Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - Triage

More like the trials and tribulations, but that is entirely a different story.

I am what you call a "Power User".  I am that guy that people go to after they have found that their computer has stopped working, they went to a shop and found that a complete reload costs $200 and that they followed through and now it's not working like it used to so "could you help me fix it".

Er... maybe... depends on whether I've got the time, the inclination, and if I'm getting paid.

Hey it's a capitalist economy, innit?

Recently I was handed a laptop.  It's "surplus".  It's an older machine, specifically it is a Thinkpad T60.  Core 2 Duo processor that is still being sold as a bottom of the line machine today, but this is 3 years old.  The monitor was very dim to the point of not really being usable over long periods of time.  The hard drive was too small for my video editing and web development chores.   There wasn't enough memory in it.  It ran Windows XP.

Since it is a Thinkpad, it will have a longer expected life than a bargain basement computer.  This one was loaded to the gills and was the "Screamer" when it was bought three years ago.

I had started to use it as my Multimedia Workspace when I got it.  It was more than adequate to do video editing.  I'd grab the video and "render" it into a final form after clipping out such things as I would not want to see in a finished product and it will render that video in less time than it takes to watch it.  If it's not showing me the preview window, it does a 21 minute video in about 3 minutes.

The problem is that the panel was too dark to do "fine" work like the graphics that I am doing for the blog and for the various websites around town that I'm beginning to work on.  So this machine went back home to the repair centre in Memphis TN and got a brand spanking new panel.  Shiny bright and lots of little pixels for me to spread out on after being cramped on my old Acer.

Basically it's a solid machine, although were I to buy a new in box machine, it wouldn't be this one, it would be one with an i7 Quad Core Processor since I run a virtual PC in background as a rule, not an exception.

It will do, and it will do nicely, but it wasn't my first choice until the visit of a client a couple weeks back.

As I was doing some changes to a flyer for the church, I handed him the laptop to show him live what the changes would be like and found that the old graphics workbench had locked solid. The only thing I did on that machine was to do Desktop Publishing and it just had locked.  Again.  I turned it off, recovered and the creaky six year old laptop that was "good enough" failed me again.  Clearly it wasn't going to survive.   The data was safe on the hard drive, but the machine was giving up on me.

I switched over to my "production machine" a 5 year old Acer Aspire 5610 with a very cranky Left Mouse Button.  That machine was my "daily driver" that I did everything on it.  Much better than I expected an Acer to be, I forgave the cantankerous mouse button for its brilliant display that was just a wee bit too small at a widescreen 15 inches with the same resolution as a 720p HDTV.  Cramped for video editing and graphics work.

The Acer worked fine but as I handed it to the client, it too locked solid.  I questioned my technique but clearly there were two machines that needed to be retired.  The old Dell Inspiron was a Pentium M 1.6, way too slow for what I was doing.  The Acer was starting to act up.

Turning to the Thinkpad, we decided to get it fixed since the guts were new and the only thing wrong was the panel was dim.

I got it back last week and decided that while I could spend $900 to get the new machine it just was not happening.  Consulting is just barely breaking even for me, and this black T60 would have to do.  

So basically I'm going to recycle the Dell, 'repurpose' the Acer as a server (yes, a laptop server for low power consumption), recycle my old desktop server (P4 3ghz just doesn't cut it) and move into the Thinkpad.

One for the price of three.

I've been living on machines that people have decided were not worth using any more since 2000 when I bought the last parts to upgrade the machine that eventually became my Server.  In all the time I have used PCs, I have bought exactly zero computers "New In The Box", preferring to build my own desktops.

You see, I'm the Cobbler's Child in a way.  My shoes are scuffed but serviceable.  They have to be because I have to fix them.

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