Monday, December 15, 2003

Computer Repair #6

[This post is part of an ongoing series of posts in December cataloging how much time I spend repairing the computers here in the Brain household.]

The kids (David, age 6, Irena, age 3, and the twins, age 19 months) enjoy playing computer games, and enjoy them enough that we decided to get them their own computer. I imagine that as the twins get older we will end up getting another kids computer as well. Dell has an ad in Parade magazine this week for a $499 machine (2.5 Ghz Pentium4, 40GB hard disk, and includes a 17" monitor), or you can build a barebones machine with a used monitor for about $350. At that price, it's easier to get another machine than to argue about "who gets the computer." The only problem is that you have to then start installing updates, and administrating the thing.

David got the game Roller Coaster Factory 3. He installed it on their machine. But when he tried to play it, it was sluggish beyond belief. He would move the mouse, and 5 seconds later the on-screen cursor would move. The minimum requirements for the game call for a Pentium2 at 400 Mhz, so it wasn't a processor issue. The game came with a help file, which had a troubleshooting section, and what it suggested was this:That did not seem to be the issue. The machine has 384MB of RAM and a 1.7 Ghz processor.

This is the point where you enter tech support hell. Computers are great when they they work, but when they do not work you often are stuck. See repair #1 for a demonstration.

I talked to several friends, and one of them asked about the drivers installed on the machine. When I installed XP, it had not said anything about drivers, and the machine worked. It worked fine for dozens of other kids games. Nonetheless, my friend suggested finding and installing drivers specific to the motherboard. It was a 2-hour process to find the drivers for that specific motherboard, but I did find them, they did install painlessly, and that did solve the problem. It is actually a very cool game and David loves it.

But it took about 4 hours to get it running, when you consider the diddling David and I did with the screen resolution, the time I spent talking to friends, and the time spent finding and installing the drivers. It seems like this issue (like repair #1) could have been solved in an automatic way. When XP installs (or when a new device like a printer plugs in) XP could query the motherboard or the device for its manufacturer and model number. Then XP could go to the manufacturer's Web site, look up the right driver and install it automatically. In this case, that sort of "automatic driver installation" feature would have saved 4 hours.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?