Monday, March 21, 2016

The Death Throes of a Computer…Now What?

It’s been a good machine for eight years, but there are signs that maybe it’s time to move on. One of those signs is a banshee type howling sound at start up that goes up and down in pitch for about ten minutes before gradually disappearing. This makes Maribel and me nervous, though not enough for me to BACK UP THE HARD DRIVE.

This machine had its beginnings eight years ago in the hands of a man in a dingy back room in a dingy neighborhood north of central Chiclayo. The man is a friend of a friend of Maribel’s. Victor is his name. We stopped by his shop one day. He specked out a computer for us based on what we would use it for. The operating system is Windows XP. Included was Office, Photoshop, McAfee security and about a half-dozen other software apps that I never used. Also included were a monitor, keyboard, woofer and two speakers. The price was unbelievably low. I didn’t ask many questions. I was incredibly naïve about Peru in those early days, but based on the price and my instincts I thought that maybe this wasn’t the situation and Victor isn’t the kind of guy you ask about warranties or component brands. That would be about as smart as asking Don Corleone where his money comes from. I suspect Victor gets his components and software from Midnight Computer Sales.

Shortly after getting the computer home we had a minor problem with the operating system.  I sent an error report to Microsoft. That’s when I learned that the operating system was pirate. A month or two later we got a message on the computer saying our free trial of Office had expired. When we called Victor he came to the house; stuck a USB into the computer for a few minutes, and said the problem was fixed. We never saw that message again.

As he was leaving he asked if I wanted to go wild burro hunting with him. I told him I couldn’t imagine wild burros running around the desert near Chiclayo. I asked him who owned them. He said that after they were shot and in the back of the truck, we owned them. This didn’t sound like something I wanted to do, but played along by asking what we would do with the burros. He replied that burro is delicious, and said that I had probably eaten it in Chiclayo restaurants. I had been told that selling burro in restaurants is illegal and upon saying so Victor laughed and said that they sell it as an “unadvertised special.” I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. Maribel says it happens. I like Victor. Victor is cool.

We haven’t seen Victor in years; his shop is closed and I need a new computer. There are a couple of supposedly reputable computer shops in downtown Chiclayo that build computers. My plan is to visit one or more of those shops and have a new desk top computer built. Hopefully we’ll be as lucky as we were with this one. I know the operating system will be a Spanish pirate version of Windows 10. I want a legal, English version, so what I intend to do is buy a Windows 10 USB flash drive while in the United States.  I’ll bring it back to Peru; install it thus wiping out the pirate system, and then transfer files from this box to the new. And I won’t have to struggle with the Spanish language anymore.

Why don’t I just buy a laptop in the states with Windows already may be wondering?  I’m old school. I want to stay with what I’m used to. I want the remote speakers and woofer in front of me. The monitor sitting on top of the woofer is the perfect height. I want that familiar big honkin’ case sitting on the floor next to the desk, with all the ports visible so I don’t have to hunt for them. And most of all I want the remote keyboard and mouse. I’ve played some with laptops and Maribel’s Surface Pro tablet, and I don’t like the keyboard and cursor mover or whatever you call it. I could probably figure them out eventually but the learning curve would be frustrating. No…I want a mouse I can move and control with my whole hand. I want keys under my fingers that physically go up and down and click when I press them. Yes, I know I could plug some if not all of those things into a laptop but what’s the point of doing that? That wouldn’t be any better than a desk top, and I’d have the useless laptop keyboard sitting in front of me taking up space needed for a real keyboard. And I’ll be surprised if the cost of the Windows 10 operating system teamed with a desktop computer built in Chiclayo isn’t less than an equally featured laptop.

So that’s the plan. We’ll see how it plays out. In the meantime, we’ve got to hope that this computer lasts a few more weeks.

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