Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Vacation is Over and A Brief HP Envy/Windows 10 Review

I can't believe it will be a year this month since I left CoreSource. 

As I look back on the last year, I can see where I was productive in some ways yet not so productive in others. I guess you could say that I've just had that year-long vacation I always dreamed of and now I'm ready to get down to work again. Productive or not, the time off has been good for me. It gave me a chance to decompress and prepare for the next phase of my life.

Even though there were people praying that this would happen for me, I still felt a bit resentful that I had been let go when they kept others who I knew were doing more harm than good. A friend of mine is still there and I must confess that whenever she posted something work related on Facebook, I got a resentful twinge. Especially when I saw my desk all cleared up. Silly, I know, but real nonetheless.

Then, when I got the call a few months ago that another office wanted my help but then never heard about it again, I felt really let down. Not so much now. In fact, it's a good thing that part didn't work out. I know the kind of pain in the butt it would have been and I also know they wouldn't have wanted to pay me what I would have wanted to do the job. It was also the clean break I really needed in order to move on.

Which brings me to where I am right now. As this first year post CoreSource comes to a close, I need to decide what I want to do with myself in the years to come. 

After reading more about Medical Coding and hearing what real life is like as a Medical Coder from someone who does it and hates it, that career path is no longer of interest to me. Sounds too much like what I left nearly a year ago. Instead, I am opting to step up the copywriting game and take a path toward specializing in B2B.

For those that might not know, B2B stands for Business to Business in the marketing and copywriting world. It's niche where I can do as much or as little as I want and still make some good money. Since my main interest is in fiction writing, I see B2B as a way of working part time yet still making enough money to get by until, you know, that book hits the big time. Yeah. Gotta finish it first, silly girl, and then write several more and then maybe.

Anyway, since I was no longer going to spend $3500 on a Medical Coding education, I bought a new computer and monitor. The old set up had developed quite a few issues that were getting in the way of getting stuff done. Kind of hard to work when the monitor goes out with the slightest touch. Or when the computer just hangs there without warning. Really annoying and not all that productive. Now if I could just find a way of boosting the quality of my internet, I'd really be in business.

Apparently, we have to slowest internet on the planet - Centurylink. We can upgrade to something Centurylink claims is faster but I'm pretty skeptical at this point. Especially considering all of the outages we seem to experience with Centurylink. I really don't want to spend more money on something that doesn't work any better.

Not that I have any other options right now. I used to have ATT U-verse at the last place I lived and I loved it. Even when a bad wind storm blew through, while everyone else had no electric much less internet, I still had internet, TV and phone all functioning up to normal. Where I currently live, however, ATT is not available. Yet. I was out and about yesterday and passed where they were burying some kind of something then I passed an ATT truck. I know they are working on getting us service out here so hopefully soon we'll be switching.

Meanwhile, a new router and wi-fi extender will have to do.

Also meanwhile, the fiction writing is on hold for the time being while I fully concentrate on doing what I need to do in order to be making money at the copywriting thing. Hoping to be financially productive by the end of the year. 

Which brings me to those reviews I mention. 

Because I like to play RPG games that require quite a bit of computer power to run, I configured this new computer with that in mind.

I ended up with an HP Envy 750qe. I wanted a Phoenix, but that would have cost a lot more money after configuring to my specs. The Envy was the next best choice and the 750qe, I believe, is the top of that line. Of course, if I had waited, the Phoenix is now on sale and I might have been able to have gotten it for close the same price. That's the breaks, I guess.

I have been an HP computer owner for several years now and each new computer comes with a redesigned keyboard. This one was no exception and it is a lot smaller than I'm used to. Hardly takes up any room on my desk, which is a good thing because my desk is not all that big. This keyboard reminds me of a black version of a MAC keyboard. The feel of the keys is something to get used to, as well. They take just a light touch and do work smoothly, but I think the spacing is a lot closer now. 

Then there's the placement of the extra USB ports and the smart card reader on the box. Instead of being on the front, these are now located in the top. That might not sound inconvenient, but it actually is in a way. The top of the box is only flush with the front for a couple of inches before it drops down about an inch. The extra ports and card reader are installed there and facing the back of the unit. If you house your computer inside a cubby, this will be quite the annoyance. I use an old 20-gallon fish tank stand that has a low shelf. It's the perfect size for a computer box and there is space between the top of the stand and the top of the box for me to access these ports but it's still something I don't particularly like. 

I got the blue-ray optical drive this time, which now sits on edge instead of flat. That, at least, is in the front - in fact, it's the only thing in the front. There's a metal flap covering it and what might be some kind of vent just below the player. I thought my old computer had a blue-ray in it but when I purchased the DVD of my favorite Scrooge video, I found out the hard way that it doesn't. I could still watch the black and white version that was, thankfully, included but until I had access to a blue-ray player, the colorized version remained unwatched. I haven't tried the player yet so I can't speak to the quality one way or the other.

The computer itself is a lot faster than I'm used to, but then I configured it to be so.  As I said, I do some gaming - not online because, well, I'm not all that good at it and I'd probably get killed in the first 5 seconds and that's not fun. Anyway, because the games I do play are so graphics intensive, the old computer worked but there were frequent issues that I'm hoping this new computer will resolve. I did test one game that crashed quite a bit with the old computer but didn't experience any crashes in 5 or 6 hours of play.

The monitor is amazing. I got the 27-inch Pavillion wide screen. This monitor is a lot thinner than the last one and runs a lot cooler, as well. That old monitor was really heating up the room. This new monitor is also fully 1080p HD. Still have trouble watching HD content on Amazon Prime but I'm hoping upgrading the internet will help that. The viewable part goes pretty much edge to edge now with the bezel being about half an inch, which means the monitor isn't a whole lot bigger than the last one. A good thing because my desk really isn't all that big. 

And then there's the Windows 10 operating system. 

Now, I got used to Windows 8 with my laptop and phone. Didn't much like it as well as Windows 7 but I could deal with it. Windows 10, on the other hand, already liking a lot of what this OS has to offer.

The computer now boots up to the familiar desktop instead of the tiles. I didn't mind the tiles so much since one of them took me straight to the desktop. Not that I booted up my laptop often. I usually just closed the lid when I was done with it so it came right back to where I left off when I turned it back on. The start button is still the little window instead of the old round one, which I've decided I actually like better.

There's a lot to love with Windows 10. Many convenient features right there at your fingertips without having to run through a bunch of screens to get where you want to go. The start menu has changed dramatically. That's where the tiles come back in as well some other menu choices. It takes some time to learn where all of the usual stuff is located in Windows 10. Like your power options or screen saver settings. But now that I'm used to it, I actually like the way the start screen is arranged. Once again, everything I'm looking for is right at my fingertips.

The overall appearance of Windows 10 seems much cleaner and more streamlined to me. If I have to have one complaint, it would be that the taskbar can't be made as transparent as it could be in Windows 7. I always liked how I could see part of my desktop wallpaper through the taskbar. With Windows 10, the best I can get is sort of a semi-sheer gray. 

Another small complaint is the very wide search box built into the taskbar. I have yet to find a way of removing it so I'm assuming there is no way. It just seems to take up a lot of space right there and I'm not sure how much I'll actually use it. Not a huge deal on the desktop but on a small laptop like mine, it's a space waster.

One of the coolest features, however, I discovered quite by accident. There's this little icon right next to the huge search window that will show me all of the windows I have open in their entirety. A lot smaller, of course, but large enough that I can see what's in any window and decide if I want to go there or close it. It's really kind of cool, this feature, and I can see me using this one a lot.

The Action Center is now a sidebar kind of thing that slides in from the right and where all notifications can be seen. This sidebar pops in and out with the press of an icon in the system tray part of the taskbar. This replaces the Action Center flag that used to appear there and can be accessed without having to leave what you're currently working on. The icon shows up white when there are notifications to review. There is also a little popup that will slide out from the side with messages. 

One note on the system tray. It is now a fixed size and only shows 4 icons. To see the rest, you have to click the little /\. Kind of annoying but I suppose it's not that big of a deal. I just always liked seeing everything that was there. 

There are other features that I just haven't had the time to experience yet. 

So, if you're wondering if Windows 10 is worth the trouble, I really think it is. Windows 10 also includes the convenient compatibility troubleshooter that I have had to use after upgrading my parent's computers but so far, have only had to use with one program on mine. Don't know if that's because mine was built with Window 10 to start with or not. Just know that it's there and can be used if you upgrade and find your programs don't work as well as they used to. So far, I haven't found a program yet that can't be made compatible and I have some older programs on mine.

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