Monday, December 24, 2007

Chickens coming home to roost

It gets pretty dusty here in the desert. One is well advised not to wear white gloves in these here parts! It's pretty fine dust too; pulverised rock that seems to get in everywhere.

One place it gets into is the heatsinks and fan systems in our computers. Indeed, it's essential maintenance as we get into the warmer months to take them down one at a time, remove the fans and brush the dust out. It helps to use a vacuum cleaner and, as a job, it sucks!

Okay, that was a cheap joke.

It's pretty easy to clean up the CPU fan and heatsink, not so easy to get all the dust out of the Northbridge fans and, as a consequence, we don't seem to get more than a couple or three years out of a motherboard. It's no big deal though; it's the perfect excuse to upgrade to bigger/better/faster.

Well that is if it's my computer or my wife's. If it's Andrews, well, he doesn't seem to care as long as it can run World of Warcraft. I don't think he'd know a FPS measurement if it hit him on the head. This is fine with us; it means we can get away with lower end equipment for his computer.

Thus, came the disaster, from his point of view, back at the end of June. His computer started randomly hanging. Now you'll remember that I used, thirty or more years ago, to repair TV sets for a living. But let me tell you, isolating a fault in a modern computer motherboard is a few orders of magnitude more complex. Frankly, it's not worth the trouble, so we bit the bullet and bought him a new motherboard and processor.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple. Though we only spent $140 it seemed reasonable to me that there should be some strings attached. He's 16 years old and it's surely time he learned that money doesn't just drop out of the sky. In short, he had to do something to earn the repairs. We agreed that he'd wash my car and my wife's once a month until January, for a total of 14 car washes. I thought pricing it at about $10 a car wash wasn't unreasonable.

All went well the first month, if you discount my inspecting my car after the wash and pointing out all the places he'd missed!

Second month it went okay. By the fourth month it was like pulling teeth to get him to uphold his side of the bargain. Finally, when it was down to a mere 5 car washes remaining, I threw in the towel, telling him not to bother. But I also warned him that I would reciprocate the lack of bother the next time his computer failed.

On Friday the computer shutdown with an 'overheating' warning. Unfortunately I was at the office and unable to enjoy the general consternation. But, acting under Mom's instructions, he, apparently gingerly, opened it up and brushed some of the dust out. Understand, we're talking a 16 year old boy who is apparently afraid of wielding a screwdriver! I fear I'm just not mentally equipped to understand that!

So I got home from the office to hear all about it. Of course I reminded him that he owed us 5 car washes and I wouldn't lift a finger for his computer until they were completed. And no, Andrew, 5 car washes in one day doesn't count. It's 2 a month plus the odd one.

I wasn't really surprised when he let the entire weekend go without raising a finger toward the cars; his computer seems to be running fine right now. But of course, without the regular maintenance, it will fail again soon.

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