Laptop Died

Today I came from work, lifted the lid of my Dell Latitude D820 expecting it to restore from suspend. Hum, after a few seconds the power light just went off. I thought the restore must have just failed, becoming slightly annoyed for having to wait for the OS to reboot and open all applications I had open. But I started getting worried when pressing the power button just caused the hard drive to spin for a few seconds, CD/DVD tray click and clack a few times, and then nothing but the power light on, nothing on display. I repeated the step a few times, but couldn’t get anything more promising.

Well, I figured maybe there is dust clogging places, so I dashed to buy some canned air, and thoroughly blasted everything I could reach without unscrewing anything. Plug the power on, power button… no change. I tried booting from an Ubuntu 8.04 LiveCD, but that didn’t work either (got nothing on display) which kind of leads me to suspect the CPU or motherboard being fried. But I have never really faced this situation before, so no ideas yet how to figure out what part is done for, or who could cheaply find out.

I then unscrewed the HD to compare it to the one I have in my work D830. Well, turns out they use different voltage, so I am not going to cross test. But I wonder if there was some way to read the data from the HD without using the D820 somehow.

Luckily my backups were just 5 days old, I have all my code in Subversion, and leave all my emails on the mail servers, so I didn’t lose much data. I use rsync for backup, so restoring on a different system was just a matter of copying files over. But I am actually getting a little ahead of myself.

I did some cleanup on my my Dell Inspiron 9300 and scraped enough space that I felt comfortable making small 15GB partition for Ubuntu 8.04 and a couple of gigabytes for swap, just to enable me to read email and manage my websites and maybe do a little bit of emergency coding. The 9300 feels much snappier under Ubuntu than it does with Windows XP, although having a slow disk and an old single core processor doesn’t really compare to the D820. After a couple of hours usage Ubuntu seems to be working fine except for sound, which is stuck at full volume and does not obey the controls. I haven’t spent any time troubleshooting or fine tuning the system, though.

If I can’t cheaply resurrect the system I guess I am in the market for a new laptop. The problem is I have become used to high resolution, fast disk, fast CPU and lots of RAM, meaning there are no cheap options for me. I have been using Dell computers for the past 8 years or so, and have been pretty happy, so taking a look there first… Bummer, the home systems seem to pretty universally have “weird” resolutions like 1440×900. I found 15 inch wide screen display and 1680×1050 resolution to be pretty optimal for me, but that does not seem to be available in the systems marketed for home users. The home systems also seem to come with glossy display which I have learned to hate. Price wise it seems like I might be able to get a system just under $1500 with reasonable configuration otherwise. On the small business side it seems like the Latitude D830 is available in the screen size and resolution I prefer, and surprisingly a decent combination comes out cheaper than in the home market. All in all a bit cheaper than I feared, but it is not fun due to the circumstances.

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