Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Home Upgrades

So, to continue the household saga…

The kitchen is an official shambles. Last weekend Dad and I got to work on the ceiling, which is acoustic tile over plaster. The loose plaster has been mostly pulled away, but the spots of glue are still going to be a problem. We’re hoping we can sand them away as we want to save as much of the plaster as possible. What gets torn down will be replaced by drywall and we’ll just paint over everything. The walls seem to be a less difficult matter. The wallpaper just peels away, and the masonite underneath is only a little more difficult to remove. Right now the ceiling is a priority, as is replacing the floor, which should begin this weekend.

In all, the project is looking less traumatic as long as we can save the ceiling. I’m likely to have an empty kitchen for a long weekend, as opposed to a week or two.

With that we move on to another home project, the refinement of what some might call the Geek Cave, but I call the Creatorium. Because the Geek Cave is in the basement, where the dice roll.

So far that refinement has been tidying things up, putting up bookshelves, and moving old LARPing garb into more compact storage. However, since I’m turning the place from a Writing Room into a full fledged workshop, I decided it was time to get the tech in place for background entertainment. Sure I need to find a place to store all them damn NERF guns, but being able to NetFlix takes precedence!

The computer in the Creatorium is a Mac Mini, one of the first generation of that breed of computer. I bought it for that room as a dedicated system shortly after grad school. I kept it off the internet because I didn’t want to deal with the Blinking Lights of Distraction. I still want to use it for such, but the two display setup had never worked out as I had hoped. I ended up replacing them with 32″ LED TV that I picked up with a Holiday gift card, and was impressed by the size of the display, if not the resolution. It would serve well enough, but I would have to get creative with things in order to be able to splat up multiple documents.

So with that in mind, I turned on the wifi and began the OS updates. Once they were done, I tried downloading Chrome. That was when I remembered a…significant detail. My Scribe was originally loaded with OSX 10.4. In order to run Chrome, or use NetFlix (regardless of the brand of browser), I needed 10.5. That version is only installed on CD. Now, as I have two Minis in the house, I had bought a CD with a site license instead of two single-use licenses (it was actually cheaper that way). That’s not the significant detail I mentioned earlier.

OSX 10.5 requires 1 GB of memory. Scribe has half that amount. Normally I wouldn’t see this as a problem. I’m an IT guy, I’m used to “popping the top” on a PC and swapping bits like this out. No big deal, right? Well…not exactly. As I said, Scribe is one of the first generations of Minis. It was designed for size and efficiency, not necessarily ease of upgrade. Here’s what you gotta do to swap out the RAM. Go ahead, scroll through it and come back. Tech professional I may be, but I’m not exactly enthused about doing major surgery to make Scribe smarter, especially if it risks turning it into a $600 paperweight.

A trip to the Mac store in Shadyside did not prove fruitful. They actually recommended I go to a place that specializes in Mac hardware. One complication is that they have a location in Warrendale (long drive, but open on weekends), and Downtown Pittsburgh (closer trip, weekdays only). Wanting this to be same day deal, I opted for the long drive. I figured I could call ahead, get a quote and then make plans for next Saturday. Then I went to their website and saw their rates: $110/hour. No, that’s not a typo.

Still, I called them up for a quote — and got the service department’s voice mail. I left my specs with my message, and here’s hoping they call back in the next couple of days. A co-worker thought they might offer a flat rate, but I somehow doubt it. Not with their hourly charge. I also doubt this is going to be a one hour job due to the intricacy and the need to test before closing the case back up. So if memory costs $50-60 for 2GB, I’m looking at about $300 once all is said and done.

So the question is, do I pay the man for the tech work, do it myself, or pull a plan C? Plan B is the least expensive route, clearly. Plan A will get the job done, but if I don’t get that call with the quote, I’m not sure if I want to go that route. Last year I called someone reputable for a quote on my air conditioner and I never got a reply. That’s a sign somebody may not want your business. I recognize I may be jumping the gun, but that hourly rate doesn’t bode well with me.

Now, this would be Plan C. It’s a slick little barebones PC, compact, powerful. Has a Blu-Ray player, which is good considering my recent movie acquisitions are in that vein. What it doesn’t have is an OS. I can get the OEM for $100 more, making this potentially the most expensive Plan, but not disastrously so. I don’t need Office — I’ve been using OpenOffice for years, and I have MS Office on my laptop if I need to do any technowizardry. Not sure what I’d do with Scribe — it might become my DM’s assistant in the gameroom — he’s small enough, and I could use the tech down there as an extra rules reference and map station.

At the same time, I’m not sure if I want to go that route. Feels like I’m giving up on Scribe, relegating a perfectly good system to obsolescence. These Minis have proven to be solid, stable systems. I’ve had them for six, almost seven years — a long time in the computer world. That makes Plan B more appealing, if the most difficult.

Still, this is something to think over — or not think over whilst I work on the kitchen. We’ll see if I step up to that particular challenge.