Friday, 12 December 2014

Three Years Old And My Computer Is Dying

In the movie, 'Blade Runner' (1982), the replicants, the life-like androids have a life expectancy of only four years.  The portrayed society of November 2019, like that of the Roman Empire, is worried that its slaves would become too strong and would overpower the citizens.  The plots of the movie is around replicants seeking their maker to have their lives extended.  It seems that we are quite a way from having androids threaten our society, though Stephen Hawking fears basic artificial intelligence will be able to do it first.  However, the built-in expiry date seen in 'Blade Runner' already appears to be in place.

In the summer of 2011, I bought an Alienware laptop computer for £1400 (€ 1750; US$2240).  Being a keen PC gamer, I ordered one of the highest graphic and sound quality and with a fast processor so that I could enjoy the online 'Total War' games and 'World of Warcraft' to the best standard.  This summer, 2014, moving into a room I was renting in a new house one of the current tenants, a postgraduate pharmacy student asked me about my laptop and when he found out it was coming up to three years old he scoffed, asking me how I hoped to achieve anything with something 'that old'.  I did not mention that my mobile phone was bought in 2005 and does not have a camera in it.

My housemate's predictions rapidly have come true.  I know in terms of online games, you expect fast developments and I do not expect it to run as quickly as it would have done in 2011.  I am also aware that in a house with five residents, even broadband gets stretched between all the uses.  However, even offline, the computer now struggles.  It is a pain to watch it labour to open Word and you have to expect it to crash at random even when simply looking at text documents.  It can struggle to open a second document or move between two.  Very challenging when you write as much fiction as I do.  I spend a lot of time watching a spinning disk against a black or a white blank screen.  Ironically I end up reading the newspaper, writing a diary (by hand with a pen) and even practicing Chinese characters, again with pen and paper.  It is almost as if my laptop feels that I am too old these days to use its facilities.

The deterioration in speed over the past three years has been phenomenal; declining very rapidly this year and so naturally I worried something was wrong.  I have a scheduled 'defrag' every Wednesday and a virus check every Monday evening.  I run through the list of all the software I have installed and eliminate anything which does not appear to be of use.  I removed every image from the laptop and put it on a 1 TB external hard drive, not that I had that many photos that it should have taxed the laptop.  I have even taken it apart and cleaned the fans, concerned they may be clogged and so it was overheating.  None of these things have been able to halt the slowing down and the increases in crashes.  It is as if, in the way my housemate viewed it, at 3.5 years old, my laptop is elderly and no longer can even do the basic tasks it once did such as handle a Word document, let alone play the games it was bought for.

Part of the problem is that the computer only occasionally does what I ask of it.  Much of the time I can switch it on and it can happily play with itself.  Every day there is some download that seems to take precedence over anything I might want to do.  In the middle of games, the machine will shut down and tell me it has to restart to accommodate a new update which seems to make absolutely no difference to the running of my computer bar from ruining my game.  Humans now have minimal control over their computers.  We are shaped by what they want to do and they make it clear our interests are a long way down the list behind the masturbation that are all these updates.

Obviously I feel that I have thrown away a lot of money on something that really was going to cost me £700 per year for the kind of service I wanted.  There seems to be no point in buying anything except the cheapest computer next time round.  Clearly online gaming with a PC is really only open to people who can afford £1000 per year in hardware in order to engage with it.  Given that my car cost £900, it is clear that I am no longer in that social class and so will be shut our of 'Total Rome II' let alone 'Shogun 2' which taxes my machine even more because of the greater landscape graphics.  Yes, before you suggest it, I have scaled down the graphic detail on these games and that is all that has allowed me to play them into mid- to late-2014, but clearly not in 2015.

I feel an idiot for believing if I spent a large sum of money it would be enough to own a machine that would remain with me for five years.  Clearly you can only expect to have the performance you paid for, for two years.  This adds to the ever growing pile of discarded computers and all the components that go into them.  It also makes them devices which have a life expectancy far less than many electrical devices out there.  If you had to replace your washing machine every two years, it would become tiresome.  Even while I write this, the computer is straining to keep up the connection to the blog and is going into overdrive downloading some update that I cannot even see when I search the system.

I would be grateful if someone could direct me to a company that makes computers that do what you want them to do rather than insisting that their desires have priority.  Clearly that company is not Alienware and I am angered that I was so misled by them.

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