Today, Yufang and I went to Lowes for a few supplies. We recently purchased a Samsung LCD TV, but we don’t have cable (except for Internet). We figured it might be fun to watch real TV (as opposed to Hulu or whatever else might be available), so I did some research on the best inexpensive antennas for HDTVs. Overwhelmingly, I found people talking about “coat hanger antennas.” It was hard to imagine that something so easy and cheap to build could work so well despite the video evidence on YouTube (one instructional video with antenna in action can be found here). Nevertheless, I decided to build one and see how well it works for myself. I used the instructions available from Make Magazine here. However, I decided to follow the lead of some folks in the forums who talked about better results with 12-gauge copper wire, which I used in place of the coat hangers. All in all, it took about 45 minutes to build, and it cost me about $16. And, the results? Now, we have 30 HD channels to choose from (20 come in perfectly–the ones that don’t are from stations further away).
I may be an English PhD student, but I also enjoy working with computers. So, it was only a matter of time before I built a new PC for fun, adventure, and a bit of World of Warcraft. Don’t get me wrong, I love my MacBook Pro, but I’ve been unhappy with Apple and Blizzard since the MacOS X 10.5.3 update, which effectively destabilized any attempts at playing WoW for more than a few minutes at a time (if it launched at all). I had been running MacOS X 10.5.2 in order to enter WoW, but this was an imperfect solution, because I was missing out on all of the recent security updates and fixes.
I began researching the hardware that I wanted to use in the construction of my new rig a few months ago, but I didn’t put a plan into action until recently. I believe the fact that tipped the scale was that I learned that there was a Micro Center a short drive away in Cleveland. I would much prefer a Fry’s to Micro Center if I’m buying local, but I had to work with what’s nearby. I could have purchased my stuff online from a website such as Newegg, but I tend to go local due to problems I’ve had in the past with online ordered new system builds.
After comparison pricing, including rebates (oh, how Micro Center loves rebates), and checking in-store stock, Yufang and I drove to Cleveland one day, despite my being tired and not feeling well, and we spent a couple of hours at Micro Center. I walked out the store with an Antec mid-tower case with 430 watt PSU, Biostar TP43DA2-A7 (supports DDR2-1066 and sans the bells and whistles I don’t need), Intel Core2Quad Q6600 CPU (with lower price than Newegg!), 2GB Corsair Dominator DDR2-1066 (this was a next day exchange after my first XMS2 memory turned out bad), PNY nVidia Geforce 9600GT 512MB PCIe video card, Western Digital 160GB SATA Hard Drive, Samsung DVD+/-R SATA optical drive, and Acer 19″ 5ms LCD display. Besides the initial RAM problem, everything went together fine, and I was able to install Windows Vista Ultimate without headache.
I’ve found myself using the PC more and more since I’ve built it. However, I’ve been using it for school rather than gaming. In fact, I haven’t played WoW since I built my new rig–there hasn’t been any time for it. That’s okay though, because I’ve been getting a lot of good work done for my space exploration themed college writing course that I’m teaching, as well as my student research and professional duties for SFRA.
I’ll report more on my PC soon, particularly when I get to actually relieve some stress killing Alliance characters on Ner’zhul. Though, one thing that I don’t think I need to talk about is the Fact, and I mean that with a capital F, that Microsoft actively designed Vista to be irritating, counterintuitive, and maddeningly uncohesive.
One final thought–I like to think how science fictional it is that I can build my own computer. What would it have been like to imagine building your own computer prior to the introduction of the MITS Altair 8800 and later, IMSAI 8080?