New tiny computer in front of hulking old computer and recently-deceased TV. Plus a trusty calculator of many years.

This is coming to you from a new computer. That is not a boast; far from it. If the world would have allowed it, I would likely still be on one of my early computers, pieces of which are still here in this house, along with the remnants of now at least three other computers from which I harbor vague hopes of retrieving data.

While I believe I can blame the television and oxygen concentrator fallout on electrical issues, the computer demise is probably a function of age and use. Why build things to last when they’re obsolete the day they come off the factory line?

And, on the electrical front, I am quite happy to report that I’m not as crazy as you all think I am. There have been electrical glitches out here.

Now that I am a member of a cooperative, I get all kinds of perks I never got as a Citizen Using Electricity inside city limits: a magazine, rebates, fellow electric car enthusiasts, free stuff, and sometimes questionable electric delivery.

On Membership Day, or whatever it’s called when normally ballots are cast for directors of the board (no contested seats this year), I drove to my cooperative building west of town to get my free membership gift (a reusable bag and a stadium blanket), make sure I hadn’t missed my ballot (no ballot to miss), and to ask about the electrical disturbances in the force of my home.

And John, who after 27 years on the job is no longer the youngster I remember from his high-school days, told me I wasn’t crazy: there have been glitches in our area. Something something Slaughterhouse Road (yes, that’s the name of a nearby road, based on an early business located at the end of it), they’ve been trying to track it down — I didn’t put much effort into understanding anything beyond the point most worth noting: I was not crazy, nor was I imagining things.

John did seem a bit startled when I rattled off all the electronics that have malfunctioned, but there he seemed inclined to blame the surge protectors, and told me most surge protectors should warrant whatever electronics they’re hooked into, and that contact information ought to be located somewhere on the surge protector.

Of course, I have no idea how one would go about measuring how many unwanted joules surged into my 3-year-old television, nor any good way of proving it was plugged into that particular surge protector — and don’t you assume these companies have lawyers on retainer that have already taken that into consideration?

So on Sunday, secure in the knowledge that I’m not as crazy as all of you were politely thinking to yourselves, I celebrated Father’s Day by perusing the sale at Best Buy.

I do want you to know I tried. I went several extra days without a TV in my room so I could go look at my options locally over the weekend. But it turns out our newest iteration of Sears (it’s for sale, if you’re interested) is mostly a big, empty space with some appliances and perhaps a few tools, and Walmart had no TVs sized smaller than gigantic and three display models of computers, only one of which was functional.

I returned home empty-handed and shopped online, where at least the sales tax will still reach local entities. Not much sales tax, though: I spent $70 on a TV. And bought a computer that was one-third: one-third the size of my old computer, one-third the coolness, and one-third the cost. There is no point is spending $1,500-2,000 on a gaming computer when all I really want out of it is the glowy keyboard. Especially when it’s going give up the ghost in five years.

Not being a terribly discerning computer shopper, I tried comparing four cheap models on the Best Buy site. I even studied the Best Buy tutorial on terminology and looked up to see what the heck “Windows 10 in S Mode” was.

I’m not sure why Microsoft thinks this is a selling feature: “S Mode” means your computer lives and breathes Microsoft. You can only surf the ‘net in Edge. You can only use apps from the Microsoft Store. You get followed everywhere on your computing journey by Microsoft. Those all seem like minuses to me, so when one of the four said it came with “Windows 10 Home,” no S Mode, I picked that one.

It arrived with S Mode anyway. And a blocky plug-in that takes up half my non-effective surge protector, and the world’s shortest cord. I almost sent it back right there, and might have considered it further had I not just, one day earlier, read about a British ITV investigative report that showed Amazon sending hundreds of thousands of new or barely-used products to landfills and recycling centers. I can’t take part in that kind of waste; it’s bad enough I’m buying a new computer after only five years.

So I plugged my new computer in, and from the moment I turned it on, it started talking to me. I do not want my machines talking to me. Scoff if you want, but it’s a shorter step than you realize from “Hi, I’m Cortana” to “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

I figured out how to dispatch with Cortana, or at least to keep her from talking to me, and I doubt I got rid of Alexa, which I also thought I was specifically NOT purchasing, but at least she’s out of sight. I removed the Microsoft Store and a whole bunch of other Microsoft crap off my start bar, got the hell out of S Mode as fast as possible, and went back to my friends at Mozilla, even though the computer keeps trying to encourage me to go back to defaulting to Edge. That’s the sort of default that could drive me right over the Edge, don’t they understand that?

I don’t have a glowy keyboard that will burn red for hours after the hard drive starts itself up and runs hot. I no longer have a CD drive that will crap out long before the rest of the computer. I don’t have “checking for media presence” cropping up five times a day on an otherwise black screen. If I can keep Cortana and Alexa from yapping at me and figure out how to transfer all my programs over (that’s the part I hate the most about this process), I can make my one-third computer work.

And I’m not crazy in thinking the electricity around here is wonky. Plus I have a new stadium blanket. On balance then, I guess that means everything is okay.

One thought on “Computations

  1. Fun fact – at least for a nerd – the little device called a MOV in your surge suppressor gives up its own life, little by little, absorbing the spikes to protect your electronics. Eventually the surge suppressor becomes only an extension strip.

    There are also expensive surge suppressors you could put on the wiring coming into your house.


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