Tuesday, June 01, 2004

PC blues

Breaking things is a learning process. For me, it's the only way I learn about anything technical. This is because I don't care how things work, so long as they work. It's only when they stop working that I take an interest. It's a foolish way to approach the world, and if I had time to think about it, I would berate myself fiercely for my shortsightedness.
My stuff arrived from the UK. I dug out my PC -- my single most valuable piece of equipment, the tool of my work, the source of at least half of my fun (three-quarters now that I have sex less often than the Pope) -- and fired it up. Literally. Somehow in transit the heatsink and fan had come loose. First I knew about it was the smell of burning.
I'm no PC expert but I know nothing is supposed to burn. I looked inside the case and saw that the fan was off. I picked the chip out of its slot and could see it was ruined. A new chip didn't fix the problem (in fact, I'm sorry to say I burned it out too -- I didn't know how the heatsink was supposed to be fixed). So the mobo was buggered. I called a guy.
Actually, I called several guys. I wanted someone to put in a new mobo and make sure it worked. The first guy said he wanted 450 dollars. I worked it out -- 170, 180 for the chip and mobo, 270, 280 for the labour -- and said maybe I'd call him back. The next guy said he might need to back up the hard drive, blah de blah. No, I said, the hard drive is fine. It's the mobo is fucked. He wouldn't have any of it. It could be the power supply, he said. There's power, I said. The fan goes round. The lights come on. I'm the expert, he said, 20 years in the trade. I began to have an inkling.
The next guy thought it might be the RAM. There was burning, I said. I really think the mobo burnt out. No, he said, I reckon you'll need new RAM. In my 25 years in the business, it's been RAM more often than not. My inkling grew.
I bought a new mobo and fitted it myself. It's not rocket science -- you just follow the manual. You keep yourself earthed by touching the case and you take care not to bend it.
But it still didn't work. I had the idea it might be my display card. The manual had cautioned about using ones that didn't work. The guy in the shop had said it would be okay.
So I get another guy. I think it's the display card, I said. I think it's the hard drive, he says. I say that the manual says it will boot without a hard drive, so how can it be?
This guy pokes around at the mobo. He checks the hard drive. It's fine. My inkling is growing. He claims the IDE channel is fucked, because the pins are a bit bent. He's been giving the slot a bit of hammer, so I reckon he might have bent it himself.
Did you bring a display card? I ask him.
No, he says. My testbed has onboard video.
He looks at the manual. It says here, he says, that you need this and that kind of card. That could be the problem. Take it to the shop and get the guy to test it.
I just paid you 50 bucks to test it, I'm thinking, but I don't say anything. I show the guy the door. My inkling has blossomed into a realisation. If I want a guy to fix my PC, I'm getting a teenager. These guys with 20 years' experience don't have the least fucking clue how a PC works, let alone how to fix it. They got into computers when it was straightforward, when each was a straight clone of an IBM, before the enormous diversification that has made computers almost entirely incompatible not just with each other but with nearly everything you try to put into them. Each runs through a checklist of the obvious, which I can work out for myself. I've been looking for an expert but found no one with any more expertise than I have myself.


Post a Comment

<< Home