It’s been an aggravating week for me, in PC land. I had this Linux box, see, and it was Good. Thing ran like a charm. It was my main development machine at the office (my own machine, that I’d brought in for work purposes). When we started doing Nintendo DS development we needed to run Windows, because that’s the host environment for the DS development kit. So the company bought new machines and Todd and I took our Linux machines home. Mine sat on the floor for a few months ’til I finally got sick of my screamingly loud and slow Windows machine. Last weekend I decided I’d repurpose the idle Linux box into a Windows machine that I could use to work from home. Clean install of Win2K went mostly okay, except that the machine rebooted spontaneously mid-download of one of the service packs. Well, I figure that’s to be expected with Win2K, right? What I didn’t figure on was that the machine would continue to bluescreen and reboot on its own, usually crashing in atapi.sys. Todd figured that it was likely a bad DVD drive, so I disconnected it and the machine seemed a lot more stable, for about a day. Then it started rebooting itself again, ’til it finally refused to boot altogether, claiming there was no boot device. This is definitely not good. So I pulled the hard drive out of the machine and stuck it in a FireWire enclosure, and sure enough the drive’s dead. My Mac sees the FireWire enclosure, but not the drive. So here I am, hoping that the HD was the only thing wrong with the machine, so I reconnect the DVD drive and fire up the machine (sans HD) using a Ubuntu LiveCD. The computer rebooted itself within a half hour.
Now, all I know anymore is that something is dead wrong with this machine. But what? The motherboard? The voltage regulator? The power supply? How many components were destroyed? I figured the machine seemed to compute properly, so I pulled the fast (and quietly-cooled) CPU and memory from the machine and jacked it all into the old, slow, computer. (They had the same motherboard, so I was okay with putting the significantly faster processor in the machine.) I plugged everything in, as I’d done a thousand times before, and as per my normal routine, I powered the machine up with nothing connected to it just to make sure I’d connected all the things that needed connecting. Everything seemed good, and the machine was a lot quieter, so I was pretty happy. Just button it all up, connect all the peripherals and go. The machine boots up and then shuts down right away. WTF? Turns out, if there’s a cable plugged into the video card the machine won’t stay on. Crap, methinks, I’ve toasted the video card. So I stick in an older video card and the bloody thing does the same damn thing.
You know, my closed-architecture (Windows) laptop has never given me a problem. Nor has my (mostly-closed architecture) Mac. Hardware can undergo much more rigorous quality control as a fixed unit than it can as a set of parts that may or may not work together. On top of that, hardware manufacturers all suck ass. They crank out components as cheaply as possible with a massive markup (just because the retailer doesn’t have a huge markup on hardware doesn’t mean the manufacturer doesn’t) because they know that even with a 30% failure rate they can make money selling their garbage. It’s the ultimate logical conclusion of capitalism (just like GM deciding it was cheaper to settle lawsuits than it was to fix their broken-ass designs on those pickup trucks that had the gas tank too close to the side wall).
I’m so bloody sick of this crap. This is why I went Mac in the first place. I’m not saying Macs, or laptops, or closed-architecture boxes of any kind don’t fail. I’m saying I’ve had a way higher failure rate for stuff that’s built from parts than I’ve had with closed machines. And when a machine that’s built from parts fails, you’re left scratching your head about what part failed. And usually the part that you can identify most clearly as having failed is just the last part in a long chain of parts that are fried. At least with something like a notebook, the machine works, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, your replace it. You’re not left trying to fix only the parts that don’t work. There’s a lot more certainty there. And really, that’s what I want. I want my machine to work. And if it doesn’t, I want the whole bloody thing replaced with one that does. I think I’ve bought my last build-it-yourself PC. From now on, I’ll get a closed box. Sony VIAO, or something. Something I can take back if I’m not happy with.