Thursday, August 13, 2009

You can get anything you want . . . .

I've been scarce around these cyberparts, off fighting another skirmish in the ongoing war against cyberobsolescence. Mine.

Or, more precisely, my computer's.

A flat-screen monitor Mrs. Favog and I found at an estate sale for $40 suddenly decided the other day to follow its former owner to the Great Beyond. Or to Florida -- whatever.

Having been burned by our quest to get some LCD magic for (next to) nothing, my better half and I trekked to Nebraska Furniture Mart in search of some brand-new monitor goodness . . . some 22-inch widescreen goodness. As if we had a choice.

Computer-monitor makers still might be cranking out 4x3 displays these days, but the Mart and Best Buy weren't selling them. When in Rome, and all that, you know.

And I love me some wide-format computing. You used to have to hook up multiple monitors to get this kind of virtual workspace.

And the picture. . . . oh, dear me, can a Blu-Ray burner for the old Dell be far behind?

OF COURSE, being that we're talking computers -- particularly 4-year-old ones -- you know the path to widescreen goodness had to be a bumpy one. Very. The road to planned obsolescence is never an Autobahn experience for the poor consumer, who just wants a lot for a little.

Like me and that estate-sale flat-screen.

First, the fargin' integrated video controller, I discover when I hook up the new monitor, wouldn't support widescreen monitors. So everything had that funhouse-mirror look -- the video version of getting the news from home via a phone call from Mama.

Well, I figured that might happen. So I head down to Best Buy to get me an inexpensive video card. Excuse me . . . graphics card.

I can put it in. I can put anything in a computer. Hell, since we got our first one in 1993, I've replaced everything there is to replace inside a computer tower except the power supply and motherboard.

But there's a problem. My Dell Dimension 3000, which I didn't think was that old or decrepit . . . is. And it features an undersized (by today's standards) 250-watt power supply. Most video -- er, graphics -- cards won't give you a crappy black-and-white kinescope view of the world for under 350-watts of the Omaha Public Power District's finest.

ON THE OTHER HAND, it might cause your computer to melt down.

And not only that, most of the graphics cards Dell says are compatible with my model of computer most certainly aren't compatible with the tiny-ass power supply they put in my computer. Power supply, anyone?

To go along with the new monitor and a new video -- OK, graphics, GRAPHICS!!! -- card.

What was a $40 estate-sale bargain so far had turned into a $192 Nebraska Furniture Mart shopping trip. It was threatening to ring up another $65 for a video card and at least that much for a bigger power supply.

Face it, if we all had to constantly rebuild our automobiles just to be allowed on the Interstate, we'd all be taking the bus. But that's the "world of personal computing" in a world that eats the computer-deprived for lunch.

AFTER A DAY of back and forth on the graphics-card issue, I opened up the Dell to see who was full of it -- the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, and their system specs and upgrade recommendations, or . . . the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, who maybe put more power supply in my "old" Dimension 3000 than I thought.

As it turns out, the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, were full of it. And they did put a puny 250-watt power supply in the computer . . . as promised. And it looked like not just any off-the-shelf power supply would fit in that thing.

And it looked like the only place I'd find a graphics card that wouldn't suck up more juice than old Dell could give was online. Trouble is, I was sick of messing with the damned thing -- which was lying half taken apart on the dining-room table.

So we went to the one place in town that carried a 250-watt card and happily paid too much for it. And here I sit, in widescreen bliss . . . $250-odd poorer.

BUT THIS ISN'T about my computer.

It's about how the city of Omaha has gutted the public library system -- and is about to gut God knows what else -- all because some loud taxpayers, and some feckless city council members, think you can run a city on $40 estate-sale, flat-screen computer monitors and not have to pay the piper at some point.

It's about how folks still expect the city to cut, cut and cut some more even when the budgetary fat is gone and the muscle ain't looking so good anymore.

It's about how cops aren't being hired, one library branch will close for the rest of the year (at least) while others slash their hours (and staff) and youth-recreation programs in poor neighborhoods are being axed (great combination, eh?) all because a bunch of loud-mouthed, right-wing yahoos are raising holy hell from somewhere east of Eden and west of the 'hood. Because it would just be completely scandalous and unreasonable to expect people who live in $100,000 houses to pay $25 more a year in property tax.

From the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday:
Although libraries and other services drew strong support, Festersen said he thought the common theme for many average citizens was their opposition to tax increases.

Council members are cool to Suttle's proposed entertainment tax and property tax hike, and they are looking for ways to cut spending further. They are set to vote on the budget Sept. 1.

Suttle and the council face a projected $11 million shortfall next year. The mayor also is trying to close a $12 million revenue gap in the current budget.

The hearing followed weeks of bad news on the city budget: The temporary closing of Florence Library, and cuts in library hours at other branches. Layoffs of 130 civilian employees. The grounding of the police helicopter for the rest of the year. Swimming pools closing early for the season.

Earlier Tuesday, Suttle announced furloughs in the Mayor's Office, saying all members of his staff will take eight unpaid leave days before the end of the year.


Doug Kagan, chairman of the Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, urged the council to cut spending.

“Don't tell us about sacred cows that cannot be touched. Sacred cows make the best hamburger,” Kagan said.
IT SEEMS we have a couple of dynamics at work here in the "don't tax you, don't tax me" contingent.

One group wants a really great computer monitor but sees no real need to pay for it. The other, exemplified by the Nebraska Grumblers for Screw You, already has a computer monitor and figures a Big Chief tablet is good enough for everybody else.

The common good is not a popular notion these days. Obviously.

Which brings us back to, you guessed it . . . computers. In Wednesday's Omaha paper.
Florence is part of northeast Omaha, lying within an area bounded by the Missouri River, Redick Avenue, 45th Street and the Washington County line. It includes the Ponca Hills area.

The decision to close the library has upset residents of all ages.

Teresa Miller, 20, and her brother Jonas, 15, were checking out story and music CDs when they heard the news Tuesday.

“That's weird to close a library,” Jonas said. “I mean, you need books, right?”

It never occurred to Teresa that her childhood library had a shortage of customers. She said the Florence library probably has fewer visitors because it is smaller than most branches.

“I like the small things,” she said, adding that she's frustrated that she'll have to use more gas to drive to a different branch.

For Craig and Deborah Johnson, a stroll to their public library is a family affair they hate to see end.

As a reporter approached the couple, they already were asking, why Florence?

“Things are going downhill real fast,” said Craig. “A snowball effect.”

Both he and his wife have been laid off from jobs as, respectively, equipment operator and office clerk. Tuesday, the couple walked to the library — their 2-year-old and 6-year-old in tow — to search for employment via library computers. The little ones also signed on to a computer.

The older Johnson children use the library as well, often taking a break to go across the hall to play basketball or participate in some other activity at the Florence recreation center. A senior center also is in the complex that contains the library.

Paying for bus fare to go elsewhere is an expense the Johnsons said they didn't need.

Hartline on Tuesday was at the senior center arranging a volunteer visit. She is a frequent library customer and also stops weekly at the post office a few blocks away.

“It's very upsetting,” said Hartline. “We are just as deserving of community facilities as any other part of Omaha.”
SURE YOU ARE. But Doug Kagan would rather you have this really cool $40 estate-sale, flat-screen computer monitor.

Just don't expect him to throw in a couple of bucks toward fixing it.

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