Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Blow Up the Alien Computer

Written 21 December, 2006

PC Problems

V. I Blow up the Alien Computer

Destroying my operating system was a direct result of my involvement with Second Life. Before SL, I had no desire or need to update my video drivers.

Now, with all of my utilities, programs, and games installed, and with only one daunting task remaining—organizing the Start menu so it would made sense.

(Mini-Rant Warning)

What is it with Windows? It wants to be a multi-user platform, but there’s only one of me!

I’m not sure if I’m the Administrator, All Users, or Cheyenne Palisades. Do you think I need to talk to a guy in India about that?

Some of my start menu items wind up under All Users, the rest under Cheyenne. I am forced to open two windows so I can cut and paste (or drag and drop) shortcuts into categories that make sense (for me, utilities, games, multimedia, internet, and applications).

By now my PC is running like sludge. That’s because every darn program I’ve installed has its hooks into Windows and is opening a little spot in memory for just in case- just in case I use that program. Time to clean them out.


(Min-Rant Off)

Now, finally, after more than a week, my PC is running properly. I have a fast Athlon processor, ample hard drive space, a fast internet connection, and a 256 MB AGP video card. It’s time to kick some SL ass. But just a sec—shouldn’t I have more than 1 gig of RAM?

And so I take myself to Fry’s (my 15-year-old Izuzu pickup pretty much drives itself there on autopilot by now) and buy a stick of Kinsgton RAM.

It costs a hundred bucks for 1 GB. I wince and pay it, and remember with no fondness the black day when I paid more than five hundred dollars for 8 MEGAbytes of RAM.

When I get home I turn off the PC, ground myself with a wrist strap, and stick in the stick of DDR. It’s difficult to see what I’m doing because there’s little light, and hard to make my way to the slot because of the IDE cables (which are round and glow in the dark; it is, after all, an alien computer). I push in the module and hear it click into place. And I withdraw my hand and turn on the power.

There is just the smallest, just the tiniest puff of smoke.

Little smoke, big trouble.

I have fried not only the stick of RAM I just bought, but the RAM that was in my computer as well. And who knows, maybe my mother board as well!

Oh, dear.

Said Alien PC is now sitting on the kitchen table…

See part VI.


Photo 1: RAM getting zapped

Photo 2: Zapped chip

1 comment:

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Windows's heritage goes back to MSDOS, which, like the CP/M it was cloned (some say ripped off) from, was a very primitive program loader that had no idea of users, so that anyone could do anything. Programmers got lazy, and hence now, with Windows XP, which is really Windows NT 5.0 renamed so that MS could sell it to you again, that was designed by someone who knew operating systems (Dave Cutler, hired away from DEC where he was responsible for VMS), there are still a lot of apps that assume they're in the old stupid world where there are no users and anyone can do anything.

This is a massive violation of an important notion of security, called the Principle of Least Privilege: at any given time, you should only have the ability to do the things you need to do. You should therefore normally run as a user _without_ administrative privileges, and only be Administrator when you need to.

Unfortunately Windows users tend to bridle at this, which is why I think that the Vista changes with regard to security will be bypassed by the vast majority, who will continue to run with all privileges at all times, so that they'll continue to be visited by viruses, spyware, and malware of all sorts. (One woman I asked whether she normally ran without administrative privileges replied haughtily, "I _know_ what I'm doing." OK...)