Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Thoth ended up with Lovecraft's heart

Thoth's thinking to himself, "Seriously, you guys, who stole my freaking heart?"

Many of you know that I recently got a new computer, which I named Thoth. I bought the pieces separately, and with the help of my friends, I put it together for half the cost that it would have cost to buy a comparable computer from Dell or HP or something. This computer had with a lovely, super powerful video card, a Radeon HD 5850.

This video card ran all the modern games I own (aka the ones Steam had on sale) at high settings. But there was a problem: whenever I booted up my computer, it would get to the Windows logo, which would swirl in, pause, then half of it would disappear and a few moments later I would get a blue screen of death and a reboot. The computer would reboot okay, I would tell it to start normally, and everything would be fine. The only problem was, this would happen every time I turned on my computer.

After trying every possible software fix, I finally had to face the facts: it was a hardware problem, probably related to my memory. The error logs indicated that the crash happened when my computer tried to load the video driver. Unfortunately, trying different video drivers didn't help. The problem was with my video card.

So I sent it back for a replacement, and in the meantime, I'm using the video card I pulled out of my old computer, Lovecraft, a Radeon X600.

This was a fine card, back in its day. Sadly, its day was about five years ago. That means it can run TF2 okay, but more modern games are asking a bit much of it.

An artist's rendition of several Radeon X600 video cards around a Radeon HD 5850

I bought my card from Newegg, but the 30-day return window had passed by the time I'd narrowed down the problem, so I was forced to use the warranty provided by the card's manufacturer. It turns out that Sapphire's RMA policy requires me to send them my card (at my own expense) and wait 1-2 weeks while they process it before they'll send me a replacement.

As an added twist, my amazing wife bought me a copy of Starcraft II that arrived the day before I was going to ship back my card. I did not even install the game yet, because I knew that it would be too heartbreaking to have to give it up a day after installing it. It would be easier to wait the 1-2 weeks without having a clear idea of what I was missing.

The other downside is that, while I'm down to one video card, I can't play video games with my wife. Normally, I can play TF2 on Lovecraft, which runs it okay, while my wife plays it on Thoth. But with Thoth's video card in the mail and Lovecraft's video card in Thoth, now we only have one working PC.

It's a good thing I have China MiƩville's brilliant novel Perdido Street Station to keep me distracted in the meantime. I'll definitely be posting a review when I finish!

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