A little over a year ago, my Avid decided to kill its power supply with fire. As if to show computer solidarity, my primary desktop PC, a Dell Dimension 8400 that’s proven to be the most reliable PC I’ve ever had, gave up the ghost a little over a week ago. After doing a bit of research into similar issues with the same model, cracking open the case and having a look, the problem seems to be that the CPU is fried. Well, not just fried, really – it’s pretty much cajun. Its towering heat sink ceased doing its job at some point, and that machine is toast.
I have another machine handy, luckily, so I’m not completely out of the woods. But it seems to forget occasionally that it’s connected to this wonderful thing called the internet, and needs to be rebooted to remind itself of that fact. The two drives from the Dell have been added to that box, so I haven’t really lost any data. I’ve “borrowed” the living room media center PC so little E can watch cartoons. Where this machine had mostly turned into a file server of sorts (the Dell was what was actually putting the ‘toons on a screen for the little guy), it’s proven to be incredibly unreliable at the fine art of showing video that’s located on a local drive. Any other activity on that machine brings video playback to a dead standstill while the audio marches onward, now out of sync. I’m about to open that machine to see if it’ll accept the RAM from the now-gutted Dell.
But… what next? I’ve got a dead Dell (and I’ve already rifled through its wallets to gets its hard drives, RAM, usable cabling, video and firewire cards) and a dormant Avid that still needs a new boot drive. I’m still waiting for my replacement tablet to arrive, and the remaining machines… well, they don’t just have issues. They have a full set of back issues and a lifetime subscription to all future issues.
A friend of mine on Facebook pointed me toward this insanely cheap deal on a build-it-yourself quad-core PC that comes with, basically, everything you need. Since it doesn’t arrive assembled, it doesn’t have to be packaged with an operating system, which is why a DIY PC with nice specs only sets one back $200 plus shipping. The no-OS thing makes it tempting to turn it into a Linux box.
One thing I discovered in researching the problem with the machine built for me by Dell in ’05, is that Dell’s got a lousy reputation. Most people’s Dell DImension 8400s lasted a couple of years. I lucked out with six years. It was a great machine that served me very well, better than any other computer I’ve ever had. I really hadn’t seriously entertained any notions that more computer power would be required for what I do here anytime soon, despite the fact that technology had marched on quite a bit in six years. Especially once the kiddo was wanting to watch cartoons and I was able to just send one of the dual video outputs to a TV and have it run files instead of having something in the room spin DVDs, it was still more than capable of multitasking – it could happily do 3D rendering while playing video and not compromise either task. But when so many other 8400 owners seemed to run into something that reeks suspiciously of forced obsolescence, and when I had so much trouble dealing with Dell’s in-house finance division, that’s a company I’m not going back to.
Before anyone asks: going Apple is not on the table. I simply don’t have that kind of cash on hand (actually, I don’t have any cash on hand – even the $200 DIY PC kit is something I’ll have to save up for, and I’m hoping that good sales at this year’s OVGE will help me order it before my next birthday instead of before next Christmas. The Dell’s demise makes the prospect of selling stuff at OVGE an interesting paradox: as of right now, the moment any of my DVDs sells out, that title is out of print until further notice, because the Dell was the machine that burned every single copy of every one of them. (I got my mileage out of what seems to have been a fairly robust DVD burner; I’ve removed it from the Dell for installation in another machine.) The Dell being out of commission has pretty far-reaching effects; getting its replacement ordered is a priority, but just not one that’s in the household budget, which is in savagely-cut-back mode so we can sock back enough to finally pay for a new central heat & air unit by May (i.e. when it really startes to get hot in Arkansas). As important as the Dell is, I have to come up with the cash myself.
That’s the computer-related ramble for tonight. If your eyes glazed over in there somewhere, here’s the summary: I’m running out of computer, please send more.