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June 19, 2005: Shiny and new

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When Richard's laptop was stolen, and he got a brand new one to replace it (thanks to the wonderful thing that is insurance), we pondered swapping out my old one for something a wee bit shinier as well. But mine seemed like it was still holding up fairly well, and since I really have no need for anything more advance than what I had - a Sony Vaio we purchased about 3 years ago (back when we were both working for Benthic Creatures), it didn't seem worth spending the money.

Then the warranty renewal came up for my laptop. and we discussed the fact that it is 3 years old and has had to be sent in for the same repair several times now - and Richard's (prior to being stolen, that is) had to go in even more often for the same thing. After a period of time the cooling fan seems to break, and the laptop begins to shut down intermittently, and without any warning whatsoever. And naturally, once we made the decision to let the warranty expire instead of renewing it one more time, the fan in my laptop started acting up almost immediately. I've been trying to avoid problems by putting it into hibernate whenever possible, figuring I'd try to hold out maybe til the end of the year before thinking about finding a replacement. It's not so crucial for Richard, since he's got his desktop computer to use, but for me, my little laptop is the only computer I've got. So after it shut down on me in the middle of working on something far too many times to count this week, I finally gave up.

This afternoon we headed off to Fry's, and bought me a pretty new laptop. It was actually a pretty painless procedure, and I think I found exactly what I was looking for. I don't play graphic-intense games, I don't really listen to much music or watch DVD's on my laptop, and I have no need for massive amounts of storage. All I really wanted was a 17 inch screen, enough speed to make things run smoothly, and the ability to burn the occasional CD, without having to pay for any extra features I would never use. When we told the sales guy, he didn't even blink an eye. He just led us to the end of the aisle, and pointed to the Fujitsu Lifebook. Heck, this thing will even read the memory stick from my Clie. Yay!

In Fry's, when you go to pay for things, you have to snake your way through several aisles of shelves of impulse buys. It always amuses me to see what they've got for sale on these shelves, since interspersed between the assorted candies and snacks are usually a fairly large selection of personal hygiene products (just what everyone would go to a computer and electronic mega store to buy), and of course the few random toys and accessories to make any nerds think twice about passing by empty handed.

We've succumbed to the Fry's impulse buy aisle twice now. The first time was a year or two ago when we could not pass up on teeny portable USB drives that had such a great rebate they only ended up $10 each. This time, Richard spied extra long outlet strips, and after a little bit of discussion, we were sold

See, one of the problems with our computer room is that when we were building the house, this was not actually supposed to *be* the office. The room that is now the library was originally supposed to be the office, so that room has tons of extra electrical outlets. The room that is now the office, however, was just going to be the guest bedroom, so it's got only the normal number of outlets, all of them situated in the most inconvenient spots possible. When the contractors built in our main computer desk (which sits in the center of the room with file drawers on either side, so that each of us has a workstation in the center, as well as one directly behind each of us against the side walls, they left space to access the main electrical outlets, but getting to them requires crawling underneath the desks and going through interesting contortions to reach through a narrow opening between the desks to reach the outlet. The sheer volume of electronic gadgets we've had set up on the main desk has resulted over the years in a veritable web-like tangle of cords and surge protectors, all cleverly woven through ancient plastic milk crates to try to protect them from the prying teeth of a certain orange kitty cat. We've talked about having someone come in and rewire the room, or at least lay down a strip of outlets across the top of the desk. Turns out all we needed was a four-foot long strip with a dozen available outlets to make it all work out.

It took a bit of doing, including climbing around underneath the desks to untangle the mess. Turns out we had a small pile of adaptors and cords that were plugged into various surge protectors, but apparently nothing else - the consequence of four and a half years of gradual upgrades and equipment replacement.

And since we were going to be rearranging and reorganizing the mess of electronic gadgets anyway, we swung by a hardware store on the way home and picked up a set of nesting wire mesh shelves. While most of the mess of cords had been living in milk crates underneath the desk, another tangled pile had its own stack of milk crates on top of the desk, housing all the little pieces of equipment that allow us to have our happy little wireless network in our house. These new shelves give each of the little routers and hubs lots more space, and hopefully a slightly more dust free environment to hang out. This can only be a good thing when it comes to electronics, I'm sure of it.

I'm slowly transferring everything over from the old laptop to the new one, and marveling at how crisp and clear everything is on this new machine. We're not giving up on the old one completely, by the way - once I get everything I need off it, we're going to give it a brain wipe, and then - since voiding the warranty is not so much a concern anymore, we're going to try to crack it open and give it a good cleaning and see if that might fix the fan problem. If it works, Richard gets yet another Linux box (because in the world of open source geekery one can never have too many Linux boxes); if it doesn't, well, I know where there's a place where we can recycle our old electronics, and my old, dead laptop will just have to join the pile of obsolete equipment thatís been waiting in our garage for longer than I care to think about, for that some day in the distant future when we finally get around to getting rid of it.

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