This is Scott Morgan’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:
I’m a computer geek by nature. My first PC was a Texas Instruments Ti-99/4a Personal Home computer that my parents bought me for Christmas when they were selling for $50 a piece at the local Brand Names Outlet. Mom bought 6 cartridges for my sister and me, three apiece, and cut out the proofs of purchase to have the Speech Synthesizer Module shipped to us so I could play Parsec with a drone computer voice speaking in the background. My first computer that I purchased myself was an Apple //e with one floppy drive, CP/M Microsoft Z-80 card, Imagewriter 2 Color Printer and an Apple RGB Color Monitor – total cost $2200 on the Apple Credit Program!
Since then, I’ve owned a dozen assorted Macintosh computers second hand and have built several PCs myself…
But my other passion is automobiles. I’ve been a mechanic for many years and love the feel of grease between my fingers, the smell of gasoline and burning metal of rotors being machined. So when someone asks me at work how to keep their computer running in good shape, I tell them that a computer is like an automobile; both are machines, both require maintenance and both require the best parts to be high-performance machines and eventually both will break and need replacements.
My job at work is to diagnose customer problems with their Internet and determine problems with their Internet connections, whether they are related to their computers or their Modems, or our servers, or somewhere else on the Internet. I recommend to most customers to do a weekly routine of maintenance to their computers so that their computers are working the way they should, determine which upgrades they need to keep up with their expectations of performance. You certainly will not get the same graphics and sound performance out of Pentium III with Windows 2000 that you will get out of a Dual Core Intel PC running Windows Vista. Of course, many of my customers would lead someone to believe that the chipset does not matter, as if they could get the same gasoline fuel mileage from a carbureted Cadillac V8 as they could from a Honda Hybrid engine.
Computers are getting faster and more powerful, whereas automobiles are getting smarter and more efficient, a stark contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when computers were designed to maximize their efficiency (such as the Cray X-MP that was built cylindrically to minimize wire length and maximize direct connections) and cars were becoming faster and more powerful; an example of this would be Ford’s use of wind tunnels to minimize drag resistance to make their car bodies more aerodynamic and cut through the air faster and safer and Ford’s constant competition with Chrysler on the racetracks of America. Computers are becoming more powerful at an exponential rate, and the manufacturers are “borrowing” from the designs and breakthroughs in the automotive industry.
Apple computer recently released a new design for their Macintosh Macbook Pro line recently with a “unibody construction”, an idea where the base of the book is not screwed together piece by piece, but cut from one single piece of aluminum, which adds to the rigidity, strength and takes up less space. Ironically, this is also not a new idea, but something that the automotive industry introduced back in the 1970’s with many of their vehicles using a Unibody Constructed weld that centered on the vehicle cabin as being the base of the vehicle instead of mounting a vehicle body to a set of frame rails. This made the body more lightweight, used less metal and made a stronger frame where it was needed most, to protect the insides of the car that needed the most protection – the passenger cabin.
Computers have become faster due to advances in processors breaking the Gigahertz speed barrier to the point where manufacturers realized that the only way to make them faster was to include more processors to pick up the slack in speed. When Apple introduced the concept of including more than one processor working in conjunction with each other, the biggest obstacle was in making the processors share the work. Apple figured out a way to pipeline the data between the processors and having the processors check each other for discrepancies, and thus, the G5 was born. Duo processors are commonplace nowadays and the car manufacturers are racing to keep up with the computers at last. The automotive manufacturers are putting faster computers in their automobiles to keep up with the calculations that are necessary to get the most fuel efficiency from their engines and the safety devices onboard. Pontiac Motor Group even released an automobile in 2005 called the G5 which has replaced their long running Grand Am line of cars. The chicken has finally come before the egg… or has it?
Car engines used to be completely air cooled before the invention of water cooled engines that dissipated heat away from the parts that need to stay within operating temperatures. It wasn’t too long before AMD and Intel began making CPUs that created so much heat that their cooling fans couldn’t keep up with the airflow necessary to cool the heat sinks. A much more efficient solution was found by using a radiator and water pump system identical to what is used in automobiles.
Manufacturers are making cars smaller by means of reducing body weight in cars, and making hybrid engines which is the one way that car manufacturers have really begun to make serious progress in becoming more efficient, by creating engines that move electrically most of the time when it’s most efficient to do so. PC manufacturers still do not have computer that can use a hybrid battery, albeit unfortunate that some batteries in laptops last year were returned to the manufacturers under warranties because they were combusting.
The biggest problem with a computer is when you let it sit for too long and it gains dust to the point where the hardware becomes antiquated. If and when you do decide to use it, you need to determine whether you need to upgrade the hardware to meet your requirements. How are you ever going to play World of Warcraft on a PC that has a 128 MB PCI Video Card and only 512 megs of RAM? When you decide to bring that old jalopy out of retirement, it has to be because you either overclocked your old PC and fried the motherboard or your wife has decided to return to college and needs your PC more than you do. You might decide to just buy another computer in lieu of buying all the parts needed to get “Old Faithful” running again. However, $500 worth of computer parts can buy you a revived computer, and you’ll be on your way to mining for gold ore and beating up zombies in no time.
Cars are another matter entirely. Say your wife has not only decided to go back to college, but she’s decided to go to a college where she has to commute on a daily basis between work and home and school and you have the choice of letting her take the dependable SUV that you know will get her there and back on time safely, thus protecting your investment of the $25,000 Student Loan she had to take out to afford school. The other choice you’re presented is letting her take your car, the one that needs new brake pads and routers, tune up and oil change… the one you were going to give your son for college. Now you’ve decided to get that car fixed up and running for yourself to take to work and back so you can earn a living and plan out your retirement, but your son still needs a car. You’ve offered him your car, but you’re going to need it, and you certainly don’t want him in an unsafe car.
The beauty of automobiles is that they last so long, and the older ones always seem to be in style. Nobody in their right mind would hesitate at giving up their old PC that doesn’t start up sometimes when you need to write a term paper for a new computer with a warranty on it and the software needed to get the job done. Likewise, nobody in their right mind would take a 1967 Camaro to the junkyard simply because it used a quart of motor oil between oil changes before you bought it with a seized engine. The interior may need some reupholstering and the body may need a coat of paint. But the engine and and brakes are what counts. What if you had the means to revive a classic for your son, and he was all the more happier to put his hard earned money from his summer jobs where it mattered and spend some time with you in taking on such an endeavor? You come to an agreement that you and he would work on the weekends to restore an automobile back to roadworthiness and that he would take the car to college and pay the gasoline and maintenance costs if you would help with the insurance payments… and all you would have to do is help him with the work, and teach him how to maintain it. And it gives the two of you the time you need to bond before he heads off to the school of life.
First you decide that a Camaro is too big of a car, too much engine and too inefficient for him… heck, the kid’s gotta have money to actually EAT while he’s at school. You settle on another classic that is more affordable, more efficient and just as much fun to drive… you find mid 1980s Mustang convertible with a body in good shape. But the car has sit for so long up on cinder blocks that it needs the brake drums and rotors resurfaced, new pads, new brake hardware and new tires. You figure it will take all summer long to restore the car to driving condition and about $1000 in parts. You turn on the key and there’s no power on the dashboard. Of course, the battery’s disconnected – the owner didn’t want it to drain the battery dry. You reconnect the battery cable and turn it over, the starter clicks and nothing happens. You ask the owner how long has the car been sitting, and she tells you that it has sat in the yard since her husband took it off the road three years ago.
When the car has been sitting that long, the cylinders will be as dry the day the engine was assembled, so having some engine assembly lightweight oil or a teaspoon of Marvel’s Mystery Oil inside the cylinder walls with the spark plugs removed is a good idea while turning the engine over. Even spraying a little WD-40 down inside the chambers will help reduce the friction of startup and engine oil pump priming.
- spray around each spark plug with air to remove debris and dirt; remove the plugs
- spray each cylinder with WD-40 or equiv. penetrating oil
- add a teaspoon of Marvel Mystery Oil
- put the plugs back in
- let the engine sit for several hours
- remove battery cable
- put emergency brake on
- put transmission into neutral
- remove the spark plugs again hand turn the harmonic balancer to turn the engine over 1/4 turn at a time.
If you cannot turn by hand, the engine is seized and the car needs to be towed to a mechanic. The cylinder heads may need to be removed and the pistons loosened with a rubber mallet before it can be turned over.