Storytime: Novablade

As extremely odd as it sounds, I’ve only recently owned a second laptop. I’ve always owned the same one or done without. It was a monumental move for me to get a second laptop after the cooling fan went on my first machine, it also being the second new computer I had bought for myself. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of Novablade.

Circa 2010, I had just enrolled in ETSU and had just settled into my apartment near college. After being quite well-informed that my college courses were tech intensive, my family decided to get a laptop for me to do the work that I needed to do.

Naturally I wanted something that wasn’t basic. Dell seemed like a good route to go; but anything that I wanted would get a no-no from them. I specifically wanted something with a graphics chip to play games, having good experience from how an Inspiron 4000 laptop barely ran DarkStar One.

Finally two weeks into my enrollment, Mom sighted a deal that Alienware was running. Dell had just bought them that year, running a special on their M11x laptops for $799. She and Dad agreed that I could have one of these “bargain” gaming laptops if it’d suit my needs.

I pretty much took the base setup, except for two changes; I opted for an i5 processor instead of a Intel Duo Core, and I picked an NVidia Chip over an Intel Integrated Graphics This ran up the computer to about $1100. They protested this greatly but after repeatedly telling them that the graphics chip was mandatory, they finally agreed and ordered the laptop.

I remember that I was sitting at home when my Mom called, telling me that my laptop had arrived home in Parrottsville. It was 8PM when I left my apartment in Johnson City to go home, arriving around 9:30-10:00PM. It was sort of a huge family event; they all wanted to see the unboxing rather than bring it to my a day or two later. So I had to go retrieve it the same night, otherwise I might’ve not gotten it till the weekend.

In terms of unboxing, it was fairly standard. To me, it was a huge deal. It was my first laptop that I fully owned. Nobody had to borrow it, nobody couldn’t tell me I couldn’t put games on it. I could read, look and play whatever I wanted to. I had total freedom to sit down anywhere and type.

The laptop was the R2 variant. This seemed to be Dell’s model, lacking the signature aluminum casing that was on the other Alienwares at the time.

The biggest trait that everybody noticed was the lighted keyboard. I had already gotten hooked on the trait when I bought my Saitek in 2007, greatly helping in low-light conditions. Aside from style, this gave my laptop an unprecedented edge while doing work in the dark. I mostly floated between an amber color, sometimes opting to blue or bright green.

I was about to happily start putting software on it when I realized that I had no CD-ROM drive! To help cut down on the size, the computer was a small thing, not carrying an optical-drive onboard. I couldn’t put anything on it that night. I drove back home the same night, arriving at my place at 12:30AM before going to bed.

The next day I got a HP $70 Lightscribe DVD-RW drive from Best Buy. That afternoon I installed a slew of programs, ranging from Java to Space Empires. I had a party that evening; I browsed deviantART from my bed that night, at such ease to go through messages and to browse the site.
Pleased with the laptop was an understatement. I dubbed it Novablade after a stealth ops ship from one of my older sci-fi universes. The ship had a small profile, which fell in line with the laptop’s small size.

I broke it in with a game two days later. You guessed it, DarkStar One. I had to put the pace out on that laptop just to satisfy myself that my laptop beat my Dad’s. It passed with flying colors.

Thus began’s Novablade’s adventures through school. Nerds in the CSCI department were impressed, a few teachers were amazed. I took to typing on it a month later, starting to get a hang to use it for NaNo 2010 and eventually using it for fiction writing. Many a nights I sat in my bed, browsing the Internet till late hours not having to move “to” bed.

Despite all this usefulness, I found that I didn’t use the laptop that much. I was still doing lots of stuff on my desktop. This took a change after moving out of my place in 2011 for two reasons. The first being that there was no nearby “personalized” desktop to go sit and work at, the other being that my desktop hit the end of its effective life expectancy. While it still functioned, it no longer had the “power” to keep up with 2010-era computers.

Now that I had a laptop, my siblings started a tradition that sort of goes on to this day, though I don’t really participate in it nowadays. But on weekends we pull our laptops out, occupying the entire dinner table doing various things. We also started drinking coffee on Friday nights; you have to remember that this is a family that nobody would even touch coffee. It was during this period my brother and I got hooked with doing multiplayer with each other.

However, a small darkness loomed with it. One day one of the hinges on the screen just snapped. I was distraught why and tried to get it replaced; thankfully my laptop was still in warranty. As the service technician was fixing it, he related that most first-generation M11x’s and some of the R2’s had a hinge problem. They were poorly designed, snapping within six months or less of being delivered to a customer. He was surprised mine was around this long without failing. Eventually they recalled all laptops and replaced all the hinges with stronger, newer ones but the computer had to be within warranty. Dodged a bullet there.

**While looking for images of my laptop, I found these images off of my iPhone when the laptop was being repaired. I’m real glad I grabbed these! Having a smartphone helped with such shots and moments immensely.

Novablade essentially carried me through my entire ETSU tenure with little to no hiccups. I did upgrade the system with a 640GB hard drive in my first year, additionally installing Windows 7 Professional rather than the Home edition that was bundled with it. Remote Desktop became a tool that I couldn’t miss and used. It was so easy to leave my laptop plugged in downstairs, being able to access school files and other data on my desktop upstairs (remember, this was a time before Dropbox came out.)

When I got my book publishing job, Novablade was my essential computer for everything. I used it as a mobile desktop, often hooking it up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse to do desk work. Less and less I used it as a “laptop” despite my near-daily use. I had maxed it out with 8GB of RAM and a 750GB WD Black hard drive (7200RPM) that let it last a bit longer.

Around November of 2015 the laptop’s fan gave out. I had tried to blast it out with air and to get it to work, but the laptop would emergency shut-off from overheating. This was bad especially when I was work. I looked about to fix Novablade, although it was clear that after five years, I needed to start utilizing a different machine for my work.

February of this year I did the near unthinkable, uninstalling my software off Novablade. I had gotten a new laptop, my first laptop that I had bought myself. I wiped Adobe, my games, all my personal data. I found a fan from a used heatsink from an earlier model of the M11x, doing some delicate surgery on the system to replace the fan itself. I also had put some new heatsink grease to help with the heat distribution better. I essentially was retiring my laptop; to what end I don’t know, but I had no plans to use it back.

I eventually gave it to my mom. She always called my laptop “that little Alien”, getting over the grudge of it being a gaming laptop. The lighted keyboard amused her and she would joke that she would “get her own color wheel on a laptop” one day; the color wheel was Alienware’s FX Controller window, which had a turning wheel to swap the colors of the keyboard and like. She was glad to have it, and knowing her it’ll work out the remainder of its lifetime in less demanding conditions.

I do regret not getting a high-grade laptop like it to replace it. I currently use an Asus Zenbook UX303UA; it’s great for a light, portable computer to get most simple tasks done, but its nowhere near to what a proper gaming laptop does. While I make-do with what I have, the time will come when I’ll have something along the lines of an Alienware M13 or a Razer Blade Stealth.

Follows a short gallery of my laptop throughout the years. As this laptop was bought before I owned a smartphone, no photo of it exists when it came right out of the box or its first four months of service.

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