Look, Ma!

by  Christian A. Brown  |  July 16, 2017  |     No Comments

I made a pooter! Wait, that sounds as if I’m celebrating the crapping of my pants. I’m actually celebrating the rage-driven-industriousness that struck me when my iPad crapped (intentional word usage this time) the bed a week or so ago. Emails were lost, deadlines missed–there’s only so much you can do on a phone, even one supposedly as ‘smart’ as what we all have these days. Typing last week’s blog on a six inch screen seemed one part wonder, one part screeching-frustration. After having to resort to a smartphone for the majority of my life and work tasks, I quickly realized that I am utterly useless without a more complex, keyboard-driven device.

I should mention that I’ve gone through two iPad Pros (new model) in two weeks: the first shipped with a well-known “constantly flickering” screen defect. During my first replacement call with Apple, it was suggested that for my convenience, I return the device to a store, so that I could have a replacement faster than the usual ship-and-wait procedure. Sounds good, I thought. Until the replacement device I picked up from my local Apple hive began freezing not so much as a second out of the box. I couldn’t even get past the “welcome” screen without multiple reboots. I called in once more. A return label was sent. I called in a day later to find out why the label had vanished, wondering why I was now redirected to a blank html page. The label was reissued, and my sad little iPad was at last sent to join its forbearer. A few days later, the package had been ‘received’ by Apple, and yet, my return status hadn’t been updated.

Here’s where the legendary two-and-a-half hour service call began. It was so long that I (between waiting): made lunch, played with the cats, took a pee, took out the garbage, did a bit of vacuuming, played a good hour of FF Mobius on my phone. I was transferred/ escalated four times and finally to someone who had a functioning brain. It seems that the second time I called in, regarding my second and freezing iPad, I was given incorrect return information on what to do with my device, which should have been returned to the store, and not sent in via shipping label as suggested by Apple’s CSRs. I ordered the original device online, and they kept reiterating that SKU on receipts, which made matters even more confusing.

My device now rests in Walt Disneyesque stasis at one of Apple’s Receiving Centers. Everyone, myself included, is unsure as to whether or not the return will be accepted by Apple, or if it will be sent back to me to return to a physical retail store. All very confusing, yes? And unnecessarily so, and at a certain point the rage ran dry and I just stopped caring.

I had to keep working, though. I began looking at laptops, which are all quite expensive for the half-rate, miniaturized components inside of them. I spend everything I make on my books, so I can’t afford frivolous gadgets, and after using an iPad for productivity for some time now, I realized that I don’t move around enough to justify a decent portable workstation. I’m either sitting in a desk or in a chair. So, I started looking at PCs, all of which scale very quickly from basic workstation to Pixar rendering beasts. There’s not a lot of middle ground in that market and the price curve is steep. Still, not to be defeated, and having played with a few Pentium upgrades some two decades past, I thought: How hard could it be to make my own?

Not very, it seems! And three days of part-picking and bargain hunting, then one morning of building, and I made this beauty:

My electronic love…

After I screwed in the last fan, checked the cables, and prepared to turn it on, I remember thinking: wow, I just did something that I never believed myself able to do. It didn’t turn on at first, and I lamented. Then, I remembered the power button on the front and felt a bit like this guy:

My PC came to life and my heart leapt. In a shop, or from the vultures at Alienware, a comparative machine would have been over $4000.00. After seizing a deal on a smoking-hot top of the line Nvidia card (Amazon Prime member deal), I was able to make this for under $1000.00 ($800 and change, after tax); with components that will not only endure, but for which I now have the knowledge on how to fix/ replace to extend the lifespan of this machine far longer than any tablet or PC I might have bought. More than that, I learned so much, and knowledge is a treasure of which few forces can deprive us.

My mom and some of my greatest inspirers were people who never stopped learning, pushing boundaries and exploring their minds and the world. I remembered that lesson this week, and it’s one I will take with me into the future. I have a few ideas for what to try my hand at next. Now that I have this little beast, I should probably use it to its full potential: streaming, videos, let’s plays. I have a renewed appreciation for builders, be they knitters, electricians, stonemasons or farmers. There’s something supremely rewarding about creating a necessary object with your hands.

If you’ve ever believed you weren’t good at something, or that something was beyond your reach, test that theory. Few feats are beyond the reach of human dedication and craftiness. Consider that before listening to the whisper that tells you that you’ll fail.

All my love,

–C

Perhaps my next project?

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