New Computer and the End of an Era


I bought a new laptop last month. A couple of criteria were important for me. First, I wanted my screen to be matte instead of glossy; second, I wanted an integrated video card that was pretty fast, let’s hypothetically say fast enough to play StarCraft 2. It was pretty helpful to use newegg for most of my searches, and notebookcheck for information about graphics card performance, but checking matte/glossy screens seemed possible only through a single website notebooksbilliger, which as maybe you could guess, is in German.

There weren’t any Lenovo machines that really met both of these criteria, my usual go-to brand; my searching brought me to Acer and Asus machines. I checked out some Asus machines in the store but found that they were pretty jangly: the form factor was plastic-feeling with a strange body shape.

I ended up buying an Acer machine called the TravelMate TimeLineX 6495TG-6818. It seems only to exist in Canada. I ordered from which seemed to be known for their bad customer service… but I could only find a handful of retailers selling the machine at all. Well, it turns out the company does deserve their bad ratings, although in short I did eventually get the laptop. A lot of the trouble they caused with shipping has to do with the fact that they don’t actually ever keep the item in physical stock, rather they directly order the machine from a “drop-shipper.” In fact, when I ordered my machine  it looked like the “in stock” count from every seller I found in the country dropped from 5 to 4. Another bite of bad news is that the company only has a 1 year warranty and no possibility of an extended warranty.

So, although I am knocking on wood, the laptop is really pretty good and handles all of my work and non-work tasks very well. The battery life, when 3D graphics acceleration is not used, is around 5 hours! There was a fair amount of pre-installed crapware, but nothing difficult to remove. It’s my first-ever laptop to have an ISO keyboard, as shown in the photo above. I don’t have a clue how to access all of the five symbols \|}<> on a single key.

The photo above is the whole laptop. This brings me to the second part of my post. On my laptop I am looking at Cook’s Illustrated, a fantastic cooking magazine. I saw it for the first time last Fall, and read two issues of it so far. The coolest aspects of it, in my opinion, are that

  1. it has absolutely no advertisements (other than for itself),
  2. the illustrations are very attractive, hand-drawn (or at least, photoshopped to look hand-drawn? I can’t tell),
  3. the recipe instructions are pretty meticulous and methodical, but focusing on getting good results rather than starting from fancy ingredients,
  4. the tone and style of writing is extremely varied: it’s not all cut-and-dry imperative “Sift the flour.” but rather most of the recipes have a history/narrative and an overview of the experimenting the writer used to get it right.

In fact, items #1, #3, #4 remind me a lot of Good Eats, my favourite TV show of all time. It’s from Good Eats that I learned all sorts of day-to-day useful things about food, like making a steak or how to keep lettuce and herbs in your fridge. I thought today to look up whether there were any good new episodes, since I last caught up a couple of years ago. Tragedy of tragedies, the series is now finished! The last couple of specials were aired earlier this year. I am grateful for the host Alton Brown’s hard work on the series but I’ll miss it a lot!

Can Cook’s Illustrated be a suitable replacement? On the one hand, you can watch TV “in the background” of your living room while you’re doing something else. On the other hand, there is a more traditional way of multitasking with magazines, and it thankfully doesn’t involve bringing your TV into the bathroom.

Here are a few of my favourite recipes from the show.

Thanks Alton, for making things that some shows treat as mundane, into delicacies in their own right!


2 Responses to “New Computer and the End of an Era”

  1. I am really curious – what does the 3/4 button do? (If you already figured out how to access it.) Does it just put a 3/4? Maybe one should design a scientific keyboard that has the usual keys from a calculator too, or a tex-keyboard, with buttons for “\begin{“, “proposition”, “is left to the interested reader”…

  2. Excellent question!

    Well, the 3/4 button doesn’t give you a 3/4/ You have to press the superscript 2 button for that. Most of the symbols can be accessed but not by typing the key shown. That is, of course, if you switched to the international keyboard layout in Windows, and you are holding down the Right Shift (Alt Car) key.

    And, the buttons with the Euro and Dollar signs, do nothing in any keyboard layout that I have tried.

    Here’s the full list– sadly, no Hungarian umlaut!


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