Thursday, October 28, 2004


Kasparov's revenge

It began, as so many things do, with an ending...

I am fortunate enough to have two computer enthusiasts as my flatmates. In fact, "enthusiasts" may be something of an understatement, but I digress.

Anyway, a little while back, Mike's computer was being upgraded/revamped/whatever and, thanks to a cruel whim of fate, the motherboard and CPU got well and truly broken. Therefore, the intrepid duo got in a bunch of new parts and built pretty much a new system, leaving a few spare parts from Mike's old machine. I then hit upon the infallible plan of "appropriating" said spare parts, buying a few new bits and pieces and BUILDING MY OWN COMPUTER, according to my own unique specifications, by which, of course, I mean my meagre budget.

Brian, an MIT graduate and quite the computer whizz, kindly offered to help me. It wasn't what you'd call plain sailing, though. Here are some of the problems Brian and I encountered.

1- Got home from Denden town electronics district with a host of goodies, stripped out Mike's old case, then discovered that the new motherf- I mean, motherboard- wouldn't fit inside the case, thus necessitating another trip out into the typhoon-stricken streets of Osaka to buy a new case. This displeased me.

2- Put everything into beautiful new case and turned the machine on, only to be greeted with the sort of inertia that I usually see staring back at me across a classroom desk when I've asked a particularly cryptic question, such as: "how are you today?" This displeased me even further.

3- Waddled back into Denden town with increasingly unpopular computer under my arm to have it tested by the store staff where I'd purchased the motherboard and graphics card. After extensive testing, the store staff kindly explained to me (in Japanese) that, by smearing thermal-conductive grease all over the wrong parts of our new CPU, Brian and I had, in fact, damaged it beyond repair. I was delighted with the Japanese practice, but not exactly overjoyed with the result, as you may imagine.

4- After this debacle, I decided to dump the majority of the computer in a luggage locker at the nearest subway station, then take the (hastily polished) CPU back to the shop from whence it came and claim that they'd sold me a defective part. When I got to the subway station, I didn't have change for the locker and the geezer in the nearest shop said that I would have to make a purchase if I wanted change. As this was a medicine shop and I was in the rudest of good health, bar my frayed temper, I was, once more, not pleased.

5- After 30 seconds of me sarcastically playing "eeny meeny" along the shelves as I deliberated about what to buy, the shop geezer relented and gave me the change I required, no purchase necessary, please don't ever come into my shop again. I was, for once, pleased.

6- Furthermore, the computer shop staff uncomplainingly replaced the defunct CPU with a new one. YES, two in a row! My troubles were finally nearing an end.

7- ...Or so I thought. We now had the dubious pleasure of installing an operating system. As may be seen from the below screenshot, I eschewed the option of Microsoft Crappy Windows For Jerks.

This decision led to hours of fun as Brian worked tirelessly, installing various different versions of Linux, swearing at them, trying to make them work, then giving them up as a bad lot and trying something else instead.

Although I consider myself fairly computer-literate, I must confess that I was a complete bystander during this arduous process. I merely gave moral support and asked what I hoped were pertinent questions from time to time, in a vain attempt not to appear a complete dunce.

DAN So, where are we now?
BRIAN Well, I've got rid of the problem with your mouse.
DAN But we don't have any graphics, so we can't get the desktop to work, right?
BRIAN (cheerfully) Right!

I seem to have had this conversation, or myriad variations thereof, quite often over the past few days.

Finally, yesterday, an apparently working version of Linux emerged and my computer is now operational, 8 days and several thousand obscenities after I began building the wretched thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Deep Blue!

My first concern is to kick its butt at chess, although this will mean downloading an absurdly easy chess simulator. I love chess, but, as far as playing it goes, I stink out loud.

Spotter's badge for the title of this post, by the way.


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