5.27.2004

the computer upgrade odyssey.

let's start from the bery beginning...a very good place to start...

late march 2004 - i buy tiger woods 2004 for my PC and quickly learn that it is the greatest golf sim of all time. however, my computer crashes intermittently. i reason to myself that it must be my video card cuz at the time, is at least four generations behind the current standard. but the crashing doesn't occur enough for me to want to anything about it.

early april 2004 - i visit alfredo in pasadena and install tiger woods 2004 on his computer which he had just purchased in the past week. i am stunned and amazed about how much better it looks on his computer. the 3D cameras are more active and detailed, the trees move and the galleries applaud, and green is much much easier to read on his computer. i decide to myself that it's time for me to upgrade the computer because tiger woods 2004 is such a great game that it deserves to be played the way it was meant to be played, fully rendered in 3D. tiger woods will tremble before me in all of my pixellated and shaded glory. for me, the obvious place to start was with the video card.

mid april 2004 - rather than buy a card that is a few generations behind, i decide to go for broke and plunk down 200 bucks to purchase a brand spanking new ATI Radeon AIW 9600. only one generation behind the latest and greatest. 128MB of AGP power and memory. also has a neat attachment so that i can hook up a TV antennae and watch TV on my PC. after installing it, i realize that i can also hook up the card to a VCR and turn the video recordings for my thesis into computer files and code on the fly with my laptop. life changes dramatically and i make real progress towards finishing my thesis. not only can i convert the video feed, but the card comes with software that transcribes the close caption feed recorded on the video tape, so the comments are already typed for me. instead of starting, stopping, typing, rewinding, and then typing again, i simply cut and past the comments into my dataset. what would have normally taken about 100 or so hours ends up only taking about 50. kill bill II is released.

may 2004 - while coding the dataset, tiger woods is still causing crashes in my computer. so while the game looks better than it ever did, i still rarely can get through a whole round of golf without having to restart three or four times. even worse, i end up losing some of the money that i have made on the game due to what is probably a software glitch. i resort to a number of attempted fixes. first, i buy more memory, only to find out that one of the memory slots on my motherboard doesn't work. so instead of 1.3 gigs of memory, i can only upgrade to 1 gig. i know, i know, still a whole hell of a lot. that doesn't fix the problem. then i discover ebay. i buy a used AMD 2100 in hopes that the extra juice will be enough to prevent the computer from crashing. not wanting to risk the thesis dataset, i wait until i'm done coding to install the processor (and 400W power supply purchased on ebay for 4 bucks). the processor is installed, and i effectively have doubled my computing power, which roughly translates to a startup time that is shorter by about 10 seconds. but my hopes are soon dahsed as tiger woods continues to crash. derek fisher scores with .04 seconds remaining to effectively wrap up the NBA title.

last week - i decide that a last ditch effort will be made by installing the latest drivers for the ATI card. after installation, my computer display goes haywire. instead of a cursor, i get a box of horizontal lines. icons become corrupted and look shoddy. all 3D games look like crap. i curse ATI over and over again for writing such a poor driver. i spend a good 10-15 hours installing, reinstalling, rolling back drivers of all sorts in hopes of resolving the problem. nothing works, tiger still crashes. finally i get around to calling the ATI folks on monday. cursing ATI reaches a new level as i invent words in an attempt to damn the software writers to hell for inconveniencing me so. unfortunately they are located in canada and closed for a silly foreign holiday known as victoria day. call them on tuesday and spend about a half hour on the phone with a tech. we try a variety of things and nothing works. he tells me that he's going to send a list of recommended bios settings over email and to call him back if it doesn't work.

yesterday - i apply new bios settings and everything works perfectly. tiger woods, which had been crashing at 800 x 600 is now running flawlessly at 1260 x 1208. i AM at pebble beach. webpages load faster because picture files are rendered quicker. i score a hole in one on the 15th at pinehurst. the gallery goes nuts. i go to st. rafael's and light a candle for scott s., the ATI tech that helped me with my problem.

today - while trying to fix the ATI problem i had to go back to an older driver and uninstall the advanced control panel. as always, i am briefly tempted to try and reinstall everything. but instead of always wanting to go balls to the wall with my technology, i think better of it and stay content with my current PC setup.

the two lessons learned from this saga.

1. the problem was always with my bios settings and had nothing to do with my video card, or processor. however, because i was able to get my thesis data coded finally it was totally worth it. but the point is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

2. tiger woods is the single greatest f-ing PC game in the history of ever.

i know, this was long and tedious and not that interesting, but since i consider myself a tech junkie, i felt the need to document the trials and tribulations that i went through. i remember when i bought my first computer and having no idea how to do anything except turn on the computer and find free porn. look at me now, installing new processors and video cards, adjusting bios settings, and laying waste to the field on the PGA tour.

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