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The End of Owgust

My father had a saying. (Actually, he had a lot of sayings, most of which you’ve long since heard.) This one I’m pretty sure he got from his mother, my grandmother, whom I heard use it a number of times: “The end of Owgust.” (If it came from Sade Prendergast Duntemann, it could well be an Irish thing; I don’t know.) It just means we’re coming to the end of something generally good, like summer vacation, which in truth used to last until the end of Owgust, but now often ends barely after Owgust even begins.

Here in Arizona, the end of Owgust is seen by many as a feature rather than a bug, since by a lot of Arizona people’s reckonings, Owgust begins in May and lasts until mid-September. By Labor day, most people would like to see nightly lows in the 70s again, so we can open our windows at night.

Carol and I tend to get a little tired of our four-month long Owgust as the end approaches, and we were planning to drive up to Colorado to spend some time with friends and see what air in the 60 degree range feels like again.

Not this year.

Our poor QBit was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple of months ago, and we can see his steady decline. We don’t know how long we’ll have him, but it’s unlikely to be more than another month or two. We didn’t want to subject him to an 850-mile road trip, so we stayed home and spent more time in the pool. Lymphoma was what took out our very first bichon, the famous Mr. Byte, in 1995, and is evidently the commonest cancer in dogs. We gave Mr. Byte doggie chemo, but it only bought us a few additional months with him, and made him pretty sick at times. We’re not going to do that again.

So if I’ve been a little short on manic enthusiasm lately, that’s most of the problem.

Other things are going pretty well. Little by little I’ve been getting used to the nasal pillows mask for my APAP machine, which is reporting AHI values generally less than 1, and here and there actually 0. I’m using the great free program Sleepyhead, which displays graphs of your AHI, whatever events it had to handle, mask pressure and leaks, and much more. If you use a recording C/A/BiPAP machine with a compatible SD card format, check it out. It’s told me a number of interesting things, like the fact that events cluster at the end of the night for some reason, and that I record more events when I sleep on my left side than on my right. Highly recommended.

I had some time to play around with my dirt-cheap HP dc7900 Ultra-Slim PC, and liked it so much I ordered another one. The first one was cheap at $37 (I had to provide a hard drive and Win7) but when I went out and looked again on eBay, I found a complete system, including a 64-bit dc7900 with a hard drive and Windows 7, plus power supply, keyboard, mouse, monitor stand, and a 19″ HP flat-panel monitor. The price? $65. For the woiks. Ok, I had to pay another $25 shipping, but that means I got a complete system dropped on my porch for $90. (Stock photo above, but that’s exactly how it looks, granted that the cables aren’t shown.)

dc7900 speaker 300 wide.jpgThe HP monitor stand is nice, certainly nicer than Dell’s. The dc7900 did not come with an internal speaker, but given the size of the speaker (my first machine has one) I doubt it’s good for much more than beeps. And if I ever want one, I can get a NOS unit on eBay for $5. (The Dell speakers for their USFF lines had built-in audio amps and much better fidelity.)

The system will replace an older Dell machine that Carol has been using for some time, with a slower processor and a maddeningly intermittent front panel that prevents her from plugging thumb drives into the front of the box. The machines are roughly the same size, but the Dell electronics have been twitchy, and the combo monitor stand horrendous. The old machine has external speakers, so the HP’s near-microscopic squeakplate won’t be an issue. The HP is newer, and the Dell cost me three times as much when I bought it five years ago.

Overall, a huge win!

Finally, seeing listings on eBay for sales lots of literally hundreds of used “cube machines” like the dc7900, I’ve begun to wonder if it’s the end of Owgust for the ordinary, non-gamer desktop PC industry. You don’t need a lot of crunch power for word processing, spreadsheets, local databases, or (most of) the Web. Even with only 4GB installed, I streamed a whole movie on the first dc7900 without a glitch. So these machines are perfectly usable for ordinary people doing ordinary computer-y things. You can spend $500+ for a desktop box at Best Buy…or you can get the whole damned system from eBay for $90, delivered. They’re not new. But they’re clean, small, and rugged. Parts are available on eBay, from the crappy little microspeaker up to whole motherboards–though at these prices, I consider the machines disposable and won’t be replacing any misbehaving mobos.

A lot of desktops are being replaced by laptops, which is really where the action is these days, as well as the high prices manufacturers prefer to get. If you’re going to stick with a boring desktop PC, you might as well get one used for 75% (or more) off retail. I’ve got a big hulking custom Core I5-2400 quad, which I’ve used since 2012, and it’s still more than fast enough for my needs. Furthermore, it’s in a Thermaltake V9 Blacx case with SATA sockets on the top panel for backup drives. Damned useful. I could get a faster mobo for it, but…why?

This all reminds me of a Contra entry I posted back in 2009, about how with cars (and silverware) lasting a lot longer than in years past, we need to manufacture fewer cars and less silverware to avoid saturating the market. The same goes for PCs. As each wave of compact cubicle machines comes off depreciation and heads for eBay, the price of a perfectly usable desktop machine goes down. Even if the $65 deal I got last week was unusual, it won’t be for long. Keep your eyes open.


  1. TRX says:

    I have a client with a secure network; no connection to the outside world. When they decided some people needed internet access, I bought a bunch of used HP laptops and a wifi router off eBay. They were cheap ($75 or less!), don’t take much desk space, don’t add to much to the office heat load, and with only antivirus, a web browser, and a printer driver, they have more than enough horsepower for their purpose. The users all seem thrilled with them…

    Some of the secure machines are basically just terminals; $50-$100 used Dells, mostly, running VNC to get to the application server. I’m moving those to Raspberry Pis soon. I already replaced one file server with a Pi; Sparkfun makes a case, daughterboard with an M2 drive adapter, and various bits for $50. I stuck a 3B+ in it, configured Samba, and it stores office files and document images. It’s sitting on top of the old tower server, which had six SCSI drives in a RAID array, multiple internal fans, and blew a jet of hot air across the room. Every now and then the owner of the company will walk up, point to the Pi, cackle, and walk away…

    1. Some cool concepts there. I’ve not had to do things at that scale in a long time, and when I did, the technology was completely different.

      I have wondered if the many “thin client” designs made by Dell and HP are able to run modern versions of Windows. (Which I consider 7+.) The older thin clients can be had very cheap, but they’re also a bit resource-starved. I’m thinking that much depends on the BIOS and availability of key drivers. If you’ve ever tried that I’d like to hear about it.

      1. TRX says:

        The I’ve run into NIC driver issues with Gateway, HP, and Dell machines, where Windows 8 or 10 didn’t come with drivers for them, and there were no newer drivers from the manufacturers. I solved those problem by just sticking a $10 network card in and moving on.

        I haven’t run into any other driver issues so far; some of the machines I have running there are ten years old.

  2. Larry Nelson says:

    Sorry about QBit. We lost our border collie to Daisy a few years ago to lymphoma . She was a sweet pup. I understand your reluctance to start chemo. Diana was an ICU nurse for years and has a low tolerance for treatments that extend life for at best a few days with a dozen miserable side effects. You just keep loving them until it is time to let the go. Blessings and peace to you and Carol.

  3. Dave Morgereth says:

    Jeff I’m very sorry to hear about QBit. It says a lot about you and Carol that you are willing to alter your plans to have more time with him. We had to put down our 14 year old “goofoundland” two weeks ago and we’re still reeling. I wish you many happy days with QBit

  4. Amy says:

    I’ll gladly take a back seat to QBit. Your #1 fluffball is definitely a priority! May his final days be happy ones; he is surely destined for the Happy Hunting Grounds.

    Many companies are now using laptops for their workstations, including Beeline; it makes it easier for people to work from home, or to bring to meetings. At our desks, we have docking stations to use bigger monitors and real keyboards and mice. With my new laptop, the “docking station” isn’t actually a dock for the laptop; it’s a box a little smaller than an old VHS cassette, that connects to the laptop itself with a USB-C cable, and the monitors, USB keyboard and mouse, and Ethernet plug into it.

  5. jimf says:

    just and FYI. Owgust is the German pronunciation of August.

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