Building the Imperfect PC

O’Reilly has a book called Building the Perfect PC. I have built many PCs in the last 6 or 7 years, starting with the machine that I built for myself to take to college. Yet, I have never built the perfect PC. In fact, almost every PC I’ve built then has used a significant number of parts from that first PC despite their growing age and lack of reliability.

Anyone familiar with builders of imperfect PCs knows that they, by definition, keep huge piles of garbage, which they call “parts,” lying around the house. After years of friction with my wife caused by my collection of (worthless) “parts,” I began reducing that collection. She seemed pleased.

Yesterday, Daniel and I went to PG’s house to pick up a computer that had died. I offered to take it home to store it. This morning, I brought the computer inside. “I thought we were trying to reduce the number of computers?” was all she said above her distainful expression.

So, I was pretty stoked to finally be playing with some new parts, rather than my horrible collection of broken hand-me-downs. It even has a1Ghz processor, faster than anything I’ve ever used. And it might even have a working motherboard (something I have a problem with).

Well, I got more angry looks when I went down to Colin’s and re-possesed on of my old machines that I had given to him (see above reduction in “parts”). I spent the afternoon playing around with hardware, deciding that I liked my case better than Daniel’s, and generally getting to do everything in the most difficult way. Then I got to install FreeBSD.

Daniel likes FreeBSD for some reason, so it’s what we’re using for the servers at work. I’d sorta like to assume that the problems I’ve had aren’t it’s fault. It’s driving me to thoughts like this:

WHAT THE [HE]CK?! I’ve tried to install this worthless piece of software on every single drive I own and it still won’t work!

So, I dunno why it refuses to write to any of the drives I have (maybe the motherboard is indeed screwed). It’s getting pretty annoying, as I’ve now switched hard drives more than 7 times (not all ATA either, I tried my SCSI first…).

Hmm… so much for new parts.

2 Responses to “Building the Imperfect PC”

  1. keith says:

    So, just to follow up, here are some of the problems I’ve had:

    “Unable to find device nnode for /dev/ad0s1b in /dev!
    The creation of filesystems will be aborted.” (20Gb WD)

    “I can’t figure out your DHCP because I suck!” — Ok, I made that one up, but it isn’t discovering my network config via DHCP even though every other machine I’ve ever had here has (5+).

  2. Colin says:

    So after I gave Keith my old favorite (svelt) P’book G3, which he fixed merely by putting a new HD in it, I was the recipient of one of Keith’s old computers (a huge pile of generally unusable parts) and a huge monitor. I had the pleasure of storing this machine/part-pile once before when I kept it in my college dorm room for the year he spent in york. Much like then, my recent experience went something like this: “boy, I thought I knew a lot about computers, but I cannot figure this Linux thing out…I mean, it won’t boot, won’t connect to the internet, and I can’t locate any files on the HD.” At which point I realize: “ah, ALL 3 HD’s are corrupt, the NIC is old and doesn’t play nice with my router, and these four jumper pins must have come from SOMEWHERE…” Much like my G3, (although I was pretty excited to reclaim some storage space!) I was sad to see this old computer disappear: I have fond memories of playing Goldeneye on the nice monitor while eating Cheez Doodles, and even though I only got the damn thing to boot up 3 or 4 times, I did consume my fair share of porn while it was up and running. (And the DHCP thing, thats the damn NIC….)