I’ve shed some digital ink on what’s turned into two different ideas for games — one that’s fairly well developed but has no name, and another that’s got at least a project name (Echoes — ooooh) but is still fairly raw. This is what we do when we have a hobby — we create, and share, and so expand the collective amount of crap jammed into the back of humanity’s closet.

My other “hobby”, which has been entirely a profession to this point, is computer programming. At work (and I’ve mentioned this before), it’s a mostly-.NET shop, but there are other technologies that have caught my eye and though I don’t have a lot of time right now, it’s good to try keeping up with the world. I expect to have lots of free time later this year (the first kid got me through a lot of Skyrim; maybe I can do something more useful while the second one naps), so it’s time for me to start examining a potential second hobby: contributing to open source software.

Where to begin?

Step -1: Unfuck the computer

I don’t have the best track record with personal-use technology. Well into the smartphone and iDevice age, my cell phone was a tiny brick with a calculator display and the ability to handle calls and simple text messages — none of this “emoji” or “camera” crap that the kids are into. This thing was almost unstoppable — I once shorted something by touching the phone while it was plugged in. I got a jolt, the charger blew out entirely, but the phone itself was fine. Eventually, I acquiesced and took my wife’s old slide-out keyboard phone. It’s a concession to modernity, with its decadent color screen and civilization-decline-inducing camera.

I used to have a pretty nice tablet (a Nexus 7) until some chip went bad and it never booted again. I went about a year without a daily use computing device, until my wife got a Dell Venue 7 at a charity auction. This thing is crap, never buy one – it doesn’t have the processing power to start up and automatically sync things, so the sync process starts, freezes the tablet, which then shuts off the screen after a minute, and it doesn’t have the brains to respond to pushing the power button for another minute still. Chrome takes more than its hardware has to offer; Firefox only mostly works while nothing is syncing. I don’t know how you produce a mass market device with a user experience this bad, but they did.

My main PC was for many years a pretty good laptop (ignoring that it had Vista). But the battery went bad and the LCD back-light went wonky and the cooling was never too great, so it spent the last two or three years of its 8 years of useful life propped up, plugged in, and attached to an external monitor, with regular attempts to swap around, clean up, or just plain purge data so that I could have about 1 or 2 GB of free space on the hard drive.

The one upside to all this, I guess, was that when some ahem older gentlemen in a professional environment would start complaining about “kids these days” (meaning, people in their early 30s or younger) always needing some device or other, I would pull out my phone and ask them what theirs is. Politest “shut up” I’ve ever told someone.

This is all to lead up to the PC I built this year. A many-years delayed Christmas and birthday and Fathers Day present (I have been putting it off for a while), I meant it to be a gaming PC equipped to play the heck out of nothing too terribly modern.

It made it almost five months.

There were some obvious signs of concern — file property dialogs not appearing, mmc failing to open — things that tell you something’s gone very bad with the OS install. The things they tell you to do — repair installs, SFC, and so on — all corrupted as well, and unable to work. So finally it looks like more drastic measures must be taken. Time to grab the latest Windows major update and install… oops.

A dozen different download attempts and a dozen different installation attempts left me with a formatted and repartitioned hard drive and no OS to show for it. Finally I borrowed a different computer and a different USB device and still couldn’t get anything installed until after I re-reformatted the hard drive and also reflashed the motherboard. So tonight, after two weeks, I’m finally sitting at a working computer again.

For next time: The development environment, and contribution criteria.


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