Most of the people that know me think that I am a technology lover. This likely stems from the fact that I hate screws, once taken out, they rarely get put back in. I also love to tinker with stuff. But the stuff I tinker with tends to be out of warranty by at least a decade.

Yes I have created such monsters as the PCPC, which incidentally my wife uses on a day to day basis.

I even have the Beerbox, which is my trusty Webserver.

Who could forget the Pizza Box? A low cost solution to every travelers needs? I do have step by step instructions on this one.

Or even The Cardboard Box, which is my day to day weapon of choice.

These beasts may not look like your run of the mill computers, but they serve the purpose. If you peel the duct tape off any of these creations you will find a very standard Intel P III and P IV solution.

The relocation from Calgary to the depths of small town Mississippi forced me to evaluate what spare parts to bring with me. Of course Murphy played a huge part in the end result. I discovered on arrival that I was missing an ATX power supply. My first reaction was ‘no big deal, I’ll just pick one up at the local computer store. Hmm, easier said than done, the nearest operation that masqueraded as a suitable location was Radio Shack, after 10 minutes of happy banter on the phone, it became apparent that the idiot on the other end of the line was not employed for his technical abilities. It transpired that even though Radio Shack does in fact stock computer power supplies, Picayune, Mississippi is still waiting for their first shipment, but I’ll just bet that if I had been looking for an external floppy drive for a Vic 20 they would have had it in stock!

A quick look at the local Yellow Pages, and I emphasize the work quick, you could read the entire book in under an hour, revealed that there was a ‘real’ computer store. With my hopes up, I dialed the number. Of course I caught them during lunch hour, a time when they are closed! After cooling my heels for an hour I tried again. Another frustrating conversation ensued, the woman on the phone obviously did not know a bit from a byte, but it did seem that they might possibly have what I needed, the only issue was over price. Now I realize that everyone needs to make enough to live, but I’ll be dammed if I am going to pay $60 for a 250 watt power supply that should be selling for $20.

My frustration level was running high by this time. My next solution was eBay, sure enough, they had what I needed and the price, shipping included was $25, not a bad price for a 450 watt power supply. I signed up and decided that the 3 day wait was better than the instant frustration I was getting locally.

My rationale was that I did have two aging Toshiba Portege laptops and a cranky IBM Thinkpad with a broken On/Off switch. I use a bamboo skewer poked through the PCMCIA slot to hit the micro switch to turn it on.

It was with glee that I saw the postman had a box in his hand, the long awaited Power Supply, at last I would be able to toss the Toshiba Portege like a frisbee!

Of course no-one bothered to tell me during the eBay adventure that these dirt cheap power suplies are for some funky server application and come with a 24 pin Molex plugin, rather than the standard 20 pin version.

I will have to admit that I said a few fruity words, words that you would not say in mixed company. There is a saying, necessity is the mother of invention. So putting on my best McGuyver face, I set about making this work. Clearly 24 pins will not go into a 20 pin socket. But a little bit of research revealed that both use the same pin out on the first 20, so a little exorcising with an Exacto knife and I made it fit!

The computer industry loves to change stuff, usually not because it makes things better, but so us poor saps have to go out and buy all new equipment. They change the processor, that means to upgrade we have to change the motherboard. Of course the new motherboard will not accept the existing RAM we have, so we need new memory. Oh, and forget about keeping your hard drive, because that likely won’t work either.

I hate being conned, and alas that is what the computer industry has become, one big con job! With Microsoft introducing ever increasing ‘Bloatware’, which of course we, the consumer get to pay for, and the hardware manufacturers finding new and inventive ways to extract dollars from our bank accounts, the industry has spiralled out of control.

I will admit that I was frustrated with the 300 MHz Tosiba’s, even a little ticked at the 300 MHz Thinkpad,  but I am more than happy now that we have our aging 2 GHz systems back online. You do not need much power to use a word processor, email, or browse the more sensible web sites.

The computer industry has become a con job! No one is looking out for the consumer, and the industry is just finding new ways to make us ‘bend over’ at every juncture.

Simon Barrett

http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

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