A fistful of damage: the upgrade
My flatmate pops her head round the door. “Errr.. everything okay?” She sounds nervous and she’s wearing the sort of smile you’d flash at somebody who threatened you with a butterknife. You know they can’t do you any real harm… but still…
I can understand her nervousness. I’m stood in the centre of my bedroom surrounded by strewn PC bits. I’m wild-eyed and swaying slightly above the eviscerated case of my computer. I’m clutching a screwdriver so tightly my knuckles have gone white and there’s blood, quite a lot of blood. It’s a massacre. It’s upgrade day, and there can only be one winner.
I smile back at Rachel. It’s intended to be reassuring, but probably comes across as deranged. She hands me a cup of tea and retreats, eyes on that screwdriver. Somewhere in the house I hear the faint click as she locks a door behind her. I’m reminded of the westerns, and those final moments when the good folk of the outlaw town all disappear back into their homes, shutter their windows and bar their doors until the slaughter is complete. Rachel is wise to take shelter – I’m not human today.
This carnage began simply, as all these tales do. Mr Fearon handed me a copy of Stalker: Clear Sky to review and my computer, then my friend – it was my treachery that turned us into bitter enemies – crept pitifully into a shadowy corner away from the burden it was now too old to carry. I should have left it there. Took pity. Had mercy. Bought a new computer and donated old faithful to charity. But it wasn’t to be, I wanted to upgrade but my wily old computer wasn’t going down without a fight.
I should point out immediately that upgrading isn’t a fundamentally difficult task. PCs these days are basically giant Teletubby-coloured jigsaws with every edge numbered for your convenience. It’s not like the old days when nothing was labelled and cables could be fitted any which way, but would only work if lined up correctly. Putting your computer together in 1993 was routinely followed by two hours of unplugging cables one at a time in order to find out which one was stopping the bloody thing from booting up.
Not so now. Now the problems are more obscure, less forseeable, and infinitely more aggravating. I’ve got a case that I could use as a cupboard when emptied out. Hell, if I ever a day comes when I can’t pay the rent on my house I’d seriously consider taking that case to Hampstead Heath and using it as a tent. But modern components seem to suffer from some bizarre version of elephantisis – they’re so massively oversized and bulding with odd protuberances that you can’t simply slip them into the case, they have to be kicked and crowbarred inside then manouvered into place with a sledgehammer. It requires less effort to build a house.
Principal among my woes were the 750w power supply and ATI Radeon HD 3700 X2 which had to be craned into my house. The Radeon was a particular nuisance. Not only is it so large that it blocks access to half my SATA sockets and my IDE1 port, but its girth also means it’s ridiculously difficult to get to anything else on the board. It’s like trying to plant a garden when somebody’s plonked an ugly great wall through the middle of it.
As for the power supply. Imagine, if you will, spending a couple of hours tearing up you computer and then carefully patching it back together, rending flesh and soul apart in the process, only to find it requires so much juice your current power supply just can’t cope. Then imagine, that the new, nuclear-powered supply, is twice the girth of its predecessor and can’t be fitted in without ripping everything all out again. Imagine, spending half an hour attempting to ignore this simple fact by attempting a serious of improbable wedging techniques that result solely in you gashing your hand. Just imagine. Men have died for less.
It was at this point Rach poppped her head around the door. You can see why I was upset.
It took me a solid afternoon to get my rig running properly. An afternoon of trying to make sense of Windows XP’s ridiculous objections during install, of tweaking bios settings, of installing updates and finding drivers, and finding cats to kick. A solid afternoon of savage fury, intermingled with mind-numbing tedium. An afternoon. And you know what? I’d do it again in a second. Because that evening I installed Stalker and Crysis and switched everything upto high and watched god-rays filter through swaying foliage, sunlight sparkle on crystal clear water. Guards patrol, chat, and fix themselves. I got to play these games as they were always intended for less than half the price it would have cost me to buy a machine new.
I’d do it all again. I’m just not sure Rachel will let me.
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