I took possession of the a new machine today, the first really new machine I’ve bought in donkey’s years. I say “really new” because this is the first time I’ve had any protracted exposure to Windows 7 — the Vista machines at work don’t count — and the new box is so far ahead of the old box that it’s kind of scary how much stuff has changed since I bought my last notebook. What I ended up with was a Dell XPS 15, more or less as tricked out as you can get and not spend an insane amount of money, and ye gods, is it ever fast.
The changes have not all been for the better. It is apparently very difficult to buy a machine without a chiclet-style keyboard these days (thanks, Apple!); I minimized the pain by buying a machine with the same layout as my Vostro 1500, so I don’t have to learn where any new keys are, and so far it seems like I’m able to type just as quickly on the new box (artemis) as I was on the old box (hallie). Since we all still type, multitouch mania notwithstanding, this is a pretty critical thing to focus on, and so I am relatively pleased that not only is typing on artemis almost as easy as it was on the old one, it now comes with a bonus keyboard glow (yay backlighting). We’ll see how the multitouch trackpad works — I think I’m going to have a tough time adapting to the two-finger scroll Dell has selected, and would be a lot happier if I could re-enable edge scrolling.
Some stuff is nice: The HD screen feature on the XPS 15 is so worth the $100. Holy crap. I installed “Modern Warfare 2,” a game that made the old box chug along even with the resolution turned down, and cranked it up to the full-fledged 1920×1080 resolution, and discovered that, once again, first-person shooters running at really high resolutions with butter-smoothness induce nausea in me. I guess the next step is to go out and rent some BluRay discs so I can see what it really looks like — then go out and buy a BluRay player for my giant TV in the living room. Or maybe we just plug in the HDMI cable to the notebook. I dunno. The sound on this box is phenomenal: notebooks should not come with a subwoofer, but this one does, and it sounds great.
Libraries are apparently the new big thing, and from a conceptual standpoint they make a degree of sense — the average user shouldn’t really need to worry where her files are stored on a machine; grouping by function and form makes a lot more sense, unless you’re old and cranky and used to managing things like large audio collections manually. This made sense back in the bad old days when I was building playlists in Winamp and organizing by directory, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable anymore. Regardless, it took me the better part of five hours to get half of my music library moved over and into the new iTunes instance — thanks to a combination of changes from Microsoft and Apple’s totally help pages.
Ultimately, I ended up having to do a find-and-replace on the iTunes XML description file: the library used to live in “\Documents and Settings\My Music\iTunes\” under XP, and under Win7 it lives in “\Users\whoever\Music” — which isn’t handled well. It would be easy if you could export your iTunes library to an external device and then re-import the whole shebang, but it turns out you can’t do that without consolidating the library in one place. (Guess how much fun this is if you’ve got 2.5 GB on one drive and another 15.something GB on another, and less than 6 GB of free space on the primary? Yeah, can’t do it. Guess what Apple’s suggestion is: “delete some files and make space.” WOW. THANKS.)
Anyway, I think the upshot of this is that I’m going to just let iTunes manage everything from here on out. For the foreseeable future, this is how things are going to work in the computing world, so I might as well get the painful transition part over with and be done with it.