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The Driving Force: The tale of a laptop and the idiot using it
Posted on Friday, October 12 2007 @ 05:37:48 PST

Note that this tale is slightly updated from the version I sent both joeblow and LinksOcarina.

It's funny how drivers can affect your computer.

I have a Toshiba Portégé 7200CT laptop. It's an old laptop, running Windows 98 effectively and reasonably. When I first got it a few years ago, it was pretty much set up for work stuff, not gaming stuff.

At that point, it ran 16 colors at 640x480 as the best resolution.

Now, I found that just fine. It ran (most) of the stuff I wanted it to run such as all those DOS games that have gone freeware, such as Bio-Menace and Major Stryker. Unfortunately, the other things I wanted it to run, such as UT99 and even DOOM II needed bigger and better resolutions, something the default drivers couldn't cope with.

So, I tried to update the drivers myself. Note the word 'tried'.

Following my 'attempt' at upgrading the drivers, the laptop pretty much stopped working. I had stuffed something up big-time and had to restore the damn thing to factory settings.

That's when I gave it to my older brother, the A+ certified computer technician.

When I got back the laptop, he had not only restored it to factory settings,  but had downloaded me some new drivers and stuff.

At this point, my Toshiba Protégé 7200CT's best resolution was 32-bit colors at 1024x768. I say 'best' even though I could get bigger resolutions at 16-bit colors, although the inbuilt monitor could only handle 1024x768, which was the biggest resolution it could handle at 32-bit.

I was impressed. So was my older brother. With these new drivers, he had
taken a laptop that couldn't even run DOOM II and made it capable of running UT99 and, more astonishingly, Command & Conquer Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge!

Things were looking good, until I figured that the laptop could use some more 'oomph'. Let's just say that I learnt the hard way why Windows 98 machines are not recommended for Vista-level DirectX.

Another factory-settings restart and I got back to pretty much back where I had started,
with a laptop running 16 colors at 640x480 resolution, and memories of a better time. In fact, it has been only recently that I've managed to find the correct video driver for the thing. Now I'm back to 32-bit colour at 1024x768 resolution.

It's still not the best gaming machine around, but that's mainly due to hardware reasons. The thing only has 32MB RAM, I think...

Still, I can't say I haven't learnt anything from this experience. I've learnt about how drivers can both enhance and screw up a computer's performance. I've also learnt that I'm almost entirely useless when it comes to getting new drivers.
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