I got my Dell XPS M1210 in spring of 2007, after owning a Dell 700M since the spring of 2005. To put that in perspective, this website was created in the late spring/early summer of 2007 before my trip to the United Kingdom (my dear, worried parents wanted a way to make sure I was still alive; I would get (very expensive) text messages sent to me at random hours that would basically say “WHERE ARE YOU? There’s no blog update in 15 hours!!”). For an I.T. person, that’s quite a long time. Let me “quickly” touch on why I loved my dear M1210. Whenever I say I’m going to touch on something “quickly” you might as well make some coffee and settle in.
Media buttons on the front – modern laptops have pretty much gotten away from media buttons in general, but I love ‘em. As long as you could customize what program they controlled – some like iTunes, some like Windows Media Player, some like [insert your preferred hipster media player that only you and your sourceforge co-compilers know about] – media buttons should be able to raise and lower the volume and control playback. These days, more and more people do their music streaming-style, but there are Chrome and Firefox extensions to make media buttons work. Media buttons are still out there, they’re just annoyingly built into the keyboard so you have to grope around for them (Apple products, as always, I blame you for this stupid idea) or they’re just killed altogether.
Speakers on the screen, facing you – good thing is that the speakers are facing towards your eyes, and therefore ears since they’re on the screen. At this point in 2006, most Dell laptops like the Inspiron series were putting them on the front of the body of the laptop, which was okay, but ended up channeling audio into your chest, and Apple laptops were putting them facing upward. The bad thing about speakers on the screen was that it meant that the speaker depth was limited to the LCD lid depth…so, usually no more than 2-4 mm or so. This didn’t make for the best audio quality.
Full rotational webcam – This was a special item that the M1210 had. Almost no other machines before, during, or since that time period had this, but the M1210′s webcam could rotate a full 180° to film things you were facing. This was great for recording lectures in class, or just being more “privacy minded” and rotating the camera away from you when you weren’t using it. Of course, back in 2006 we weren’t as worried about the NSA tracking us, but it’s still a feature that I enjoy. This idea, however, disappeared in the need to make LCDs thinner, such as the switch from fluorescent lightbulbs to LEDs that happened in 2007-2009. While nice, it’s probably the feature I miss the least.
Two-button trackpad – I hate, hate, hate the Apple-filcation of the PC trackpad. Windows users have always had two buttons on their trackpads – left and right. I use my constantly in browsers – pressing left and right together over a link causes the link to open in a new window so I can peruse it at my leisure. Copying Apple by completely removing the physical touchpad buttons altogether, and using a wimpy software workaround to determine where your fingers are, was by far, one of the stupidest changes to laptops of the 2009-2011 era. And it’s getting hard to find a PC laptop that isn’t a business-focused (and priced) system with 2-button trackpads.
So that brings me to where I found myself about a year ago – it’s hard to find a replacement for a computer you love and have traveled around the world with. Don’t get me wrong, as an I.T. guy, I thought the good ol’ M1210 was too pokey back in 2008, ha. But I could upgrade it (I should have included that in the list of reasons why I loved it) – I dumped the maximum memory, 4GB, into it, upgraded to a 500GB hard drive, and replaced the wifi card with a 802.11n card over the years. But nothing could help the fact that the video was an Intel 945, and the CPU was a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo. The video card was hard-soldered, and Intel only made one more processor that was faster than the one I’d bought, that would still be compatible with the socket on the motherboard. I was stuck, and as Adobe Flash updates made browser usage more and more painful, and multitasking almost impossible, I knew that time was finally up.
I started looking around for replacements in early 2013, and immediately started judging everything that I came across against the things that my M1210 had that all the new systems lacked. Sure, everything was faster and thinner, but in exchange, all the physical conveniences of the case were lacking. I half-joked with fellow technicians that I wished I could just cram a new motherboard into my M1210′s body, and wire the media keys into the motherboard somehow. But I’m a technician, not an engineer (and Dell hardware isn’t open-source) so of course that would be beyond me. Continue reading this post…