Monday, January 14, 2008

My New Computer

I came to bed last night at three in the morning. My wife woke up when I plopped down on the bed and grunted “Where were you?”

“I was building a new computer.”

She grunted again and went back to sleep. For the last eighteen months, I’ve been accumulating the parts for a new computer off of E-bay, Fry’s sales, etc. The catch is simple enough. Whatever you buy eighteen months ago is either obsolete or dramatically cheaper by the time you do sit down to put all the parts together. In the meantime, you learn all sorts of fun stuff like AGP video card slots have disappeared even though you were just getting used to them a couple years ago. Also even though the ram looks the same, it’s actually not configured the same way any longer.

Along with that, there are all these little mechanical things one forgets. For instance, I didn’t remember that in addition to plugging in the 24 pin power supply on one part of the board, the ATX power supply has a second 4 pin spot for the positive 12 volt rail. Until I did that, it would turn on then stop completely. Before I figured it out, I rearranged the RAM four times, fiddled with the microscopic pins that connect the reset button and the power button (they go in line not across), and even took off the CPU fan and reset the CPU at least once. I’m pretty sure that no one has ever designed a CPU fan that attaches easily or actually fits easily.

I used to watch the techs at the computer fairs (remember those?) put together a system from scratch in about 45 minutes. It takes me about twelve hours. When you only do something once ever couple years, you basically have to relearn everything. I should also mention that the Antec Sonata in the name of noise reduction uses a screw free system for mounting hard drives and DVD rom drives.

I now have a working new computer, but it’ll take me another twelve hours minimum before I get it working at a software level. I’ve always been amazed that a new system that’s supposed to be four times faster boots up just as slowly if not slower than the old one. I did change over to a sound card with the Envy chipset and would say that it’s dramatically better with my MP3’s and FLAC files. Also, the new video card does play movies much more smoothly.

Bottom line, I paid probably an extra couple hundred dollars and will spend something like thirty hours after haggling, assembly, and re-setup just for the privilege of rolling my own instead of just running down to Fry’s and saying “Here’s five hundred bucks, do what you can to set me up.”

Why do I do this? My wife’s answer is simple. She’ll tell you that I’m insane and that I waste far too much time dawdling over things like this. My answer is that I spend much of my life at my computer and I like knowing how to make everything go together even if I’m a below average computer technician it's like this big problem solving exercies. I learn the names of the various parts, about the changes in the i/o system, and get to ruminate about how they put all those strange looking things into the case. I build speakers for the same reason. My computer speakers were built out of an old cabinet, a pair of amplifier modules from Alesis (I was interested in the 3886 amp on a chip), a pair of linaeum tweeter modules from a closeout at Radio Shack, and 8” peerless woofers leftover from a home speaker project. They take up half my desk and my study looks like an electronics garage rather than a place a writer might hang out. I guess the whole point is to say “It’s mine and nobody else has a setup quite like this one.”

Now if only I can find the driver for the Hauppage A/V digital tv card I got for thirty dollars off of Ebay. I guess I’m saying that even if what I write isn’t all that original, whatever I’m using to write it all on is or at least it’s unique. Of course, it's also one of the reasons I didn't blog for a few days :}

What I wound up with:

1) Antec Sonata 2 Case 50 dollars on Craigslist
2) ASUS motherboard with high definition audio and on board heat sink
3) AMD dual core processor 4800X2 mb and CPU were 155 together at Fry's
4) 3 gig memory 27x3 81 dollars
5) Chaintech sound card with Envy Chip 14 dollars on EBay
6) Nvidia 512 mb memory video card 39 dollars on Ebay
7) Hauppage A/D video card w/ on board processor 30 dollars on Ebay
8) 120 Gig Western Digital Hard drive 70 dollars from old computer from Fry's. (just in really to test the system)

for 500 dollars, I probably could have bought an assembled computer that works much better and I could have spent the 30 hours or so writing.



At 1/14/2008 03:00:00 PM, Blogger benny06 said...

I have no patience for such things, so I admire you. My spouse has tweaked his bicycles though by using e-bay and finding lighter parts that will work on them.

At 1/14/2008 03:17:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I used to fiddle with my bicycles some until someone pointed out that if I lost 10 pounds it would make the same difference as spending thousands of dollars trying to take the weight off my bike.

At 1/14/2008 06:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trez impressed too.

Tho I refuse to reveal how too fat I am, it is daunting to buy a 25 lb box of kitty litter & stagger along trying to carry it and realize that relative to the how too fat that the dear frame has to lug around all day every day.

Am I to understand that if you were a strong Twiggy & weighed 85 lbs you could cycle like the wind?

At 1/14/2008 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Marianne said...

You were up until 3 AM last night? Now I don't feel so alone :-)

At 1/15/2008 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

IT's okay to be bigger on a bicycle, but your body also has to generate more power. Most bike riders at least the distance onces are relatively wiry.

I've always been a late night/early early morning person. It's made it hard to adapt to an office schedule.

At 1/17/2008 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth McQuern said...

You are a brave, brave man.

At 1/25/2008 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

it's more like I sometimes like to do things the hard way. These days with computers as inexpensive as they are, any sane person would just buy it off the shelf with warranties, one dealer to work with, etc.


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