Sunday, November 19, 2006

virtually disastrous

It all started with the stupid Second Life. That's this virtual online world started by a few people, but maintained and continually created by thousands of online users. Apparently this other world has been steadily built over the years and now would occupy hundreds of acres if it literally existed. The Second Life users seemingly actually inhabit this visual online world. They also trade in various non-real and real world items. Users can take virtual matter and visually adjust it to take on whatever appearance they want. Then they program these items to do whatever they want them to do. Then they sell these items. Apparently, $500,000 runs through the Second Life commerce system everyday. Actual musicians and lecturers make appearances in Second Life. Real world people are actually quitting their real-world jobs to make their fortunes in fantasy land.

Naturally, I want in. I guess I just feel a need to escape from my life of non-stop leisure, endless sushi and a rocking girlfriend. seemed welcoming enough. I went ahead and filled a profile out for myself. My visual self (avatar) I selected is a sort of Japanese schoolgirl. They wanted me to join the premium membership for 10 bucks a month. Since I was gung-ho about immersing myself in the virtual world, the thought of such a membership was actually tempting. I was also tempted to register with my credit card. They wouldn't automatically take money but it would enable my avatar to purchase whatever she wanted immediately.

Fortunately I didn't do anything at all financial. After downloading the software on the website and building my avatar I began my Second Life maiden voyage by actually beginning the program. 30 seconds after clicking the Second Life icon I got a message informing me that Second Life couldn't run with my current graphics card. It recommended updating my video drivers, which I attempted to download -- over and over again. Why don't I understand computer drivers? Drivers are like the emo of computers. I never could understand the actual definition of emo. I finally settled on the idea that I needed an entirely new graphics card.

I meticulously jotted down the suggested cards provided me. One of them was the ATI Radeon 9250. I picked it up when Maria and I went to Best Buy to look for extra televisions.

This brings up two tangents.

Yes, I am shopping for televisions -- well, just one TV anyway. I figured it was time to get a new TV when the coaxial socket in the back slightly broke and got shoved into the TV's interior. Peter Nash was aghast when I actually told him that I'm looking into getting a smaller TV. He figures it's a step down and not worth doing. He's got a pretty good point, but there are certain facts that contribute to my wanting to downgrade. My current TV can only fit in my room if I plop it in my easy chair recliner. When I watch TV while the TV itself is in my recliner it really makes me wonder who's boss. I have this tiny TV tray-stand wheelie thing that I scrounged from my grandma's house which fits into the mini-corner in the middle of my north wall. The largest TV that can fit on that thing is 18.5 inches wide. I'm not talkin' an 18 inch screen here. I'm talkin' 18 inches for the entire box... not diagonally. Actually, I'm sort of looking forward to having a cute little TV. It'll be more convenient to haul it around for stuff like Halo parties plus I can easily maneuver the TV stand to enjoy the TV from my bed or easy chair. And yes, Mom, I know I could have taken Grandma's TV, but I wasn't thinking about getting a new one a couple of weeks ago when you asked me and also I need one with a headphone jack and stereo RCA inputs.

Tangent #2... After Maria and I went to Best Buy we went to Target and saw a line of people camped out in a line outside. We assumed that they were waiting for the Nintendo Wii which I think was going to be released the next day. Inside Target we found the Wii display with appropriate worthless display boxes. We considered snatching one of the display boxes as we walked out of the store. It would have given me the opportunity to have what looked like a Nintendo Wii under my arm when I asked the people in line what they were in line for.

So anyway, I came home and attempted to install the new graphics card. I've never installed a graphics card before (to my recollection), but figured it was easier than putting in a zip drive or fixing a toaster (two things I have been successful at). One of the first things it asked me to do was to remove the computer's pre-existing video drivers. Eegad. Drivers. They freak me out. Video drivers especially. The instruction manual didn't mention a scenario that I totally envisioned happening. Suppose I shut off the video drivers, shut the computer off, install the new card and then find that I get no video anyway, because the video drivers are gone and I can't install the new video drivers if I can't see anything. Hmmm. Also, I wasn't even sure which drivers were the video drivers. At that point I just went to the standard add/remove programs screen instead of going to display adapters in the device manager menu.

Man! This must be wicked boring for all you people out there who consistently rely on your company's IT guy. Sorry.

Anyway, as I was cycling through all the drivers I had at my disposal I decided to click on one whose function I was unsure of. Now, naturally, I figured that the computer would inform me which driver I was selecting instead of instantly deleting it. Imagine my surprise as I helplessly watched a series of prompts informing me that the driver was being completely removed from the system. During the damage assessment I discovered the drivers I removed were the audio drivers instead of the video drivers.

After a delirium of hair-pulling and crying, I managed to get the audio drivers back and downloaded (a few hours later). For some strange reason with all the fail-safes we encounter in Windows every single day, there's no 'undo' for deleting all the audio drivers. So I finally found what I was supposed to delete and got rid of them, despite my fear that I'd never see anything on the monitor again.

Now I was finally ready to install the graphics card. I cracked open the computer's frame and awkwardly ripped out what I supposed was an obsolete card. Then I spent the next 45 minutes trying to jam the new card into the new system. Yeah, after 45 minutes I finally resigned to the fact that my computer didn't have the right PCI slot for the brand new card I got. I sighed and plugged the old one in, praying that everything would still work when I got it back together.

And so it did. I'm totally back where I started, but 85 bucks poorer. I'm hoping Best Buy will take their card back even though I affixed the proof of purchase sticker and also wrote in the instruction manual. Maybe Intrigue Computers will be able to provide the thing with a new PCI slot (if that's even possible) next time I take it in. Hopefully, a solution could be had. People download and enjoy Second Life every single day...why can't I be one of them? You'd think computers and I would get along by now.

Second Life better be wicked good. On second thought, I hope it sucks, because it looks like I'll never go there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain...right now actually. At one point, I almost had to unsolder the integrated graphics card from my laptop's motherboard. And even WITH properly functioning hardware, every time I reinstall the OS, I have to hassle the video drivers for like 20 reboots. Blech.

(Steph and Rhett told me about your blog by the way; I hope you don't mind my intrusion.)

November 21, 2006 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Abel said...

Why are you doing all this stuff with Maria? Are you guys going out or something?

November 22, 2006 1:46 PM  

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