The Beast and I: Living With a Very Old Computer.

I’m writing this on the Beast, a computer that has been my daily-driver for nine and half years.  We all have those computers that we keep for a little too long and tell ourselves that “one day soon” we will replace it with a shiny new system.  I just never got around to the last part.  Aside from a house and a car, a computer can be the most expensive thing that most of us will ever buy.  While I haven’t been that poor for that long, I just haven’t laid hands on enough cash to feel justified in a major purchase like that.

Not when my current rig worked as well as it did.

For those of you not good at math, I build the Beast in October of 2003.  While I did want a new computer, I built it as a way of dealing with a hard break up.  (Your first long-term girlfriend is always the hardest.)  It was the first computer that I’d ever bought with my own money and the first one that I’d ever built from scratch.  I’d had two other computers before that.  Both laptops.  This was to be my first desktop.

While it would have been easy to have talked my parents into giving me the cash to buy the parts, I wanted to work for the money to get over the pain I was feeling, so I went to work for my father installing fire alarms.  That was 10-16 hour days, 5-7 days a week of physical labor for a kid that’s only a buck seven soaking wet.  You get over any mental “pain” pretty fucking quick.

And at the end of the summer, I had the cash to build the Beast.

I should probably explain the name.  I call it that because the rig is in a black server case that comes up pass my knees and is as wide across as two of me.  It has the obligatory plastic window on the side that belches blue light into the room, and the huge fans in it sound like an air port.  I have a habbit for leaving it on all night, so I don’t how I’m ever going to get to sleep without it’s white nose if I ever to get up the balls to get rid of thing.

I’m sure some reading this would like to know its specs, but it’s been so long I’ve forgotten them, and I’m too lazy to look them up.  I do know it has Athlon’s first 64 bit processor (single core), and three gigs of DDR 1 ram.  After that I couldn’t tell you.

Using the same computer for almost ten years might seem strange for some of you, given that I post a lot about technology on this blog, but I think that keeping a system running every day for a decade can teach you a lot about computers.  For about eight and a half of those years it’s been an exclusive Windows XP box.  I’ve had to learn how to keep my system clear of almost every piece of spy and malware on the Internet.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to use winconfig to close out all of the stupid programs that wanted to run on boot-up.

I never did get around to doing a reinstall, so my OS has a lot of personality.  I’ve also had an old wireless card in the thing that would make it crash every so often.  The only way that got fixed was be moving the router closer to my system and connecting it directly.

A little less than a year ago, I got tired of seeing that same interface for years, and switched to a dual boot with Ubuntu Linux.  Everything that everybody says about linux being fast is true.  I was running 12.04, which was the latest version at the time, and it gave my system new life because for the first time in year, I was running a modern operating system with all of the new design ideas of the last few years applied.  I have a powerful dock and a really slick interface.  Granted, I could only use the 2D mode of Unity, so I didn’t get all of the flashy transitions, but it was still good for me.

My advice to anyone who’s using old hardware would be to throw Linux on, because it can bring your box back from the dead.

That said, I did finally have to kill my partition because it started to act really strange.  (Locking up on back ups and such.)  This was because despite all my best efforts, my hardware has almost gone through three full presidential terms.  It’s really showing it’s age as a daily use computer, and in the next few weeks I’m going to replace it.

More on that later, but I expect when I do finally retire the beast to be a very emotional affair.

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