by Erin Mitchell
I rely on the same tools as most authors—pens and notebooks, computers, and mobile devices. I recently upgraded a bunch of hardware, and I wanted to share my experiences in case they’re helpful to anyone.
For context, I should tell you that I’m a fan of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to most things. I’m also, um, value-conscious (yeah, that means cheap). As a result, I tend to use hardware for longer than most folks, but in my defense, I grew up in a world where the IBM Selectric was as fancy as it got, and those suckers lasted forever.
I use a laptop computer not because I ever bring it anywhere, but because it makes me feel more secure to know that I could if I needed to. The one I just replaced was about six years old, running Windows Vista and Office 2007. There was nothing wrong with it, but I’ve been doing more video editing lately, and wanted something with more horsepower.
The new laptop is a Dell Inspiron 17R - 5737, purchased as its predecessor was from the Dell Outlet. I’ve always had terrific luck with them, and I saved about $400 on a high-spec machine vs. buying it new. Also, I’ve never been able to tell an outlet machine wasn’t new. It’s running Windows 8.1 and Office 2013.
Before you start formulating your comment telling me that I should have gotten a Mac, let me say that I like Apple products. The second computer I ever used (after a DOS Zenith that quite literally went on fire, with flames and smoke and everything) was a Mac, and I used them for years. My time in corporate America had me shift to PCs, and they’re more comfortable for me now. Also, I frankly can’t justify paying 2-3 times as much for an equivalent hardware spec.
So far, the new computer is a dream. I like Windows 8, although I’m not using the apps. I’m not a fan of the Microsoft OneDrive business, but I’m able to ignore it with no hassle. I don’t miss the Start menu at all. I find it very intuitive. Office 2013 has a number of mostly minor changes, but they’re ones that have made me much more efficient. If you’re using an older version of Office, I would recommend upgrading.
Next up was the printer. I don’t print much; when I have large print jobs like a manuscript, I send them to Office Depot. I wanted a wireless printer because occasionally it would be helpful for me to be able to print from the iPad or phone. I needed it to be a scanner as well, and I wanted color inkjet.
I ordered an HP printer from Amazon. After a couple of hellish days, a sympathetic dude at HP told me I never should have been sold that particular printer because it was manufactured more than a year ago. I was so frustrated with the whole experience that I returned the printer post-haste (Amazon handled the return really well, by the by) and scampered over to Walmart (I know, I know) and bought an Epson XP-310. It took me about 5 minutes to set up and is working flawlessly. It also prints a helluva lot faster than the old printer.
Next up, the phone. I had an iPhone 4 whose battery was down to lasting 3-4 hours (maybe 5 if I didn’t actually use it). My first instinct was to get a new iPhone. I got a Galaxy S4 instead. I converted because my husband (who also had an iPhone 4) wanted a phone with a bigger screen. When I asked Facebook for recommendations, I learned about the Samsung phones. And get this: I upgraded both our phones (we use AT&T) and it cost us…nothing. Not one red cent. They even waived the upgrade fee. One new iPhone would have cost me a couple hundred bucks.
So far, there are a lot of things I already love about the Galaxy, and I’m still learning how to use it. It has been a little jarring changing from a device I was so comfy with, but I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.
And the iPad? I don’t have the latest model, but it’s only one back, and it’s working just fine for me. Having the lighter model is appealing, and I might change it before the year is out, but likely not until the new models are announced.
In the end, whatever technology tools you use need to work for you. I was helped tremendously through this process, though, by both friends and reporters. I think knowing how something works for a real person is always helpful.
Kinda like book recommendations.