Ah, Computers

Thursday, December 01, 2005
No analogy is perfect but I've found parallels regarding Macs as Socialist and PC's as Capitalist. As in Central Planner vs Market System. Though there have been changes in the last few years whereby Macs now utilize some third party hardware, it wasn't always that way. When something went wrong, you took your Mac to an Apple Dealer and replaced an Apple part with another Apple part. It was simple--and expensive.

PC's, on the other hand, have parts made by heaven only knows who which can be replaced by parts made by yet another company. It can be a little confusing with all the choices, but the availability of so much and the competive pricing lead to more innovation and cheaper prices for all kinds of hardware from mouses to video cards to storage devices and monitors. Even to various types of merchants and PC support people and technicians. The choices available for PC hardware purchase, support, repair, and replacement are almost mind boggling.

The market has worked to bring us affordable computing which is good for everyone, but as in everything capitalistic and market driven, sometimes you have to trade convenience for price.

Take my video card. Please.

Six months ago I went through about 3 weeks of hell with my PC. Strange noises. Harddrive failure. CDR failure. Machine turned off for days at a time while I tried to figure out what was wrong and what to do. I wanted to be a computer geek and handle it myself. After replacing harddrive and CDR (with a DVDR) and all that entailed. I still had problems. I finally figured out it was the fan. I just didn't know WHICH fan.

But I got a replacement fan from DELL to replace the fan I thought was the problem. But I couldn't figure out how to install it (long story) so I broke down and took the PC in to the Computer Geeks at Best Buy.

It turned out to be the fan on my video card. It had stopped working and scorched the sound card into uselessness (and taken out my harddrive and cdr but thankfully didn't affect my processor or ram). I didn't even know my video card HAD a fan. Such a geek was I. So I bought a new video card and all was well.

Until a few days ago.

The same bad sound. A whining and buzzing. Very loud.


And here is where the inconvenience lies.

I found my receipt and called the video card supplier. They were willing to give me an RMA to return the video card and they would replace it. Great. BUT the process would take TWO WEEKS. I cannot no way no how live without my PC for TWO WEEKS. I said thanks, but no thanks.

So I went pleading to Joe. Please let's just get a new video card. He says no because he doesn't have the money (no shit sherlock, we had to borrow money from his ex-wife to get groceries a week ago. No turkey for Thanksgiving either. Embarrassing, but what can you do.)

But he agreed to take the PC to the Geeks to see what they had to say.

Yes, it's the video card fan. Have to replace the video card. Nothing they can do about the warranty because it was beyond 30 days. I have to deal with the supplier directly for that.

So he suggested we buy a new video card. Get the replacement from the supplier. Replace the card then return the card from Best Buy to Best Buy for a refund by the end of the month.

Okay. So that's what we're doing. I have my PC back and working (quietly) and I'll give the supplier another call, send them the old card and wait for the new. Switch out the cards, then return the one that's in there now. But what a hassle!

I am grateful there is a solution that won't cost very much.

But a one-stop deal where the manufacturer/repair/retail are all the same would have been much more convenient.

You just can't have everything. And in the end I do prefer the wealth of choices and good pricing.

And maybe someday I'll be able to replace the sound card!

Meanwhile, listen to your PC. Get used to the sounds it makes. Listen for the overtones and the harmonies created by, say, your refrigerator sounds with the pc sounds. Then you will know when something is about to go wrong if they change. That's how I suspected something was going wrong this time before the buzzing even started. The overtones had changed.

Don't worry too much. Have fun. And if something goes wrong, there's always a solution.


Barry Dauphin said...

As a Mac partisan and a capitalist, I've questioned the analogy of Mac as socialism despite its appeal at quickly capturing the differences between Macs and PCs. Walt Mossberg, writing in that socialist rag called the Wall Street Journal, just said that the new iMac is the best basic computer out there and probably the most reasonably priced. He couldn't say enough good things about it. Socialism has never worked as well as that (nor has it been particularly innovative).

Morgan said...

I wanted to be a computer geek and handle it myself.

After all the times I've wished I were an artist, it feels odd being the envied. Thanks, Syl, for alerting me to my blessings.

Jamie Irons said...


I agree with Barry; I'm a Mac enthusiast (though I have PC's at home and at work as well), and a staunch capitalist pig.

Sorry about your travails. About the only problems I've ever had with my Macs are two hard drive failures over ten years. Aggravating, but not that big a deal.


Jamie Irons

Syl said...

Well, wouldn't you know there would be MAC people saying how great their MACs are? That wasn't the point at all.

Frankly, I don't care how great they are. It's what happens when there is a problem. As I said, the Macs use more 3rd party stuff now so the analogy breaks down for recent computers.

And I've had four pc's and the only trouble I've had is this video card fan. That it also took out a harddrive and CDR was due to overheating because I didn't know what was wrong.

It could happen to a Mac too.

And Jamie, how did you replace your two harddrives? Who did it? What brand did you buy? And how did you recover your data? How long did it take? Was it one stop shopping or were various parties involved?

Syl said...


You're a geek? How cool!

terrye said...


My brother loved his Mac, as long as it worked.

My feller can fix anything with an engine but he will not touch my PC.

I was thinking about getting a new PC from Dell, they are having some deals.

Hey, I have been broke myself and I know it ain't no fun.

Barry Dauphin said...

Oh my PC brethren--please take no offense. There's room in the world for both Macs and PCs. I was simply questionning the socialism analogy that Macs get labelled with. As long as no one suggests that it takes a village to fix a computer, we'll be fine.

Of course if we really want to light up YARGB traffic, all we have to do is start a Mac vs. PC posting war and we'll get a gazillion hits.

Buddy Larsen said...

Of computers, is this on-topic?

(shut de do' n' turn out de light, dial up de volume and hold on tight!)

Buddy Larsen said...

Sorry--forgot to say, 'right-click' the link, then 'save as' or 'save target as'. This is what it is.

Looks like Mac work to me.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


You've made a good case for "open" hardware architecture. I think it's fair to say that it was the openness of IBM's original architecture which fueled the predominance of the PC.

What you have said about hardware applies a fortiori to software. The Ubuntu Linux operating system on which this note is written is completely open. I can mix and match components to my heart's content, and in theory can fix anything inside it. And you can't beat the price.

There are times when you want open, but in all fairness there are times when you don't. Sometimes it's better to drive a Lexus than a Model T.

I'm convinced that the vast majority of computer users today would be far happier with a Mac these days than with their Windows machine. It's computing nirvana. It's a quirk of history that most folks are stuck on the wrong platform.

Syl said...


Heh. Actually stuff like that was done with the old C64.

A fully programmable general purpose computer. I still miss the thing. One of the worst days of my life, believe it or not, was the day Commodore died.

The wmv was kinda strange without the sound though.

Syl said...

BTW, I still have my 'Commodore Death Watch' t-shirt.


Dells are fine machines. At least they were as of Jan 2002 when I got this one. The original video card fan lasted almost 3 1/2 years. The replacement only six months. :(

Syl said...



You not only want to start platform wars, you want to start software wars as well?

Today a Mac is no better than a Dell PC to the average user. You buy it, plug it in, and use it.

As for open source, it's fine for software geeks. Most ordinary users want something they've actually heard of. :)

gumshoe1 said...

perhaps the better
Apple /PC analogy
is in Neal Stephenson's
article "In the Beginning
Was the Command Line"
(later published in book length,
i've not read that).

a google search will turn it up.

it's now several years old,
but it's both funny and informative.

and geeky.

Syl said...

Yes, the Stephenson article is fun and informative. To a point.

I have a completely different perspective because I had worked with computers for many years before there was such a thing as a personal computer.

What was important to him was secondary to me. That's why I never bought into the cache that Apple gave the Mac. I had different priorities and I didn't need to be spoonfed.

To me having my very own computer meant I could have fun at home and that fun included control over the machine.

Not counting the plastic DigiComp I assembled back in the sixties (with spring loaded levers and a full 8 bits of computing power!) my first personal computer was a TRS-80 back in the late seventies.

No software. No books. Just a basic Basic manual. I was flying. But I already understood the concept of underlying operating system and software coded to run over it. I had used a WANG VP at my most recent job.

And that job was when I became a programmer (though I didn't know it yet). We had a programmer who would come in, do something, then leave for parts unknown. Sometimes things went wrong and we couldn't contact her. Figure it out, Syl, I'd be told. So I'd pour through her program listing looking for something. Sometimes I actually found the problem and fixed it.

But the day I became a programmer was the first time I looked through her code and saw:


I said to myself 'That's impossible!'. Then it hit me!

So, from that point on, computers were more to me than black boxes and were very real and very powerful.

Then I found the C64. Music and graphics and games and programming languages up the wazoo.

Then the Amiga. With a command line AND a GUI at the same level (not one atop the other) and multitasking and COLOR.

I even ran a Mac as a task on the Amiga. Got a card with authentic apple rom etc on it. Ran off the shelf Mac software. Which I could run simultaneously with Amiga software.

My Amiga software was so much more sophisticated. Sorry. But it was. Therefore there was no way I could ever buy into the Mac image and culture because I knew better. And the war at that time between Amiga and Mac (I paid little to no attention to the PC) left a bad taste in my mouth.

Well, Commodore did die. I hung on for a while but knew I'd get a PC eventually. And I did. During the period of Win 3.1. Had lots of fun and loved the 24-bit color which I utilitzed from the beginning. But, still, it wasn't the same.

The true fun, for me, of computers had ended. Now they're just a tool.

Buddy Larsen said...

Syl, fascinating, fascinating--I never touched a computer outside the tasks of mamon, until just two or three yrs ago when--after I sold my smallbiz, I accidentally had to catch a forgotten birthday, and so went to a 'paint' program. This was the wrong thing to do along with the brand new virginal experience of having some time of my own for the first time ever. Can you say "instant addict"?

Syl--that video--the sound is what makes it--it's an acoustic orchestra doing some sort of techno/Christmas synthesis--it makes the video--wonder why you had no sound?

Syl said...


Can you say "instant addict"?

LOL I know. I know. See, computers aren't just for crunching numbers and doing text. They can be creative tools as well.

wonder why you had no sound?

Because my soundcard is dead. It's in the article.

Buddy Larsen said...

Syl, to tell the truth, i could see at a glance that your post was literary--so i saved it for later, when i could savor it. you caught me (blush). Like Jamie's poem at the top of the page--haven't read it yet--saving it and your creative piece for tommorrow, when the mkts are closed and i'm not gnashing my teeth into bloody stumps for having screwed something up.