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Computer Frustrations - RonO's Ramblings

Oct. 25th, 2009 03:05 pm Computer Frustrations

Yesterday, the family stopped at a Family Christian Stores location (we'd parked directly in front of it when heading to Souplantation -- the same restaurant instantiated elsewhere as Sweet Tomatoes), where I picked up several new CDs. Given that the only CD players easily available are the ones in the cars, and other related reasons, the obvious first thing to do with these was to rip the contents into MP3s for loading onto my (and possibly robot_grrl's) iPod.

However, this was not as easy as it should be. Recently the optical drive on my Linux box died, forcing me to swap it with the one from my Windows box (which hosts iTunes). So, the only optical drive on my windows box is my external DVD burner, which windows has decided recently to rarely recognize properly for some reason, and yesterday was not one of the times that it was recognized.

So, I tried the next possible solution -- do the ripping on the Linux box. But I could not quickly find any application that would rip the CDs into MP3 (or AAC encoded) files. I could (and did by mistake a couple of times) produce wav file, but I'm not sure I could load those into iTunes and didn't want to try to track down a conversion program. Additionally, this optical drive stared exhibiting one of its old problem behaviors: not opening reliably when a disk is in the tray.

Finally, I ended up ripping them on my laptop onto a movable hard drive and transferring them from there.

Bottom line: I either need to fix these computers, or get a replacement for at least one.

Fixing the most basic problem should not be too hard -- except all of the optical drives I can find (at least online, I've not been to Fry's or Best Buy to check in person) are SATA. I don't know if I want to put a second SATA card into my Linux box, and the one already there is fully occupied with the mirrored pair hard drives. I'm even less sure about putting a SATA drive into my Windows box.

But a new drive for my Windows box would only be a stop gap solution. This machine either needs to have everything (software wise) stripped from it and then only the things I absolutely must run from it replaced on it -- a task that would probably kill a weekend or more if I could even locate all of the disks and other files required. Then I would have to avoid ever installing anything more on it. I'm convinced that it has a serious case of registry rot, and no amount of cleaning short of a full reinstall will ever get all of the detritus out of the registry.

The other solution would be to get a new computer.

I could get at least the hardware for a pretty good new windows machine fairly easily either online or at Fry's, and might be able to get a fully assembled machine that is just about equivalent for a similar price. But I'd be stuck with Windows and I'm convinced, and becoming more convinced each day, that Windows is not designed for people who want to try and use different applications.

<Windows Gripe Mode>
As near as I can tell, 90% to 99% of software that runs under Windows installs in multiple files and locations. Some of these end up in the main program file directory (usually c:\Program Files\), but some of the library files end up in a system directory (c:\Windows\System32), and most of the configuration information ends up in the registry. This requires a special uninstall program to remove most of these. And I'm not convinced that most of these really do a good job, and sometimes disappear or don't work at all.

And then, there is the registry itself. Instead of having a location equivalent to /etc or ~ where configuration files can be kept, and then put into whatever format the program desires, Windows encourages most of this information be put into a system managed database -- the registry. I don't think that this is a well managed database, and it clearly is one that is difficult to remove data from completely.

Finally, I think that even non-malicious and marginally malicious programs may even deliberately be difficult to remove on purpose.
</Windows Gripe Mode>

The other solution would be to get a Mac. But if I get a Mac, even with discounts, I'll probably end up paying 1.5 to 2 times as much to get a very capable machine but with half the processor capacity (i.e. only two total cores instead of four). I'll also have to get some new software -- but most of what I'd want to use at least initially would either already be free or I already own copies available for both systems (again if I can find the disk).

But, if my understanding of the OS architecture is correct, Mac OS X behaves more like its BSD ancestors in how it deals with installing applications. Further, the OS hasn't gone out of its way to be as unlike Unix as possible.

But all of this may be moot. We probably don't really have the budget to buy any new computers if we want to get into a house we own by the end of next summer, and still make it to Australia. On the other hand, my stress level when dealing with my windows box doesn't go down, it may pay just to keep me from throwing it through a window (or something equally bad).

Oh, and using my laptop probably won't work. I don't think it has the horsepower to even try to run the digital art programs I haven't been able to run on my Windows box, nor the storage to take over as the primary server for my iTunes collection. And since it absolutely refuses to mount any networked drives, I don't think I can expand its storage sufficiently to do that job either.

Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated

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