Friday, January 3, 2014

The Graphic Designers PC Hardware Rant Number 1

One of my biggest gripes as a graphic designer, digital artist, or PC enthusiast is the lack of support from brick and mortar stores. It's the 21st century and people still don't know how to serve us in a manner that suits our needs. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of people who do a good job taking care of us on other fronts like the staff at my favorite art supply store that's more than happy to keep me stocked with black core black matte boards and x-acto blade. HP can't help but make new products that I want to buy like laptops and printers. Let's not forget our favorite software company that keeps making changes to our Creative Suite that makes sure we're never bored.
No, damn it, I'm talking about other outlets that keep finding new ways to piss me off.
I don't know if you guys know this yet or not but I love to dabble in PC Hardware. I love to upgrade my own stuff. There's nothing like the thrill and fear that comes with opening up the case to install new RAM or a second hard drive... or just clean off the lint quilt that's been building up on my CPU. I spent two weeks looking into building my own GPU processor node for serious number crunching, getting a new motherboard, stuffing every PCI slot with GPU cards (Graphic Processing Unit) and setting it loose upon the world of digital art by rendering complex fractal patterns and finding new things to do with it after that.
It's what some of us Fisk men do, we build amazing things first and THEN try and find tasks for our monsters to do. It's innovation and invention done backwards.
But during the past couple of years it's been harder to find competent people to help me get the parts I need or want. Perfect example is the video card for my Gateway 7210 Server with it's Pentium 3 dual processors, maxed out ram and Hot Swap 6 bay SCSI hard drive carriage. The video processor built into the motherboard isn't enough to handle the LCD monitor I want to use with it, so I want a graphics card for it. I can handle the millions of colors, but only at 800x600 pixel resolution.
And as a quick sidebar; what the funk is up with people who tell me to get rid of this machine or there's no use putting any new hardware into it. This monster has outlasted every other laptop, tablet, netbooks, washer, dryer, refrigerator and television in this house. It even outlasted the first stove my wife and I bought for this house which had an element short and caught fire. Because it was built as a server with rugged parts for the harshest environments there's no killing this thing!
It's outlasted every car we've had since 1998... so why bother getting rid of it since it's still able to reach our home network and store files for us. Besides, it's bought and paid for! The heart wants what it wants and mine wants a graphics card for this machine!
There was once a time when there were computer parts stores everywhere. There was a chain called "CompUSA" in several locations and I would just go in and grab what I wanted. This was where I bought my ATI All-In-Wonder Pro video card for my first Pentium machine and I genuinely regret not getting it before trading it in for a Windows 7 laptop. I would get really excited when my wife and I (a bigger computer parts nerd than I am!) would go there on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon and buy what we needed and go home and have fun installing.
Now there are none of those reliable franchise around us. I can't go to a "CompUSA" or a "Circuit City" with an idea in my head about what I need or want to do and cruise the aisles looking for just the right product. I can't stop someone in the rows and ask them for a suggestion. There's nowhere I can take my beast to have it looked at by another expert the way I could in the past.
Instead there are a bunch of non-franchise stores. There are a couple of owner-operated shops where I can go and ask for help, but those are hit and miss. One store in particular that my wife passes everyday twice where I would like to give some of my business to. I would love to spend my cash there because these people are technically my neighbors. I would rather give them the money rather than some corporate office in a part of the country (or world) I've never been to.
Instead I was given a lecture about how they could get any part to me - they have organized stacks of used parts to choose from. Even though I know exactly every detail of this machine (and it's manual in PDF form on my tablet) the man I assume is the owner didn't want to do business with me until I brought the whole machine in so he would know for sure what was the right part... and charge me $30 for installation.
After getting home I took pictures of the interior of the computer and the PDF version of the manual and asked them to get back with me with a list of options  I never received a response.
Instead, I went on-line, joined a couple of forums that introduced me to a handful of vendors and parts that would suit my needs. Right now I'm waiting for a beast of a GPU card to arrive... unused in a box that hasn't been opened since it was manufactured around the same time my server was build. Thanks to this awesome group of people I also have an idea of installing a RAID card in this machine with an internal cabinet to reside inside to be stuffed full of SATA hard drives that couldn't have been used with this machine before.
These club members - as far as I'm concerned - aren't in it for the money. They are in it for the challenge.
While I'm sure there are a lot of other independently owned and operated computer stores out there (that are getting harder to find) I'm a bit incredulous with the ones who just don't want to do business with me unless it's on their terms. Don't you have merchandise to move? Don't you want to make a sale rather than not?
Or is it any wonder why some of these businesses are failing? Why bother with these people if it's easier to shop from home via the internet. Sure, I'll get the part a couple of days after I but it... but I know for sure I'll get what I asked for.. Sure I miss the interaction with other tech heads. Sure returns are a hassle if I didn't get what I asked for or if I asked for the wrong thing. But it's better than this alternative.

It's no wonder some of these businesses are vanishing. I want reliability and if I have to go to the internet to get it, that's their problem. Evolve and perform or die!

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