REPAIRING THE MONITOR

The monitor I’ve been using since 2008 which I bought along with Cuberick and had had my 360 hooked up to had been acting weird the past few years. Every time I’d turn it on it would flicker and I’d have to turn it off and on again twice per minute or so before it would finally flicker to stability usually 5-10 minutes later. A few days ago it failed to turn on completely. I thought I’d try to locate the problem and attempt to repair it. Cue some Youtube research, and lo and behold: my problem turned out very common – and very easy to fix, at least compared to how complex I’ve been imagining working with electronics to be.

Namely, multiple (five!) capacitors on the power controller chip were blown; a result of policies corporations like Samsung follow where they use the cheapest components possible to reduce costs and enforce planned obsolescence, a two-birds-with-one-stone type of deal for the manufacturers and against consumers the world over.

Replacing them together with buying some necessary equipment for soldering and borrowing an actual soldering iron set me back less than 10€.

Now my 9-year-old 22″ monitor that doesn’t have an HDMI-in works like new. I put in some extra time but I came out fulfilled, richer in terms of knowledge and with something that will hopefully last some more years to come – probably more than what VGA cables will still be around for.

If you have the same problem, here’s the video that got me started. My monitor’s model is Samsung 2232BW.

SECOND NEW LAPTOP, FIFTH NEW COMPUTER

In late June – that’s already 2 months now, frack! – I got myself a new laptop with the money I got from my father’s insurance company as a reward for managing to not die before turning 25 or something to that effect. It’s a lot less than what I should have got,  given the amount of money my father had been paying every year for me to be entitled to this. Even the sum itself, while indeed the same numerically as the one in the original contract, is worth much less today because of the beautiful human construct called inflation, a fact which I’m sure my insurance company, and all insurance companies everywhere since forever for that matter, must have preciously kept in mind before sealing the deal. Still. Still! This boost isn’t enough for me to do everything I ever wanted (that costs money), but it’s enough to do at least some of those things (that cost money), or indeed, individually, anything I ever wanted, apart from maybe owning land, a car, or a sailing boat. My wishes aren’t so costly anyway. Thanks dad.

So, the time of choices was – and still is – upon me. The first one I made was, as I mentioned in the first sentence, to buy a new laptop. My cheap old Acer served me well for the 5 years I had it and now I transferred it to Zanda, who’s been out of a computer almost since we got here in Sofia. She’s been taking good care of the little grandpa, including surprisingly taming his overheating, random-restarting temper by simply cleaning him a little bit with a paintbrush, so I can now safely assume he’s in good hands.

Back to my own new laptop. After 4-5 days of furious googling, redditing and reading reviews, comparing prices, all the things you do when you’re itching to invest on any shiny new piece of tech and that have utterly transformed in unfathomable ways how consumers exercise their right and obligation of being  good citizens, I made my decision: the best available bang for the buck and the best fit for my needs, namely the ability to play not-so-demanding games decently (you know, the weird ones I like), longevity – i.e not having to buy another laptop for another 5 years or even more if I can make it – and to have a desktop replacement, since 1) who knows where I’ll end up next year or the one after the next? and 2) Cuberick is getting old, even after I upgraded him a few years back. His GFX card has been the same since early 2008, for one thing…

Many thoughts went through my mind before I made my decision (duh). I had a lot of doubts about buying something so expensive, perhaps the single most expensive thing I ever bought with my own money. “Should I get a used laptop instead? How big of a difference will paying more now make in the long run, after the novelty has worn off? Will the extra €100 or so for the model with the “significantly” better graphics card also make a difference, when this new digital companion won’t be that good in playing games anyway?” As a person who tries to be against over-consumption and for simplicity, frugality and smart buys, and as one who, truth be told, hasn’t stuck to these ideals as of late, I had such mini-anxieties before taking the big step. At the end I went along the line of reasoning that dictates that important tools excuse lavish spending. Maybe.

This is the laptop: the ASUS N56JR-S4078D. Notebook review link – the only difference with the S4078H model in that review is that mine has a keyboard in English/Cyrillic; perfect for learning  and typing in Bulgarian and – why not? – one day Russian. Here’s a good topic containing discussion on this model.

I got it from pcstore.bg, which was the only retailer in Bulgaria who actually had it in stock at the time. I checked to see if it was available anywhere in Greece, but surprisingly it appeared that no models of the N56 line had been made available from ASUS in the county. Hah! I own something that doesn’t exist in Greece!

For all its good points, the model didn’t have an SSD, something I’d been dying to get my hands on. Instead it had a Blu-Ray writer! I got a 120GB Samsung SSD for it and replaced the optical drive with that. I also got a USB enclosure for the removed optical drive. It feels super-neat having a small external device capable of reading and writing on pretty much every optical medium, but I’ll probably hardly ever use it. Optical simply faded away and nobody shed a tear…

All things accounted for, I paid 1958lv for it. That would have translated into less than 1000€ if Alpha Bank hadn’t screwed me over with their extortionate exchange rate from euro to leva, so I had to pay more or less 60€ extra for the luxury of moving money from my Greek account to pcstore.bg’s Bulgarian account. #$&@*! I At least I got some feelings of compensation from the sweet Razer messenger laptop bag pcstore.bg was giving away with every purchase of this particular laptop model. I might not have played Dragon Age II, nor do I plan to, but who cares? Actually, now that I looked up that link to Razer’s site for the bag, I’m disappointed that it wasn’t the Mass Effect II or the Starcraft II variation – hey, what’s up with the sequels? *shakes head violently* No, no. I got this bag for free. No complaints, kay?

Here’s a review of the laptop, linking to other reviews by the same guy:

And here’s a picture from the first time I turned it on:

qblptp_redux

And here begins the point of this post. The moment I opened the box and got my hands on this beauty, I wanted the above video review to be done by me. I love the black keys over the polished aluminium – I’ve already confused Macbook Pros with N56s on-screen; Daphne had to correct me when we were watching Utopia. I felt so special for owning this thing. I wanted to make videos showing all the little bits, pieces and magic, take pictures, share the excitement! Meanwhile, I was careful not to leave fingerprints anywhere; I cleaned the screen meticulously (me?! Amazing, right?) or thought twice before installing any program (still do). I wanted to leave it in as a pristine condition as possible.

I wanted to write this post ever since I got my spanking new N56JR. But then life happened for a bit and I was too busy. Frankly, the more weeks passed, the less I had an idea of what to write about. Little by little, my enthusiasm was diminishing and I was starting to look at my new possession for its pure utilitarian value, the way you always do with stuff, no less according to Heidegger and what he said about the difference between things being ready-to-hand and present-at-hand. I’m showing off here, BTW: I don’t really know much about dead German philosophers, or any philosophers for that matter, but especially about dead German philosophers; I just remember what I studied of his theories from when I was doing my Heidegger and Haiku paper. To put it differently, there is a fundamental difference of interaction between when you notice your tool and when you just use it. I’m slowly going into the latter stage, of just using the tool.

It’s another reason I posted a “long term” review above (and was pleasantly surprised to come across one); I can see that reviewing something when you’ve just plucked it from the box must be very different from reviewing it after you’ve had it for a while. Yet, there’s unboxing videos combined with “reviews” everywhere on YouTube. Another German philosopher put it very eloquently: fetishising of commodities. Hell, I’ll be damned if I haven’t used the word sexy for plastic things that work on batteries other than your typical sex shop’s inventory.

So what’s so special about that, about my new tool? What warrants this post? I started reasoning that nobody would care about my new laptop. Why would you? I mean, I would probably not care if you bought a new laptop. Why should I? Big deal, it’s a laptop. Ya like it? Goodonya mate. Happy you’re happy.

It’s just a laptop. We might be loving it today, but tomorrow we’ll be tired of it, the day after we’ll be cursing at it and not taking good care of it and then one day we’ll be happily chucking it. Or giving it to Zanda. Anyway, even if we give it to Zanda, its final destination will inevitably be this place:

owner-of-an-e-waste-scrapping

(related post in Greek)

We’re like this with everything we buy, but especially electronics. I would be very happy if I could get a laptop that would last me 10 or 20 years, the way things used to be, before growth at any cost became the name of the game. Okay, perhaps growth has been the name of the game for far longer than since whenever the first consumer appliances reared their digital faces. But it used to be the case that things just lasted! They were made for it. Are you aware of the Lightbulb Conspiracy? Or good old Story of Stuff?

I don’t believe perpetual “progress” expressed in better specs in the field of consumer electronics , such as which forces you to always need to buy the new model of iPhone, console, laptop or digital camera, is as benign, healthy, or even necessary as it’s made out to be. Far from it. What if progress meant sustainability, reduced waste in production, replaceable and recyclable parts? I would gladly sacrifice my laptop’s power if it meant that I would still be able to use it effectively in 2025. I just contradicted myself, didn’t I? Frack it.

To end this rant, I love my new laptop. It works well and I feel good using it. I enjoyed writing about it and I enjoy writing on it. I would recommend it.

But I also felt guilty enough to write this post.

 

99 Things I HATE! ~ Part 2

Part 1

21. I drink beverages too fast.


I sit for a coffee with friends. Sluuuurp! Up the straw it goes before anyone has even touched their own beverage of choice. It’s worse with alcoholic drinks… I don’t ever seem to realise that when it’s over, it’s over! And I just sip, sip sip the night away. I also eat and smoke faster than most people when in the company of others. It’s only then that comparison with others’ still full plates/glasses is possible and my worried, thoughtful scratching of beard is only natural. My solution? I just steal from the others’ food and drink.

22. I don’t know anything about Greek Music.

It has happened too many times to count: I’m with a big company at some taverna or place that is suitable for accommodating a number of people in the double digits. Everyone’s having fun, talking vividly and eating more vividly. Then, when everyone’s feeling cheerful, someone, somewhere, utters the words to the first song. And everyone catches on; and everyone sings along; and turn-in-turn everyone butts in with their own favourite Greek words and everyone else follows suit. It’s like that when there’s a live program as well. Guy playing the guitar, singing his songs that everyone knows. It doesn’t take much to take it out of you if you’ve drunk sufficient quantities of alcohol. “All together now!” And we all sing together.

Except me.

These songs… How should I put it. Yes. I might have heard them, I might even remember one or two lyrics just from sheer repetition (this kind of thing happens to me quite often), I usually remember the melody but I can never join the fun. Friends or acquaintances might know every single song by heart but I’m just left there to look around silently trying my best to have a good time but failing miserably, always thinking “wow. This feels so awkward. It sucks.”

Alas, such behaviours never go unnoticed. When everyone’s singing and they catch wind that I am not, they try to encourage me to join them. In the wake of their inevitable failure they look so disappointed in me, so… how should I say. There’s a certain Greek word that roughly translates into “party-pooper” and “killjoy” but lacks any of the playfulness of those two words. It’s kind of a brutal word, now that I think of it. It’s ξενέρωτος. Oh I’ve got that a lot throughout the years. I also get “you don’t know these songs?? You’re not really Greek”. I’ll let the look on my own face by this point to your imagination.

It feels as if knowing about Greek music is such a big part of our culture here that you can’t help not stick out like an alpine fox in the mud if you’ve kept well away from anything that has to do with the domestic musical product for pretty much your entire life. It’s not that I hate Greek music. I want to come to terms with it, explore and discover artists I’m bound to like or already know I like but haven’t bothered looking into more (Pavlos Sidiropoulos, Thanassis Papakonstantinou, Alkinoos Ioannidis, Lavrentis Maheritsas, works by Kavadias turned into songs). Some people in my life have helped me somewhat with discovering and getting to know some Greek music but never decisively and never beyond the realms of satisfying some of my polite curiosity. It’s that it’s polite curiosity at best.

What can I say? Maybe I’m not really Greek after all if I can’t, for the life of me, get into it all. Which is a perfect intro for my next hatred entry:

23. Nationalism.

Some Greeks call me Australian. Some (most?) Australians would call me Greek if I returned to OzzyLand. I’m really both and neither. My national identities sort of negate eachother but at the same time create a completely new existence, like a Yin and a Yang that alone are whole but together are whole-er. This may be the reason I could never exactly or comfortably identify with national ideas except for when I was only little (funny how “nationalist” children can be, or we’ve all been as children).

I don't like nor believe in flags but this could well be the flag of whatever my real nationality is. Designed by me.

This open-mindedness by default comes with a cost, however. A multicultural background always helps you break through the wall of deceit but at the same time alienates you from any and all cultures you might have some heritage from including the one you were born in. You start to inhabit your own space in the cultural web, at first as little more than a means to survive but eventually enjoying this uniqueness of yours, weaving your own new threads and connections, keeping the best from both worlds and inevitably creating a new one while you’re at it.

It’s all very nice and postmodern of course but other people look at you suspiciously. You’re one of them but not exactly. Everyone must belong, granted, but you can’t seem to decide whether you belong somewhere or nowhere. An ultimate decision is unlikely. And then there comes a day when you, tired of all this vagueness, ask yourself: why must nationality form the end-all be-all criteria of “belonging” in the first place? Aren’t there more important aspects to a person?

Nationalism might be one of the things I hate the most. I’ve come to hate it so much, so deeply, I find it hard to express myself, to find words that might accurately portray how deep this hatred goes. I’ll try.

To me, nationalism is a bit like football teams (another of the 99 things, can’t be a coincidence). You support an idea or a group of people just because you belong to it. Also called ethnocentricism for us social scientists. ~^, Having a concrete sense of national identity isn’t a bad thing on its own but most usually, just like with football teams and religion for that matter, it comes with denying everyone else’s right to do exactly what you’re doing: love their country above all else. Of course, again just like football teams and religions, nations are so self-centered they believe they are the only ones in the right, that there’s only enough room for none other than themselves at the top. Nations see everyone else as threats, as others, and that alone creates a self-fulfilling prophecy; when everyone sees everyone else as a threat some kind of threat is indeed created out of thin air. Just like when two people want to trust each other but because they’re afraid that the other will not want to comply, they keep to themselves, wholly generating their own image of untrustworthiness. It’s an endless loop.

Most nations have been founded on lies we now take for granted, unshakable truths, but this isn’t the time for me to go into detail on that. I hope you can understand what I mean. Nations have only served to distill fear, isolationism and hatred into people’s hearts. As a concept they encourage people to look for differences among themselves, not similarities, at least as far as inter-national relations are concerned. The similarities that can be found in the people within the borders of the nation-state are imaginary, arbitrary and never well-defined. Naturally, universal truths like love, friendship, global or special (species-al) co-operation are the first to die for the sake of national integrity and identity. It’s not much different than the ridiculous idea of loving your video game console so much you automatically hate, out of fear perhaps, anyone who might love another console. With the difference that people have died, killed others and created complex and perfectly valid — in social terms — historical narratives to support this madness in theory as well as in practice.

It’s everywhere, from the Olympic Games and Eurovision *spit* to wars of the past and lingering ideologies. In the name of your country you might be made to feel like it’s your duty to protect it against aliens and immigrants, secure your cultural traditions and history including religion and language, avoiding to look out to the world, because you were never taught that such a thing might not be such a bad idea after all. It might be dangerous. People out there are bad, they wish nothing more than the downfall of you and your country.

I’ve seen too many people get obsessed with lies about “racial” traits (I’m tired of listening to Greeks think they’re Ancient Greeks or their descendants… SO tired…), looking back and jerking themselves off with their nonsensical grand histories so that they can avoid looking at the awful present and the grim future while still feeling as if they’re something important or special. It enables people to feel good about themselves when they’ve been good for nothing. How can ANYBODY feel special about something they never earned or fought for themselves? I suppose unhappy times call for such sad measures.

If world borders, nation-states’ cornerstones, were torn down tomorrow, it’s probable that great wars would erupt, everyone still with their mind on national interests battling it out for a better place under the sun. A world without borders would require a world without ownership, another can of worms altogether. But in a world with no nations people might eventually discover the beauty of not having to fit in, of not being caged by your parents or what part of the earth you were born in but by what your actions are.

I wish people could feel the airy and  open-mind they could have instead of the musty, dark closed-mind they’ve had since forever and take sick pride in.

24. Getting distracted for hours on the net doing nothing I set out to do.

“I’m going to log-in. I’m going to check my e-mail, see Kalionatis’s site, download the notes, after that I’m going to see Tsekouras’s site and download his notes. Then I’ll do a little bit of Delphi, after that I’ll send some e-mails to my beloved friends and check out Helix’s workcamps; I really want to take part in some of those programs!”…

*Escapist* *Hotmail* *MSN* *Matador* *Cubimension, writing* *Hotmail* *Game 2.0* *XKCD* *Cubimension, reading* *MSN* *Facebook stalking — I KNOW I DON’T HAVE A FACEBOOK!* *Goodreads* *tvtropes* *Wikipedia hopping* *Random site about some random new interest of mine* *Steam offers* *IMDB* *Flickr* *Some porn site* *MSN* *Couchsurfing* *Various interesting blogs* *Youtube* *Looking into all about that new interest of mine* *Grooveshark, discovering new bands I found out about on progarchives.com and allmusic.com* *MSN* *

Dayum… what’s left to re-check and re-re-check?*

What was it that I wanted to do again?

25. Loose handshakes.

“Oh hi… I’m *insert name here*, pleased to meet you”.

Oh, how many times have people made a bad impression on me just because that first greeting was accompanied by a loose handshake and a fleeting glance? Seriously people. Look at others in the eye when you meet them. Squeeze their palm like you mean it, NOT as if you couldn’t care less. Which is probably true anyway.

26. Moving deadlines.

“OK I’ll have it ready by then”. But “then” never comes. Being a person of the absolutely utter last minute, that means that I can never get anything done, doesn’t it?

27. Delays on booting.

Black screen. Reboot. Black screen. Reboot. BIOS startup holds up at memory testing. CTRL+ALT+DEL, nothing happens. Hard reset. BIOS completes startup, then computer freezes when loading Windows. Hard reset. BIOS startup insists there’s no more than a single core in my dual-core CPU and thus refuses to continue (out of spite?). Hard reset. At last, at some point, Cuberick decides to open his eyes, sweep off his waking grogginess and serve me, more a result of luck than anything.

The funny thing is that when it’s up and running there’s no problem whatsoever. Heh. Maybe it’s like how it’s with cars where you’ve got to get the engine all warmed-up first or something. Hermes knows how on Earth I’ve resisted beating Cuberick to a pulp time after time. Not that it matters. He’s already managed to beat himself to a pulp with no further assistance needed from me.

28. Facts caught up from Wikipedia.

-“Did you know that blah-blah?”
*where blah-blah, insert your favourite fact you yourself have already read on Wikipedia but know plenty of stuff about it from non-Wiki sources*
-“Yes I did, but it sure doesn’t sound like anything you spent too much time looking into. What you did is you just presumed you’re the more informed of the two of us just because you’ve happened to have read the Wiki page. So, you see, Mr/Ms. Smartass, I’m afraid you’re not the only one around here reading and skimming pages on that site more than necessary”.

Asking further questions usually results in disappointment and less-than-accurate answers. And when it doesn’t, it feels so sterile I can almost smell the Dettol in the air.

29. It’s raining and my clothes won’t dry indoors!

I guess it happens everywhere. But my experience from Lesvos has taught me that, if it starts raining, oh, you can be certain that it won’t stop for at least the next few days. If my clothes are caught hanging to dry on their line outside during this humid time, you can foresee the rest. But if I leave them to dry inside, they may well take even longer to reach their rightful place inside by drawer! I recently wanted to wear one of my favourite sweaters. It had been hanging there to dry for at least a week on a drying rack Garret has lent me months now– I doubt he wants it back. I grabbed it, only to find that its hood was still moist! I threw it back to its place in disgust and hatred. Go to hell, humidity.

30. Losing progress in games.

Power cuts. Ancient game design. Human mistakes. “Retry” instead of “Save”. Forgetting that “this game doesn’t have autosave”. A patch destroying the previous versions savegames. Glitches and Blue Screens Of Death. Blue Screens of Death. Screens of Death.

Death.

Loss of progress in games, you’ve sent many good hours of life’s charms to gaming purgatory, to the nether-realm of human entertainment. You’ve made many a player blind with rage, unable to accept that their efforts and pain have only resulted in a mockingly not-up-to-date version of their save files. You’ve destroyed vast amounts of perfectly good faith in an equally good game, sent it down the drain, never to return, never allowing the player to give the perfectly good game another chance due to pure frustration. It’s the synonym of amnesia for gamers, the very meaning of oblivion.

If I could, loss of progress in games, I would slap you till your cheeks were raw and your voice not fit to cry for help.

 

…to be continued…

http://cubimension.net/blog/?p=1275

Cuberick, rise!

Ahyawwwn… I’m typing this really tired, I’ve been awake for close to 30 hours straight now. Yesterday was all about fixing up Cuberick, my new mate and companion in the world of internet, IT, games and cyberculture. Together with Magebreeze a.k.a. Beast, that is my old computer (I’ve set them up in a LAN, both are downloading, Cuberick is downloading Celestia addons while Magebreeze is downloading Bioshock while also transfering all of my existing data from Magebreeze to Cuberick’s more spacious HDD) they’ve both put me in a really techie and computer nerdy mood, which also lead me to rearranging my furniture a bit. Nothing special, just moving some chairs around and wasting one and a half hours on some stupid DVD stand that I thought I had put together wrongly but in fact after trying to fix it ended up making it worse, realising in the process that not only was it defective out of the box, the way I had put it up originally was the best possible way to do it. Without it looking too bad I mean. Yes, I think those were some of the least useful, productive or enlighting 90 minutes of my life.

Anyway, back to the PC: I had some worrying difficulties while building Cuberick (can I have a SCREW SCREWLESS DESIGN? No, that’s SCREW SCREWLESS FUCKING DESIGN!) but fortunately after talking with people that could give me some meaningful advice, like trying everything out having the motherboard outside the case and even with no CPU, GPU or memories on, it finally worked. The problem was initially that, once powered on, the PC would stay on for around half a second then turn off and then after a few seconds do the same on its own. It could go on and on if I didn’t turn off the PSU every time. After playing around with the connectors, the battery and the CMOS, somehow I got it to work, and even though there are still some pretty minor points that I’d like to be able to correct sometime, like not being able to boot in Dual Channel mode or having some kind of power hickough at start-up, Cuberick is, I’m very happy to say, working fine. At this point, I’d like to thank my mum, the funding of which was necessary for the creation of Cuberick, Mario, who was with me at the very first stages of building the machine and helped me avoid some (crucial) mistakes I would have otherwise made, Kostas, who gave me the idea of trying to set-up the motherboard outside of the case and see what happens, Manos, whose Windows XP Pro SP2 CD I used at a time of need, and Alexandra, to whom I gave the honours to name Cuberick. This name just suits it fine, it hit bull’s eye. 🙂 Thank you, people! Even if some of you may never read this…

So what was the first thing that I did with my brand new PC? I played Portal, Valve’s most attractive inclusion to the Orange Box, at least personally. I had been keeping an eye out for this game ever since it was first announced, somewhat less than 2 years ago. I had bought the Orange Box when it had come out but Magebreeze just couldn’t cut it, 2004 tech just wasn’t enough for opening portals and solving interspatial puzzles. So once I had Cuberick up and ready with graphics drivers and the game installed, about 6AM today, I started the game and finished about 3 hours later. Short game, but wonderful nonetheless. Darkly humorous, clever, mindbending, potent and stylish. It seems to me that the gaming industry is less and less inclined to make good epic and long games rather depending on one-offs like Portal, which are short, cheap, stand-alone, based on an intriguing idea [;)] and creating a huge cyberculture following. I can’t even describe the success and appeal the Companion Cube, GlaDOS and the Cake have all had to the internet community. And today, I found out exactly why! Definitely one of the better games of 2007.

So here I am, even more tired, unable to up some pics I wanted of Cuberick because they’re too large and uuuhh… We watched Planet Terror earlied with Marios, Garret and Dimitris… Totally crazy and fun movie, if not slightly disgusting at times. Really gives off the cult feel a lot of people, including me, like. Staple of the movie was Cherry, with her mutilated limb replaced with a machine gun! Recommended if you’re into lots of blooooood!

So I better publish, before I… ah, zzz…