Say that a few times fast, and you begin to understand the fun you can have with a 9 year old with just 5 words of English.
So, build vs buy. Recently I decided to build a PC for Yasmin. I had purchased her one a few years back. It was from a British company I think “Tiny PC”. No longer in business, at least no longer in the mall. It wasn't particularly cheap at the time, and it took a week for them to produce it. That was before the existance of Fry's in the great Pacific Northwest.
That machine was way noisy, not particularly powerful, and I think Yasmin used it a total of less than 10 times in her life so far.
Enter the modern age. Now there's these tiny machines like the Shuttle PC. So, a couple of weeks ago, Yasmin and I headed out to Fry's Electronics and we purchased one of their barebones systems. It was nice because the basic systems is about the size of two shoe boxes stacked atop each other. Maybe smaller depending on your shoe size. We bought the Memorex DVD burner, one of those multi-card readers, and AMD 2600, and 512Mb RAM. We topped it off with a Maxtor 160Gb HD.
This was Yasmin's first build. I let her put some screws in, and she got to see all the various parts of the machine. She was quite proud of her accomplishment, then we turned it on.
The darned thing didn't work! It would come one, then after a couple of minutes, it would just shut down. I checked the bios for the heat shutoff timing, I set that to never shut off. But, the thing just kept shutting off. After a while, it wouldn't even stay on for more than about 30 seconds.
I stayed up all night with this thing. Literally, I didn't get to bed until about 4am. Given my going rate of $50/hour, this thing cost me about $400, and I got nothing to show for it.
Alright. I took it all apart, packed it all nicely back into the boxes, instead of dropping it from my roof, and returned it to Fry's. The return guy said “it's probably a bad power supply, you should just go get another one”. After I got over my frustration, I figured it was worth another try, because I truly am a geek, and I did want Yasmin to have the pleasure of assembling her own PC.
Second time around, no real problems. It all went together nicely, and it just worked as soon as I turned it on. I loaded Windows XP onto it, and then proceeded to download about 100 Windows updates. Yasmin found this rather amusing because the whole process took much of the night, into her bed time, and it caused lots of reboots. It's so amusing that even a child laughs at the process.
But, then we loaded Encarta, MS Works, a Midi Keyboard thing, and a couple of photo editing pieces. Then I topped it all off by giving her my office desk, and the new Canon i900D printer we had recently purchased, and my very own Canon S50 digital camera (yah, it was her birthday recently, and yes she's daddy's little girl). I figure with all that gear, she should be set for producing college quality papers and science fair projects for her third grade class. Never can be too prepared.
Of course, without an office disk, I don't have enough room for the very large PC and CRT that now need to share the smaller desk that are still in my office, so what am I to do?
Buy another one of those Shuttle systems I guess. So, this past weekend we did. We had quite a runaround trying to find the right Sony monitor with speakers, and I finally had to just get it online. It was cheaper by $30, and will ship within a couple of days. That's after going to Fry's and buying their last unit and having exactly 1 pixel not work on the blasted thing!
So, now I have another of those Shuttle PCs sitting on my desk waiting for it's mated monitor to arrive so that I can toss the ViewSonic17PS off the room. I've had this monitor for about 10 years, but when it's time has come, it's time has come.
This is actually a part of the decluttering process. I got rid of a desk (or at least put it into alternative service). I'm getting rid of two CRTs. I bought Yasmin one, and I'm getting one to replace my monitor. That will save on power and waste energy. I'm getting rid of two under powered PCs, and replacing them with two modern day units that consume less power, make less noise, take up less room, and simply look better.
It's like the path in my back yard. Sometimes you've got to build a little to get rid of a little.
I'm sure there's a story in here about software... Oh yah, sometimes you've got to add to your APIs a little to get rid of a little bit of clutter. How can we create the perfect API without introducing the new thing in its perfected form? Trouble is, once you introduce the new one, you can't simply toss the old one off the roof. If only we could...
At any rate, I have a new standard workhorse PC for the home. I can truly see these little boxes popping up all over the house with their attendant wireless mice and keyboards. Some wired, some wireless. Some with TV tuners, some with DVD drives. Some with 5.1 speakers hooked up, some with nice big monitors or projectors hooked up. It's a wonderful world we live in, and all this technical complexity can not match the simplicity of “Little Legs Like Little Eggs”, but that's another story.