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October 20, 2012

Ye Olde Local Computer Store

Last week I paid a visit to my old PC store, ICG Computers, in Brookline. I hadn’t been there in maybe 5 years because I switched to Macs and thus spend time at the Computer Loft in Brighton. Also, when I was a PC, I was building my own computers out of components, so lots more went wrong (= I did lots more wrong). And, yes, I wish I could compile my own hardware and install the Mac OS on it. (Hackintosh scares me. Someday.) But, my remaining Windows machine crapped out last week, so I carried it to ICG’s small storefront.

Ray greeted me by name. Because no one else was there, we took the opportunity to catch up.

Ray comes from China and runs a quintessential American small business. He’s honest as the day is long, and could teach any bigger company about customer service. But it’s been a lean few years for ICG. Ray says that the recession hurt his primary customer base, small businesses. There haven’t been a lot of new businesses formed, so they’re not coming in to equip their offices. And, of course, the PC business has gotten commoditized. So, ICG relies on repairs and aggressively trying to beat the Internet on prices.

The walls of the store are lined with components. Then there are a few tables of new and used machines. He prices his used machines against eBay, and his new machines against Net low-ballers. As a result, you can get a power-packed laptop for $250 or $300. And you can do so knowing that Ray knows the tech and stands behind what he sells.

ICG is a great place to buy a computer. It’s also a great place to hang out and talk about tech. Ray knows my own level of expertise and talks at that level. No condescension, no salesmanship, no BS. I always learn something talking with Ray. In this case it turns out that my PC needed a new power supply, and the one I’d put in was under-powered. So, yeah, Ray upsold me, but I have complete confidence that he also right-sold me, so to speak.

Bunches of small, locally-owned computer stores have gone out of business here over the past few years. So have most of the larger stores. Remember EggHead? CompUSA? Me neither. And much as I love the Internet, I hate what it’s doing to the Rays of our town, who epitomize the best of small business. ICG is surviving and will continue to serve our community. But I want Ray’s business to do more than that. It seems unfair that honesty, expertise, friendliness, and low, fair prices aren’t enough for a business to go gangbusters.

Am I plugging ICG? Damn straight.

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May 20, 2012

Lion fixed my SuperDrive. (Alternative title: Snow Leopard broke my SuperDrive)

Yesterday Disk Utility told me to restart my Mac from a boot disk and run the disk repair function (= Disk Utility). Fine. Except I was unable to boot from any of my three Mac boot disks (including the original) whether they were in my laptop’s SuperDrive (= Apple’s plain old DVD drive) or in a USB-connected DVD drive. The system would notice the DVD when asked to look for boot devices (= hold down the Option key when starting up), but froze after I clicked on the DVD (= no change in the screen after 30 mins).

So, what the hell, I installed Lion, which I had been hoping to avoid (= my pathetic resistance to Apple’s creeping Big Brotherism). Thanks to the generosity of Guillaume Gète, I downloaded Lion DiskMaker, followed the simple instructions (= re-downloaded Lion, all part of Apple’s makings things hard by making them easy program), and now have a Lion boot disk. I was able to boot from it and fix my hard drive.

The whole episode was so reminiscent of why I left Windows (= Windows 7 looks pretty good these days).

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May 28, 2010

Linux on a stick

I’m excited. On the plane ride today, I got Linux loaded onto a USB stick which I then used to boot my Acer One netbook into Linux. Nothing special about that, but because Linux saves onto a 4G section of my USB stick, I now have a tiny, portable OS that saves the stuff I download and create.

My netbook comes loaded with Windows XP on one partition and Android on another. But it’s a particular sucky version of Android, and I’ve found I’m not using it for anything. But I’d rather not be running Windows when I don’t have to. So, the portable USB-ized Ubuntu is perfect for me.

It took me a few tries to get it so that the USB saves the stuff I create while running Linux, and I’m not entirely sure why the slider that sets up the save area was grayed out. Eventually I booted into Linux off of another USB stick, and then used Linux’s own “create startup disk” feature to erase (and format?) the USB stick, which then, at last, let me set aside a save area.

Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to tether the netbook to my Droid so I can avoid the $15/day Net access charge at the hotel while running Linux. So, for now I’m booting into Windows and using the fabulous PDAnet app.

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August 16, 2009

New Mac, and cloning BootCamp XP

Because one of our children needs a new computer, I’ve ordered a brand new 15″ MacBook Pro … for myself. Our child will get my current MacBook 13″. Don’t look at me like that! I’m more of a power user than our child is. And I’m older. Also, I’m paying for it. But mainly it’s a totally rational decision that happens to work out in my favor.

I know that setting up the new Mac will be simple. I’ll plug my old one into the new one (I’m getting a firewire cable that’s 400 on one and 800 on the other, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll connect through the ethernet ports) and the new Mac will suck the life force (= my user directories ‘n’ stuff) out of the old one.

What will really take some time is rebuilding my Bootcamp Windows XP partition: Reinstall XP, and reinstall the few apps I use. (I am still using Microsoft Money, waiting for the new version of Quicken for the Mac, which keeps getting postponed.) I’d much rather clone the old Bootcamp partition onto the new machine. So, I looked around and found Bart PE and YouTube instructions for burning a Bart PE boot disk. I believe I now have to make a disk image of my current Windows partition, save it onto a USB hard drive, and then, well, I don’t exactly know, but I’ll figure it out. Maybe.

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