Techno-Crap Happens

Laptop Lost

Christine and I have worked in the technology sector since about 1980, so we know ‘stuff happens’.  My first personal computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80 with dual cassette tape (then upgraded with an expansion bay)!  It was on this computer that I taught myself COBOL and switched jobs where I worked from supervising database administrators to programming.  Anyways, I dropped my laptop.  Shouldn’t be a big deal since I have a Kindle Fire HD that I use for light-weight web browsing, Facebook and reading/listening to books along with a high-powered desktop that I use for photo and video editing (along with the occasional flight simulator exercise).  But I only lasted about a week without a laptop before I was shopping.  A laptop provides a full size keyboard and a ‘real’ operating system that shows flash-videos from some of my favorite blogs – an important consideration for surfing on the couch.

Off to Amazon

So my laptop requirements are pretty light.  Besides surfing the web I also need to do some photo sorting using Adobe Lightroom and maybe some lightweight editing using Photoshop.  Other than that, I’ll use my desktop for any heavy-duty processing until we start full-timing.  Plus, this will make a good second/backup PC once we full-time.  My big home-built desktop uses an ASUS motherboard so I’m familiar with both the ASUS brand as well as their good support.

As I browse through Amazon, I like the choice of low-end laptops on the market.  I ended up zeroing in on an ASUS X551MAV 15.6-Inch Dual-Core Intel 2.16 Ghz Laptop, 4GB RAM and 500GB Hard Drive:

asus


This PC has enough memory and hard drive space for our needs and the Intel Celeron N2830 2.16GHz processor should have enough guts to do some Lightroom photo sorting and some editing. I ordered the PC and it arrived a few days later.

It is amazing  how lightweight this laptop is. Perfect to actually use as a LAP-top, and it does not get real hot as it sits on my lap.  The evening I received the laptop from Amazon,  I powered it up and after a few screen prompts Windows 8.1 started installing. After a very short time it rebooted and the keyboard and mouse died. Nada, nothing. Nothing I tried to do worked, so I held down on the power button and the laptop shut down. I restarted and the Windows installation resumed and I had keyboard and mouse control again.

I installed some basic things – Open Office, Wunderlist, Microsoft OneNote (Free), Chrome and Avast antivirus, then uninstalled McAfee antivirus. Everything worked fine until I upgraded my Avast to the paid version, then my keyboard and mouse died again. I called ASUS support and they walked me through powering down the laptop (30 second press on the power button) then resetting the BIOS (F2 while booting – which did not help), then starting in Windows Recovery mode (full power down then F9 while booting) and doing a ‘refresh’. The ASUS support tech said this should take care of it, and sent me a link to re-install the keyboard drivers.

Techno-Crap

I went through the process of re-installing Windows 8.1, uninstalling McAfee and then re-installing the keyboard drivers and installing Open Office, Wunderlist, OneNote, Chrome then I installed all the Windows updates (something I didn’t do first time around). I then installed AVAST and then entered my key for the full version. When Avast rebooted the laptop, again I didn’t have keyboard or mouse control. Techno-Crap!

Is it ASUS or Avast?  I decide to go the Avast route since I’ve already made my ASUS call.  I re-initialize the PC again, re-install Windows updates & all my software up to the point of entering in the Avast key – still using the Free version. Everything is working fine.  I call Avast support and explain my situation – that once I enter the key I lose my keyboard and mouse.  The technician sends me my key as a file via email and I ask if there anything that he can do to help diagnose the problem before entering the key since that is where it lost contact the last few times.  He downloads a utility that shows a number of application errors (errors that don’t show up in the standard Microsoft error log), plus he believes the Microsoft firewall is interfering with Avast.  He then suggests that I spend $100 or more getting more personal support ;-).  I decline and say I will run with what he’s found.

The only applications that I see that would be generating all those errors is probably the ASUS free stuff, so I remove all the games and the ASUS cloud backup app.  I decide to run this way for a bit before installing the key.  Looks good for 24 hours, so  I install Lightroom & Photoshop to see how they run.

After a couple of days I lose my keyboard and mouse control again.  Double Techno-Crap.  (Is there a Maxi-Pad for this?) I can’t get into Windows Safe Mode – or even the DOS prompt mode.  Again, I refresh my PC, but this time I leave McAfee anti-virus and install all the rest of my applications & remove the ASUS junk.  It has now been 4 days and still running OK without Avast.  In the meantime, I decided that I’m tired of spending 2 days refreshing the PC, installing Windows updates and then re-installing my applications.  I upgraded my Acronis disk cloning/backup software on my desktop to the latest version and added the 3 PC upgrade so I have a license for the new laptop.  Once that got installed I made a full backup of the hard drive and a recovery boot on a USB stick.  At least I won’t have to spend 2 days re-installing Windows updates and my applications.

I’m going to run this way using McAfee for a couple of weeks and then decide if I want to try to go back to Avast.  I have been a FREE Avast user for years, and it’s funny that when I finally decide to pay for the extra protection that the paid version has (Avast firewall and some other tools) that it fails to work on my new laptop.  I don’t know if it’s an Avast problem or ASUS, but it upsets me that AVAST wants me to pay for their help to decide whether it’s their problem or ASUS.

 Bottom Line on the ASUS Laptop

ASUS X551MAV Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
Low Cost Klickety-Clack Keyboard
Limited amount of 'Junkware' Keyboard-Touchpad issues
Decent performance for the price No DVD player
Comfortable spacing of keys on keyboard Screen a bit hard to see in sunlight
Light weight Decals on keys look like they will rub off soon
USB 2 & USB 3 and HDMI ports AvastAnti-virus not working
1 year waranty Can only return PC once during the warranty period

All in all it seems like it’s a good choice.  I am not expecting a fast PC, but I am expecting one where everything works.  Now the laptop has Acronis backup software running, I will decide if the removal of McAfee or installation of Avast is creating the problem with the laptop. I will also consider getting a square trade extended warranty since ASUS limits their returns to one.

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