My (Unexpectedly) Expensive Weekend

The major deity of technology took a serious crap on me this weekend.

It started on Saturday morning, when we had to wake up early to go see an apartment building where we’de made an appointment to see an opening.  I went into my office and I noticed that my five year-old LCD was blank.  At first, I thought it was my computer; I thought maybe it had locked up during the night or maybe the video card died.  So, I rebooted it before doing anything else, which was stupid.  I should’ve switched ports on the KVM before trying to diagnose this further.  But no, I forced my machine to suffer an ungraceful restart, first.  it turned out that my faithful display finally stopped working.  And to be honest, I figured that five years was a good run for an LCD that had a little burn-in on it.  By the way, I didn’t realize that LCDs could burn in.

After we saw the apartment, we had breakfast and then we headed over to check out some monitors.  The place we went to, I remembered they used to have a huge flat panel display selection and when we got there, it turned out that they’d reduced it to all of six (down from over 30) and all of them were pretty damned expensive.  I was aiming for a striaght replacement (19 inch for 19 inch), but Julia and I were discussing it and it made sense to go a little bit bigger… except that adding 5 inches also seems to add a couple hundred dollars to the price.  But we decided, reluctantly, to bite the bullet and buy it anyway, because if we settled for a cheap brand and it broke down later, then we’d be out the money on it and then we’d buy a better one, spending more money in the process.  So, I now have a 24-inch display on my desk.

Here’s the kicker: the display won’t work plugged into my KVM switch anymore, but Julia plugs in her iBook and it works fine.  I’ve been in the tech industry over a decade and I’m still scratching my head over that one.  Since I have multiple computers, I need the KVM switch… or I need to buy 3 displays.

That was Saturday.  Sunday morning, we tried to hook up Julia’s iBook to the old screen and it turned out that her DVI-D wouldn’t adapt to the VGA 15-pin connector.  So off we went, back to the store to buy an adapter, except it didn’t work.  DVI-D is not the same as DVI-A, and if we wanted to get a DVI-I to work, we’d have to buy a 35 dollar cable along with it.  Since we dropped a pretty penny on the monitor, we were starting to get a little gunshy about buying more stuff, so we set it aside for now.  I mean, we weren’t even sure the old display would work, y’know?  But, while we were there, we checked out hard drives.  As you might remember, my 250gb portable drive died in June, and all the data on it is unreachable (sadface).  I considered buying a new DVD-RW drive for my system since I usually rely on Julia’s external DVD-RW.  I used to be able to use it on my system, but I switched to a new one and it doesn’t have the IEEE1394 port on it anymore… and there’s no firewire to USB adapter out there.

Hard drives were too expensive and Fry’s had a DVD-RW for under 40 bucks, so we went with that.  I came home and installed it and suddenly my system wouldn’t turn on anymore.  Wonderful.  I pulled everything out of the case, and started troubleshooting it, component-by-component.  The result?  My power supply was dead.  I transferred everything to an older case (this old black one that glows blue when it’s on… I’ve always really liked it), and it turned on when I had the motherboard, cpu, ram, and video card in it, but it would only stay on for like 1.5 seconds when I plugged in the primary hard drive.  That screams not enough power, so Monday… we were back at the store again, this time to buy a power supply (500 watts).  While we were out, we stopped by a Mac store and bought Julia a Mini-DVI to VGA adapter.

I was really gentle with this install, folks.  I mean… I was taking every single precaution I could think of in handling each component.  We’re talking about a system whose total worth reached into $1400, all told.  I don’t think I could bear another part failure (neither could Julia).  Luckily though, I pieced it back together and everything was gold.  I even managed to salvage an old 200gb EIDE drive I had doing nothing in the old case, so I have access to a lot of my old media (mostly TV shows) I lost I had lost when Redtail (my old system) died.

With the new monitor, power supply, adapters, drive and blank discs, we spent over six hundred-fifty bucks more than we planned to.  Originally, we figured less than two hundred for the monitor and that was it.

That’s what we get for thinking, right?

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