The License keys

Arriving in the office today I got notice of a notebook that a customer brought in and it should be reinstalled. Unfortunately nobody can find an install CD that is matching the license key labeled to bottom of the notebook - neither the customer nor our technical staff.

...yes, it is a Windows installation. Variants of license keys must match the variant of CD used.

It is typical - especially for home users - that they do not find their (correct) install CDs when needed. Unfortunately many people are not well organized.

Similar things happen to different type of software pieces. For instance, I used the Wise Installation System software and we have bought an upgrade a long while ago. When I later reinstalled my development machine I first had to install the older version, enter the license key and then - you might guess - upgrade and enter the new update license key. I do not know if current versions are still made this way. When reinstalling a complete machine you can easily get in rage entering (typos included) serial numbers.

There was a time when I argued against software automatically connecting to the internet and automatically retrieving their license from the internet. But now I think this is maybe the less annoying variant. - However, we also have bought software in the past designed that way and often we had to argue that the old machine was replaced with a new one and that they can be sure there is still only one license used.

What companies do to ensure that people do legally use their product caused me to avoid commercial software wherever possible. And indeed even on my Windows machine at work I use mainly free and open source software. This is the best way from avoiding pain when reinstall is required.

Related posts: The Open Source movement, Paying for free and Open Source, The Open Source idea.


The hardware

When thinking of hardware, one of the first things I think about is hard disk capacity. A few weeks ago I could see the first tera-byte HDs available at a discounter in the neighborhood. Although my notebook has "only" a 160 GB HD, I have consumed about 4 hard disks in about a year! Not to tell that Windows didn't warn me in any of those cases...

The HD was always the part in a computer that goes rotten most often - that is usually the weak point in a computer hardware system. But as there is price pressure nowadays on memory manufacturers I fear quality going down for main memory also in the next years...

Lately I was at my parents with my 1 1/2 year old son and he likes very much pushing buttons - so "by accident" he pushed the power button of my very old 486 which I left 1997 there. I wondered why it was still connected to power supply. I could see the machine booting DOS 6.22 and I was expecting a scary noise and immediate HD crash (as manufacturers also say you shouldn't leave a HD too long without using it). - But nothing. Even Windows 3.11 started up. Then I got really curious and started a complete surface check of the 2 HDs - if I remember right a 120 and 420 MB HD - something like this. Result: Not a single bad sector! And I was using the newer disk at least from 1995 to 1997.

I am convinced that with the increase of hardware capacity and performance as well as in the same time reducing the size manufacturers do work hard on the physical limits (as currently known).

Further I lately consume one mouse per year and although the quality of the keyboard is very important thing for me when choosing a notebook, my 3 year old HP notebook now gets problems with the keys and accurracy - even the external HP keyboard.

When I look at current special offers in the neighborhood, usually some keys of the demo machines are already missing or broken. There are only two options: Either those got rotten so easily or people are stealing them because their models at home have the keys broken and people are looking for spare parts.

So what I miss is a little more focus on reliability and quality of the hardware in general!

And when looking for models that fit my needs I find notebooks with reflecting screens (they tell the colors are more brilliant - but reflecting screens are much more annoying then less brilliant colors...), horryful keyboard layouts (nothing for power-keyboard users) and strange combinations of HD size, main memory capacity and other hardware options. Netbooks currently get better, but for my needs too small for daily intensive work. Those are something for people that are permanently on the road or somewhere else where is not very much a working place and they want to look mails or surf the internet just occassionally (IMHO). And last but not least most vendors automatically include a Microsoft Windows preinstalled. For my private life I am not willing to pay that tax - I want a clean peace of hardware.

So when I went a few weeks ago to buy a new private notebook, it was difficult to find a notebook fitting my needs and the only vendor I found that was enough flexible was DELL (finally I got something assembled that was not officially available at their webshop). Although I can't tell about a long time experience right now, the overall quality seems to be better than everything else I have seen lately. - So fortunately it is still possibly to get a reasonable configuration.

But why it must be so difficult? - I think hardware vendors do not have the right to complain about bad business if they do not produce what people really need.

In many cases vendors produce configurations and focus on features, that do not fit the real-world needs of the customers.

Related posts: The operating system, The mobile device, The features, Bronce age of IT, About Dell, Ubuntu compatible hardware, The Dell Latitude 2110 and Ubuntu 10.04.1, Use cases for netbooks, The truth about hardware support.