First, an exchange between me and Athena. It helps to know that she just learned how to count to three in Spanish. Got that? Okay, then:
Me: Hey, Athena. Say ‘three’ in Spanish.
Athena: Three in Spanish.
Just in case any of you were wondering if she was really my kid.
I suspect that in a former life I must have been both against technology and a bad person — say, a drunken abusive Amish — because that’s the only reason I can explain why I have such bad luck with technology. This last week had me throwing money away in big fat handfuls as a consequence of my technological bad karma. Yes, I’m bitter. Stupid karmic wheel.
Let’s start with the utterly unsurprising demise of my computer. As many of you may remember, late last year I decided to upgrade my then-current computer rather than replace it entirely, on the idea that a new processor and video card would do me just fine — and that turned into a week-long process roughly as pleasurable as having nails slammed into one’s eyes with a ball-peen hammer. Well, it turns out all that pain and expense was for naught, because in the wee hours of Saturday morning the motherboard (i.e., the primary piece of equipment I decided not to upgrade) decided to fry itself in its own juices.
So just get a new motherboard, right? Well, Mr or Ms oh-so-logical, there are a couple of problems here. First, I live miles from anywhere, so I can’t just toddle down to the motherboard store and get me one of those bad girls. Second, even if I did, the odds of me successfully installing one on my own are roughly equivalent to the odds of me winning the Kentucky Derby riding an alpaca. Third, Because I live in the middle of nowhere, I’m at the mercy of a) computer repairmen who think they should be able to take Saturdays off, and b) computer repairmen who do work on Saturdays but then decide to blow off their appointment with you, leaving you to wonder at 10pm in the evening whether or not they’ve been consumed by coyotes, and at 11pm indeed hoping that was the case. And of course no one works on Sunday, because of the only confluence of God and Football (never, EVER have a computer implode on Super Bowl weekend. That is all).
Finally, I have a clock ticking: I had already over-extended a deadline for an article I was writing on, and I absolutely positively no excuses have to get it in first thing Monday morning, and the revision and all the notes I have for are on my computer’s hard drive (this is where people smugly say — well, you should have backed up. But it wasn’t the hard drive that crashed. It was the computer. Even if it were backed up, I still couldn’t access the information. So bite me). I did take the hard drive in question and attempt to install it on my daughter’s computer, but in one of those quirks that undoubtedly has Bill Gates laughing manically as he snorkels through his riches, the way Windows XP formats hard drives is different than the way Windows 98 formats drives. Don’t worry, I’ve already reserved a nice spot in the sixth circle of Hell for Gates and his idiot information architecture group. No, no, don’t thank me. They earned it.
Long story short (or shorter, at least): I have a new computer, which, in the only bit of good news in this whole story, is both pretty sweet and relatively inexpensive. It’s a vpr Matrix FT5110-PE, “vpr Matrix” apparently being the house brand for Best Buy (which I drove an hour and change to get to — in blowing snow! Uphill! Both ways!). Despite being a store brand, the Matrix line is fairly well-regarded and also sports a design from the Porsche design studio. I don’t actually care about that last bit, personally, but on the other hand, it’s nice to see Best Buy make the effort. I’m rather more taken with the specs: the short form is a 2.8 Pentium 4, 512MB RAM, 100GB hard drive (to which I added the aforementioned hard drive, which is 80GB), DVD-ROM and DVD-R/RW drives, 64MB GeForce4 MX420 (which I’ll actually be swapping out, since the graphics card in my other computer is better), and so on and so forth. In all, a nice upgrade from where I was. I would have preferred not to have to have it, mind you, but now that I do have it, it’s not so bad. And I also got a slightly better deal because I took the store’s floor model. It has a small scratch on it, and that’s 10% off. I can live with that.
One amusing point of the buying process is that, this being Best Buy, the sales dude tried to sell me the extended warranty, pointing out that most manufacturers won’t warranty floor models. I pointed out to him that Best Buy’s policy was to honor the manufacturer’s warranty on any floor model they have. And anyway, Best Buy is the manufacturer. Honestly, now. Buying extended warranties on computers is folly in any event, since there’s little point in having a three-year service deal on an object that’s going to outdated and upgraded in a year. Although I suppose given my luck with computers it couldn’t have hurt.
In case you’re wondering: Yes, I got that article done. It’ll pay for the computer, thank God.
Okay, I’m going to try swapping the video card now. Pray for me.