Friday, March 14, 2008

But What Of Munin?

In the interests of spending at least a little money, I decided to buy some books.
Specifically I bought the trade paperback collections of Ed Brubaker’s run on Catwoman, as well as a book titled (in the US, at least) Benighted, which was written by one of the regular commenters on Slacktivist. It doesn’t seem like it’s really my cup of tea, but everyone in the Slacktivist community who’s read it raves about it, and her comments are invariably cogent, insightful, and funny (I must confess to having a bit of a crush on her), so I figured I’d give it a shot.
(The UK title is Bareback, but that was deemed to have too many sexual connotations, which have nothing to do with the actual content of the book, in the US.)
So that was my big purchase with my refund money.
Oh, and a new computer.
Of course, technically I didn’t buy that with my refund money, as I charged it to my Dell account.
For those who are interested in that kind of thing, here are the specs:

Dell XPS 420
Windows Vista Ultimate with Digital Cable Support
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Quad-Core Processor
4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
500 GB Hard Drive
Blu-ray Disc Drive (BD/DVD/CD burner w/double layer BD write)
nVidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner with Remote
Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition

Plus, as an additional bit of pointless geekery, there’s a Windows SideShow display built into the tower.
I had originally intended to buy a system from HP. In fact, I had a saved configuration that had pretty much the same specs, with the major differences being that it had a slightly faster processor (2.66 GHz), an actual Audigy card, a 750 GB hard drive, and the HP’s Blu-ray burner could also read HD DVD. It also had a separate DVD ROM drive, as I prefer having two optical drives.
Of course, it was slightly more expensive than the Dell system.
The reason I didn’t buy the HP, though, is that between the time I configured a system and went to order it, HP stopped offering the ATI Digital Cable Tuner as an available option.
Why? I had no idea. I actually went so far as to initiate a live chat session with a sales associate to ask. His response to my question, “Why is the CableCARD tuner no longer an available option?” was to say “That is no longer an available option.”
Umm…no shit, Sherlock. Or, more accurately, no shit, Merlin, as he called himself.
When I asked again “Why not?” he told me that he couldn’t comment on it.
I did some digging online and discovered that this has actually been an issue with HP. Apparently for more than a year now they’ve been offering it, then not offering it, then offering it again, then not offering it, and so on.
In one case, someone bought a system with the digital tuner, had a problem, sent the system in for service, and got it back sans digital tuner and was told that the digital tuner was not an available option.
I had thought that it might be a problem of stock, but evidently HP keeps running into configuration issues with the digital tuner, which must be recurring.
I was still tempted to buy the HP system I’d configured, because I really liked the idea of having a high-definition DVD drive that could at least read both formats, but I ultimately decided that the digital tuner was a higher priority, and since I could always buy a multi-format drive and install it myself, but it’s nearly impossible to buy a digital tuner without also purchasing a full system, I opted for the Dell.
Why is the digital tuner so important? Well, I can contact Verizon and have them provide me a CableCARD for it that will essentially turn my computer into a Verizon set-top box, allowing me to watch and record HD content on my computer.
This means that, for example, when the new season of Shark starts, or if CBS starts airing reruns rather than running edited for network TV episodes of Dexter in its slot, I will be able to make my own HD screen caps of Danielle Panabaker, or make HD screen caps of some of the lovely ladies of HGTV.
Somewhere along the line – at this point, probably next year at tax/bonus time – I’ll buy a dedicated Media Center system with digital tuners that will allow me to replace my Verizon set-top box.
I haven’t ponied up the cash for the Cintiq yet, as I’m still considering Kathleen’s suggestion about registering Heroic Portraits as an LLC, allowing me to claim its purchase as a business expense on next year’s taxes.
In any case, the new system will become the new Hugin, leaving me to ponder the fate of the current Hugin. I ‘m inclined to turn the current Hugin into the new Munin – a role currently being filled by Gungnir, my Tablet PC – though that then leaves me to ponder the fate of the current Munin, which, having been robbed of its monitor, has been sitting unused in my closet for months.
Munin can’t pump out a suitable resolution to be used with my old 20.1” monitor, and I’m giving Munin’s 17” monitor to my mom, so even after I get the Cintiq, which will take over as Hugin’s second monitor, the current Munin will still be without a monitor. So really, the question is not “What about the current Hugin?” but rather “What about the current Munin?”
I’m not sure about that yet.
Of course, one (with my mom probably being said one) could say that the real question is “How many computers do you need?”I would suggest that such a question is akin to a Zen Koan, such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It’s a question for which there is no answer, but the contemplation of which can possibly lead one closer to enlightenment.
After all, it was pointed out to me that I have a responsibility to spend money on cool gadgets, as it allows Scott to purchase expensive electronics vicariously through me. Do you really want me to let Scott down? For shame.
After I buy the Cintiq, the remaining amount of my windfall – which will be substantial – will be safely socked away in my high-yield savings to earn me interest, so I’m not being totally irresponsible with my finances.
In any case, I suppose I should attend to my exciting Friday evening plans…which consist entirely of finally getting around to watching the latest Netflix DVD that arrived in the mail last week.
(Hot Fuzz, for those of you wondering.)

5 comments:

Merlin T Wizard said...

Yay Jon! Thanks for not letting me down! So, you know that having a computer with no monitor is the perfect excuse to install ubuntu (or some other flavor of Linux) and make a network server that you can access remotely from your other machines. At the very least it could be a beater box to mess around with. You could even get a static IP from Verizon and make it your own Web server. Just some ideas.

Heimdall said...

Happy to be of service.
Yeah, I was thinking of doing something along those lines with the current Munin as far as putting some flavor of Linux on it and using it as a server.

Merlin T Wizard said...

That's what I did with my old Dell, but after seeing it sit there sucking power and doing nothing for a few months, I just shut it down. Since I couldn't reach it from outside my home network, and I never really had a reason to access it from within, it was sorta pointless. That's why I suggested the static IP thing. You'd probably get more use out of it that way.

Heimdall said...

I've considered buying the WHS OS and turning it into a Windows Home Server, which would actually allow me to do things like access my network remotely.
However, while it could technically be done, I have a feeling it wouldn't work as well as simply buying a system that was actually designed and configured to be a Windows Home Server out of the box.

Merlin T Wizard said...

Yeah, you're probably right. Charles and Brandon both have experience with setting those up, though. I know you never really got close to either of them, but you can probably ping them for recommendations.