Saturday, September 16, 2006

One Gb of Bliss

We love to hate our computers, don’t we? My most recent computer, which I bought new from Dell two years ago, drove me crazy until last week. The damn thing just ran so slow. I did not notice it at first, but it before very long, I had a problem.

Now, I run a lot of memory hungry software, like Abobe Photoshop Elements, and I have a lot of images on my computer. Over the years, my files have built up, too. There’s a lot on my machine. So I thought that or spyware caused my slowness problems.

I tried everything recommended on Geek Radio (on KPFT, Pacifica, here in Houston) but nothing worked. When I tried to clean up files, the machine said I didn’t need to defrag, or the files were already compressed. When I looked at a system pie chart, it showed that I had over half my memory available – or, I should say, allegedly available, because it didn’t seem to be there for me.

I ran spyware programs and malware programs and nothing turned up worth mentioning. The problem had me stymied and truly frustrated. In the course of trying to fix this, I had the massive computer meltdown that I mentioned here last month. It ended up with the Geek Squad coming out. My agent did fix the immediate computer problem, but I wanted him to do something about the slow, dragging computer, too.

After checking it out, the agent told me that I only had 128 Mb of RAM on my machine!! Who knew? I guess I thought Dell would put in enough basics to run a computer. But they didn’t and I never even checked that out. The Geek Squad agent told me to buy some more RAM and install it, preferably 512 Mb. Now, 512 Mb used to be the most RAM you could put on a computer. Not anymore.

When I started researching this, I discovered that 1 Gb RAM (okay, 1 Gb SDRAM) is now available. And that’s what I bought.

Think about it. One byte is one item of information, on or off, yes or no. One Kb is a thousand bytes of information. One Mb is a million bytes of information. One Gb is a BILLION bytes of information. My computer went from moving data around with 128 million bytes of memory to using one billion bytes of memory. Does it ever zip now!!!

It took me about a week to get the part ordered and a few days for it to arrive. I opened it and checked for damage, but then I just ignored it for about a week. I wanted to install it, but the process daunted me. I would have to pull my computer out from the darkest recesses of my desk – I mean, the farthest left rear corner, where it was STRAPPED to a hanging computer holder from IKEA – and I would have to detangle wires that had spawned offspring since I plugged them in all neat and tidy last year. I would have to face dust bunnies with fangs.

You get the picture. Finally, a frustrating day of waiting more than computing, I just did it. And you know, it wasn’t actually bad.

The last time I installed RAM memory, it was on a Compact computer. There were a lot of very small screws, the whole case had to be coaxed off, the case had sharp edges, and the insides were mostly wires that had to be very carefully negotiated. The documentation was confusing and the writer was definitely not a native English speaker. Is it any wonder I didn’t want to do it again?

But Dell has improved the process greatly. First, I only had to take off one panel, not the whole cover. And there were no screws to undo, not even one. The insides were dusty, yes, but not a jumble of wires. (Perhaps we can thank micro-miniaturization for that.) I could see my target immediately. The directions were clear and written in actual idiomatic English – what a treat.

Bad English Aside: Once, I bought my daughter a plastic wallet, a kid thing you understand. Inside was an identification card. It had spaces for NAME, ADDRESS, TELEPHONE, HAIR (color, I presume), EYES (again, color), and NOSE. What information do you think they expected you to enter about your nose? Perky? Roman? Runny?

Back to the computer. I popped out the old memory – might as well put it in another one of our machines – and popped in the new. Easy as pie. Slipped the cover on, turned the latch, and bingo! I was done.

I set the computer up in the front right-hand corner of my desk where I would forever more be able to get at the back of it without crawling on my belly through dust bunnies. I straightened out the cords and admonished them to stop reproducing. I rearranged the whole top of my desk because the monitor didn’t reach after I moved the computer. It looked perfect and I was ready to rock and roll.

With trembling hands, I pushed in the power button and waited. But what’s this? Zip, zap, zoop – there’s no waiting. It’s Windows in the blink of an eye. The background programs are loaded in another blink. Before I can say, “Hot dog!” my computer is waiting for me.

Well, you can imagine. I have been in computer heaven for the last week. Sometimes I turn it off and on just to watch it. Today we had two – count them – two power failures while I wrote this blog entry and it hardly fazed me. I have found my bliss: one gigabyte of SDRAM memory installed with my own two hands. Can it get any better than this?


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