The long, agonizing death of a Dell notebook

I knew this day was coming.  My little Dell Latitude 200 that has been with me through three years of untold rain, snow, oppressive heat, flights, buses, boats, trains and meandering hikes through large, confusing cities in 38 countries is showing its age.  After 25 or so Windows updates, an ill-considered upgrade to Office 2003 and the addition of some vital, but resource hogging software, the old girl (I never even named her – tragic) is limping along with what can only be described as ‘digital emphysema’.  The 30 gig hard drive that seemed insatiable at first is nearing maximum capacity (I gotta start deleting some of those Simpsons episodes…), the formerly lightning quick 999 megahertz processor is now laughably insufficient and the virtual memory sputters out after I open and close a handful of software.  Regular reboots are required throughout the day and random, bizarre device failures are becoming more frequent.  An undignified death, to be sure.

I knew she was slowing down – I can prepare a Thanksgiving turkey dinner for 12 in the time it takes to open a document in Adobe Acrobat Professional – but I really didn’t know the extent of her deteriorating condition until I used a friend’s computer last week and was in awe of the speed at which documents opened, web pages loaded and porn videos played.  When I got back to my Dell and watched it wheeze through a near five minute star-up, I knew there was only one humane thing to do.  She’d done her time like a champion and now it was time to put her out to pasture and let her make life hell for some Romanian college student. 

But what about me?  I’m a travel writer.  I make just enough to keep my stomach full in an Eastern European country.  I can’t just go online and order a new laptop.  With all the bells and whistles and last second impulse options (how have I lived without a web cam and internal wi-fi hardware?), I’m looking at two grand, minimum.  That’s a lot of Lonely Planet work.

And where does it end?  My dinky Canon Powershot S410 four megapixel digital camera, which was cutting edge technology three years ago, turned out to be frighteningly delicate (I’ve mailed it in for repair twice) and the 11X digital zoom has proven to be woefully inadequate for taking inconspicuous photos of Romanian girls wearing skirts tight enough to stop the bleeding from a gunshot wound.  My Archos Jukebox 20 gig MP3 player was utter crap from the beginning (replaced three times).  The power button on my Palm Pilot Tungsten T5 stopped working within two months of purchase.  It still runs like a dream, but to turn it on I need to hit one of the shortcut buttons on the bottom and then navigate back to whatever document I was editing, which is often as the maximum auto-off power-save setting it a quick three minutes.

I’m 100% dependent on technology to get my job done and I’m going to have to consider replacing a large part of my gear in the very near future if I want to stay in the game.  But where to get the coin?

Which brings me to an all too familiar issue; my whole life, at every cross roads, I have infallibly chosen the path of least payment, both knowingly and incompetently.  I chose juggling over basketball.  I chose theatre over computer science.  I chose the Federal Reserve Bank over Wells Fargo.  I chose homeless travel writing over Penthouse Forum. 

Where does it end oh lord?  Why hast thou smitten me with crap pay and tiny, girl hands?  Show me the path to gittin’ real paid and impressionable, young groupies that aren’t two continents away!  Give me a sign!  Any si..*&^%$#%$@%$……….