Monday, September 2, 2013

Biggest Hardware Regret As a Graphic Designer

I’ve been at this for the past couple of decades if you count my beginnings as an artist drawing and painting futuristic style containers and product labels and my few years as a drafting student and draftsman. Let’s throw in my experience as a 3D Modeler and Animator. As a result I’ve been collecting a lot of hardware and software over the years. Let’s not forget tutorial books, magazines, CD’s with textures, demos, free fonts… a lot of stuff has come through my door but only a small percentage has crossed the threshold in the other direction with few regrets.

To say “few regrets” means “no big regrets” simply isn’t true. As of now I’m having a genuine regret that I’m still trying to live with and get past which is harder thanks to genuine need and sentimentality.

I had this one machine that I maxed out the best I could for all of my needs during The Millennium Years – from 1998 to 2006. I used a Pentium Pro 266mhz machine with the absolute most RAM it could handle, A zip drive, a CD-ROM/CD-Burner, an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro video card, sound card, and at one time I believe I had two or three internal hard-drives. It was – for a brief moment in time – the most advanced and most rugged graphics machine on the block. I used that computer harder than a rented truck, and after almost 10 years of hard service it simply stopped working.

It stopped booting and after it would actually start it would shut down unexpectedly, and the “Blue Screen Of Death” was becoming a daily visitor, and then a twice daily visitor. It was time to let this machine go once and for all and I brought it to the local Staples as a trade in for a Windows7 machine which my wife is using at this specific moment.

I let this old machine go, with all the accessories, all the add-ons. Everything extra I put into this machine went with it. No big deal, right?

One aspect I’ve left out of this rant so far is the Gateway 7210 Server that I owned during the same time.

It’s a rugged big beast that was built to last and in many cases it’s outlived three other computers in the house. It was built to endure far worse environments than my house despite the intake of dirt, dust, pet hair. During the years that it was exiled in the basement it endured the horrors of mold infested air, an indoor fish pond that was in the basement from November to March and whatever the washer and dryer spews out. (Granted, the dehumidifier did it’s work all this time, but you never know what could have happened…) It still works better than brand new with the addition of the second processor it was always meant to have, but there are still some things missing.

I have no idea why the thought didn’t occur to me at the time but I’m regretting this since I’m working on some other legacy projects; why didn’t I remove the zip drive, the CD-ROM/CD-Burner, an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro video card, sound card, and the two or three internal hard-drives from that Pentium Pro machine and put them in this server? Why didn’t I have the forethought to put those components into the Gateway 7210?

What really smarts the most is the Iomega Zip Drive and the ATI video card since I’ve had to ask for help in finding new ones for the Gateway 7210 Server. I’m trying to find the most advanced video card for this server without spending too much.

Thanks to a lot of help from tech guys from various different forums I’ve found a few good candidates to consider that are now residing in my “shopping carts” and “wish lists.” Now it’s just a matter of time and funds.

In the meantime people continue to ask; why am I bothering? It’s so old and obsolete and I could get more performance out of a newer server. Isn’t this a waste of time and money?

The short answer; no.

The long answer; it’s a legacy machine with now obsolete media peripherals like a Iomega Zip Drive that I’m looking to replace. I’m in a part of the country where there are still some clients who have everything stored on media that people haven’t touched in a long time. Just because nobody else has a Zip drive doesn’t mean they still don’t need to have their old media accessed.

I still use this server to access older programs and files from the past 15 years and it is still used as a storage device for my current work. It’s not attached to the internet and works as a really good archiving tool. There are some older image generating programs that just aren’t supported or updated any more that I like to dabble with occasionally. I also enjoy using some fractal programs that tie up my most modern computer and I like to set the other computers to work on that while I’m doing my real work that pays and has deadlines.

Also this isn’t  my only computer, it’s my oldest. My newest computer is only a year old, I have three others that I’ve hung onto as legacy machines. This Gateway 7210 Server just so happens to be the first computer I’ve ever bought myself; it wasn’t a gift or hand-me-down from someone else.

Another fact is that restoring and refurbishing this unit is more like a hobby, like restoring an old car or furniture. I’ve learned a lot about other aspects of computers out there in the meantime and my wife and I have agreed that so long as the bills are paid and we’ve already put money into savings and I don’t spend too much I’m free to keep at this. As for the actual parts, I’ve always known or believed that somewhere out there in the world that there were warehouses full of obsolete parts that didn’t sell because of something else was released and customers weren’t interested in anymore. It’s just a matter of finding out where those parts are and put them to use so long as they aren’t out of range of our budget.

Could also be “The Fisk Curse” - My dad, grandfather and great grandfather were innovators who have built things just because they could, and then found a use for them later. My dad is infamous in the HAM Radio community for building various types of antenna tuners, modular motor drivers, and other things even though there are new technologies that can do these jobs he still likes to find other ways. It’s like trying to find other approaches and techniques to the same problems or ways of doing things. My dad has made about 20 different versions of antenna tuners and recently was bragging that he’s come up with a new idea that’s going to make “a million dollars.”

I thought he was crazy then but as I get older I’ve found my own windmills to tilt. I get what he was doing all these years later; I just wish I started dabbling with computers back then to so we could have learned something together.

Finally; I want to max this thing out just because I can even if it makes sense to nobody else. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. It’s a momentary distraction from the other things in my life. Focusing on this refitting and refurbishing is helping me forget about what’s going on in the world of politics and other petty nonsense. That’s worth a couple of bucks and the time spent for a worthy distraction.

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