Every time my laptop powers up successfully, I breath a small sigh of relief. I've had it nearly four years now, ever since its predecessor failed to fire up properly one Saturday morning and presented me with the notorious Windows blue screen of death. An expensive failure, as it turned out, but my laptop has more than paid its way by providing thousands of hours of uptime service. I use it rather more than your average laptop user, which helps explain why it now runs rather slower than before and why its memory banks are almost full. A replacement laptop is, I suspect, long overdue.
My switch-on sigh of relief has been louder this week. That's because my laptop is old enough to still run on Windows XP, so I've been holding my breath through every week of Windows Vista rollout in the hope that I could leapfrog its innate rubbishness. Had my laptop died prematurely, I'd have been forced to upgrade to some crappy memory-hungry operating system that nobody likes much. But now we've reached the end of October 2009, Windows 7 is finally an alternative option. I need never sully my mouse fingers with Vista, I can buy into a better-thought-out future. Phew.
(Mac users, please, stop right there. I know you're going to tell me to abandon Microsoft's global empire and get myself a Mac instead. Save your breath, it ain't going to happen. See Charlie Brooker for details)
So, er, right, new laptop. I need one that's got Windows 7 already installed, rather than some week-old Vista machine which requires an upgrade. Are they out yet, or will I get a better choice if I wait a bit? I've pretty much filled my old laptop with stuff (mostly photos), so I suspect "amount of available memory" is going to be very important. But I don't use my laptop to play games, or to fire laser guns at lifelike vector graphics of American soldiers, so multi-media processor power isn't top of my shopping list. I don't take my laptop out and about much, although it might be useful if I could, so maybe increased portability is an important option. But I need a decent sized screen - nothing titchy and squinty - so a netbook probably isn't the answer. I also have an old 20th century printer/scanner/copier I'm very fond of, which I suspect is no longer supported by modern printer drivers. Do I need to fork out for the XP emulator in Windows 7 Professional, or can I keep on printing another way?
I've decided that price doesn't need to be too great a restriction. My current laptop may have cost a fair bit up front, but it's had a heck of a lot of use for the equivalent of well under a pound a day. I'm hoping that this next one will last me past the Olympics, so value for money should be assured. Which just leaves me trying to decide which model to get. There's far too much choice out there, and I'd hate to end up regretting buying a substandard inappropriate machine. I must go hunting now that Windows 7 is here, and pick, and choose, and buy. And fast, because sooner or later my current laptop is bound to give up the ghost and die, and I'd hate not to have jumped ship by then.