My new home computer

A few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer stall. I had put it off for years, and it wasn’t really helping me. In fact, my apathy about the entire situation was appalling. To move ahead in such a fashion was foolish, to say the least, and would almost certainly hamper my future.

It was time to buy another computer.

For the last six-odd years, I’ve been working on an inferior Gateway P133 laptop. It’s old, heavy, the screen is slowly going, and the CD-ROM drive has been nothing but a nuisance for a very long time. And well, it’s old, slow, and not really suitable for the things I want to do with a computer. (That includes Internet access, running web servers, using more recent operating systems, and yes, playing video games.)

I looked at Apple, long and hard. I’ve spent most of my computing life (about 99% of it) on PCs of one form or another. The PC arms race is beyond irritating, and the idea of constantly supporting them really didn’t sit well with me. Macs are much simpler, I can still do most of my job on them, and that new iMac was worth drooling over (especially the one with the wide screen).

But after much information gathering, not to mention a fair bit of soul searching, I had to come to the conclusion that I would have to purchase a PC. Not my most favourite of conclusions. But at least it was a direction. Now for a vendor.

My initial thought was Dell. I’d had a bad experience with Gateway 2000 some time ago, so I wasn’t really too keen on mail-order computers (or Internet-order, for that matter). But Dell has an impressive track record, and I have yet to hear a really disparaging comment about their systems. Besides, the laptop I used when I was with the CBC (software notwithstanding) was so impressive, that their desktop computers can’t all be bad.

I searched, I priced, and I bought: Pentium 4 2.4GHz system with 512 MB RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, a 48x CD-ROM drive, a 4x DVD-R/CD-RW drive, IEEE 1394 ports, Turtle Beach sound card, an nVidia GeForce4 MX video card, a 17″ LCD flat panel display, and some really nice speakers. No, it wasn’t cheap (the monitor really jacked up the price), but it was worth it.

Almost.

I had no Internet. When you live and breathe hypertext transfer protocol, you really do need a constant connection. And I ain’t talkin’ about the measly 56k modem installed in the computer. I mean ASDL or Cable access. 24/7. All the information I could ever want, whenever I wanted it. Problem: Tamara already had it.

Well, okay, that’s not really a problem. But it meant that we needed another port. Shaw charges $10 a month for an extra port. That seems just a little silly to me, since it’s no skin off their backs. Especially when for $130, I can purchase a little router that will allow up to four computers from our house to surf the ‘net or communicate with each other. But first, to find a router.

That took a little longer, but surprisingly enough, not too long. My first stop was at Memory Express — *the* place to find computer parts in Calgary. Sold out. For a week. Who’da thunk there’d be a run on routers at this time of the year? But the Memory Express staff is extremely helpful — they suggested I try Compusmart down the road.

Compusmart is one of those stores I try to avoid: flashy, high-flallutin’ (at least so far as computer stores go), and the salespeople tend to be a little pushy. But they had the router I wanted. Then I tried a little tactic — did they do price matching? Luckily for me, they did. I pointed the salesman to Memory Express’ website. Same router, and now the same price.

Back at home, I pulled the router out of its box and did something I don’t normally do: read the instructions. This was because I was about to seriously screw around with Tamara’s computer, and she wasn’t there for me to ask for permission. Whatever I was about to do, I wanted to make sure that I could restore my changes and not affect her one bit.

I read the sheet carefully (it fold out to the approximate size of a city map), then went into Tamara’s room and plugged the router into the electrical socket, plugged the Internet feed from the modem into the router, Tamara’s computer into the router, and my computer into the router.

It took more time for me to read the instructions than it did for me to start surfing the web. A few years ago, this would have been like pulling teeth. I honestly can’t believe it was this easy! Suddenly, Macs aren’t quite so appealing.

So I’m finally going to be mildly productive at home. Basically, I can do my own work on my own terms, instead of having to go to to office to use a computer.

Now I can just figure out how to telecommute…

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