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My home office is located in the living room these days, across from my wife’s harpsichord and organ. It consists of a sprawling Ikea GALANT desk with office supplies, computer equipment and cats covering most of its surface.
In particular, I have a Sharp AM-900 Digital Office Laser Copier/Printer/Fax/Scanner that I bought on Amazon for two hundred-something dollars. Basically it’s a decent standalone copier, an ok fax (I am not sure if it can actually print out confirmations). As far as printer and scanner functions go, the drivers are rather crunchy – I have to frequently unplug/reinstall them which is a major bummer. Also, Sharp does not have the drivers available online, so I have to keep the installation cd on my hard drive. But the copier and fax functions alone are worth that money, so I am glad I got it.
What I am not glad about is that Tilde the Cat figured out how to press the copy button. She was always fascinated by the printer noise, but now she learned how to produce it. Here’s her self-portrait. She pressed the button and looked at the pretty moving light. Now I’ll have to make an anti-cat button cover, like those on most of my power strips (I make them out of duct tape and steel corners).
Gary the Cat, on the other hand likes to use the keyboard as his pillow. He knows that sooner or later he’ll be able to rest his face on my left hand.
Guess what? This post is going to be about microcomputers. PCs.
I never owned a computer in the Soviet times. Not even a programmable calculator. I did have access to some old Wang clones called Iskra (Spark) in an after school program, played with a programmable calculator of a neighbour, played games on a frien’d PC, played games at my father’s friend’ work computer ( also PC), paid to play games on Sinclare computers that some enterprising people set up as a pay-per-play arcade, etc. Oh, I still remember the horror in the eyes of my teacher when I found a set of programs that calculated the level of contamination from a nuclear blast given the input of wind speed, bomb yeild and some other variables. Those Iskras were donated from the Red Navy.
In the US, my father purchased a 386 for a humongous sum of $1300. It was put together in some computer shop on avenue U. That was in 1993 or 1992, I think. Since then, I’ve been upgrading my computer on the average once every three years. I think In all, I went through 3 cases, 6 motherboards and 2 monitors (not counting my wife’s computer). I never owned a brand name computer. After the second computer I’ve learned that I could be putting together myself.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, putting together my own stuff. What could be simpler? Pop in a motherboard, a videocard, a modem, some ram, some hard drives — and you’ve got a box!
I’ve become thoroughly familiar with what cuts from a ragged computer case feel like. I’ve learned how hard it is to be without the Internet when your computer is in pieces on the ground (and a driver needed to make the new hardware run is on the Internet, of course). There are very few types of flashable hardware that I did not have to flash. I accumilated a huge collection of computer screws, cables, cards and thermal processor grease.
The questions that went through my mind were:
Why are jumpers so tiny? (these days they have jumpers with little tails that can be taken out with just fingers)
Why ide cables are so hard to deal with? (there are rounded cables available now)
Why it’s so hard to find 0th pin on the hard drive connector? (newer ide cables come with a little peg that doesn’t allow it to be put in the wrong way)
Which idiot came up with PS2 plugs? (one word – USB , well, ok, three words).
And most importantly: WHY ALMOST NO PIECE OF HARDWARE, PORT OR CABLE COME WITH A LABEL THAT WOULD CARRY MANUFACTURER’S NAME AND A MODEL NUMBER????????????????????
This is all slowly changing, of course, but the much bigger problem of minor factory defects and incompatibilities between chipsets still plague individually bought components.
My last self-put together box – a dual processor PIII 1000 sucks ass. I could not get a single AGP video card to work with it. An IDE raid controller that worked ok on my previous motherboard wold cause all OS to crash. And finally, two little pegs that held the cooler on the processor broke, and I can’t keep PIIIs from overheating.
I’d like to say, that after I’ve removed the raid card and put in a PCI video card, the system ran extremely steady for a year. Now it’s time to think about the future of my computers.
So my resolution is this:
1) Throw out the crappy dual processor motherboard and the crappy coolers. Buy a nice cheap and super steady single processor PIII motherboard + a stock Intel coolers and turn that computer into a file server. Four 120 Gig 5400 RPM drives (I don’t need the speed, and those drives run much cooler) should do the trick. The case of that computer is very nice and cool looking (it’s a square. It looks like this:
Maybe I’ll even make the drives removable, but so far all removable racks that I’ve tried sucked ass.
2) Buy a nice Dell workstation. That will be used for image manipulation and coding.
3) Buy a big ass LCD monitor (or maybe one of those Sony 27″ CRT monitors) for use with the workstation.
4) Buy a tablet pc for myself and a laptop for my wife.
5) Donate or sell on eBay all the crappy hardware still sitting in my drawers.
I think all the money I saved this year on rent should easily buy me this hardware.
Visited Brooklyn College yesterday to take a look at the newly reopened library.
Well, they’ve spent countless millions, and now the insides look like a typical yuppie apartment. Various designer chairs (mostly Aerons and some other expensive looking wooden ones) , desks. The circulation desk looks like a reception desk in a Fortune 100 company. Tons of tables with ethernet hookups. Some crappy Dells with 15 inch flat panel monitors running Win XP are available in “labs”. Lots of air conditioning ducts and eyes-in-the-sky.
Could not find any of the books that I wanted in the horrible mainframe search app (you telnet into it from the workstations). I was looking for some Lee Friedlander photography books , “The Legend of Amdahl”, some real estate books, some books about NYPD. Nada. Oh well, there is abebooks.com and amazon.com. And I have Aerons and fast network connection at home.
I thing that royally pisses me of is that they are using crappy bright fluorescent lamps. I hate those. At work I unhooked one that is right above my cube because it was driving me nuts. Yeah, spend millions on chairs and desks and install lamps that give everyone headaches.
The La Guardia reading room is gorgeous. There were some very nice black and white photos on the walls, a mildly interesting exposition of historical documents and photographs.
If I actually found any good books and did not get a headache from the lamps it would have been a great experience.