Sometime ago as we were doing some contract work for a startup we were provided with a Dell Dimension 8200 computer. This thing arrived with XP/home pre-installed. We used it for about a month when it finally would not boot anymore. Thinking it was a hard drive failure, we got the drive replaced, loaded win98 onto it and continued to use this machine for a number of years. Win98 was doing everything we needed done. We did not have the time or inclination to divert our resources to learning a new and much more complicated operating system when win98 was working just fine.

After this experience and after we finally took interest in the ‘new’ computer and XP we discovered that most likely the initial failure was due to us not registering the thing with Microsoft. Had we known that we needed to do that we would still have nuked XP and opted for win98. We do not need computers that require unusual attention or software that requires special treatment when such products do not provide us with features that we really need.

Recently we added new software to this machine putting a higher demand on the hardware. It finally got to the point where we needed more RAM memory to speed up the operation. We were spending too much time waiting on software. We discovered that this computer was equiped with the bare minumum or 128meg RAM and a 1.8ghz pentium 4 processor. Being a pentium 4 we decided the computer was worth keeping and investigated upgrading the RAM to 1 gigbyte.

We discovered that this particular machine was designed to use PC800 memory. PC800 memory is extremely expensive. Probably because Dell seems to be the only company that uses it. The cost of one giglebyte was a shade over $300 or about twice what the entire computer was worth. Not only that, but you could not buy just one stick of PC800. It needed to be used in pairs, a situation what was entirely unacceptable when compared to other options.

So we bought a giglebyte of PC-100, installed it into an older, slower Dell and moved everything to the older machine. Even though the older machine had a CPU running about 40 percent the speed of the 8200, with the extra memory it was still faster than the 8200 with its bare minimum of RAM.

Meanwhile the 8200 was retired to hobby use running Debian Linux after we tried unsuccessfully to install XP professional on the machine.

Recently we upgraded the hard drive on the 8200 and discovered that, now, XP would install normally. How opportune, since now we had need for another machine running XP. We had since discovered that XP did offer some MultiMedia features that were desirable. Even so we still had the RAM memory limitation and PC800 memory was still priced up in the stratosphere. However we did find an ASUS motherboard designed for a socket 478 system for under $50.

The ASUS motherboard also used the pentium 4 but allowed us to use PC-3200 RAM of which we had an extra giglebyte stick available. So, by replacing the problematic Dell motherboard, we neatly solved the RAM memory problem for considerably less than it would have cost to buy more PC800 memory.

Not only that, but the ASUS motherboard offered some significant advantages over the, now obsolete, Dell motherboard. The ASUS had on board NIC, Video, Sound, and USB ports as well as IDE and ATA controllers. We would probably still use our ATI Radeon 9250 video card but we could retire the sound card and the NIC.

True, the Dell motherboard also had on board sound but that cratered about two weeks into using it.

So we were able to salvage the Dell but we are also pretty much burned out on Dell. We would go out of out way in the future to avoid them.

Our main reasons for this attitude are as follows:

1. Dell did not bother to make clear the need for registering the XP software. Their support was not just inadequate, it was brainless and problematic. Instead of working toward a solution to the problem they added to the problem by providing a blank hard drive requiring the user to reload software when the original hard drive had probably not failed at all.

2. The Dell computer was a marginal design. The hardware was the minimum that would work and the software was marginal as well. XP/home is less expensive than XP/pro, it is also far less useful. I guess one can appreciate that Microsoft provided a lower cost alternative to XP/pro but the lower cost alternative was close to worthless when compared to the more expensive package. They did not do us any favors by providing a somewhat crippled version of the new software even if it was more affordable from a price consideration.

3. The Dell design used the most expensive hardware available at the time. The expense was not justified. PC800 memory does not have any significant advantage over PC3200 and when you consider the difference in price, it does not make sense to use PC800. A far better solution would have been to use the extra funds to invest in XP/pro and settle on PC3200 memory.

Companies that make bad decisions in design are probably confused about other things as well. I find it unwise to support such folly.

Explore posts in the same categories: computer stuff

One Comment on “Dell”

  1. admin Says:

    Problems with normal peripheral functions incorporated into motherboards. When the fail and you don’t have the parts or skills to replace bad components there comes a time when the motherboard needs to be replaced. Back when these functions were supported on their own cards it was a simple matter of replacing the faulty card. Now, innovation and new technology have made it neccessary to replace the whole frigging MB.

    Ah yes, we take one step forward and five steps back. Such folly.

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