New Laptop – New Challenges

Jul 20th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

I got a new laptop this week. I’ve had the old one since 2007 and it’s held up well. It never had sufficient storage capacity, so it ran slow a lot of the time. I lugged it back and forth from home to work and back about a thousand times, and hauled it to trade shows and vacations. It has battle scars – a chunk of the outside casing is missing from one corner a wound incurred when I checked my laptop case as luggage on a flight somewhere. It’s still working – I just have a feeling it’s on its way to failure. Sometimes it doesn’t want to boot up, and it’s been known to freeze up and behave strangely.

The new laptop is an HP Envy and it’s nice, but when is the last time that Microsoft put out a new version of Windows that people actually raved about? I had Vista on the old one, and while that sometimes seemed like the bane of my existence I hadn’t imagined what Windows 8 would be like. I’m learning to navigate it, but I hope there is a reason for design changes beyond “We have to make it look different from that last Windows version.” Just while I was trying to type that last sentence, I moved my hand too close to the mouse pad and Word went away – and that godawful PDF viewing application came up. Oy.

Last night I was listening to NPR and they were talking about how the U.S. military payroll system is still run on a program written in one of the original computer languages in 1980, and that it can’t be updated, and it makes errors on the paychecks of military personnel. You’d think some of the trillions of dollars spent on the military could go to making sure they get paid right. I remember our first work computer at the tow company I worked for in the late 80s. It was just a DOS screen I think, and it used dial-up to communicate with our parent company’s computer across town. We didn’t use it for anything the first year or so. Then we started entering call and invoice details for the impound tows we ran. That rendered the log book obsolete. Well, kind of. I think the dispatchers kept using the log book for a while because it was easier to look something up.

When I moved into management at another company in 1997, we used a DOS-based software program actually written by one of the dispatchers there. It used Q-Basic, another dead computer language, but it worked amazingly well and since the creator was on-staff, we added reports and functions as we went along. It was limited – it could not interface with any GPS systems – but it was easy to learn and very pragmatic. I’m a big fan of pragmatic. When we applied for the contract to dispatch police calls in Portland, he designed a separate program for that, but the powers that be were uncomfortable with the use of a dead computer language, even if it could interface with the city’s system. Guaranteed – it would have been more adaptable than any market program – but they were wary about depending on a tow company dispatcher with no college education.

Getting the new laptop always presents the challenge of data transfer. When I got the old one, in 2007, the one I had before that had crashed. After taking it apart, I was able to get it to fire up one last time and I transferred all of the files on the hard drive to an external hard drive and then later downloaded all of those files onto the new laptop. This time I decided to move all of my photos and documents onto a cloud server, but I mistakenly moved them to a shared DropBox folder that I didn’t own, and the owner got a notice later that night telling her that her storage limit was reached, so she logged on and deleted all 9000+ of them. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I opened the folder and it was empty. I had a minor panic attack. DropBox does not have a phone number on their site, so I had to wait for my help request to be answered. They’ve restored most of the files and I moved them to a new folder (that I own) and it looks like it will all be okay.

We’ve been talking to an outside consultant about improving our website, and we talked about a mobile site. I actually think that the towing industry is one of those industries in which we will look back in a few years and realize that most of you spent very little time in the PC/laptop era and skipped quickly to the mobile device/tablet era. With so many of you on the road, it just makes sense. Even having a small laptop in the truck is much more cumbersome than a tablet or an iPhone. So we’re working to get a functional mobile site up to meet that need.

But if you’re still packing around a laptop, take my advice – don’t check the laptop case as luggage.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

www.TowPartsNow.com