For Want of a Couple of Gibibytes

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, computer-wise, here at the casa. My main machine has started showing its age and I’ve been forced to put it on blocks for a while to see if I can get it back to its usual self. In the meantime, I’m having to do my work on my laptop — which is fine. Slower, less convenient, a bit more limited, but fine (beats not having a computer at all, n’est ce pas?).

Two or three weeks ago, my workhorse computer, an aging XP desktop that is due to be replaced before too long, started crashing a little. Not a lot. I thought it might be a Chrome update. Then I started getting BSODs (“Blue Screens of Death”). This is rarely a good sign — especially since the errors were quite varied. Unfortunately, XP’s minidump troubleshooter refused to work, so there wasn’t a lot of diagnosis I could do. I did fire up memtest, as these sorts of errors can indicate RAM issues, but after an overnight run, it emerged without an error.

Because of the number of BSODs I was getting, I had to move most of my work onto my laptop. Although I still have access to my data thanks to the cloud and external hard drives, I can’t access one of my printers. Worse, I don’t have access to Photoshop on this machine and so must use the GIMP — which, while capable, isn’t quite as streamlined or personally familiar as PS is. Still, there are worse tech situations to be in.

It looked like I was going to have to buy a new computer a little earlier than I had planned/budgeted for. As I don’t have the time or inclination at the moment to research and build another box, that pretty much leaves Dell. Just as I was about to press the key to confirm them a sale, I decided I’d give memtest another try.

Memtest gave me two memory errors in fairly short order. This is important as even one error is considered cause to replace RAM. Still, the odd cosmic ray has been known to flip a bit here or there, so I ran the test again overnight. No errors. I tried booting into Windows, but kept getting BSODs, so I ran memtest yet again. Very quickly, EIGHT errors. That is not something you typically want to see…but in this case, was exactly what I was hoping to see.

I immediately fired up my browser and hied over to Crucial’s website to buy myself 2GiB of memory to replace what’s currently in the box (XP 32-bit only effectively uses 3GiB, so I didn’t consider bumping up the total to even 4GiB). I’m now awaiting the arrival of the silicon.

With the good graces of the higher powers that be, I hope that the desktop will be back to stable and I can get back to 100% work efficiency. While the laptop is a great stop-gap, it was never designed to be a production machine and it shows. I’ve had to set aside a few lingering tasks (and way over-due ones at that) because it’s taking me too long to do the must-get-it-done-now tasks. And now, assuming the workhorse is back on its feed, I have a little bit of this new backlog to take care of as well.

As annoying as all of this has been to my life, I’m not really complaining. I mean…I’m having living-in-the-future tech problems. It’s actually kinda cool — when it’s not happening to you.

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