On top of my recent housing troubles, which I hope will be resolved by the end of the month, I’m starting to run into another round of computer problems. My personal laptop, which I’ve had for two or three years now, is reaching the end of its lifespan. The hardware is capable, I think, and all else being equal I think the laptop would be able to last me another year or more at least. However the thing has taken quite a beating physically, especially since my son started walking, and I might not be able to hold the pieces together for much longer.

The first big problem with my laptop came when my son yanked on the screen and broke one of the hinges. The cost to have it professionally repaired was close enough to the cost of buying a completely new laptop that I decided to attempt the fix myself. The second hinge broke shortly thereafter, I think as a result of the stresses accumulated with the first hinge no longer bearing any of the load or forces, and I finally ordered replacement hinges off the internet.

I disassembled the laptop, carefully taking incomplete mental notes about where all the screws came from, replaced the hinges and started putting the thing back together. At the end I had several screws left over and some of the very last few screwholes which would only admit particularly long screws were left empty because I must have used them somewhere else. The net result was a laptop which was held together, but which was a little bit less solid than it was when I bought it.

Things were fine for a while until I noticed that I was having some problems with my power charger. Pushing on it or wiggling it would cause the laptop to switch to battery power as if I had unplugged the A/C adapter. Careful inspection revealed the cause: There was a split in the outer covering of the adapter up near the plug, and the wires inside were fraying. I pulled out my razor blade to open up the covering, soldered the frayed wire bits together as best I could (since the fray was so close to the plug, I had very little exposed metal to work with) and electrical-taped the whole thing back up tightly.

Skip ahead a few months and another hinge broke and is broke still. Because of the geometry of the hinge, the wires to run the screen run through the joint and the broken hinge is starting to fray the signal wires. Every few minutes of use I need to either tap the screen or adjust the broken hinge joint to stop the monitor from flickering.

On occasion, though rarer than the flickering problem, the backlights will go out. I think I accidentally loosened a connection inside the screen to the power supply for the backlights when I replaced the hinges. When the backlight goes out, I need to press on the lower portion of the screen with my finger to get them to come back on. Sometimes this manuever is accompanied by a slight buzzing sound. Once, it was accompanied with the feint smell of sulfur ands smoke.

My repair job on the A/C adapter wire is also starting to come undone, months later. I’m not having any problems with the battery power switching on yet, but I know the clock is ticking.

All that said, We’ve decided to get me a new computer. We got my wife one a few months ago (hers was much older than mine and in much worse condition, if you can believe that). For christmas this year, I’m getting a new one too. In fact, I might have a new one already if I could find one I like. I’ve been looking at the Sony Vaios and the Lenovo ThinkPads so far. I need something that is going to be able to withstand some rough use, is going to work reasonably well with Linux, and that’s going to have the power and capacity to support the work I need to do with it for at least a few years.

As far as my wishlist goes, I would like at least an Intel i5 and 6GB of memory. Dual core is good. Quad core is better. You almost can’t buy a hard disk that’s too small anymore, and I don’t think I am ready to blow the money for a solid-state drive of any size. I do not care, in the least, about audio or graphics performance, thinness, case aesthetics, or weight. Battery life is something of a concern, but I know all too well that the capacity of the battery will decrease over time and a year from now it won’t be nearly what it is when I buy it. What I mostly am interested in is finding a laptop with hinges that are more sturdy than the ones are in my current laptop.

I haven’t been blogging about Parrot much because I haven’t had time to work on Parrot much in recent weeks. That doesn’t mean I’ve had my hand off the pulse of the project. Much the opposite. I’m following along closely with the exciting threading work that hacker nine is doing, and I’m signed up to port the whole system to Windows when I get the chance. I am also earnestly planning a massive refactor of the Sub PMC and related systems, and a big overhaul of the PCC system too. I’ve been planning both these projects for a long time, and I’m starting to get a serious itch to pursue them. When I get the new computer, since it’s going to come with Windows no matter what I want, I’ll probably try to keep a Windows partition for Parrot development and testing. Once I get into my new house (if I get into it) and once I get my new laptop, it will be full steam ahead on Parrot development.