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« An Evening with CAKE | Main | When Things Break »

Getting My Fix

Last week, I wrote about when things break, in which I revealed to the world some of my hang-ups about the inevitable destruction of everything we love in this world househould items.  Today, thankfully, I am feeling much more upbeat as a result of some successful fixes, namely, the resurrection of two computers.

I mentioned in the comments to my last post that I distinguish between objects like glass lamps that can be shattered irrevocably in an instant and items like cars and computers, which tend to die slow deaths.  One main reason for this distinction is the ability to repair these hunks of metal and electricity.  Thanks to some internet searches, troubleshooting forums, and a DIY attitude, I am typing this entry on a 2004 Dell desktop that now boasts a brand new hard drive. 

Now, I'm not a computer whiz, but it's funny how much I've learned about computers while trying to keep this antique running.  I've learned about AGP vs PCI slots, the limits of Video Cards and the importance of drivers, the difference between IDE hard drives and SATA, and how to pair matching memory cards when upgrading RAM.  So even if I won't be hacking into the Pentagon any time soon, I am a lot closer to being able to build a computer from scratch if I choose to in the future. 

I'm sure some of you would ask, "Why don't you just buy a new computer?" or "That's why I have a Mac," and while exploring those options would be nice, I just don't have the funds for that kind of expense right now.  Plus, the point of my efforts is not only to save money, but to use my head, hands, and search engine skills to fix a solvable problem.  The satisfaction of a clean Windows install and 500 GB of fresh hard drive space surpasses the knowledge that I've kept this machine running for six years by spending only about $250, minus labor.  

My Mr. Fix-It success was not only limited to hardware upgrades on this machine, however.  While waiting for my replacement hard drive for the Dell, I started messing around with a 2005 HP laptop my dad picked up at work.  The original owner had taken the hard drive, so there was no operating system on the machine.  Once I popped in a compatible hard drive and purchased a power cable, I was able to start messing around with Linux. 

I had zero experience with Linux, which is essentially a group of operating systems available for free use.  The Linux experience and community are rooted in a commitment to open source software, i.e. free.  This sounded good to me, as opposed to paying over $100 for a Windows license.  

Again, thanks to the wonders of internet tech forums, I determined that I would be able to install Ubuntu, the latest Linux distribution, on this old machine, but that there would be limits due to memory and graphics specs.  I learned all about how Linux arranges files, that it does not have traditional "drives" like Windows, and that the system encourages command-line customization.  I was quite impressed with the clear language and sensible approach of this software.  I thought I had everything right, but I was still getting a hanging black screen during bootup.  After a little more digging, I found that I needed to input a specific command to force Ubuntu to push past the limits of the old graphics card.  So then I find myself hacking into the kernel, modifying the "grub" file, and crossing my fingers.  Seconds later, bam!, I'm running Ubuntu on an ancient laptop.  I now have a working laptop that will be just fine for blogging from the coffee shop or surfing in front of the tv, at a total cost of around $150. 

Again, the satisfaction goes beyond the cost saved.  That feeling of achievement that comes from tackling an unfamiliar problem, gaining new knowledge, and making useful what was once useless is equally as powerful as the negative emotions that come from things breaking.  So while it was great to learn new things about the interaction between hardware and software, and to now have two computers that are fully functional, the real success here was the triumph of will and intellect. 

For me, these everyday experiences allow an examination of how we approach challenges in our lives.  The results, I think, speak to the resilience of human nature, that even though we are susceptible to anger and shame when things are beyond our control, we are also capable of hard work and ingenuity to take back that control.  And as long as those lessons go hand-in-hand, the universe hasn't won yet.

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  • Response
    Response: Apple Nairobi -
    Everyone can use the computer, but when it has to face some problem, then they go to some tecnecnicion.So this type of posts are helpful, because people can learn many useful things from such posts.

Reader Comments (2)

Thoughtful article. Congrats on the fix. I hope to one day do the same on my old desktop tower.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBigBalls McGee

Kill the Gibson!

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate Libby

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