While I'm generally in favor of cheap technology for the masses, I've recently been hit by the curse of inexpensive laptops.

No, I'm not having problems myself.  Rather, laptops are now cheap enough that lots of my non-technical family & friends have them.  Thus, when they have an issue, it's easy for them to bring the laptop to me.  I can't really say “Sorry, I'd have to see it happen myself” anymore. :-)

In a related vein, it seems that my #1 job with everybody's laptops is to clean the cr*p off of them.  A lot of software companies think users are complete idiots and can't be trusted to start a program on their own.  Besides putting an icon on the start menu, they configure the program to start automatically, and throw icons on the desktop, Quick Launch bar, and Lord knows where else.  The guilty parties know who they are.

MSCONFIG show that my system has six programs that start at boot time.  On most other people's machines?  Closer to 24.  And my friends wonder why their computer takes so long to boot!   It's not their fault.  The software has usually come preinstalled on the laptop. Part of my startup exorcism involves asking if they have any idea what the program does.  If they have no clue, and I know it's not essential, it gets whacked.