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Monday, November 29, 2004

Pulling out my hair...

I spent all day yesterday working on my computer. No, not the nice new 2.8 gHz Dell. That's my wife's. I'm not even allowed to look at that one. And not the beat-up old 333 mHz. That's the kids'.

No, I 'm talking about the 866 mHz hot-rod of a computer that I built from scratch 4 years ago, for the sole purpose of playing computer games. Yes, I've been a computer game addict for about 12 years. Most of my kids have been raised, sitting on my lap, sometimes one kid on each knee, as we've chased down dark corridors after monsters, or blasted TIE fighters from the cockpit of our X-Wing, or driven bright red Ferraris down winding country roads.

But a funny thing happened about 3 years ago. I got tired of the constant cycle of poor performance, crashes, upgrades and filled-up hard drives. This was about the same time I walked past a PS2 in Best Buy and saw Gran Turismo 3 running, and I had to stop and stare, not sure if I was watching a live video or a game.

I gave up on computer gaming and switched to consoles. Not much of an improvement, you might say, but I spend a lot less time (and money) just trying to get things working.

But the kids have taken over my hot rod of a computer, and after doing G-d knows what to it, it began to crash constantly. Then my son begged me to let him get Half-Life 2, and I decided to try and fix the old computer.

There was a time, shortly after I first built it, when it was a lean, mean gaming machine. It was a beast. That was then. Built-in obsolescence has taken its toll.

So I formatted the hard drive and reinstalled Windows 98, all the drivers and bios settings...and watch the computer boot up to a screen of pure gibberish. That's pretty scary. I rebooted to safe mode and reinstalled the graphics drivers. Then I went back into the bios, trying to figure out why the video card says it's set to 2x AGP when the bios says 4x.

This went on for hours. After it seemed like the computer was finally behaving itself, my son and I started to install Half-Life 2. (By the way, for all you concerned parents/teachers out there, I know all about these games, and only let them buy games that I'm comfortable with, and that are playable in the presence of all of their siblings).

The installation took a few hours. Not a good sign. We actually went to Mincha and came back and it was still "thinking." Eventually we got it running...and were treated to almost a slide show. Very poor frame-rates. Not particularly playable. And then we went to open a door, and the game crashed altogether. I thought my son was going to cry.

I've had that feeling myself at times. We launched into several more hours of troubleshooting, driver updates, and internet searches. Many handfuls of hair later, it's working.

I'm so glad I don't play computer games anymore.

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