Wednesday, May 6

In other news

In this post, like the local news, I will unapologetically jump from one topic to the next in most cases without even the faintest attempt at segue.

So, my lappy finally gave up the ghost. First it was the wireless card which fried, then the sound card, now I think the video card is fried as it fails to display anything on the screen even though it seems to turn on just fine. It also does not show up on the local network however, so I'm not sure but there may be other problems not as simple as just a video card. I have had the roughest time with that piece as it is only a few years old. I am planning on trying to plug it into an external monitor to see if I can fire it up long enough to extricate my precious data from the clutches of it's hard drive, but I assume the worst. Fortunately, I have backed up most of my data, like my pictures, and my music, and my old essays and such, but there were some things - notably my new blog design that I was working on from scratch - and an interactive wallpaper that I was hoping on debuting as my first tutorial on my new blog when it launched. But alas, I could have easily had worse luck.

However, that does provide me with a similarly difficult choice as to another I recently faced. I have been concerned about an exit strategy for returning the nissan 240 back to my uncle Tim who graciously has allowed me to borrow it for the past several years. I cannot explain what a blessing that has been to me to have (generally) reliable transportation through this time. Anyways, I've been growing increasingly concerned that I have been abusing his generosity and should get a plan for getting a new car. However, I run into a problem because I believed that he didn't really want it back, and I couldn't really just up and sell it, so I wasn't sure what to do. » Flash Forward ».

Maybe about two weeks ago, Uncle Tim and his son, Ryan, my cousin, were having dinner at BW3. In the very short time they were having dinner, Ryan's super-old GMC pickup truck was stolen right out of the parking lot leaving Ryan with absolutely no transportation. As Mindy's mom has kindly loaned Mindy a car, we could still have one and a half vehicles including my bike as a half. As much as I was sad to not have a car of my own, I became increasingly confident that I really wanted to be able to help Ryan out as his dad had been there for me when I was in a pinch. It was a hard decision at the time, as many of you reading this blog probably had a conversation about it with my as I was trying to decide what to do. But since I've given Ryan the car, not having it has not been one ounce of trouble and in fact, has helped me to keep a little closer to Mindy as we do more things together. It has actually been kind of nice. Fortunately, the thieves ended up just recently abandoning Ryan's truck at a gas station, just as Uncle Tim predicted they would (upon these grounds I now suspect Uncle Tim of having participated in several "boostings" in his day).

Anyway, that was a very difficult decision for me, as is the decision to by a new computer or not, and whether it should be a notebook or a desktop. Since this rotten luck with my late lappy, and my discontent with the long term performance of the one before that, I had sworn off laptops. I was hoping to build my own desktops from now on so that they were fully upgradable and built to my exact specifications. As I have been learning however, in the face of plummeting manufactured pc costs, building a computer is more of a luxury now where it used to be a good way to save money. So here is my dilemma. At the time of this writing I have the following assets:

  • Mindy's two laptops which I hate both of them but they can allow me to at least check my mail on the road
  • The old desktop on which I am writing this post running brand spanking new ubuntu distribution with a 2.5 Ghz processor and a 500 Gb hdd but a lowly 512 Mb of RAM
  • An empty but exceedingly geeky brand new case which looks like a transformer that I got free with the purchase of a sidewider laser mouse and matching light-up keyboard with removable, magnetically-docking numpad
  • And an enigma of a lappy

Now three things are important to note here. First, my job as web designer, graphic artist, software manager and advertising executive means that I literally spend 100% of my time on the computer. If I am not on the computer, I am doing something that I shouldn't be doing. In fact, my graphical and video duties are best performed on a reasonably high performing machine (notably RAM). Second, most things I do for fun, like blogging, reading blogs, and working on at home web-design projects were up until recently performed on my lappy possibly watching tv with Mindy. Third, it has been the case that we have been travelling ceaselessly. We are at the in-laws every weekend for this thing or that. We both like to be home a lot, but even if we didn't between our two or two and a half families there is some family function nearly every weekend. The above circumstances basically necessitate me having a computer, and because of our travel make a laptop an attractive choice.

Also, thanks to an amazingly well-thought out and incredibly effective attempt however well-meaning attempt at saving our economy, yours and my tax dollars have furnished me with an economic stimulus windfall of around $500 of unearned revenue. Go Government(ha)! Therefore, we have roughly enough cash to cover one computer of either type, but it is really, really, really nice having some extra money which allows us to finally get away from literally month to month. Did I mention how nice having even a very small amount of extra money is. I also will be getting somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 after taxes over the next few months between the profit sharing and bonuses that Kirk is paying out in installments every two weeks. I would love to save that for a car or the wedding instead of buying a computer but we will see. I've decided that I will try it for a month and see how things go which may slow my new blog development, but the only one that's going to bother is me…

To dispatch with that topic I would ask the following (here's looking at you Dan, Jackson, Adam?, Brad, Alex, and Ben). This Dimension 8200 has something called RDRAM or Rambus Kit RAM which is obscenely expensive and quite hard to shop around. While DDR is very popular and can be found very affordably like here on Newegg. I've been looking around to see if it's compatible but I haven't been able to find a definitive answer. More RAM would significantly ease my woes with this desktop and make it much more appealing as a medium term option. If I recall correctly, I believe Jackson might have had this exact model throughout college so maybe he can be of some assistance though my confidence in Dan is pretty high too.

Let's get on with the show with a bit of observationalist ranting. Investigate the diagrams below.


wtf… are computers and telephones seriously
trying to make my life hell?

As a few of you may remember, I was approached by a videographer on YouTube who had asked me to create a logo for his company, and I had taken on the project and promised to show all of you my work. Take a look and tell me what you think in the comments (remember that criticism is much more helpful than compliments, so don't beat around the bush). I made two possible logos, so that he can choose based on his tastes, as I was not actually able to meet with him to brainstorm. I like them both but I think I might like the energy-wave Z more for his company as there is more vivacity and motion, though the top one is nicely corporate. I also tried to make three copies which is a trick I learned from reading many logo design blogs because in a business setting you are not always able to have your logo in full color, as in faxes or stationary, so you should make it in a grayscale copy and a 2-color copy because there are actually some very minor design changes that should be made to maintain readability for those media.

CraZay Video Productions Logo

I also played around for two of my last three posts on the blog with some cool stuff. My favorite was using pre-packaged layer styles to turn our stencils, and one with custom colors designed by yours truly, into pretty cool images which I could see as logos for tat companies or whatever.

I'm a Pirate by bennthewolfe, on Flickr

Mindy and I had a few weeks ago looked around at athletic clubs to join. I was hoping to find a nice track to run around on, and maybe somewhere to shoot hoops on occasion. We looked at the gym right next door to TAT but the muscle-head who ran it was kind of a turn-off though his gym was very nice, and well priced as I learned. We then went to the YMCA up the road. It's brand new and had a ton of super cool stuff. A few of the stand-outs were a medicine ball up and down put them through the cylinder that lights up game, a two-bike virtual simulator where you pedal and steer through an environment and race against your neighbor and your personal best time, a pool (Y standard), and A BATTING CAGE. Not only that, but this place had a very nice atmosphere that was attractive to both of us. However, gyms are quite pricey and at $78 and $98 per month we will have to put those off for some time.

So instead, Mindy and I have been focusing on exercise on the weekends. For example, last Saturday we went over to KVCC played tennis for a few hours, then ran the track for a while, came home and ate, then played catch with the softball, and then played 9-holes of golf after watching the amazing upset at the Derby jockeyed by that charmingly incomprehensible southerner. I hope that we continue to have such lovely weather on the weekends so that we can plan a rally match for nearly every weekend. That is still in the works for those of you who are interested, which should be all of you living in West Michigan.

So if you are still reading this post it must mean you are very interested in the goings-on of my life. So in that vein, I have a couple of suggestions for you. First, you may have noticed on my sidebar at right, Mindy has made a blog which documents the progress of our upcoming wedding. If you have not read that, make sure to hop over there and get all the hot inside information ( If you do, make sure you leave a comment, as she is very excited to show off her blog since she has gotten it all working and installed, picked the theme, customized it, and written every post all on her own, and I think she's doing a fantastic job. The posts are funny and informative, and we plan to be hosting an eRSVP there and dispensing other important information there.

Finally, I have been mulling over writing a post on torture, but as the window has slightly passed. I would like to point you to a couple of wonderful items. First and foremost, please please please check out Jackson's FAQ on torture over at hisConsiderations blog. Also, make sure to watch the Shepherd Smith's passionate response to the topic. As I think is clear from an earlier post of mine, The Worst Show on Television that I couldn't agree more with him. I doubt that we have heard the last of this debate… sadly.


  1. Pretty epic post Benn.

    First off, that keypad issue kills me every time I go to the ATM here in Beijing - I swear I rarely ran into the 1-3 keys at the bottom format before now.

    As far as the PC, it honestly sounds like you need a laptop based on how you described using it, but of course desktop performance is amazing right now. I would still hesitate to think of building your own computer as a luxury over buying it premade - you're still saving the cost of windows usually and are going to get exactly the parts you want, usually of higher quality.

    As far as the RDRAM, you're screwed. No way to use DDR.

    I'm not sure how much multi-core processors factor into image editing performance, but at the moment AMD and Intel both have cost effective multi-core options. AMD all the way down to a very well-performing triple core at $140 for the CPU. Paired with dirt cheap DDR2 RAM at $40 / 4GB and you could have a good system pretty quickly, lots of people running 8GB these days with 64bit windows / linux.

  2. Sorry, corollary to above - if CPU doesn't matter, you can go much lower end (like say what I am running in my desktop currently, AMD dual core) for like $55.

    Here's a combo deal at Newegg with mobo, CPU, mid-low end video card and 4GB of RAM for $180. And you already have the case. Even Dell/HP would have a hard time competing.

  3. Ask and you shall receive. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out. But that's an option definitely in my price range.

  4. I have never seen it where the 123 are on the bottom. o_O Seriously, if it isn't broken, why fix it?!

  5. All computer numpads are that way. That's what I was mad about. Because phones 1 is on top and computers, 1 is on bottom. :(

  6. I feel bad that I didn't take the time to read this gargantuan blog post earlier. I glanced at it, but then got scared away by the size (that's what she said).

    Jackson basically hit everything I would've said. It does seem like a laptop would be best for you. Honestly, you probably couldn't find a better time to be in your dilemma. Laptop prices are remarkably low even in higher end configurations. And the car problem will be less of a problem now that winter is over and motorcycle friendly weather has returned.

    Whichever way you decide to go with the computer, I would go for a 64-bit operating system. Even if you don't get more than 4MB of RAM, the expandability offered by a 64-bit OS combined with the low prices of RAM and the always huge performance boost of additional RAM is a great combo. I've already decided that my future computer purchases will take advantage of a 64-bit OS.

    On the numpad/telephone issue, what I really want now is a numpad that uses a rotary dial interface. No matter how useless and un-user friendly it may be, it would be a welcome splash of steampunk styling to any home office.