Moving away from my parent’s place spiced up with getting my own PC
It’s been about ten days since I’ve moved away from my parents’ place. I am now independent and am ’customizing’ my surroundings as it pleases me...
It’s a wonderful experience - I can tell you that! The place is tiny - for one person only. It is situated in the center of Belgrade, and has a view on one of the most famous churches in the city. It takes me 3 minutes to get to Kalemegdan (a famous fortress in Belgrade where the ‘love birds’ go to make out), 4 min. to get to an open market to supply myself with vitamins and fresh goodies and 5 minutes to get down to the river (pretty filthy there – walk rather than swim no matter if it’s as hot as in hell). Man, I was lucky to get this place! On the other hand, I am freezing staying there, since temperatures are more or less below zero these days, whereas I am used to central heating (spoiled by it, that is). This place has electricity run heating that can - by no means - measure up with the central heating. As my folks insisted I should not move to a place with the type of heating I am so used to, and that I would get sick in no time – and I still did move to such a place – I am being quiet and not complaining about freezing constantly. I am also not mentioning the fact that my throat is killing me, that I spend three packs of Kleenex per day and that the skin around my nose is peeling of big time!
So, I am moving in. The place has furniture (a bar included!), but still has no soul, no sounds. So, step by step, I am dragging various stuff in. For instance, I’ve brought a pack of markers in all sorts of colors to make the place cozier. On the day of my departure from Sofia (after the Trainers’ Exchange Event), a cute and useful pillow caught my eye from a shop window. Luckily, the epillow was cheap, well - affordable, and they had enough pieces on stock, so I asked for “five to take away”. And I took them far far away, on a train traveling across the border – where I resembled smugglers while carrying a huge white pack and being asked various Qs and giving as many As to various uniformed and tough looking people.
So, where’s the ICT here? Hold your horses, I am coming to that!
To fill the place in and make it livable you need… a computer! Today, it can play music, movies, DVDs, enable you to listen to the radio, watch TV, surf the net, have phone conversations, net-meetings, conferences, workshops, and find information, chat, exchange thoughts, emotions, ideas, and files with people worldwide. Therefore, I started running after proposals for buying a PC. After acquiring some experience while buying my first PC I can recommend a few things. For starters, one can get a recent issue of a local PC magazine (there is “PC press” available in Serbia, and “Bug” magazine in Croatia), where one will find dozens of advertisements for companies dealing with selling computers, find lots of URLs for these retailers and also find useful reviews about performance of various PC components, like motherboards, graphic cards, monitors, etc. Also, make sure you go on-line to find tutorials for buying a PC (one that I found helpful is Dave’s Guide to Buying a Home Computer). Also, visit those retailers’ web sites - most of them have so called configurators on-line – where you have a drop down menus for each computer component, and according to what you chose from the list, the prices of all components’ are being added up (usually in “points”, i.e., euros - instead in a local currency), so you can know how much it would all cost, and therefore you can try to find the optimum solution between performance on one hand, and money on the other, as well as compare prices of different retailers. Here is an example (it’s in Serbian, but it is pretty intuitive and will give you a good insight into what I am talking about) or this one, which is in English. Checking out retailers websites will also give you a very good insight into how professional they are. What I also recommend is visiting brand names producers’ web sites, like Dell, Compaq, Hewlett Packard or IBM – so you can also know what’s new and available. This is how I found out about a word “refurbished”. Know what it is? No? I didn’t either. Refurbished PC is a used computer that has been reconditioned, i.e., a PC service company takes used computers apart, and than constructs “new” computers out of those components and makes sure components are compatible and that they combined together achieve good performance. Since it is made out of used components, the price of such computers is less than the new ones with same or similar performances. Refurbs (i.e., refurbished computers) come with a warrantee. Brand name refurbs come highly recommended! The trouble is this is science fiction for Serbia. There’s no official dealer of refurbs, so whenever you buy a second hand computer you do it at your own expense and eventually you will come to the wysiwyg conclusion (i.e., what you see is what you get, so make sure your eyes are open wide!).
After all, it is important to have enough time at your hands to spend in the quest for either a new or a used computer that would fulfill your needs. I decided to get a new one, and have engaged a friend who made sure I got a fair price for what I asked for. I spent couple of days surfing the net and going through magazines like crazy, tying to figure out hundreds of abbreviations. Some of these things became more clear, some evaporated from my head only a couple of minutes after I’ve read them… So, soon I became saturated with this adventure and more or less satisfied with the fact that I have some insight into what I should be getting. I was able to say I want this much HD space, that much RAM, this brand of CD burner or a DVD, etc. and that I wanted three partitions made having three different file systems: NTFS (for Windows XP), FAT32 (accessible to both Windows and Linux OS) and X3 file system (for Linux I am about to install). I did not figure it all out… Hay, it’s a process! Perhaps in a fifteen years time I will be able to impress a computers sales person with my knowledge of the technology that became obsolete a long time ago ;)
What is unorthodox and perhaps interesting about the PC I got is that I use it as a TV among other things. I bought an ASUS TV FM card (but since they didn’t have it on stock -I got one with lesser performances). You simply plug a Cable TV cable in the card and scan the frequencies in search for channels. Beside the fact that I can not find MTV (which is one of my top ten channels), whenever I change five channels in a row (which is what an average TV viewer is about to do every time she or he turns on the TV –madly hitting on the remote control keys while grudging intensively about the fact that nothing good is on), or change as little as three channels in a short period of time – the computers freezes beyond recovery, so the only way I can reanimate it is to hit the reset button. Besides this, when I scan the radio channels – there’s very strong background noise that is being picked up – since I do not have an external radio antenna to connect to the PC. What about the TV channels’ picture quality? I wouldn’t brag about it if I were a TV card producer. It is ok if the viewing area is as big as your fist. But, if you stretch it to full screen size (in an attmept to make it seem more like a TV), the size of a pixel is about 2x2mm which is not that admirable. All in all, if you can afford a regular TV – get it! PC is still not a great substitute. Perhaps if I live to see the ASUS card I have ordered (and paid, for that matter), it would be more compatible with my graphic card, and would have no communication issues with the motherboard and the processor and might therefore not freeze the entire computer.
All in all, I am getting acquainted with my new PC’s and new flat’s moods and their little eccentricities. So far - so good. I enjoy the solitude very much, and am allowing myself to not work seriously yet. Slowly, the abstinence from work is beginning to bore me, and I will get back on track soon – including using ICTs for my work and answering my e-mails on daily basis.