being fired up at that time. The music woke her up every time. Do you think she got mad at the guilty party—the computer—noooo, she got mad at me. I think the computer knew it would work out that way.

Another thing that particular computer would do to annoy me was refuse to shut off. I mean it would absolutely refuse. It would send one of those annoying messages that said “YOU HAVE MADE A FATAL ERROR…” and then it wouldn’t shut down. Not to be bested by a mere machine, I said, “I’ll show you.” I took out its “bleeping” battery. That fixed it—the computer shut down. Unfortunately, the computer went into a pout and refused to turn on without major recriminations—like sending a particularly sarcastic message. “THE COMPUTER WAS NOT PROPERLY SHUT DOWN SO I’M GOING TO PLAY THIS DISGUSTINGLY SPOOKY MUSIC FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES OR LONGER AS A PUNISHMENT FOR MESSING AROUND WITH MY BATTERY. NAAA NAAA NA NAAA NA. SINCERELY YOURS, THE COMPUTER.

I seem to have digressed again. Back to the computer buying story. I am going to buy a new computer because I will not travel with that other ungrateful piece of equipment. I took it to new and different exotic places for free and it showed not a shred of appreciation. Also, after I checked the computer back in at the office, someone stole it. I assure you it wasn’t me. I wouldn’t have it.

I promise never to digress again, at least in this paragraph. I looked at all the computer advertisements in the newspaper, on television, and on-line. I also read from my favorite product–testing service Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports had particularly good and extensive analyses of many major laptop computers. The analyses covered such things as how many gigs and megs were available and then got a bit racy when discussing rams. It described CPU’S and modems. CD-Burners and DVD upgrades were discussed. One laptop even had a 15-inch SXGA+TFT Display. ENOUGH! ENOUGH! I give up! Give me something I can really understand. What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is—wife Lynn thinks the guy who sells Dell computers, Steven, is really cute. Sooo, “Dude we’re getting a Dell.”