Yesterday was snow day in Boston. We got 20 inches or so in Arlington, and I spent a good part of the day driving the snowblower around. God, I love that machine! How did we ever dig out those plowed-in driveway aprons before? I forgot to take pictures, but you know what snow looks like, right? It was fun.
Here’s something less fun, though by the end I could only laugh. I spent much of the last week getting a working computer for my office. My old computer, Orion, died right before the holidays, and I replaced it with a cheap model on sale at Microcenter. It didn’t take long to realize the replacement was seriously underpowered, so after the holidays I boxed it up and went back to the store. Thus began my saga. Here’s how it went:
- Before trip — new computer (1) comes home. It works, but is slow and wimpy.
- January 6 — I upgrade to new computer (2)—a nice, powerful HP tower—a refurb, but so what? I take it home, add in the extra peripheral cards (did you know computers don’t come with parallel printer ports anymore, or firewire ports—both of which I need?), and fire it up. Gaaah! No video output! Dead as a freaking doornail.
- January 6 (later) — Back to the store. The salesman, Yonas, looks worried when he sees me. But he’s a trooper. He fixes me up with another: new computer (3) — same model. I mean, it had to be a fluke. It was a refurb, but so what? I take it home, set it up. It works! I spend the weekend installing software, getting things the way I like. Then… doom!…it suddenly starts shutting down with the ominous red message: CPU fan failure. Nooo!
- January 9 — Yonas sees me and winces. We huddle. Agree on a plan. In order that all my work doesn’t go to waste, they’ll replace the fan with a better fan, and upgrade the warranty for my trouble. The tech, Mark, gets right on it. All seems well with new computer (3.5). At home, I flick it on. It flashes a cheerful greeting: CPU fan failure.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS. It can’t be the fan; it must be something else in the machine.
- January 10 — They’re starting to cross themselves when they see me come into the store. I’m glancing over my shoulder, myself, wondering about boggarts or poltergeists. We huddle. Forget my work setting up a new machine, forget refurb. They’ll swap me up to a better unit, new. The tech will move my peripheral cards over—and since they’ve gone to the trouble of giving me an upgraded fan, he’ll put that in, too. We test it; all is well. I go home with new computer (4) — I set it up, turn it on. Yay! It boots up. I decide to boot it up a few times to test. The machine helpfully speeds up the process by telling me: CPU fan failure. Noooooooo!
- January 11 — Mark the tech sees me first and turns pale. We take it back to the workbench, and the machine helpfully reproduces the problem. It has to be the fan, sez Mark. Forget the odds of two fans being bad, it has to be the fan. We’ll put in a better fan. We walk into the store and Mark picks out a fan that looks like it came from a Saturn 5 rocket, a tower full of pipes and fins. Oops—this one requires taking the motherboard out. Oh well, the sooner we start… I go read while Mark works. For quite a while. I saunter back to see how it’s going. Mark’s lowering the motherboard back into the case, with towering fan attached. I mention that the fan seems to be sticking out of the case by half an inch. Mark stares in disbelief, then sags.
Now what? It has to be the fan, so Mark goes and gets another fan like the first upgrade they gave me. He installs that. He fires up the machine, and… the fan doesn’t go. CPU fan failure. He gives the blades a little flick; they spin up nicely. And that’s when the cold truth sinks in: there’s not enough current to start the “better” fans. “Oh right,” says another tech offhandedly, “those HPs won’t accept aftermarket fans.” Mark gazes at the machine in despair. The original fan from this computer, which was probably fine, is no longer available.
I go back to find Yonas. He’s ready to give me title to the store, if I’ll just go away and be happy. We huddle. Yonas sets me up with another new machine, out of the box, and Mark moves all my stuff into it from the last machine. It works! I go home with new computer (5) — which, knock on wood, is working beautifully. I have almost all my software installed, and it purrs nicely. Back at the shop, they have four machines in pieces, and are wondering where they went wrong.
I like my new computer. I’ve named it Polaris, in honor of the guide star, but even more in honor of the rocket ship piloted by Tom Corbett and his fellow space cadets of the Solar Guard.
Up in the sky, rocketing past,
Higher than high, faster than fast,
Out into space, into the sun
Look at her go when we give her the gun
— from the Space Cadet March (Space Academy)