Picture: Ryoga holding a bottle of Vodka, taken in the Summer of 2001.

One of the most frustrating aspects of car ownership is knowing when it’s time to turn it in and get a new one. Many of us form at least some sort of bond with our automobile, but even if we don’t most of us don’t replace a car the first time there is a serious problem. If the cost to fix a car is more than the cost of a new one the choice is simple. But if a new car is eight thousand and the repair bill is five, is it worth it? There are so many factors that it’s difficult to say much of the time.

Even if you fix the car something else may well come down in a few months and you’ve paid more to have the car fixed than it would have cost to replace it. But if nothing is going to go wrong then it feels wasteful to replace it willy-nilly like that.

My car is fine (knock on wood) but I’ve been running into that question with one of my computers with some urgency for weeks and I’ve been battling the question with the little guy for years. In early 2002 over the span of a couple months I bought two computers, Mousse and Ryoga, of almost identical quality with the latter being just a touch faster. But my experiences with the computers have been anything but identical. Mousse has worked nearly flawlessly. The only time I’ve had real trouble with it is when I’m having to mess with it doing some part diagnostic testing for some other computer, usually it’s twin. Ryoga has gone through three cases/power supplies and has eaten up four sticks of RAM over the past five years or so (most of the RAM was pretty old, though) and I’ve probably had to spend three or four hundred hours simply trying to figure out what the problem is with it this time and trying to get it fixed.

-{If you don’t know or care about technical things, you should probably skip over the next four paragraphs and resume reading where noted}-

The problem has been ramped up over the past couple of months when I took Ryoga off of fileserver duty and put it onto general desktop use. The first problem I had was that it would not recognize the 300GB HD that I was putting into it even though that same drive was moved over from the fileserver. It took a few days of after-work care trying to figure out how to get it to recognize the drive. I ultimately installed some jacked up version of Windows and got it working. A week later it started shutting down randomly. After a few days of investigation I determined the problem to be a power supply (even though the power supply it had should have had ample wattage). I replaced the power supply and it started working again.

A week after that the apartment was consumed with the smell of burnt plastic. I isolated the smell to the computer, which had frozen. Actually it hadn’t “frozen” so much as overheated. I don’t know how hot it got but after I let it cool down for five minutes and booted it up it was registering at 118 degrees Celsius. The video card died in the process and the computer was down for over a week for fear of starting a fire. I downloaded the Motherboard Monitor so that I could keep an eye on the temperature and finally got enough faith to get it going again and for most of last week it was overing between 80 and 105 degrees, well above where you want it to be but safe enough to sleep at night.

Then a couple days ago the temperature was registering at 124 degrees. It was still functional I shut it down for a while to let it cool off. When I rebooted one of the hard drives failed. I booted it using Knoppix and the 300GB data drive was in-tact, which it was, and Knoppix did some automatic diagnostic on the harddrive that fixed the hard drive and it was able to boot back into Windows. Unfortunately the case fan seems to be sputtering. The CPU temperature is reading between 100-110 degrees more than I would like, but for the most part it’s settling in the 80-100 range.

I can’t imagine the computer has that much life in it, but it’s been hobbling along in one form or another since it was less than a year old. Nevermind the inconvenience, if it eats anymore hardware then the “repair” bill will far exceed what it would cost me now to replace it. Of course if I replace it after it does eat more hardware, I’ll have to replace not only the computer but the hardware that it kills, too. Additionally if I want to replace it cheaply now would be a better time than a couple years from now. I can probably track down motherboard-processor that has the right slots (AGP and DDR) for my current hardware. A year from now would probably require the purchase of an additional video card and RAM. And I just bought the video card to replace the one it just killed!

-{If computers ain’t your thing, continue reading here}-

The logical part of my brain says that it’s time to bury Ryoga and buy a new processor. A new mobo/processor would cost about $150 and replacing so much as a dead harddrive could cost as much as $140 (nevermind the inconvenience of lost data). But I am extremely reluctant to do it for a couple of reasons.

Primarily I hate to waste. I don’t like the idea of throwing away a computer that works without incident 95% of the time. I was so excited when I last rearranged my computer setup because for the first time in a long time I had use for every computer I have. Nothing was going to waste! It was a wonderful feeling that lasted a week until Ryoga began acting up. I just don’t want to throw away something that works just like I don’t want to retire a car that can still be driven.

But also I’ve formed a bond with it. It’s been with me a very long time and letting it go would mostly close a big chapter in my computing experience. I still have Mousse, but that’s Clancy’s computer so I don’t get to use it very much. Just a few weeks ago I had Ryoga, born in 2001, running a video card born in 1999 and a sound card born in 2000. I took pride in Ryoga’s spry ability to just continue to chug along with my newer and more glamorous machines. If Ryoga were to just die I’d understand it and move on. But instead he continues to just barely chug along, demanding that I euthanize him.

Category: Server Room

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One Response to A Boy And His Computer

  1. Webmaster says:


    “It’s time.” New mobo/processor time, that is. You have likely done some damage to the processor with the heat spikes; the “smell of burnt plastic” is a telltale sign. You can try to run on it, but it’s not trustworthy, and your processor fan is 100% certainly not trustworthy any more.

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