Tag: computers

Eulogy for the PC

Courtesy Zedomax

My wife’s corner of the living room is dominated by an anachronism. An aged, clunky CRT monitor squats on top of the bookshelf behind her desk. On that desk, now, is a shiny new Acer laptop with a wider display than that old beast, not to mention much faster & cleaner peformance to the oversized paperweight of a PC to which the old monitor’s connected. I keep meaning to move things around so she has a little more room, but I can’t help but look at that corner and think of Bob’s Big Picture feature on the death of the PC.

I’ve been building my own PCs for years. Ever since I got one sore knuckle and torn finger too many from the confines of a Packard Bell case, I’ve wanted to make the experience of working with computers easier and better. For years it’s also been the case that upgrading a system through the purchase of a pile of parts has been more cost-effective than buying something from a store shelf, to say nothing of the flexibility and lack of bloatware inherent with taking the construction & installation onto oneself.

But technology is moving on. My wife’s laptop cost as much as the upgrade I just put into my desktop case, and while the bleeding edge Sandy Bridge processor will satisfy computing needs for (I hope) quite a few years, her laptop is just as good. If the ancient external drive to which I’d saved our Dragon Age games hadn’t ground that data into powder, it’d have been a completely painless upgrade. That won’t happen again, of course, because not only are the hard drives we have today lightyears ahead of that dinosaur, we can always upload our save data to a cloud.

And it’s not like I need my desktop to write. I do most of these updates in a text editor (gedit, if you’re curious) before taking the content and putting it into the blog, enhanced with pictures dropped into Photobucket and the occasional bit of rambling audio. I can do that with pretty much any device. Within the next year, fingers crossed & the creek don’t rise, I’ll be retiring this old workhorse of mine with some iteration of the Asus Transformer – hell, I’d write blog updates on my Kindle if it had a decent text editor.

My point is that as much as I love my PC, as nostalgic as I’ll wax about StarCraft II marathons and isometric views in games like Dragon Age: Origins and LAN parties and simulators like Wing Commander, there’s no reason not to celebrate the growth of the technologies we as gamers use to enjoy our hobby. The tech emerging on a steady basis is lightyears ahead of what many of us grew up using. From number crunching to heat management, the computing devices we use today are so superior to those old devices it staggers the imagination. If I went back even ten years and told myself that within a decade people would be using tablets in lieu of laptops and there would be laptops that turn into tablets on the horizon, I’d congradulate myself on being such an imaginative science-fiction writer. In my humble opinion, technology changing and evolving is a good thing, and there are a lot more benefits than drawbacks when it comes to embracing that change.

The thing is, as Captain Kirk pointed out once, “people can be very frightened of change.”

“They made the game easier to play and dumbed down the mechanics! TO ARMS!”
“This has nothing to do with the previous parts of the narrative because it’s using new characters we don’t know! A PLAGUE ON EVERYONE’S HOUSES!”
“WHAT? Visual changes that make things unfamiliar/derivative/different from before? KILL IT WITH FIRE!”
“PCs are no longer inherently superior to consoles? LIES AND SLANDER, I SAY!”

Start a bandwagon and you’ll be sure to find people happy to jump aboard it without forming opinions of their own.

In fact the lemonade (haterade?) being served on TGO’s bandwagon is rather refreshing, now that you mention it.

Technology Rots

Not what it once was.

Technology may seem like a purely static thing, unchanging as years go by. Something that’s painstakingly perfected and replicated through manufacture should persist in its level of performance and precision, right? Unlike houses and cars, which are some of the highest maintenance bits of property anyone can own, computers are completely self-contained electronic instruments. Websites don’t even have physical components other than the servers on which they exist, going back to the aforementioned computers. However, there are factors in play for both computers and websites that make them just as succeptible to the need for maintenance as your car or your home.

Computers do have moving parts: hard drive motors, fans, etc. But even if these ran flawlessly for years, their parts would ‘rot’ in a sense. As technology advances, software grows in terms of the ways it uses processors and renders graphics. From games to productivity suites, software is constantly finding ways to do more tasks more efficiently in a shorter amount of time. Just shaving a few seconds from a process can place diabolical demands on a processor from two years ago. Like replacing a struggling furnace in your house, upgrading your computer’s internal systems can have your system doing what it does faster and more efficiently for years.

Websites, similarly, suffer from what is colloquially called ‘code rot.’ As the average speed of our Internet connections increases, processors grow more efficient and browsers get better at displaying colors and graphics, older sites begin to look dated, shoddy or even incomplete. Better coding techniques and updated programming scripts can leave older, less efficient methods behind causing old animations and banners to either display incorrectly or not at all. And the chances of developers or programmers being either familiar with these old methods or willing to deal with their antiquated and inefficient ways and means are slim. It’s more often a better investment to look into a redesign, preserving the essence and content of your site while incorporating the latest design methodologies and programming techniques, as well as integrating SEO options and flexibility, something old sites very rarely accounted for.

Sure, some folks will keep a Commodore 64 or an original NES in the corner for the sake of nostalgia. And others will find ways to squeeze more life out of computers that maybe should have been recycled years ago, keeping their old workhorses shod. But more often than not, a time comes when one needs to take a hard look at the extant systems at home or the office, compare them to what’s available, and make the decision to invest in an upgrade.

I mean, you could also spend that tax refund on a coffee machine that tweets your favorite blend, but the novelty of that’s likely to wear off pretty darn quickly.

Recovery All Around

Ubuntu, Courtesy feeblemind.org

I’m still a little sore and feeling somewhat post-op after yesterday’s wisdom tooth extraction, but two side effects have emerged. One is the occasional nosebleed, but I haven’t had one since yesterday (or last night, I think) and the other is these fucking hiccups.

Seriously, hiccups annoy me. It makes it difficult for me to maintain the line of a conversation and sometimes even a train of thought because of these irregular and somewhat random spasms down in my diaphragm. I’ve tried holding my breath and drinking water, as well as this cure and so far have only had mixed results. On to a spoonful of sugar, I guess.

Anyway, my computers seem to be faring better. A little Systems Restore magic on the main desktop got him working again, and I’m currently working around the various little bugs that emerged from upgrading the Ubuntu version on my laptop.

I love Ubuntu, by the way. It’s a great introduction to Linux. The OS is flexible, the community’s friendly & responsive, stuff looks pretty damn good on it and if I can get Wine working again, I might even be able to run games on it. Like, modern ones. I doubt it has the graphical oomph for, say, Aion, but it might be worth a try.

With these problems fixed and updates underway, I figured I could finally get around to recording this week’s ICFN, even if it means using the sub-standard microphone on the webcam. But guess what happened as soon as I settled in to do that.

The fucking hiccups came back.

So, tomorrow, maybe. For now I’m going to stop stressing and do something relaxing, like write, or shoot Collectors in the face with a shotgun. Maybe download Perfect Dark on the XBLA. I hear it’s “a stupid good time.”

There Are Not Enough Expletives.



Instead of recording the IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! slated for today at the office, I brought my USB headset home and tried plugging it into the desktop system here at home.

Windows didn’t like it. I run XP on my desktop since there’s no way on God’s greenish-brown Earth I can afford a legit copy of Vista or 7, and it stubbornly refused to acknowledge the proper drivers to use the headset. I could have used the webcam microphone, but that thing tends to make my voice sound like wet expulsions of ass. So I tried just about everything I could think of to get it working and nothing took.

Over to my laptop, then, I figured. It’s something of a clunker, the display occasionally fizzles and its XP installation is at least partially on a bad sector of hard disk, but Ubuntu runs like a champ 9 times out of 10 and I figured it wouldn’t let me down. However, after playing with a few audio packages it seems that while it’ll record sound from the headset, the resulting sound is a stuttering mess.

At this point I was pretty pissed but I resolved to get the audio recorded anyway despite it being almost 10:30 at night. I might still be something of a slacker, but I’m a professional, dammit, and I promised a generous donor I’d get their ICFN up by tomorrow. So I sat down at the desktop to fire up the webcam microphone and tried opening a browser to see my draft of the post.

The Internet didn’t work.

Apparently the last time I removed the USB headset, the associated drivers took the ethernet connector’s drivers with it. Muttering curses to just about every deity I could think of, I rummaged through my disks to find the one for my motherboard. Wham, into the PC it went. Bam, it found the drivers and began to install.


Blue screen of death.

I rebooted.

BSoD again.

Cue the Blue Ink Alchemist screaming obscenities.

So, for now, the desktop PC is bricked. The laptop has no reliable way to record audio. And by the time you fine and patient people read this, I’ll have gotten my face cut open and some hard little bony bits torn out.

Happy Friday.

Or, if you prefer…


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