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Lessons from the lockdown Technology

Lessons from the lockdown #3

For a long time I’d been thinking of getting a new computer. My 6-year old laptop is still pretty powerful and does everything I need it to (I massively overspec’d it when I bought it), but it is laptop and the case is starting to fall apart. Regular readers may remember that it previously had an issue where the battery died and needed replacing. Three years on, and the replacement battery is also no longer able to hold a charge and requires permanently being attached to the wall. However, until my laptop died outright I was unwilling to replace it.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve kept and updated a list of components I would buy if I was to build my own computer. By late 2019, I had decided that late April/early May 2020 would be when I put my plan into action.

And then the lockdowns started to come in. With the factories in Asia shut down, the internet was predicting that computer parts would drop in availability and increase in price over the next few months. This would be exactly when I was planning to buy my new computer. So, in mid-March, I decided to accelerate my purchasing plans and spent a couple of days finding the cheapest places to buy each of the components I wanted.

A week or so later (and several trips to various parcel depots around London), and I had a new computer built and working:

Since the initial build I’ve also added the additional RGB fan at the back and the two vertical RGB strips (mainly to look better). The light strips could be a bit tidier, but that would involve a lot more effort. The only other planned change I would like to do is to move the graphics card to a vertical orientation, but the parts I want to do that aren’t available at the moment.

Speaking of availability, remember how I mentioned that it was thought that availability would go down and prices would go up as the lockdown went on? Well, I’ve kept track of the prices since then (whilst hoping to avoid buyer’s remorse). Here’s my findings normalised to 100% at the price I paid:

(Note: It’s not entirely scientific, because this is just the prices for each item at the retailer I bought each item from. When doing my initial price checking, I compared all 9 items across about 20 retailers, but I wasn’t going to do that each time. I also only recorded the prices every week or two so it may miss some fluctuations. It’s also not possible to compare with prices before I started recording – prices may already have been trending upwards, or I may have just bought when everything was on sale.)

It may not be entirely clear from that graph, but here’s the key points:

  1. The total price (highlighted in yellow) has gradually increased over the last two months
  2. The second SSD (yes, I have two), the power supply and the memory all went out of stock about two weeks ago. It would be possible to use different components with similar specifications, but then it wouldn’t be the computer I’ve built
  3. The motherboard and graphics card both dropped in price the week after I bought them. However, everything else went up the week after I bought them, and the overall cost would still have been more expensive
  4. Apart from a couple of items, costs have generally stabilised over the last couple of weeks and may even be starting to drop back down again. This is possibly due to increased availability again, or it could just be retailers trying to clear stocks in anticipation of the next generation of components. I may keep recording prices over the next couple of months for comparison

So did I buy at the right time? From the (incomplete) data I have, yes.

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Technology

How did they do it in the olden days?

So, on Saturday evening I went to a pub. Now that’s not the unusual part of the story that needs writing about.

The reason for this pub visit was due to my brother-in-law being in Sheffield so I couldn’t really pass up on the chance of meeting him. Sheffield’s a big place, how would I know where he was? How did they do it in the olden days? I guess people would have to have found a payphone and made a phone call. Assuming they could remember exactly what phone number they wanted. It seems possible but a bit of a faff. [As a side note, my Mum always told me to carry 10p for use in this sort of situation when I needed to make a phone call.] How did I do that the other day? We’re both BlackBerry users and with the BlackBerry Messenger app we get free instant messaging. Problem solved.

Ok, skipping that step, I now know which pub he’s at (assuming he hasn’t moved on). He’s at the Gardener’s Rest pub. It’s somewhere in Sheffield, but he has no idea exactly where that is. I’ve never heard of it in my life. How did they do it in the olden days? And here’s where I get stuck. What would they have done? The only thing I can think of is to look it up in a phone book. Then what? Find my A-Z map and look it up. How about getting there? Take the map with me? Leave it at home? How did I do that the other day? Going back to my BlackBerry I fired up Google Maps. [Sidenote: This is the only place I use anything Google — Gmail does host my university and my personal email, but I avoid it as much as possible.] I whacked “gardeners rest” into the search and it popped up straight away. I then clicked plan route and I knew exactly where I had to go. Did I mention that it showed me exactly where I was by using the phone’s GPS? I was able to follow my whole route on my phone as I went. Try doing that with an A-Z. Twenty minutes later I was there. Problem solved.

So there you have it. I managed to navigate my way to a completely new part of Sheffield just by using my trusty phone. Simples. So what would people have done before technology? Leave me a comment with your ideas.

Categories
Technology

Sad News

That’s right, on Sunday I lost a dear friend. My PlayStation 3 suffered from the dreaded Yellow Light of Death problem. He She It died at the young age of only 3 years and 22 days. That’s 22 days beyond the lifetime of its extended warranty. Typical isn’t it. I had only been playing inFAMOUS for about 15 minutes when it gave up the fight. Beeping a few times, it rolled over and died instantly. My worst fears were realised when I was unable to revive him by any means. It was a very ignominious end for it, after all it had survived being shoved in a rucksack and thrown in the back of a van. It had probably also been dropped several times in its life, but each time it kept on going. So this was truly the end.

I called up Sony who quoted me a price of £131 to get it replaced but that it would be a lesser model. My model is an original 60GB which has all the good features which everyone wants returned to the design. This would also loose all the data stored on my hard drive (which I had upgraded to 320GB). As an aside, make sure you back up all the data regularly. Fortunately for me, I had done a backup about two weeks ago, so although this is missing some of the latest saves, it would have been much worse if I had lost everything.

Determined to preserve the dignity of my console, I found a repairer in Newcastle called Console Doctor who can apparently fix these problems. Therefore as we speak my console is hopefully flying (it’ll be by lorry – due to the volcano ash) up north with the friendly DHL man. And this only costs £70, plus I get my console back and sooner, hopefully with all the data intact and with the disc that is currently stuck inside. Just because I need to add a photo to make this article more exciting, here is a picture of my PS3 in its original box waiting to get sent off:

I guess I should probably do something useful whilst I wait for its return… like my dissertation.