Secondly, I decided to give up on the unreasonably crashy Hellgate London and install the orange box. Guess what? VERY CRASHY. Well, Portal wasn't -- it would get a sound-loop bug where the screen would freeze for a few second, but then recover, and I managed to play it through in three hours with just that occasional glitch.
Half Life 2, though, crashy, to the desktop, with a direct-X 8 error, about every half hour. In addition to the sound glitch, and another glitch where the screen goes all polygon and you have to alt-tab out to unconfuse it. Searching on the web about the crash says that:
(1) You can fix it by hacking the windows xp registry to neuter your page file
(2) You can fix it for counterstrike by deleting a certain file as part of a batch file every time you launch the program
(3) There's no way to fix it, any computer that's 'too fast' for the engine will run into it and lock up
(4) There's no way to fix it, any computer with a modern video card that doesn't have enough 'vertex pipelines' to support something done in hardware in DX8 but switched to software for DX9 won't be able to run the game.
Maybe I'll try installing it on my desktop. It's (a) not a laptop and (b) much slower, so maybe it'll work. If you can even do that, with this Steam spyware nonsense. Supposedly you can install stuff on multiple computers, since you have to log in every time anyway, so in theory it should be possible.
In case anyone's keeping score, this makes six computers in a row that basically can't play most games I decide to try to install on them, or at least can't play them very well.
To put it another way, since 3d cards were invented (and I was gaming before that) I've never had a commputer that could actually play games well. Never ever ever. Every computer I've bought -- from the store, from online sellers (large and small), or in pieces to assemble myself -- has been utterly pathetic and sucked at games.
But it works for everone *else* so I keep thinking 'maybe this time it'll be different'. But no, it never is. Technology hates me.