Silicon Blues

We recently ordered a new computer because the old one I have is about 4-5 years old. It’s a Pentium III 800 mhz with 384 megs of RAM and 80 gigs on two Hard Drives. Many of you are rolling your eyes, shaking your heads, tsk-ing at me and saying, “Paul Paul Paul.”

With as quickly as technology turns over, and me being in a technology field, my computer is well-overdue for a replacement.

I decided to find something that was really going to do the job, so I searched around online. Originally, I was going to get us a Dell. Quality parts; good customer service; the ones I’ve used in the past just last and last and last.

But I wound up with a Gateway. The computer I have now is a Gateway and while I’ve had to replace a couple of things on it that have gone bad, it’s been a really good computer over the past few years.

Here’s what I got:

Gateway 420GR Intel Pentium 4 2.93GHz / 512MB DDR / 160GB SATA HDD / DVD±RW Dual-Layer / CD-ROM / Flash Media Reader / 10/100Mbps LAN / Windows XP Home

To many of you, the above is nothing but a bunch of techno-geek-speak. Others of you are reading the above, nodding respectfully with satisfied frowns on your faces while thinking to yourself, “not bad. I wonder if he’ll install Linux on it in place of XP Home?”

I won’t.

For the rest of you who read the above and have no idea what any of it means, here’s a breakdown:
I bought a Gateway [pretty fast] / [half the memory I want, but still decent] / [enough storage space for games, movies and lots of music… also enough space for projects] / [a box with a drawer that will write DVD’s] / [a sad little box with a drawer that will only read and play CD’s but will probably be replaced] / [a number of little slots for downloading pictures from my digital camera] / [a hole where I’ll plug in a cable to let me surf the Internet] / [a pathetic program we’ve all come to hate]

Essentially, it was lacking two things that I really wanted in my computer: capabilities for dual monitor support and a gig or more of RAM. All the other specs met what I was looking for at a price just over $400. Sweet.

So, I went ahead and purchased a seperate video card (128 meg GeForce with dual VGA) and will probably upgrade the RAM later.

Buying a new computer is somewhat like buying a car. Everyone is pretty much on the same playing field. No matter how much you know about what you’re buying, there’s plenty that you still don’t know and a lot of potential for it to go wrong… that’s where warranties come in. It’s also why a lot of guys build their own from scratch.

I considered building mine, but I think I’ve had my fill of building computers. I used to build them when I was in college to earn money for books, food, and ‘going out’ money. Personally, I’m bored of it. If I can get one that’s already set up, configured, will work well and comes with the necessary software to re-install the OS and drivers without me having to do very much, I’m happy with it.

Computers are big, expensive toys. They play games, music, movies, view pictures, allow you to connect to other computers and other people. Getting a new computer is typically a pretty exciting thing… but not to me.

I’m looking at the prospect of opening the computer, turning it on to make sure it works, turning it off, unplugging everything, installing the new video card, downloading the new drivers, installing the drivers, checking everything out to make sure it all works and THEN I can begin the process of installing all my software packages (Office, Photosohp, Flash, Premier, audio and video conversion tools, codecs, capture software, mp3 device companions, media rippers, coding editors, Firefox, all the extensions for all the programs, the updates, and all the little programs like WinAmp, GAIM, ActiveSync, etc.), migrating over the data from the old computer and the tedious process of getting all the settings the way I like ’em for each program.


I’d love it if I could just copy everything from my old hard drive to the new one while I slept and it was done in the morning… no such luck.

Configuring a computer is sorta like trying to jog someone’s memory who is suffering from amnesia.

“Remember how I like my explorers to look? No? Remember how I like it to give me all the details, support double-click, show me the status, show all the files, and remember every folder’s settings seperately? No? *sigh*”

What we really need is a computer for lazy people.

What would that look like? I need a computer that I can buy that will have all the specs I want, need little or no installation and will autoamatically pull over all my settings, programs and data from my old system. It wouldn’t hurt if it did all my work for me too.

The computer for the lazy guy would be more like a pet. You bring home a new one and the old one gets jealous and starts trying to bug you for affection. Then, the new one sees what the old one is doing, mimics it, and tries to do all the same things to get you to love it more. They fight and the smartest/fastest/strongest one wins.

Instead, I’ll be stuck with an amnesia-stricken machine, requiring hours of attention to train into submission.

Why do they keep advancing technology? How many of us are REALLY all that excited about the newest and biggest? C’mon. Think about it. Every time you get get a new phone, you have to reprogram all the numbers into it (unless you get one of the ones that syncs all the data off your computer… and then you have to install the software, buy the right cable because it didn’t come with the one you needed, get more memory for the device so it’ll store all your records, figure out how to synchronize the data using a quick-start guide written in broken Engrish and then do it all again because a game you installed locks up the system and requires you to wipe the memory back to factory-issued standard… yes I’ve had those).

If you buy a new VCR, you have to figure out how to set the clock/channels or wait 48 hours for it to set itself.

A new tv? Have fun programming the remote to work with all your existing devices. There always seem to be 40 codes I have to program into the remote for my brand equipment, none of which work.

New DVD player? Where are you going to plug it in? All your A/V slots are taken up in your current configuration. Looks like you’ll have to go out and buy an A/V router switch to manage all your devices… then, several months later you’ll find it’s really inconvenient to have to get up off the couch to switch between DVD and DVR (another device that takes a good 4+ hours to get set up and learn). To solve that problem, you’ll have to go buy yet another router with intelligent switching capabilities that will auto-detect which device you want to use.

In the old days, people bought a tv, brought it in their home, plugged it in, and Jr. had to hold the rabbit ears while the family enjoyed Dick Van Dyke. No muss/no fuss.

It’s a vicious cycle.

We purchase these electronics, researching the best ones, reading the reviews to see which ones are ultimately the most robust/feature-rich/reliable… then, three or four years later, we’re wishing the one we bought would break, giving us the excuse to go buy the newest, sleekest model.

Many people think, “I’ll find out what’s the best, then back it off a notch or two and get something that’s middle-of-the-road.”

How many digital cameras have you been through? How much was the first one you bought and how many mega-pixels was it? I bet it was more expensive than the second one that had twice the resolution or more.

What do we do with the old ones? You certainly can’t get your money back out of ’em. Some of ’em get handed down to siblings or children while others simply get put in a box. Most people have a hard time just throwing them away because either they cost so much to begin with or there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the old one, it’s just not as good as the new one. It’s hard to justify pitching a perfectly good 35mm zoom camera with red-eye reduction just because you bought a 5 MegaPixel Digital one for this summer’s vacation.

I can’t tell you how many obsolete CD players, cameras, cell phones, routers, computer parts, computer speakers, keyboards and answering machines I have. We dumped a bunch of it in the last move, but it always feels like such a waste. For every one obsolete device, there’s always two or three cables and power adaptors to go with it. That makes for a pretty unsightly mess.

I wonder if Hollywood would be willing to buy ’em for props?

They oughtta come up some kind of deal where each item you drop off, working or not, you get few bucks off the next movie you go see.

“I got a new cell phone that has a PDA and GPS receiver built into it. It even plays MP3’s. I turned in 4 or 5 of my old devices that it replaced and it got my wife and me in to see Batman Bewildered for free on opening night.”

Maybe at Christmas, they could put a bin out next to the Toys for Tots: “Electronics for Elderly.”

I dunno.

3 responses to “Silicon Blues”

  1. How many of us are REALLY all that excited about the newest and biggest?

    ME!!! ME!!! “What is ‘new toy’?, Alex”.

    how many obsolete:

    CD players 4+
    cameras 7
    cell phones 5
    routers 3
    computer parts 2*10^18
    computer speakers 20+
    keyboards 5
    answering machines 2

    …..and you should add you old video cards to the new machine and go for FOUR displays at once *grins big*

  2. what’s ‘obsolete’? do i have any of that at home? how much will it cost me to exterminate it?

    btw…you forgot monitors…

  3. Not installing Linux on it is fine, but you really SHOULD install it on your old one and make it into an audio/video jukebox and file server.