Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The College Computer Conundrum

I am writing this on my own personal desktop computer. It has a 3.60GHz AMD A8-5600K APU processor with an integrated ATi Radeon HD graphics card; it has 7.47 GB of useable RAM, it runs on Windows 8, the latest operating system from Microsoft. It’s not exactly HAL-9000 or Deep Thought, but it’s relatively powerful and does everything I ask it to.

 The potatoes they provide the students at the college I attend, however, are complete piles of arse. All of the computers at college are at least five years old, use processors less powerful than those small electric motors primary school children play with during those science lessons wherein they teach you about basic circuitry, and whoever is in charge of setting them up should be shot.

 Does this individual know what ‘screen resolution’ is? Has this person ever heard or read those words together in the same clause? The monitors these vegetables are given are old 15’’ LCD jobs, which require a screen resolution of 1024x768, or else the screen is impossible to use without acquiring a headache within the first half-hour of usage. The resolution they’ve been given is closer to 640x480, which makes the graphics look huge on the screen, which is really bloody uncomfortable to use.

That’s not the worst part, either, the worst aspect of these personal catastrophes is the sheer speed of them, or lack thereof.

 Some of them have Google’s very fast web browser, Chrome, installed on them, which is fine, until you discover that the computer is making Google Chrome run slowly. Just how bad does a computer have to be for Google Chrome, the fastest web browser there is, to be slow to load?

 I clicked on a link that was on an email I’d subscribed online for, and the page took a full three minutes to load. God forbid you try loading two tabs at the same time. You’ll be there for hours, I know I was.
The main problem is that these computers were made on the cheap, in bulk, in 2006, for educational establishments by an unknown company called ‘Stone’, who are somehow associated with Microsoft.
 These PCs were designed to run on either Windows XP or Windows Vista, which was the latest OS at the time, XP being a few years older, but the college computer people have them running on Windows 7, which they just aren’t designed to do so they can barely handle the job, and by “the job” I mean “any job”, take Microsoft Publisher, for example; if you try opening a file that’s over a couple of thousand kilobytes (which really isn’t a lot), it will take, as they say, the piss.

The actual maintenance of the tower units (main computer bits) leaves a lot to be desired. Most of them look as though they haven’t been cleaned since they were purchased however many years ago that was, and I don’t just mean the cases are a bit dusty, a computer with clean components runs much better than a computer full of dust and spiders, dead or otherwise.

 Quite a large number of keyboards have keys missing, in one case I found some of the keys had been rearranged to spell out a message I can’t repeat without disciplinary action. If a key isn’t missing, it doesn’t work, and all the keyboards are inexplicably required to have a safety warning on them, which warns you of the perils of the, apparently terrifying, office keyboard. Just how much of a slack-jawed invalid do you have to be to injure yourself using a QWERTY keyboard?

 They’re probably there so Americans can’t go on a suing spree when they deliberately break a finger while using it claiming that they weren’t expecting it to be so robust, as if they were expecting it to be made of nougat. 

Despite all of this, at least whoever set them up using the college-wide network made good use of the start menu.

 Oh hang on, no they didn’t, nine times out of ten you can’t get anything from the start menu and if you can, it’s the wrong thing, because for some reason unbeknownst to people with common sense, someone’s made it so everything has to be accessed by the desktop. Now, that seems fine when you don’t yet have anything running because you’ve just logged in, but once you’ve opened Word or Internet Explorer, you have to minimise everything before you can open any other program you might need. This is silly and time consuming if you have a lot of windows open. Which I do. All the time. As does everyone. I’ve never seen any person work on a computer in college with less than three windows open at any one time.

Imagine trying to run a game on one of those atrocities. My pride and joy does a pretty good job of running the latest releases, provided I don’t set all the graphics to ‘very high’. To run the latest releases on ‘very high’ settings and still have a playable fps rate I’d need a nuclear reactor, which I can’t afford just now.

 If I tried running Tomb Raider III, released in 1998, on a college computer, I imagine it would take several weeks to load, and have a frame rate of about 4 fph (that’s frames per hour), in spite of the game being at least seven years older than the computers themselves. 

My solution to this problem would be to ultimately employ someone to look after the computers who actually knew what they were doing. Maybe they should promote the technician in the media department for my film studies course. He works with Macs all day, which are downright impossible to work with so he’d make light work of some broken down old computers.

Maybe he’d even get them to work to the point where people could actually use them for things. You know, important college things. Stuff that matters.

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