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Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log

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This page last updated on or about 12-12-09
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Certain embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date by the time you read this. END NOTE.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Table of Contents

12-8-09: An old Sony Vaio is reborn. Arising from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix of old

One of the Vaios is brought back to me dead. I play Frankenstein with the corpse.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

10-12-04: One Sony gets a graphics card upgrade to play the Sims-- an installation NOT done by ME(!) Yay!

The rural family wanted to run the latest Sims game on their Sony. They bought the game, tried to install it, and it said sorry, but you need a newer graphics card. Well, the teen sister and brother in the family wanted that game pretty bad, plus their parents had already invested in the CD. They asked for some advice from me and I gave them what I could. But being already covered up in work I didn't have a lot of extra time to devote to doing their graphics card purchase and installation research for them. Plus, they really really needed to learn something for themselves about all this here-- whether for good or ill. YIKES!

The downside possibilities included them accidentally putting their PC out of commission indefinitely-- maybe forever. With a similar fate for their internet access. But PC users have got to develop some self-sufficiency and savvy in such matters at some point. Otherwise they'll never be able to cope with the on-going difficulties of living in the Stone Age of Computing. And in the worst case scenario I might have been able to get their PC working again sometime in the next month or two, with a bit of luck. I would have had the internet and advice from Roger and my programmer brother to help, too.

Fortunately, things seemed to have worked out OK, so far. They bought a card and successfully installed it, last I heard. And were happily playing their new game. Yay!

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

11-26-02: A long overdue update on the twin Sonys

The rural family Sony has continued to hum right along so far as I'm aware, with its family gradually learning a bit more about Windows in general, even as they did things like build personal web sites, edit video, burn CDs, play DVDs, etc. Of course, it's the kids doing the most advanced things it seems.

The big city Sony seems to be humming too, with no service problems so far as I know.

For a brief time I got to try one of these babies on a broadband connection and it was perceptively faster than our broadband enabled Mac G4 or HP PC.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

3-15-02: I got my rebate checks from Sony today. Yay!

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

2-13-02: The twin Sonys are getting a workout

The family living in the countryside absolutely love their Sony. The two kids have created their own web sites on tripod.com, and last week borrowed a firewire equipped video camera to make some movies with the PC. The last time they visited they were raving about how they keep finding new stuff on the PC to play with (it came with a pretty decent bundle), and watching movies on the machine. And yes, their parents seem to be having as much fun as the kids with it.

The city family appears to be enjoying theirs too. Besides the web surfing, they've installed some kid's games as well. The dad though seems to be having some trouble getting to use the PC himself, due to its popularity. But when he can get at it he's apparently going to do some video editing.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

1-24-02: One of the easiest internet access set ups I've ever done

It didn't start out easy though. This episode took place on my other brother's new Sony PC (remember I bought two?). I began by trying to install the internet on their older Sony PC, with no luck.

I moved over to this newer PC, figuring if I could get it to work, I could copy the specs into the control panels of the older model, and get it online too.

I had to work in the dark, using a flashlight to even see the keyboard. Why? Heck if I know. This family apparently consists of secret government cyborgs with built-in night vision. I also had to cut out an access hole in a wooden access panel using little more than my teeth and fingernails. Sheesh! Actually, I was able to scrounge up this itty bitty tiny little utility blade, and scratch at the wood like a mouse for a lengthy period until I'd weakened it enough to rip it out by brute force.

Yes, I'm embaressed to relate this-- I'm usually far more prepared for such a job than this. But it's been a while since I was on such duties, and this was a side trip tacked on to a whole other, higher priority trip imperative. Plus, I mistakenly assumed there'd be lights in the house, and that a few basic hand tools would be available.

Anyway, I next used the network wizard in XP, input a few specs compiled by the lady of the house, and the new Sony was online.

I did NOT attempt to get this internet access to work in ALL Windows XP's user IDs-- just in the one. I didn't have the time or the inclination to manually reconfigure every user ID on the PC (see previous log entry).

I next copied down way too many net-related specs from the various Windows XP control panels on the machine, and took them back to the older PC for configuration.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

Early January 2002: The most difficult and time consuming internet access set up I've even done (local ISP and Windows XP glitches)

Well, with the exception of my very first internet configuration of a Macintosh maybe around 1991 or 1992(?), when the local ISP asked me to figure out how he could connect Mac users in the East Tennessee area. I had to use America Online to get clues and hints about the process off the skeletal internet which existed at that time, compile it, interpret it, test it, debug it, and document it, so I could then hand the ISP a tried and true method. I can't really remember now how long that took, but it was surely days if not a week or more.

In this latest case, I spent a good 8-10 hours on trying to get one of the new PCs onto the internet. To be accurate, one hour of that was spent on the road to and from.

Roughly half the rest of the time was spent on a tech support game of phone tag with the phone company ISP, trying to untangle various database or operational glitches that were preventing us from getting online.

My brother's family had had a previous dial up account with the same folks, which they cancelled due to NEC PC hardware problems preventing their access from working. But somehow their account had only partially been cancelled, which meant it had to be reactivated to be used again, and you couldn't use the normal install CD to do it(?)

I won't go into detail here because it's mind-numbing, useless data. But it lasted for hours, with me listening to muzak most of the time, waiting on hold.

When we finally got that straightened out, we went on line and I immediately began downloading some important Windows XP security updates from Microsoft which had been released only one day after the PC had been wrapped for xmas. The downloads went super slowly, partly because the modem was working at only 28.8 kbps, because of phone line problems apparently. The family has a patchwork of cables running across the house to the Sony, plus lives out in the boondocks where they have noisy lines anyway. However, when they had their previous PC parked right up against the main phone junction, with a single, short cable, I believe they were getting 56kbps. I've urged them to at least replace the patchwork with a single cable, and if that doesn't work, try moving the PC back to the faster location to get to 56k.

Another reason for the slow download may be that Microsoft itself was having problems. I recently read in the news that on the very day I was doing that download (a Thursday) MS's servers for that went down.

I guess I should note here the family in question loves their Sony and seem not to care enough about the patchwork cable slowing them down to replace it (maybe I'll try to do something about it the next time I visit).

Anyway, we got that stuff downloaded and installed (I thought we did, anyway; now I'm not so sure, due the aforementioned Microsoft server problems), and soon discovered that the internet access didn't apply to all the user IDs in Windows XP. I next wasted quite a bit of time trying to find a simple, one-click way to make the access work for all users of the PC, just as it would have for any previous Windows OS version with no extra trouble-- but to no avail. I even called Roger for help. No dice.

I ended up having to manually configure each and every user ID in XP to use the internet. I couldn't believe the hassle involved. This made me seriously question the wisdom of buying into Microsoft's Windows XP for family use.

And yes, I did look in the Windows help, and on Microsoft's web site, but found nothing to help me. I guess this ranked as one of my worst Windows experiences ever.

2-13-02 UPDATE: I do have to admit I might NOT have checked whatever hard copy XP user manual came with the machine. It just didn't occur to me for some reason. I've since then mentioned to the lady of the house that reading that manual might help them get a better handle on XP than any of us have now. END UPDATE.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

12-27-01: One Sony's a hit, the other's still waiting for set up

Only one family has their Sony up and running so far, but they say they love it, and that it was super easy to set up (these are non-geeks here, too). They're waiting for their preferred ISP to send them a CD compatible with XP to get on the net.

I personally delivered one of the Sonys via mini-van to my programmer brother's house. He told me he'd set it up himself. I did make room for it by moving their older Sony PC to a different location in the house.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

12-14-01: I buy two Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 desktop PCs at Circuit City

The PCs cost $800 each, with a $50 rebate available per PC too (I'll let you know how the rebate thingie works). There was a fairly stiff sales tax on these things in Tennessee-- so remember to factor your local taxes in for budget reasons.

Circuit City actually had at least one 'open box' 540 available for $600 I believe, but I was concerned some of the CDs or whatever might be missing from the box, and wanted to avoid any extra potential hassle in regards to xmas presents. The sales guy told me that the open box PC would still be guaranteed like a new one (this sales guy was one of the best and nicest I'd encountered in a computer store in a LOONNG time-- it seemed he really didn't belong there (ha, ha)).

As some readers may know, we've bought VAIO before. We liked it. That previous VAIO was bought as a refurb, but so far as we could tell it was brand spanking new and wonderful. I've sort of had a hankering for a VAIO of my own ever since I saw that one. But I don't have one yet.

This time we went for two officially new VAIOs, mainly due to two factors: One, I wanted both my brothers' families to have the new Windows XP OS, which is supposedly much more reliable and robust than any previous consumer Windows OS, and two, I wanted them to have 256 MB RAM built-in from the start, as reviews indicate XP won't run at its best with less. Three, I wanted a major brand name PC.

These three restrictions really narrowed down my choices. As XP only began being bundled with new PCs a few months before, there were very few refurbed XP PCs available on the market just prior to xmas 2001. Even fewer of them also had 256 MB RAM.

Even among new XP PCs, 256 MB RAM was pretty rare. I was very disappointed to find most of HP's models sported only 128 MB. I soon began figuring I'd go with two new Compaq Presario 5300 US PCs, at under $600 each. The 5300's specs included 256 MB RAM, 1100 MHz CPU, 20 GB HD, a CD, floppy, 56k modem, Win XP, scroll mouse, keyboard, all the old PC ports plus USB, three months of AOL and several future expansion options.

I wasn't very satisfied with the specs. No Ethernet for one thing. Sure, a card could be added later-- but fast Ethernet should be built-in on all PCs these days. No Firewire either, which would be handy. And the fast USB 2.0 isn't generally available yet. I didn't want them to use AOL, partly because I've read AOL doesn't play well with XP yet, plus AOL's increasingly proprietary nature is raising the hassle bar for users in other ways too. I prefer a non-AOL ISP for my niece and nephews.

There were Compaq models available with more and better equipment, like the Presario 5310, but they were reaching up to near $800 territory. Plus, there were potential issues about things being out of stock and/or not delivered in time for xmas.

I did more research and shopping via the net, and eventually the $800 Sonys caught my eye. Plus, they were supposedly available and in stock at my local Circuit City store (well, 50 miles local anyway). The Sonys had pretty much everything I'd want the families to have, and more. Indeed, they seemed actually like overkill for the kids of one family, who ranged in age from two to five.

The RX540 specs include:

Windows XP Home Edition, 1200 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 60 GB hard drive, CD-RW, DVD, fast Ethernet, Firewire, USB, several software titles like Wordperfect and various photo and video-editing programs, plus several upgrade options like PCI and AGP slots, etc.

Although it meant I was spending more than I originally intended, I decided to go ahead and upgrade the families to the Sonys over the Compaqs.

As practically all the stores now have 14-15 day limits on PC returns, I immediately unpacked one Sony, connected everything, and let it burn in a couple days. I also tested as much of the hardware as I could, listening to the speakers, burning a CD, playing a DVD movie, writing files to floppy, and briefly test-surfing the internet via our LAN and the Ethernet port. I also downloaded and installed some XP and Internet Explorer updates/bug fixes. I soon did the same with the second Sony. Unfortunately, Microsoft announced a really major security update for XP the day after we'd repacked and wrapped both PCs for xmas. DOH! as Homer Simpson would say.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

12-11-01: I order two CTX 17 inch monitors from TigerDirect.com

They arrived two days later. These monitors cost me $139.73 each, with shipping for both totaling $61.41.

We've bought CTX monitors before, which worked pretty well. Plus, the reviews I saw indicated decent quality too. I could have gotten cheaper monitors by going refurbished or with different brands, but that might also have brought with it a slightly higher risk of hassle.

I'm apparently becoming a regular customer of TigerDirect, primarily because of their wide and eclectic inventory, slick catalogs that almost rate as geek entertainment, and frequently decent deals. Plus, I've never yet had to return anything to Tiger. I detest returning stuff, even when the vendor is nice as can be about it. Returns are just a hassle, whether it's at your local discount store or through mail order. Hopefully Tiger will be accommodating if/when I do have to return something. But so far I've enjoyed the best scenario, where everything I got from them simply worked on arrival.

I connected one of the new monitors to my HP PC immediately, and burned it in for a couple days.

I think I've mentioned my vision problems onsite before. I've used computer monitors ranging from nine to thirteen to fourteen and now fifteen inches for almost all my computer use over decades. Recently on a Texas job I spent months in front of a gargantuan monitor that was maybe 21 inches (I'm unsure of the size, but it was huge).

My vision has been getting worse, and the two families I'm buying for are pretty young, so I figured I'd switch out my HP's 15 incher for one of the 17 inchers, and give the remaining 17 incher to the family generally older than the other, which included two teens that might make more use of extra desktop real estate than 5 year olds and younger. The family getting the 15 incher also has a programmer dad with more opportunities and flexibility to switch out for a bigger monitor later than the other, as well.

Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 User's Log Contents

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