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Looking back at my holiday misadventure


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POSTED: Monday, January 05, 2009

As everyone (in the world) knows by now, Oahu had another power outage the day after Christmas. It was international news because our president-elect was vacationing in Kailua at the time. Fortunately he came out of it unscathed.

Not so at the Miyake household. Sure, we had lots of Christmas leftovers. We didn't starve. On this day I had just gotten home from work.

Watching the lightning gave me an unsettled feeling. As the blackout rolled through our neighborhood, I thought here we go again. Like the day of the earthquake, it was back to the office again to make sure our services were working.

Happy to say that all went well at work due to backup power systems and battery backups. The next day when power returned, I discovered that a real problem had occurred at home. The power return was accompanied by an electrical surge that did some nasty things to one of our PCs. Bingo, its motherboard was fried. Even though the computer was turned off and was protected by a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) that doubled as a surge protector, the surge still did its black magic to my system. The good news was that my data was still intact and, in any event, my files were backed up. All our other computers, televisions and appliances were in good shape. We had remembered to unplug those but somehow missed this one laptop.

However, there's a lesson. Even though you try to do all you can to protect your PC, sometimes that isn't enough.

Looks like my New Year's resolution, which is to upgrade this one computer's "infrastructure" was off to an early start. The reader may ask, well isn't that why you buy a surge protector? Yes, and 99 times out of 100 it would have worked.

With the motherboard gone, I was also presented with a dilemma that users may find themselves faced with when it comes to repairing an aging computer. Do you buy a new one or simply upgrade. In my case, I decided it would be less expensive to upgrade. My power supply, video card, 2 gigs of RAM memory, and computer case were fine.

My next move was to go online and order some parts. I went straight to Newegg.com where I'd ordered stuff in the past and had good experiences with their prices and service. They also allow customers, usually hard-core geeks, to review whatever they are buying and this is very valuable.

The first thing I did was to order a new hard drive. I needed to swap out my old 80-gig drive anyway. It was performing fine but was nearly 80 percent full with documents, family photos, music and even a few videos.

I selected a 500-gig, 7200-rpm Western Digital Caviar Black (with 32 MB cache) unit. Western Digital gear is very highly rated, fast and inexpensive. I wanted a drive that ran at 7200 rpm because it makes a huge difference in speed of retrieving data, and with 500 gigs, I'd have all the storage I need. I also liked this unit because Newegg users gave it a "thumb' up" and at $75 the price was right. I ordered a well reviewed Asus Motherboard, discounted at around $80, and an AMD Athlon dual core CPU for under $50. AMDs are just as good as Intel and they are much less expensive. Why a new CPU in the first place? Who knows what the surge did to the old one? Better to get something faster and for under $50, it's not a deal breaker. The upshot: I had the core of a new machine for around $200. Not bad.