“The need for speed”: further adventures in the high-speed lane.

A while back, I wrote about the trials and tribulations surrounding my move from a dial-up Internet connection to a high-speed cable connection. It all came out right in the end, but as with many things, there were consequences that I did not foresee of this change.

For one thing, I suddenly found out that my computer had a virus, several actually. How some of them got on my machine I do not know, but after seeking advice online (and getting some sterling help from the denizens of the MySpace computer forum), I think I’ve managed to get rid of those nasty little bits of unwanted software (he knocks on wood very hard!).

One thing that I had turned off early on was automatic updates, a feature Microsoft built into it’s Windows platform so that it would regularly “phone home” to see what screw-ups the folks at Redmond had managed to find and fix. It’s a decent feature, but it almost demands a high-speed connection to the Internet. Well, once I had gotten up to speed, I thought it might be a good idea to turn the feature back on and see what happened. It wasn’t nearly as messy as I’d feared, but there were a ton of updates, upgrades and just general fixes my machine found it needed/wanted. What the hell, I figured, let ET talk to the folks and let them know what it’s like out here in the hinterlands.

Sometimes I just ain’t too bright, and this was one of those times.

Anyone who’s dealt with Windows knows one fact that I overlooked in this move: when Microsoft says “upgrade” or “update”, you can just bet your last cent that what they’re delivering is software that’s a lot bigger, fatter, and generally bulkier than what you already had. Boy, was that true in this case! My machine had been a decent computer, no speed demon true, but a solid, stolid platform that got things done.

Not after the updates!

Suddenly I had a machine that would take ten or more minutes to boot up. Worse, once you got into a task, especially one that involved accessing Web pages, my stable workhorse suddenly began to freeze up and do all manner of truly odd things. At first I thought I had been reinfected, that somehow during the downloading and updating process, my machine had received some new virus. It was only after multiple scans with several software packages that I admitted my error: I didn’t have a virus, I had fat software, software that wanted more memory than I had, lots more memory than my machine possessed. Being an unemployed student, cash isn’t something that I have dripping off of me. So, after finding the specifications for the type of memory my machine used, it was time to go shopping online. I found tons of place selling memory, and the prices weren’t too outrageous, but all of them wanted you to pay via credit card, a method I don’t care to use because of the interest charges. Time to ask around and see what I could find in the area before making up my mind what to do. Like everywhere I think, there are a couple of Best Buys nearby, so they got my first call. Yes, they had memory I could use….. memory that was far faster than I needed…..and that cost nearly twice what the online vendors were asking There were a couple of other chain-type stores in the area and I figured I’d call them too in order to try to get an idea of how extreme the Best Buy was trying to gouge me, but first I figured I’d give one of the local PC repair shops a call to see what they had.

Well, first problem: I didn’t have a business card from them, even though I’d been there several times window shopping. Better still, when I looked in the phone book, they weren’t listed. Fine, the weather was cool and I could use the exercise, so I decided to stroll up and talk to them face to face. No, they didn’t have precisely what I wanted, but they could give me the same amount of memory (1G) if I would be willing to use two memory modules. They made no bones about it, this was used memory that had come out of a machine as part of an upgrade, but then again the price was lower than even the online supplier was quoting. I was a little leery when I saw that the modules were from different manufactures (usually A Bad Thing in this case), but the owner offered to let me try them and, if they didn’t work, bring them back and he’d hand me my check back. With that, I figured I had about the best deal I was going to get and a check was duly cut, followed by memory being handed over.

I should say at this point that, because my machine had been so dependable, I hadn’t had it out since I’d bought it, and had never been inside it once. You would not believe the amount of just-plain-old crud that can collect inside the case of a computer! I found this out when I managed to figure out the latching system that held the main access panel in place. I ended up using a collection of Q-tips, damp paper towels and my fingers to collect as much of the dust and other junk I found inside that case as I could. The memory installation itself was almost an anticlimax, at least after I figured out which way the modules had to be oriented. Then it was back onto the desk, still open on the side, to find out how my used memory would work.

Fine, it turns out, as I’m now working with it. And, yes, my machine is working much faster too! I even decided to do something I’d contemplated for some time and installed a copy of the Linux operating system in a separate partition on my hard drive. It’s very different in some ways, but it offers a Windows-like interface makes getting some of the basics done as easy as when I’m working under XP. I figure it should come in handy in the Unix class I’m taking this semester, but for now I’m just glad to have my old workhorse back in the traces again.

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