Monday, January 11, 2010

Long live the internet

I will spare you the second-hand irritation of reading the travail that the Mac store put me through before I could actually get someone to examine my computer.  Suffice it for now to say that my computer's little software hiccup has been fixed, and my wi-fi access is restored.

Except, of course, that I don't have wi-fi in my apartment right now.  The router's kind of fucked.

After the day I had, I didn't have the strength left to go online (no phone support for me, since I'm exactly 95 days past date of purchase!) to see if Netgear's tech support could walk me through trying to re-establish my connection.  (The Mac tech support wiped my network preferences, so now I suspect my computer doesn't know how to log in to my home network.)  I'll deal with that tomorrow.  But, since I am only now figuring out that the underlying problem is that Netgear is kind of a piece of shit, I'm already planning a new router purchase, in case their tech support pisses me off. 

I'm mildly ashamed to admit that, despite my uneasiness about the Cult of the Mac and the resulting price differentials, I'm tempted to get an Airport Extreme.  A friend observed that I could just buy a used Linksys router or whatnot through Craigslist for much, much cheaper.  But what about the warranty?  What if something goes wrong?  Ah, he smiled, then you can just buy another cheap piece of crap on Craiglist!  I find this neither comforting nor, in the long run, reasonable.  I can cheap out on a lot of things -- you will never, ever hear the phrase "Prof. Koshary, the fashion plate" at a conference -- but increasingly I refuse to do so with the high-tech equipment that relates materially to my profession.  I need a smart, efficient computer to manipulate my multimedia research files and store a huge amount of big things.  I need an equally adept hard drive that can easily store and retrieve all that stuff upon request.  I need a relatively fast internet connection so that I can keep up with my email and a number of media web sites that bear upon my work, to say nothing of Skyping with friends and family far away.  (Dear Old University is a very long way away from where I grew up.)  And I need wireless capability both for travel and for home, since my apartment's absurd layout places the only cable jack near the front door, where it is physically impossible to arrange a work space.  My computer desk sits across the living room from the jack, and so wi-fi I must as a matter of course, if I want to be within arm's length (literally!) of any book, piece of paper, or whisky glass coffee mug while working at the computer.

Spiffy computer? Check.
Good hard drive? Check.
Fast internet?  Well, TimeWarner's all I can get in my apartment complex, but I suppose it will do.
And good wi-fi?  Uh, not so much, I'm afraid.

I sometimes wonder if this isn't the vanguard of middle-aged bourgeoisification, rationalized as professionalism.  I admit that sometimes I fantasize about buying the ultimate commuter bicycle or ideal cookware set, and browse stuff online and in stores that I couldn't possibly afford even if I had a real job.  But the difference is that I look at that stuff, then get a cheap frying pan or hoopty used bike that gets the job done.  Not so with my tech: these are fucking tools of the trade!  If my frying pan warps, I can get another; if the bike breaks down, I can get it fixed or, hell, just walk to campus.  But I know from scary personal experience that my computer and related devices matter a lot, and I've almost completely lost the will to sacrifice quality for price in the way that I can do for almost anything else.

Wow, see how neatly I just talked myself into getting the Airport?  Hmm, better e-chat with Netgear tech support before I rack up any more credit card charges...

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