Happy As A Pig In Mud!

August 30th, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve had such a positive few days. I hope that giving voice to it won’t cause me to jinx it. However, I’ve done plenty of bitching so I think it’s probably time to share some good things.

As I’ve mentioned before, I found a degree program that would provide a good path for where I’d like to take my career. While I can’t financially enroll in the program yet, I plan on using its curriculum as a road map to help focus my creative endeavors. The Wifey seems to be 100% behind this and that helps a great deal.

Once I decided that this is the way I wanted to go things started to sorta take on a life of their own.

First, I came into possession of a lot of used computer hardware. Thanks again to all those that have donated to the cause!

The Wifey brought home two old Dell computers which I gutted and recombined. As a result we now have PC that will be used as a networked media share. Also, since it’ll be hooked up to our HD TV, we’ll also be able to watch internet based movies and shows on it.

A friend of mine, who was rather appalled at our outdated systems, offered an old PC he had sitting in a closet. All he needed was a case. So, I gutted the Wifey’s desktop (NO MERCY!). The Wifey now has a desktop that won’t choke on her beloved Civilization 4.

Secondly, we had something of a financial windfall this weekend. I won’t go into much detail, the Wifey hates when I talk about our finances publically, but if we plan and budget wisely it should help us along for the next few months. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Third, since we can now afford to, I’ve ordered parts to replace my ailing motherboard. I’m getting an Intel i5 2500 quad core processor, 16 gigs of memory, a new MSI motherboard and Windows 7 Home. These items, coupled with a used EVGA Nvidia GTX 260 (Core 216) video card I got from a friend, should result in a pretty good system to start along my new ‘dream career path’. The parts should arrive later this week.

On top of all this goodness, I’ve been gifted a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Premium. While it’s a bit dated, it should give me plenty of ability to explore the programs within it, such as Adobe Flash and Photoshop.

I am as happy as a pig in mud.

Found a Plan!

August 26th, 2011

It’s late August and around this time of year all the college kiddies are returning to school. I’ve posted on my feelings of intense jealousy regarding this before so I’ll try to not repeat the same old whining.
Still, I do find myself trying to look forward and making plans for the future. The Wifey finds me a little too pessimistic for my own good and, while I only sometimes agree, having a goal does indeed help my mood (… so does remembering to take my Vitamin D).

One of the things I’d love to do is return to school. I can’t say exactly what it is about academia that fills me with longing. Perhaps, it’s the mixture of anticipated knowledge gain and lively discussion. Though, to be honest, I also like the freedom of not having a defined 40 hour work week and being out of a horribly corporate atmosphere where the all mighty dollar continually sucks at the soul appeals to me (Umm… Yes, I’m aware that’s an idealistic notion.)

Anyway, to get to the point of this post, I’ve found a Master’s program that interests me and I’m looking at further developing my next year or so around it. The program is Web Design and Development offered by the University of Denver. It is available both online and offline. The difference in price is negligible at around $2000. As such, I’ll be looking at doing it online since the drive to Denver and paying for parking/gas is less than appealing. The program appears to focus solely on web stuff and isn’t one of those IT programs that has a minor focus on web design. This means that I can skip all the more IT related stuff that I’m not interested in. It also seems to offer training on development tools where some programs I’ve seen are more ‘hypothetical’ in their approach. From what I’ve seen this is the type of program I’m looking for.

Actually attending the program is still a ways off. We simply can’t afford for me to go back to school at the moment. Plus, I’m not sure if I can make it working full time and attending school full time. I’ve asked around and people say it’s quite a difficult thing to do. I don’t believe it’s an ideal situation either. Before I make any decision one way or another I should find a way to better gauge what I’m capable of.

I’ve looked at the curriculum and the expected time requirement for online classes. It looks like it’s about 3 hours each week per class plus however long homework would take. So, starting Sept 12 (the day the semester actually start) I’m going to start setting aside 6 hours during the week to work on stuff at my PC. This will include researching and trying out the programs mentioned in the course descriptions, working with the Wacom tablet and other such endeavors. If this schedule totally exhausts me I know that I’ll have to either plan on only working part time or going to school part time. (Not to mention I’ll be working on some projects I’ve been putting off.)

Granted, this is all tentative at the moment. First, I have to get the Wifey’s buy in. Secondly, if the world ends or ‘moves on’ in 2012, my plans are probably screwed.

Bad Motherboard Bad!

July 29th, 2011

So, yesterday I got a new video card from a friend. Not sure if I mentioned this via blog post yet or not but it’s 5:45am so I’m a little fuzzy. I was pretty damn excited. It’s already an obsolete model but it actually provides double the performance of my current card!

Anyhow, had a little issue getting it installed into the system. The card itself is HUGE and I had to shift internal components around a bit and rework the cabling system. I expected that so it wasn’t a big deal.

First issue appeared as soon as I powered up. The monitors took a little longer than expected to get signal so the system came up just after the bios POST. Again, not a big deal. I figured it had something to do with the bios and video card talking to one another.

Got into Windows Vista and had to work with a slew of driver issues. You would think that going from one Nvidia card to another wouldn’t be a big deal, especially considering that they use one standard set of drivers. Grrr… Well, took care of that too. Again, something I was aware of going into it.

Upon reboot I still had a little lag in video but nothing like I had from cold boot. Set that concern aside for the time being. Equated it with just a nuisance.

Then, I got hit with the stupid Windows Activiation Verification thing. Spent about 20 minutes on the phone a Microsoft bot verifying that I actually own the OS… Problem solved… for now.

Windows loaded again and I found that I got static from the sound system when I moved my mouse along some windows. I recently put an old Soundblaster card in the system to see if it was better than the on-board audio. But, I’ve known that Soundblaster products are prone to this interference. Reseated video card in other PCI-E slot and the interference went away. Might just end up taking the card out after everything is said and done.

Having to reseat the video meant I had to plug in the HD and DVD-rom into some SATA connectors I’ve never used. Didn’t have an issue on boot but entered into the BIOS to make sure everything was working.

Main menu = check

Some other extended menus = check

Power managment = fuck…

Well, that’s what the garbled text on some of the menu items translated to immediately in my head.

Searched interwebs for possible cause/solution. Most believe this points to motherboard failure. But some troubleshooting & exploration were warranted.

Corrupt BIOS? I flashed the system in hopes it would rebuild the CMOS and other BIOS data. Flash successful. But corruption still occurs. In fact it spread to one or more settings in other various menus. I’m sure of this because I was looking at another setting which previously read “PCI Reset” and now reads ‘$#@ Reset’ (well not exactly but you know what I mean)

Could it be the new video card drawing too much juice? Tried the older card. BIOS still showing corruption… gah.

Last ditch effort, I removed the system battery in hopes that would clear the data. Did that last night before going to bed. Woke up about a half an hour ago, put it back in. The Wifey is still in bed so I haven’t had a chance to plug in the system and check the BIOS.. though I’m not optimistic.

The conclusion to all of this, at least I believe so at this point, is that my motherboard is failing. I had planned on spending about $250 on Windows 7 and some more memory for the system but this throws a serious wrench into the situation. No point in upgrading a system that is failing.

The shitty thing is that I can’t take the money I was looking at setting aside and use it to replace the motherboard. I’d also have to replace the CPU and memory modules. Not to mention I’d still have to purchase another OS since the Vista version I have is OEM…

Sigh.. which basically means I’ll have to get the system up and running enough to backup the information I have on the hard drive. No other system in the house has a SATA interface which is easily accessible. That should solve the issue of loosing data. I can always put more important stuff on an external.

I can still use the system for day to day stuff, though I’ll have to be aware that it could completely fail to boot at any time. Which means, I’m pretty much stuck depending on this olde laptop… which is also on it’s last legs…

Well, at least the $250 can go toward household bills…

Rambling Power

July 27th, 2011

So, my little corner of the bedroom, which I lovingly refer to as my office, is now straightened up. That’s one less area that we’ll have to make appropriately clean before the management companies ‘inspector’ comes on Friday.

I suppose tha sounds a little ominous but it’s really not. The condo above us had an issue with their AC unit’s ‘hosey’ parts. Due to this water has been gathering in the ceiling above our utility closet. Long story short, I asked that the entire room be inspected for water damage and mold. We’ll see if any such thing is found on Friday.

In a related note, it looks like I’ve stumbled upon a new videocard for the PC tomorrow. One of my techie friends got himself an upgrade and is handing it down to me. Another friend referred to this as ‘computer karma’ I might have to pretend I came up with that myself. 😛

Regardless, the bounty might continue since the Wifey has said I should be able to get Windows 7 and a memory upgrade for my B’day. It may not be an entire new system but leaving behind Vista (32-bit at at that) should result in a perceptible advance in power.

Have I mentioned that I like power?

I need more power…

Well, I think this is enough blabbing. I’m gonna finish folding some clothes and then play some Fallout 3: New Vegas.

I need more power!

Why Academia?

July 26th, 2011

This weekend, while we were wasting time before Captain America, we stopped by target. Their back to school displays reminded me that it’s that time of year again. I must say that I do miss the ebb and flow created from having your life dictated a semester at a time by school. Further, in all honesty, I miss the perception, however false it actually is, that there you’re starting with a fresh slate. It’s a lot easier to be an optimist when the failures of your past are behind some demarcation line.

Anyways, it’s got me thinking about my dream of returning to school. I often wonder if my attachment to the concept has little to do with the actual subject of learning rather than once again finding a place where I can optimistically look ahead. I’m not a fool. I know that having a degree, of any sort, no longer means much in the workplace outside of another requirement that must be met to even be considered. I’ve been told that it used to guarantee a hire pay grade or increase the certainty that there would be a job out in the ‘real world’. I’m not sure if this simply more ‘back in my day’ rose colored glasses crap.
In short, returning to school doesn’t really increase my chances of getting a higher paying job or that I’ll have a better go of it in corporate America… In fact, it might actually make me even more ‘overqualified’ and, as such, really come back to bite me in the ass.

So why do I look forward to it? It might be similar to the ever increasing urge to move. I’ve had the Wifey point this out to me numerous times. When I find that life isn’t going the way I’d like it to, I’m often tempted to pick up and try another place. Of course, this usually isn’t feasible so I usually just move the furniture around. My mother often jokes about this behavior when I was younger and it make the Wifey cringe every time I start to contemplate moving my desk once again. Perhaps it stems from my younger days when we moved every three years or so. It’s easy to get in habit of leaving problems behind when you’re always moving on.

Yeah, in some ways returning to school is indeed like that. It’s a new start, a do over in another environment. I’d be dishonest to say that, at least in part, that’s what I’m longing for.

Still, I think there is more than that. I’ve come to the conclusion, after spending a good bit of time in corporate America, that I’m just as ambitious as the next guy, but in the wrong way. I don’t aspire to make boat loads of money and I sure as hell don’t feel that the prestige I’m looking for is directly tied to a job title. Instead I want to have an impact on humanity in a deeper way. I don’t give a crap about pushing a product, I really aspire to have people question why they need it in the first place.

I’m often labeled as arrogant, and I suppose in some ways I am, it’s just I want to have a deeper impact on people’s lives. I want to be in conversations regarding religion and metaphysical concerns. I want to help give people the opportunity to step beyond their everyday normative perspectives and help develop tools which allow them to be comfortable there. I’d much rather be middle class and struggling with the multitude of life’s big questions than rich and happily ignorant.

From my limited experience, academia seems to provide the best opportunity to advance upon this path. Ideally, the purpose of the classroom is to explore, to question, to propose alternative to the norm and to develop the ability to communicate*. I think that’s why I look toward returning in there at some point in the future.

*Some might suggest that it’s also to find answers. For some that might be the case. However, I’m a relativist and a pragmatic one at that. Answers don’t move us forward…


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