Picture of a judge's wigThis Is Not A BLOG!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 10/08/12

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As can be well understood, I am presently even more reluctant to enumerate my flightless egg-dwellers than heretofore. Nonetheless, things may well be on the up.

After work on Wednesday, I went over to our local branch of what is alleged to be our fair land's major computer retailers. Finding nothing on display which remotely resembled what I was looking for, I was then approached by a member of staff (for given values of the word 'member'), who informed me that they didn't stock PSUs there, only at their 'megastores', the nearest of which was at least three bus rides away.

After work on Thursday, I went into town to check out two of our locally-based companies (which doesn't - alas - currently include Micro Plus, as their shop here has been 'closed for refurbishment' for three months; after that length of time, I shall expect the walls to be gold-lined when (if) it re-opens). In the first one, I was attended to by a lad who appeared to be around seventeen, who showed me one PSU. This was of no use to me because it didn't have a line out for the PCI-E graphics card. He explained that it would be possible to use an adapter from one of the peripheral power ('Molex') connectors, but as I already needed three Molexes (Molices?), this wasn't an option.

Off I trotted to the other one. There, a fellow who looked even younger than the one I'd already encountered (I think I'm getting old) showed me two or three which also didn't come up to snuff, and kindly shared my frustration by saying that he knew perfectly well what I was searching for, but they didn't have one like that in stock.

Thanking him, but resigned to failure, I headed off to the nearby branch of another national electronics store; the one which has a very similar name to a fictional holiday camp. Looking around, I saw one which - in terms of its connections - was exactly what I was looking for. However, whereas I had been looking for one in the 400-450W range (the failing PSU was a 380W job), this one was 500W, which was more power than I really needed.

I suppose it says something about me that my misgivings on this score were overcome by the fact that the price had been reduced from just under 40 to 32-and-a-bit. Also bearing in mind that it was either that or eBay, I made up my mind and bought it.

I left the job of installing it until after tea and an abortive attempt at a nap. I had already removed the old power unit (and put the side and top of the case back on 'to stop the dust getting in', realising only after the event that there was now a fucking great big hole in the back of the case where the PSU had been, thus rendering my tidy-mindedness obsolete).

Fitting the new unit in was easy enough, although I had to slacken three of the screws again in order to get the fourth one in. Then came the fun of connecting everything.

I had no worries about what connected to what; I'd done some useful reconnaisance work here (To-dah, Morris!) and here (Thanks, Mark!). I was helped by the fact that I had reached a happy state of patience with things by this time, and was thus in no hurry.

The old PSU had a solid 24-pin connector for the motherboard, but this one had a twenty-plus-four plug, which proved more of a problem. I could get the 20-pin bit in OK, but the 4-pin section proved more difficult, especially as I was having to fight my way through a thicket of ribbon cables from the floppy and optical drives. I got there eventually, and then did the far easier job of pushing home the 4-pin additional power plug on the other side of the board.

The PCI-E connection to the graphics card and the S-ATA to the hard drive then followed (there's only one S-ATA connnection on the new supply, but I only have one S-ATA drive, so that was OK), then the floppy drive wire and the case fan lead (which plugs in to one of the Molices), and then the power connectors to the DVD-ROM and DVD burner drives.

The final problem was to do with tidying up. Some of the cables were a bit close to the board for me to feel entirely comfortable, but I'd forgotten to buy cable ties. I was reduced to the temporary expedient of using those black plastic things that mains leads are tied up with when you buy them.

Finally, after about three quarters of an hour, I was ready to risk it. Power connected to the surge protector, push the button on same, flick the rocker switch on the PSU, and duck!

Mobo and card-reader lights on. All four fans (PSU, CPU, graphics card and case) running, hard drive whirring. BEEP! Great, it went to POST (which was further than the old PSU was now willing to go), and started to boot.

Going through the boot screens, it's supposed to say something like:

Boot from CD/DVD
Boot from CD/DVD

because there are two optical drives. This time it only showed one line rather than two. I knew what that meant from previous experience. From time to time, an inadvertent slight knock to the case has caused the connection to one or both of the optical drives to become invisible (see here for an example of what happens when it does), and this was probably what had happened this time as well.

Booting concluded without further alarms, and I logged in. The anti-virus updated and then I went into 'My Computer'; sure enough, there was only one optical drive showing.

Cursing slightly, I powered off again and looked at the power connectors. Have you ever tried to remove a Molex from a CD/DVD drive? Once they're attached, they're there for ever. Fortunately, I then noticed that it wasn't in fact the power which was the problem, but the ribbon data cable on the DVD-ROM drive which had - no doubt as a result of my wrestling with the motherboard connectors - become slightly unseated.

This remedied, I powered up again with no problems, logged back on, checked all was OK and then put the side and top back on the case and moved the tower unit back into its customary position under the desk.

That, my dears, was at about 19:45 last night. All, so far, has gone well. In fact, the CPU is now running at three degrees cooler than before. The old PSU's fan was at the back, pointing out of the unit. The new one's fan points down inside the box, so that the heat gets blasted out of the case via the case fan, which is directly beneath it. The passing breeze (I was going to say 'passing wind', but why should I give you, a) a cheap laugh and, b) an insight into one of my favourite pastimes?) obviously helps to cool the CPU a bit.

I am, of course, still rather wary and - ever the pessimist - am working on the principle that this happy state of affairs won't last, in deference to the famous anti-Beatitude, "Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall never know disappointment". For this reason, when I've been out of the room, I have come back in gingerly, expecting to hear the thing not running.

Nonetheless, I can now perhaps get on with the projects I've been working on, and not have to try to do anything useful on my old rig. Can you imagine trying to do any browsing, for instance, on a PC with an 800MHz Duron chip, 384MB of RAM and Windows98 Second Edition? Even the most basic browsing - with long-since obsolete versions of Seamonkey, Opera and IE - is a reminder of what we all miss from no longer being on dial-up. That and the fact that just about every major site now runs so much off scripts that hardly anything works even when the page does load.

Still, I am now seemingly back and - as my homies put it - 'in full effect'

The psychological impact of all this has been quite interesting. Initially, it was a form of existential panic; I started thinking that I was being disconnected from the whole known universe. It was probably just my routine being disrupted. After a day or two, I found that - because I could do at least the bare minimum on the old machine - I could cope. Finally, I came close to not giving a flying one, apart from the sense of frustration at not being able to get on with things I wanted to do. Add to that the sense of the most minor achievement in carrying out my first substantial computer repair job (if you don't count replacing the CPU fan on the old rig with one which was twice as powerful and - you're there ahead of me, I'm sure - twice as loud, which makes it sound like a DC-10 taking off) means that the past few days has been, on the whole, quite positive. I've got to bed earlier, too.

So, bros, wha's happnin'?