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Henry finds a Toshiba

May 17, 2013
henry with laptop

Not THAT Henry! That one’s © King Features Syndicate. Click to enlarge image.

It may be a hardship to be homeless, but to be homeless, and computer-less? Oh, the horror. Well, Henry was both for a while. Now he has a quite-nice, 17-inch Toshiba Satellite P300 laptop. He appeared with it in McDonalds one morning, and happily showed me the shiny “Vista-ready” slab he’d found the previous evening, with none of the usual, tedious dumpster diving, it had been beside a dumpster, with bags and bags of other stuff.

Henry did have one problem. He couldn’t get past the login screen — darn password protection! He had monkeyed around with the BIOS, so we had to enter two passwords to even get to the login screen — which waited for a password of its own, but provided: “Hint: computer.” I’d never seen that before.

I booted two live CDs; a Windows XP, and a Gnome Ubuntu. I could see the hard drive, the user directory, the files — everything worked. I copied down the computer name, hoping that was the password. It wasn’t.

While I was thinking of options, Henry was typing.

c-o-m ...

What to do? Con-Boot would get me past the password, but I didn’t have it with me. I didn’t have many tricks available.

... p-u-t-e-r

“I’m in,” declared Henry. He’d tried the hint, “computer;” it was the password.

“Of all the boneheaded…!”

It looked like a virgin 2008 Windows Vista factory installation, with original company wallpaper. the user, had hardly used it. It went on line with no problem. Henry and I discussed the potential harmful effects of being exposed to Windows Vista for any length of time. Henry couldn’t login to his Facebook account. The page wasn’t loading properly, graphics were missing, and Internet Explorer was kicking up cryptic error messages about security certificates. I wondered aloud if it was related to either a security program like AVG, or the firewall. We opened the firewall, and could imagine the breeze from grateful malware flooding into the system.

Nothing allowed Henry to login to Facebook, or, I think, Yahoo. More error messages about the security certificates. I saw that one referred in the future-tense to a certificate date which was in the past. Ding! Sure enough, the system was set to a 2008 install date and time. Fixing that fixed the problem.

Two months or so later, Henry really likes his monster-sized Toshiba. He particularly says that, contrary to expectations,  Vista has performed flawlessly. Hardware-wise it’s nice and peppy, though he hasn’t been able to get the Webcam to work. Aw, life’s tough all over.

Quite a while ago, Henry had a little eMachine netbook. He got a lot of use out of it; I’d see him working on his Facebook page or Skyping with friends and family, but ultimately it succumbed to the rough-and-tumble of homeless life (I think he sat on it). He went without for a while, but then, in 2012, put a month’s Welfare towards a nice new Acer Aspire from Future Shop. Where, I recall the e-Machine had chugged on Windows 7 Starter, the Aspire was running a full version of Windows 7. Aside from a brief hiccup, following our attempt to coax the AMD processor to boot the Ubuntu 12.04 Live CD off USB stick, it performed flawlessly; good specs, good battery life, good value for the $400-or-so Henry paid. Then, mysteriously, and suddenly, it died. It wouldn’t boot anything — internally, externally, and the hard drive wasn’t so silent any more. All of the access panels on the back were securely screwed down but one looked a little akimbo. I thought at the time, it had suffered a drop. Whatever it is, will probably cost money to fix.

2 Comments
  1. ~xtian permalink

    That’s another nice score.

    I can’t get over the way people just toss these things. My own 2006 Dell Inspiron 6400 got the flick because it “can’t do Skype” – meaning no built in cam and mic. Of course for a tinfoil hat wearing Orwell fan like me that’s a plus 😉

    The other plus is the S-VHS connector. It works nicely with “old” “crappy” high end CRT TVs.

    When I got it it had a fresh install of XP Pro which didn’t last ten minutes… I’d already downloaded a Debian installer on my 2002 Quicksilver Mac – that was my sole Debian box at the time. The Dell runs Debian like a champ and it ran Ubuntu for awhile too. It doesn’t like Gnome 3/Unity much but that’s the only hiccup I’ve had.

    Old computers FTW!

    Stuff consumerism. Being a seagull is much better in terms of cost/nenefit/satisfaction.

  2. Nice. My understanding is Dell has good build quality, and is Linux friendly, having shipped models with Ubuntu pre-installed.

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