Transferring files. The only bad side to the switch thus far.
As prosmised, I will tell a tale in which I impress even myself!
A few days after setting up my computer I tried to plug in my flash drive. As I pushed the drive in, the USB plug slid backwards into the case. To clarify, it means that instead of looking like this:
It looked like this:
I opened it up and soon saw what was happening. The USB hub, as I learned it was called, should look like this when secured properly to the case:
The hub is held in place by those washers and screws. As you pushed on it, the hub was sliding past one of the washers like this:
My first plan was to tell Newegg that this case was broken, which was double-annoying because it had been a replacement for the first broken case I’d been sent. One of my friends, who may not have understood what I was trying to explain to him, said that this didn’t sound like a manufacturing problem so I needed to deal with it since they probably wouldn’t replace it. I still don’t see how this could be anything but a manufacturing problem, but I went about trying to deal with it anyways. First I chatted with a customer service representative at Newegg, who said that I could send the case back and then they’d decide if I got a new one. I’d already built my computer in it, so I really didn’t want to have to take it all apart and then go another week without it. I decided to call Rosewill, the manufacturer, in the morning. In the mean time I set to trying to fix the problem, in case they couldn’t or wouldn’t send me a new one.
The real problem was that the shaft that the screw was in was chipped, as you might be able to tell from the following picture.
Since that plastic was chipped, the screw didn’t sit in straight, so the washer wasn’t covering as much of the hub as it was supposed to, and that was allowing the hub to slip right past it. Another friend suggested I try to wedge something in there.
I asked, “What would be safe to use? Like a coin or something?”
“Noting metal preferably.”
Oh of course nothing metal, I thought, but then what could I use instead?
“Oh. So like cloth?” I asked. In my defense, it was now 1AM and I’ve never done anything like this before.
He said, “Hmm plastic?”
I admire his patience. Why hadn’t I immediately thought of plastic?
After several tries with some random plastic objects nearby I asked, “Is super glue a bad idea?”
My friend responded, “As long as it only touches the green part of the board and not the silver or brown parts.”
I have a really bad super glue track record. I always get it all over everything and my hands. So, I decided to keep trying with other plastic objects, but nothing worked. Then I had an idea.
“Does it matter what kind of plastic?” I asked.
“No? Are there different kinds?”
“Like does it need to be hard like a pen cap or can it be softer like a watch band?”
“Either is fine.”
I sacrificed an old watch that had run out of batteries. I put the screw through one of the holes on the band, then screwed it back in like that. I put my flash drive into the slot and pushed a bit. It held! I cut the small part of the band off, fixed the front panel of the case back on, and went to sleep.
The next morning I gave Rosewill a call. I did my best to explain what was wrong. After several minutes the man said they’d send me a new front panel. The best thing that could’ve happened! I wouldn’t have to take apart the machine, I could use it in the meantime, and I would get only the exact part that I needed. Oh, but it gets better. When it came in the mail I got another surprise. The new panel had USB 3.0, where my old front panel had USB 2.0. What? Awesome! USB 3.0 is faster than firewire and all the fancy, new computer have it. Boy, am I lucky! I unplugged everything from motherboard that connected to the old front panel and had to figure out how to plug everything back into the motherboard with my new front panel. I did it right on the first try. Yeah that’s right, I know how to do this kind of stuff now. I felt so accomplished to have done all of that completely on my own. Here’s the new panel on the case with the old panel next to it. I’m still trying to decide the most artistic way to mount the old panel to my wall.
This is the inside of my computer, which I’ve named Topher Clocker. Did I explain this already? The type of motherboard I have is called T-Overclocker, but the box it came it makes it look like Toverclocker, which is a ridiculous word. That silly word does, however, translate quite well to Topher Clocker. Cute, right?
Let’s talk peripherals.
What are peripherals? The things other than the computer box itself. Things like the monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers. They’re way more important than I initially recognized. But really, they are the only parts of the computer that you actually have to interact with. Before I learned this I made some pretty glaring mistakes.
I bought a crappy 19in Dell monitor on Amazon.com. I chose this monitor for a few reasons. First, I’d spent the last couple hours buying all the other parts and I was tired. Plus I hadn’t thought about what I really wanted from a monitor and hadn’t made lists like I had with all the other components. Also, I had no idea that monitors were as expensive as they were and this one was the cheapest decent one on Amazon. Finally, none of my computer-minded friends/family told me anything about monitors. This monitor was a mistake. A $94 (including shipping) mistake. As soon as I pulled it out of the box I knew. I immediately put it for sale online on three different websites. Luckily someone bought it from me for $80 not long after, so it was only a $12 loss. And boy did I feel stupid.
So, what did I want from a monitor. Widescreen. HD resolution. 20-ish inches. DVI plug (My Blu-ray player only works with monitors that have a DVI or HDMI plug). I mentioned this to my sister’s boyfriend and he immediately offered to sell me his monitor since he was upgrading. I waited until I sold the first lame one then bought his. So, I got a 23in Samsung 2343 BWX for $150 minus power and DVI cables. Samsung no longer sells this model, but it’s still an excellent monitor. It’s this monitor, click the link to go to the Newegg product page.
I love it. It’s biiiig! So much screen space! And, trust me, I am using the Windows 7 snapping feature like ain’t nobody’s business. In fact more often than not I am looking at two windows at once. Now I understand people who prefer to have two monitors at all times. But I won’t be doing that any time soon. No, sir. I had to wait a few more days before the power and DVI cables came in. I almost bought them on eBay, but my sister’s boyfriend wisely advised I buy them from Newegg. After the lesson I learned with the monitor I decided to buy a good product, not just a cheap one. As soon as they came I plugged this baby in (after making the cable hole in my desk a little bit bigger. Don’t tell my landlord.) and popped in John Carter. Oh it looked good. But I was too busy to watch it. I was going to watch it tonight, but I decided to update this instead. You’re welcome.
I listen to music pretty much all the time plus there’s no way I was going to have crappy speakers to go along with my excellent movie watching capabilities. However, I didn’t want to spend that much. I talked a bit with a friend of mine who does sound for film and decided that a 2.1 set of speakers with a sub-woofer for about $40 was a good plan. I went to Best Buy, found a salesman, told him I wanted computer speakers for about $40, he immediately took me to a set that were on sale from $50. I took a minute to make sure I was sure, then I bought those suckers. Logitech Z313 Speaker System. Click the picture to go to the Logitech info page.
I went home, plugged them in and turned on Justin Timberlake. He sounded so good. I tried turning them up all the way and they were too loud to be near. Good! I’ll never be disappointed by how loud they can get. I’ve been using them for a few weeks and I love them. Score at Best Buy!
I already had a wireless mouse that I’d bought one night at 2AM when I had some task that was going to take 80 years using a trackpad. Best late night purchase I’ve ever made for two reasons. One, I love that mouse. Two, I made it in and out of WalMart in less than 20 minutes. The latter would be an accomplishment all on it’s own, but coupled with the great mouse this is a total victory.
I had been given an Apple keyboard for free and was happy with it for the most part. I was having to learn again how to use the Control and Alt keys the way they are programmed with Windows, but that wasn’t the keyboard’s fault. I really liked that it had the pause, track forward, track backward, and volume buttons. But then I needed to take screen captures. Not possible without reprogramming the keyboard. I thought about doing this, but decided I wanted a for real keyboard that I had paid for. Finding the right one was a journey. I went planning on spending $20-30.
One night about 7:30 I had time to go to the store. I went to Best Buy, who close at 9:00pm. While in the keyboard section I had a pleasant conversation with the salesman. In the course of this conversation he said, “You conceal your age well, elf! Tell me your secrets.” Oh and then he complimented my sweatshirt and started telling me about a jacket from South Korea he was thinking of buying online. It was not weird. Seriously, he was cool. All of their keyboards were reeeally expensive. Who knew! All of the ones that were $20-30 were not great. So I left.
I went next door to Office Depot. The salesman here was also helpful. He talked to me about which keyboard his wife had and what was good about all of them. There were some good keyboard there, but all of them were out of my price range by a lot.
I went to WalMart. They had a few keyboards, but no good ones. The ones in my price range were not ones I felt like spending a lot of time typing on. Onward!
To Target! About the same story as WalMart. Not a big selection.
Back to Best Buy! It was 8:40. I found one I liked on display, but they were all sold out. I found a salesman, he checked in the back. Yup, all gone. But I could order one without shipping, though it would take a while since it was Friday night and they wouldn’t get the order in until Monday. Blah blah blah. Darn it.
Back to Office Depot ten minutes before closing! They had the same keyboard! But for $25 more. And guess whaaat! They price match. It took a minute because it was only on sale for that price in that store so they had to call over. I talked with a salesman there about computers. I told him I work with movies and that I’d worked on one that was really popular with gamers. He hadn’t seen it yet, but was planning on it very soon. He proceeded to talk to me about the video game industry, which I know a bit about. We discussed where that industry will go in the next 20 years. It was not as fun as talking to the Best Buy guy who was in to Korean fashion.
But I got a great wireless keyboard and mouse for $40. They’re unified, which means that one USB reciever works for both of them. Sadly, this mouse is gray. My other mouse was blue and thus prettier. Even though they are the same model of mouse the USB receiver for the keyboard and the gray mouse doesn’t work for the blue one. I used my blue mouse anyway. So, the whole point of buying a unified wireless set was completely ruined. Sadly I keep having to use my laptop for things once in a while and so I’ve reserved the blue mouse for that. As soon as I’m done with that laptop, I’ll most likely go back to the blue mouse. Frivolous, I know, but I can’t fight who I am.
Here’s the final product, with which I am quite pleased. Moral of the story is that it’s very tempting (and easy) to skimp out on peripherals, but at the end of the day these are the parts of the computer you actually have to deal with so it’s worth the extra time and money to get what you really want.
The first picture is a frame from The Tree of Life, which looks excellent on this monitor on Blu-ray, though it’s nothing compared to seeing it in the theater. I wanted to show off my monitor. If the print-screen button wasn’t disabled by my Blu-ray software, this image would be my desktop background. It’s one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen.
The second picture is my actual desktop. Yes I am thoroughly enjoying No Doubt’s new album Push and Shove.
In my next post I’ll impress myself and you as I do my own hardware changes and software fixing.
Once all of the parts of my new computer finally came in the mail, including the replacement computer case I set about building the pieces.
In order to prep I watched this lovely video, care of Newegg. – Side note. Is Newegg supposed to be two words or not? Is it Newegg or New Egg?
It wasn’t really hard at all. The toughest thing was figuring out which direction some of the single-prong plugs were supposed to go. This is what motherboard manuals are for. This is also why the trial and error method of problem solving exists. It was cool and pretty fun putting all the pieces together. I love the click when the plugs lock into place. It’s so fulfilling!
Of course the build was not without a hiccup. Everything was plugged in, but when I did the test boot the lights and fans would turn on for a second then turn off again. After a pretty long while of unplugging everything and plugging things in one at a time, the solution became apparent. Everything was connected except for the plug that gives power to the processor. Hahaha! When I was pressing the on button I was basically just turning the fans on and off over and over again. So, yeah, don’t forget that the processor needs power too. Ya know, because it makes everything go.
The thing that surprised me the most about putting together the computer is how long it took to install the operating system. For some reason I thought it was going to be really quick. It wasn’t. And then there were a lot of updates to install. This took longer than the physical building itself. By a lot if you don’t count the time spent discovering that the processor wasn’t getting power, which I suppose you should count. But some of that time was actually just me watching the last half hour of Mean Girls.
I had a hard and fast plan to get a laptop a few weeks ago. I was looking at 14-15in laptops for about $700. The more I looked at laptops the harder it was for me to pick one. They all seemed fine, but there were so many choices it was paralyzing. My brain was like, “This seems good for me. Oh, but so does this one. And this one looks nicer. Oh, but it’s more expensive. But looks are important to me. But should it be? Well, it is. Even if it shouldn’t be. But what about this other laptop? It also seems good for me. I guess I should also look at this other brand. Oh, they have a lot of different laptops!” It was like that. Endlessly. So I came to the conclusion that I would wait until my computer died to get a new one. Putting off the inevitable seemed like a good plan.
I commenced conversations with plenty of computer-savvy people while continuing to search the internet for the best laptop. Ya know, so I’d be ready when the time came. Everyone I talked to had built several computers, had just built their first computer, were currently building a computer, or knew stuff about building computers. Could I build a desktop from scratch?
But, wait. I wanted a laptop. Wait again! Did I need a laptop? What an idea! What did I do remotely on my computer? Honestly, nothing. I’d gotten used to not being able to use my laptop anywhere because of the terrible battery life. Maybe I should build a desktop…
I decided. I would build a desktop and later get a tablet (probably a Surface) for when I did want to use a machine remotely. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities… and choices. Choices that were terrifying and paralyzing. I decided again to wait until my computer died.
But every day as I used my computer I would be mad that it couldn’t do things that a PC could do. I was mad that my version of Word was so bad. But mostly and always I was mad that computer didn’t have the snapping feature from Windows 7. You know, this:
So, I decided to make a leap. I watched a great tutorial from Newegg about how to build a computer. If you have any interest in knowing what parts are inside your machine, check this video out.
From there I tried to look around, but got confused, lost, and frustrated. I asked several people for help and eventually came to a final decision. Here’s how my build is going to look. Click on the pictures to be directed to Newegg where you can look at the full specs if you like.
First, it’s going to be in this pretty case. It’s a Rosewill Redbone mid-size case. Isn’t it purdy?
I decided to go with an Intel processor. I wanted an AMD at first because it was cheaper, but I was soon informed that Intel is much better for media while AMD is better for gaming. I plan on watching a lot of movies, using Adobe Creative Suite programs like a crazy person, and pretty much never gaming, so the extra $20-30 is worth it. I got a duo core i3 chip. It should do the trick for now and I can always upgrade later.
For my motherboard, I went with this Biostar TZ77B. It has the same specs and plugs as an ASRock one that was recommended to me and is quite a bit cheaper. So, here’s hoping it performs the same. It’s got two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI port, along with some other great stuff I’m looking forward to using. It supports up to 32GB of RAM, which sounds like a freaking heck of a lot to me!
I bought two 4GB sticks of RAM made by Crucial. My favorite part about these is that they’re called Ballistix Sport. I laughed when I saw that. I guess sticks of RAM have a “sport” category. I may not have a sports car, but I have sport RAM!
I’m getting this EVGA GTX550 Ti graphics card for free from my friend who is a video editor/gamer/nerd. He assures me it’s a good one, though a bit old. I believe him because it costs a considerable amount more than the one I was planning on getting. Yay for friends and spending less money!
For a hard drive I got this 1 terabyte drive made by Hitachi. It rotates at 7200 rpm, so that means I’ll get good performance from it, even if it’ll get a little hot.
I’m also getting an LG Blu-ray disc player/burner. That I am super pumped about. I only own two Blu-rays, but you best believe I will watch The Tree of Life and John Carter until the laser on the Blu-ray player doesn’t work anymore. Yes, I know, lasers don’t work like that. It was hyperbole.
I bought a 19in monitor on Amazon.
So that’s what my computer will look like. All in all I spent less than $600 including shipping. Ka-boom. Take that $700 laptops I was looking at before! Take it!
Get excited for some sad stories about getting damaged equipment, ordering something I don’t want, and forgetting something important!
July of this year my 2008 Macbook was getting slow and irritating. The battery had been equating 1% with 1min for about a year. I’d had Apple Techs operate on it, bought a new battery, and bought a new charger, but to no avail. And now it was acting up in strange ways. Sometimes thinking it was asleep when it was open and awake when it was closed. Crashing applications unexpectedly. Loading every internet page very slowly. It was just dying the way computers die. Of old age and overuse.
I wanted a new computer. Naturally I went to the Apple website and saw that the cheapest laptop they have is $1200. I considered waiting to save up money so that it wouldn’t be as much of a hit on my finances. Then I thought I’d make a list.
What about that warrants me spending $1200 on a computer? Not really anything. You could point at video editing, but I do that so rarely nowadays that it hardly counts.
Well, now I was at a crossroads. Dare I go back to “the dark side,” as Mac users call it?
My brother had always been adamantly pro-PC and I recalled conversations with him. He maintains that what people really want with a computer is customizability. Microsoft provides users the tools to customize their machines in any number of ways, Apple really doesn’t allow much of that. My Brother talked up the free support community that’s available for PCs. You can find all kinds of tutorials about applications or mechanical fixes online for PCs. That was an important draw for me.
I had also recently gotten my first smartphone, an Android (HTC One S). I love that phone. I spent a lot of time deciding if I wanted to go iPhone or Android and I know I made the right choice with Android.
I went online to find articles, videos, blogs, or anything where people had recorded their impressions when switching from Mac to PC. There was not much out there. The least helpful article was one from the early 2000’s that listed personality traits that defined the users of each operating system. All of the fun traits like “artistic, creative, free spirited” were listed for Mac users and all of the less fun traits like “organized and businessy” were listed for PC users. What a load of BS. People are not defined by the products they use. So, I started watching videos by Microsoft. Various press releases and conference presentations about Windows 8, Windows 7, and the Surface. I was very impressed. Don’t worry, I also watched videos posted by people who didn’t like Windows 8 at all.
Soon I was telling everyone how excited I was for Windows 8 to be released and how cool it was going to be. Luckily a friend had the beta version on one of his laptops and let me try it out. It was awesome. Definitely optimized for a tablet and thus a little strange to use with a mouse at times, but nothing that couldn’t be gotten used to. I wanted it. A lot.
I’d noticed by this time that a PC can be bought for half (or less than half) of the price of the equivalent Mac. I mean, what?! Why would anybody buy a Mac? You’re really paying for the aesthetics, the brand, and the customer service. Their customer service is great, but also stringent. With a PC I can open up my own computer and have at it. If I did that to my Macbook it would disqualify me from ever having an Apple Tech look at my machine again. Once my friend used compressed air on the inside of my laptop when the fan was being wonky. When I told the Apple Genius that he raised his eyebrows in shock and told me not to let people do that. Really? I can’t unscrew the bottom of my computer and blow on it?
So, it came down to freedom and customizability. I’d noticed that my Android was better at this than the iPhone. I remembered how I had used my family’s PCs and yeah, I felt like I did more real computer use with those than I ever had with my Macbook. I used to be good at fixing computer problems, but there’s no real way for a user to do that on Macs. That’s all closed off. They don’t want you tinkering. Being able to make my computer all mine was a big draw for me.
But what it really came down to was value. I could get something twenty times better than my current machine for half of what the new version cost. Now, that’s bang for your buck. And I like having my bucks. I also like explosions. Win-win!
Next! I’ll reveal my indecisiveness. Find out how I ended up deciding on a desktop.
Soon I will get all of the parts for my brand new PC in the mail. A friend will help me put it together and Windows 7 will be installed on it. And I never ever thought this would happen.
Like most kids who grew up in the 90’s, my family always had PCs. The first computer I ever used ran Windows 95. My dad works with computers so of course we updated to Windows 98, 2000, and XP.
In fact I wasn’t even aware of Apple’s existence until 2002 when my sixth grade Social Studies classroom suddenly had two old Power Macs. These computers were extremely confusing. I mean, why didn’t the disc drive have an eject button? You mean I have to press eject on the computer screen? How does that make sense? I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a start button and how you were supposed to find programs without that. I tried using these machines once or twice then gave up entirely. I only went by the classroom computers one other time, when a friend and I doodled on the bottom of the table the computers were on.
All of my family’s computers would get extremely slow after a few years of use and they seemed to crash a lot. Several years of pictures are completely gone thanks to one of these crashes. I dare you to try to find pictures of me from ages 13-15. I dare you. So finally in 2007 my family gave up on Windows.
By this time I was the only one still living at home, my two sisters were in college with Macbooks and my brother didn’t own a computer. My parents and I got a Macbook Pro and I loved it. I could listen to music on iTunes with headphones anywhere I wanted. I could type papers late at night in my bedroom. I could edit videos with Final Cut Express. It ran so much faster than our old computer. It was shiny. It was pretty. It was new!
When I graduated in 2008 I got my own Macbook for college. There was no discussion about prices or what I intended to use it for. I wanted one because that’s what we had and I hadn’t had any of the traumatic experiences with it that I’d had as a child with slow PCs. My sisters had them. I had been told they were better and I believed it. I didn’t think of asking for evidence. I really believed Macs were better. Of course I’ve looked down at PC users since then. Almost every Mac user does, even if they don’t want to admit it. But the tables are turning again. I’m headed back to using a PC. And, boy, am I excited!
Stay tuned to find out why I’m so excited to make the switch!