13 January 2016

New Hardware

Over the past several months, we've been making some hardware upgrades here at SAR Studios (a wholly owned subsidiary of Chaos Productions Ltd.*), in order to serve you ourselves better. I've been fortunate that I have not had to deal with any significant computer issues, as some of my friends have. But as time passes, even solid equipment can become obsolete.

For most of last year I was hounded by my cable company (whose name rhymes with Bombast) about my cable modem, which was at least a decade old. I was warned repeatedly that my modem had reached "end of life" status. What that meant, exactly, was not clear; it still worked, but there was an ominous suggestion that there would come a time when the company might no longer support it. I had chosen to purchase the modem in order to avoid an indefinite monthly fee, so it was up to me to acquire a replacement.

I'd happened to read an article on The Wirecutter (a useful and highly recommended site) on this very topic, and based on their advice I decided to purchase what was basically a several-generations-newer version of what I had. The going price at the time was around $90, but in September I was able to purchase a refurbished model for $50, which was more in line with what I wanted to spend.

The next step was my wireless router, which I'd had at least as long as the cable modem, or maybe even longer. All the devices we're using on our wireless network are capable of faster speeds than the router could provide, so a couple of months later I found another deal on an Apple AirPort base station (what Apple insists on calling its routers). Replacing a router in an existing home network is a bit further beyond the level of tech stuff than what I'm used to, so I invoked the assistance of my old college friend Dr. Hackenbush, who resides far from here in a land of pickup trucks and guns. Through the miracle of FaceTime he was able to guide me through the process (thanks again, Dr. H!), and I had the network cruising along again in a couple of hours.

That left my computer, an iMac with a 24" screen. It dated to 2008, and it had been my work computer until I left my job in 2012 (don't worry, we were allowed to take them with us as a "parting gift" of sorts). One of the first improvements one can make to an older computer is to add RAM. The iMac had 4 gigabytes of RAM out of a possible 6; why it wasn't built to allow expansion up to 8 is a question only Apple can answer, but it did not seem worth it to add only 2 more gigs.

New iMacs and Mac minis no longer have the option to add RAM after you've purchased the computer; you have to buy what you think you'll need, or risk having programs run more and more slowly years down the road. Of course, Apple charges a premium for this: to double the RAM in a new Mac from 8 gb to 16 adds $200. I found a new, unsold 2013 iMac, the last model with user-upgradeable RAM, that also had the latest, fastest wi-fi standard that my new router supports, along with a faster-spinning hard drive and the larger 27" screen size I wanted. That ended up being my Christmas present to myself. Doubling the RAM and installing it myself was $45 instead of $200.

Next time, I'll tell you about what happens when you move from an older Mac to a newer one, or rather, what's supposed to happen.

(*Those of you who have known me the longest will likely recall the genesis of the Chaos brand; no slight is meant to any other readers, and perhaps I'll go into some details and dig into the "archives" at some point.)

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