Thoughts after a week in ‘Murica

When life’s too comfortable, and there’s nothing that compels me to write, it’s a bit unsettling.

These smiling, cheerful facades hide a million prejudices. The idea of being a second class citizen plays in my mind constantly. Being compelled or being thrown into social situations, I have to do things, to put it bluntly, in ways I’m not used to. A weird and uncomfortable mix of apathy and cheerfulness is what I find here. Sometimes I feel like it’s better to more careful and simply assume all of it is fake. However, too much of this might even lead to being boxed in, the so called “ghetto mentality” that many seem to accuse Indians like me of having.

I want to come across as a brooding, serious thinker. I’m afraid I’m coming across as a bumbling idiot.

Although me coming across as a bumbling idiot may be hyperbole, it is a possibility.

Being inaudible and incoherent has been an issue I’ve been dealing with for a long time. It isn’t debilitating but it’s very visible to me. I won’t fake an accent and whether that’s for better or for worse,  only time will tell.

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Getting Through “The Dip”

Writing is without a doubt, a creative exercise. I know that as a writer if I may call myself as such, I am quite temperamental. Not many things catch my fancy, and there are times when the well of creativity I draw from just runs dry. The dry spell that occurs as a result of a multitude of factors is part and parcel of any creative activity and some deal with it better than others. As for myself, I know exactly why I’m going through all this myself and I’ve decided it was about time I did something about it.

I like to call this dry spell a “dip”. It is a terrible period of time where you are out of ideas, and the vacuum is often occupied by negativity. Everything I thought about or penned down sounded too mediocre, run of the mill, overdone or just simply, “not there”. My natural predisposition to compare my work with the work of others compounded this problem, and I began to question the very point of my efforts.

Everywhere I looked I could see others doing so much better at things I considered my strong point. The incessant “How much money do you earn from this?” questions and subsequent bewilderment at the fact that I purely do it for pleasure did nothing to help either, and these questions got me rethinking my own convictions.

The only way out of this “dip”, of course, is to simply keep at it. Ignore others. Get off the internet; it can be a cesspool of negativity and cynicism.  Always remember the reason why you began writing in the first place. Make an attempt, no matter how silly and irrelevant it might seem to you as you write it down, as that is the only way to get through it. Taking a sabbatical is fine, but don’t let the negativity get to you, the only way out is right through the thick of it.

One might think that his or her writing is inconsequential and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Think of it this way- if it is, if it really doesn’t matter, it frees you from thinking about rules and restrictions. Don’t let things like traffic, AdSense, or money come in the way of writing the things you want to write.

Pliny the elder said ~

‘True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written, and writing what deserves to be read.’

If you think you can write something that deserves to be read, just get to it. There are bound to be some hiccups along the way. Don’t let the negativity and cynicism and taunts get to your head.

If you haven’t realized already, this is my attempt at getting through “the dip”.

PC GAMING 101 Part 7: Do-It-Yourself versus Pre-Built – Build or Buy?

When it comes to PCs, you can either build one yourself, or get a pre-built PC from a manufacturer, or a specialized PC assembling “boutique”. Let’s have a look at all the options available, and the pros and cons of each of them:

Pre-Built PCs

Pre Built PCs are the ones that manufacturers like Dell or Acer make. If you’re inexperienced and don’t know how to build your own PC, and do not want to take any risks, a pre-built PC is what you should look into.

Advantages of a Pre-Built PC:

 

1. An all encompassing warranty

A preassembled workstation from a company will have a warranty that covers all parts. That means if your computer fails, the company will work with you until the offending part is found. Individual components always come with a warranty, but some people just do not want the additional hassle involved in diagnosing the problem and dealing with it.

2. Simplicity and Support

Some people are not tech savvy and simply want their system to work right away, with little or no setup time. If something doesn’t work, they want someone they can call for help, like customer service.

Boutique System Builders

 

This is the option that lies in between a Pre-Built and a DIY system, and is for the kinds of people that want a higher level of customization on their system, like water cooling or hot-swap capabilities that big system vendors generally don’t provide. They provide a higher level of customization and you have more of a say in what components go into your system. You can choose this option if you want a higher level of customization, but can’t be bothered with building the system by yourself. Do remember, these boutique builders do have their profit margins.

Another option is buying components from vendors, either online or from stores, and having them assemble the PC for you at an additional cost. The difference between this and a boutique is that you need to know exactly which components you want, and you know exactly how much the assembly costs. Remember to factor in costs of logistics and getting the assembled PC shipped/delivered to your place once it’s done.

 

Do It Yourself

 

Ever since the early days, users have had the option of assembling their own PCs. Building a PC yourself has its share of advantages and disadvantages, and although there are many people out there who prefer building their own PCs so that they can customize the specs according to their requirements, you really need to know what you’re doing.

 

Advantages of Building a PC:

 

1. It’s Cheaper to Build

If you do things on your own, you will certainly cut down the cost of middleman, which in turn will help you save money on assembling as well as testing. The more powerful your intended desktop computer will be, the more likely you will be able to save money by building your own. This becomes significant when you consider higher-end PCs or Workstations, as Manufacturers or Boutiques will have a considerable markup.

2.  You get exactly what you want

Pre-Built PCs come in a pre-determined configuration, which is because the manufacturer selects it based on what’s the easiest to assemble on a large scale. This means that you either pay for things that you don’t want, or you don’t get the things that you want despite paying for it. Also, there’s no guarantee that the components used in all the machines are the same.  The manufacturer may switch suppliers due to availability, costs, etc which means that two of the exact same models of computers can have very different parts.

3. No Bloat Ware 

Computer manufacturers often install software on their machines in an effort to differentiate themselves from their competition. What really happens is that there is extra junk on your desktop that you can ignore, deal with, or uninstall. This takes time and effort. When you create your own machine, the only software installed is what you install.

4. Upgrade as and when you want

When it comes to upgrading your PC, if you’ve built it yourself it means you know which part or parts to swap out for new ones, and how to do it.

5. Experience

Building a computer gives you a lot of experience. The physical putting-together-of-everything phase, while also educational, doesn’t compare to the research you’ll do when building a computer. If you care about what’s going into your CPU, you’ll learn all the terminology and what does what in a computer. It’s pretty useful. And of course, the actual building is fun too. And even if you fry your motherboard, you’ll get to learn what NOT to do afterwards!

 

Disadvantages of Building a PC:

 

1. It’s more difficult

There is of course a fair share of difficulty involved in building your own computer. You may have to face your share of challenges, especially if you are not familiar with setting up computers. Picking out the parts to build a computer system from can be an extremely frustrating process. This is particularly true if you are not familiar with the technology and are building your first computer.

2. No All-Encompassing Warranty

All computer parts have the risk of failing. It doesn’t matter which company made them or which company installed them. Parts will fail. A preassembled workstation from a company will have a warranty that covers all parts. That means if your computer fails, the company will work with you until the offending part is found. Individual hardware vendors will not work with your computer as a whole unit.

3. Incompatibility Issues

You have to worry about sizes, compatible components, wattages, etc. If you don’t research things properly, you could end up with parts that don’t work well together or maybe won’t even fit into the case that you have selected.

The Bottom-line

It all depends what the computer is for. Usually, if you are spending less than Rs. 50,000 on a computer, or just want a simple desktop system, then I recommend a prebuilt, simply because you get a copy of windows already packaged with it and also the hassle of building it yourself if you are a first time builder may not be worth the slightly better overall quality of the components. Manufacturers are able to get discounts because they buy things in bulk. In addition to this, the budget market is extremely competitive which means it is often cheaper to buy a basic computer for just browsing the web and doing productivity software than it is to build one yourself.

However, when it comes to building a High-end system, a workstation or a gaming PC, building one yourself is the way to go.  All it takes is research and the willingness to put the things together, and it offers immense satisfaction and also experience and know-how. You can build one tailored to suit your exact needs, right down to the aesthetics.

It comes down to what you need, how much it will cost, and if you are willing to put in the time. If you are willing, then you can get exactly what you need and potentially save money in the long term. But don’t overlook the potential hassle and time you might have to put into building it.

In the next part of PC Gaming 101, I’ll talk about some valuable resources that you should use while researching and building your PC.

 

On “Content Creation”

Everywhere I look and everyone I see seems to look at writing on the web as a money making opportunity and scoff at the thought of it being a creative conduit. It is indeed sad and pathetic to believe that the essence of writing is to get a nibble at the carrot at the end of a stick, a chance to get a payout, to gain some places in a ranking system, to pander to the reducing attention span of people on the internet and cynically copy or steal, for the reasons mentioned above. Throw around buzzwords like rankings and “shareable content”, make a pseudo numbered list and then the unkindest cut of all – saying it’s all “so easy”.

 

Indeed I am nobody to argue the growing popularity of giving people what they want in the form of lists and slideshows, and indeed I am no expert on the diminishing feasibility of making money through writing on the web. And, the internet never lets me forget it- the fact that I’m a nobody, when it comes to providing easy, shareable content.

 

I’m sure what all this isn’t nearly as eye-catching and accessible to our reduced attention spans as “5 reasons you will fail as a blogger” or “This man’s story of overcoming a creative block will inspire you and make you cry”, and I know this doesn’t count as quality content and I do not disagree.

 

I’m even fighting my natural tendencies of launching or attempting to launch a scathing attack. Yes, anger and frustration have helped me produce what I believe are my best works. This is important as I’m beginning to feel like I’m using the anger and resentment as crutches, and my over-reliance to them might cripple me and then turn me into a “creative paraplegic”.

 

I keep getting told to consider more “lucrative forms of content”. People tell me there’s “no point” in writing anything anymore, especially about the things I write about, where there are thousands upon thousands of people writing the same things, and millions of others copying them for cynical cash-ins. Before someone gives me the “good artists copy, great artists steal” spiel, I’d like to say that stealing and reinventing is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about copying outright, ripping off wholesale, in an attempt to, as I previously said – get some “Dolla Dolla bill Yo” for the lack of a good enough term for it.

 

This sort of wholesale ripping off of things isn’t just cynical- it’s downright harmful, toxic even. For every major news outlet out there, there are tens of thousands of smaller websites that simply copy, some give credits to the original while many do not. While I’m not against individual expression, I believe there needs to be some sort of significant, positive change. Some “innovation”, if I may use a term bandied about in the tech sphere all the time. I simply do not understand how anyone can be satisfied as a blogger, by simply copying and pasting content found on other websites. The news broke, it’s already out there, there’s no need to reiterate it.  Bringing something new to the table, a new idea, some wishful thinking, even some fantastical and wild speculation- it’s all good, if it’s something different and it’s an original thought.

When people say tech blogging is “easy”, they make this assertion based on the fact that so many thousands of people are simply taking facts, figures, images, and re-creating, copying, and re-posting things, just for the sake of driving traffic, and squeezing every penny out of ad revenue services. In that sense, it is easy. “Content is king”, they say. Nobody ever specifies the nature of said content anyway. It’s all fair game here, and originality is not really necessary anyway.

 

I, for one, would like to see more originality, more opinions. The gadgets themselves may have gotten me hooked to the world of tech blogging, but the varied opinions of industry veterans, columnists, analysts- that’s what has kept me here. I love reading well formed, articulated opinions about the goings-on in the tech world. Some are frivolous, some serious but what’s important is that they put out something that’s not just a list of specifications, or an album of leaked images or a horrendous attempt at squeezing in as many “hot keywords” as possible into the blog post. Even though I may not agree with the opinions mentioned by them, the way these people are able to put those ideas across is what makes them engaging.

 

In this sense, blogging is much more difficult. Coming up with opinions, corroborating these opinions with proof, statistics, and links to other content in a way that would help the reader to understand the opinion better, and not just attempts to get those backlink-forward link-etc link things to improve SEO, is not easy at all.

 

Bloggers go to great lengths to make sure their posts reach as many people as possible. What’s sad is that the content itself is just some formulaic mishmash of keywords, images, and other things that need to be there to appease the mighty SEO overlords. (Hail Google). If only they could concentrate on the content itself, rather than the payout, this whole thing wouldn’t leave such a cynical aftertaste.