Minimum standards and planned obsolescence

Did you know?

After I left Texas A&M University in May 1977, three hours short of graduation, I moved to Houston where one of my new friends worked at Texas Instruments. He worked their graveyard backup shift. In other words, he went to work at 10:00 p.m. every day, pushed a couple of buttons and rotated some knobs, and sat there for eight hours while the computers backed up all the data from the day. He found it a pretty boring but well-paying job.

One day, knowing my fanatical interest in all things Star Trek, he asked me if I wanted to go to work with him and play Star Trek on one of the TI mainframe computers. How could I refuse?

We played for eight hours straight, but it was the most uncomfortable eight hours I’ve ever put myself through. He worked in the room where the mainframe computers were, and that room was freezing! That was when I learned that computers put out a lot of heat, especially huge mainframe computers, and that the rooms were purposefully kept cold to help the computers do their work.

Heat is the #1 cause of computer and component failure…. 37 years ago and still today!

For the last 18 months I have been having significant problems with my graphics computer, the one with a 1TB hard drive, 8GB of memory, and quad core Intel processors. It’s actually a rather small computer, and it sits between my desk and the printer.

I thought the problem was with malware, viruses, and spyware. This past week, through Microsoft’s Assure program, I let one of their technicians take remote control of the computer. I sat and watched…. and learned!

He found all sorts of garbage programs that I had not found by using several anti-malware, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs:

► MalwareBytes Anti-Malware
► Sophos Virus Removal Tool
► SpyHunter
► HitmanPro

I was amazed.

As he was finishing deleting the last of the garbage programs that HitmanPro had found, my computer spontaneously rebooted itself. Spontaneous rebooting was not my #1 problem, but it seemed that spontaneous rebooting always occurred when I was deep in the midst of creating Photographic Art in Photoshop, which was at least once a day….

In other words, making heavy use of the computer processors and the GPU….

Often it would not reboot and I would have to do graphics on my dedicated music computer.

According to the Microsoft guru, the computer was probably overheating and shutting itself down. That’s when he grabbed one more piece of software: SpeedFan.

SpeedFan is a cute little program that tells you all sorts of technical data about your computer and its components, including how fast the fans are turning and how hot everything is. It uses SMART to do that.

SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) is a monitoring system for computers and components that detects and reports on various indicators of drive reliability, helping to anticipate hardware failure. Anticipating hardware failure allows you to replace components prior to a disaster happening, thus saving lots of time, money, and data. Manufacturers use recorded SMART data to discover where faults lie and prevent them from recurring in future drive designs.

SpeedFan provided a temperature readout of my computer and its components:

SpeedFan readout

Notice that the temperatures of various components range from 68°F to 147°F. The little graphics next to the components indicate if the temperature is on the cool side (blue down arrow), on the hot side (red up arrow), just right (green check), or burning up (fire). I had two components that were burning up.

My computer is sufficiently old (2009) that it doesn’t tell me what the components are, so my only choices were to (1) buy a new computer, (2) take the computer to a computer tech and let the tech figure out which components were overheating, (3) add some sort of cooling system to the computer, or (4) buy a new house with a dedicated computer room.

After researching the costs of various options, I decided on option #3. Option #1 would cost about $800 for a similar computer; #2 would cost a minimum of $250 and could get into the thousands of dollars; #3 could cost as little as $4.99 for a USB case fan or as much as $140 for a specialized computer cooling fan; and option #4 could cost several million dollars….

After three visits to Fry’s Electronics, I finally found a case fan that fits inside the computer and is powered by a USB port. Cost a whopping $11.95, tax included. It took all of ten minutes to install it.

Here’s the SpeedFan readout after using the computer all day for every processor-intensive task I could think of:

SpeedFan readout

No hot arrows, no fires.

One other thing I learned yesterday and today relates to my occupation as a home inspector. Structures are built according to various codes, but those codes are only a minimum standard. Like virtually everything in life, no one wants to do more than the minimum. Minimums often mean “the cheapest way.” Would you like to fly to the moon in a spacecraft built by the lowest bidder? Challenger…. Columbia….

I learned that computers are the same way. Manufacturers put just enough into the computer to ensure that it works for a year or so…. planned obsolescence. You can make your computer last a lot longer than the manufacturer’s plan if you’ll monitor its parts and take care of them.

Here’s an easy way to determine if your computer is overheating: touch it. Your body temperature is 98.6°F, so if your computer is warm (or hot!) to the touch, it’s hotter than 98.6°F.

Now all you have to do is determine if how hot it is, is okay.

You can do that easily with SpeedFan.

Go here.

SpeedFan will download and install itself once you give it permission to. After that, just click on the desktop icon and let SpeedFan do its thing and give you a report.

P.S. Don’t worry about me being three hours short of graduating from Texas A&M University. I completed those hours during the Fall Semester of 1978 and graduated in December 1978.

P.P.S. Since installing the fan and doing every processor-intensive task I could think of, my computer has chosen not to spontaneously reboot itself.

P.P.P.S. Makes you wonder about this all-powerful God creature and why s/he has planned obsolescence for the human body. Built to minimum standards?…………..

P.P.P.P.S. Now go back and read my post from yesterday. It’s here: If it’s on the Internet, it must be true. Now leave a comment and tell me whether this review of SpeedFan is an honest review or a paid review……….LOL

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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15 thoughts on “Minimum standards and planned obsolescence

  1. Carolyn Page

    Ray, I think I’d be wanting more than $20, more than $200 if this is an example of your reviews!
    As Victo commented – Very entertaining. And great information too. I’ll be checking out the heat of my PC next time I turn it on. 😉


  2. moderndayruth

    OMG, you do know how to weave in suspense!!! 😀 I am really not interested in all things PC, but i read the essay to the end – out of respect – and my fingers were itching to ask you (in the most Jewish-mother-like-voice i am capable of ;)) WHAT HAPPENED with those 3h that were left???!!! And then to my utter relief i got to the P.S. 😀 😀 😀


  3. Dan Antion

    Nice review. I was wondering if the problem was joint to turn out to be cat hair blocking a vent. Ironically, I was also playing Star Trek on a mainframe in 1978. I was a programmer at Burroughs.


  4. Photos With Finesse

    We had an ACER laptop die because overheating – was melting components on the motherboard. As we had a second one, same model, we bought a laptop cooling fan – USB run and sits under the laptop. No spontaneous rebooting issues since. (And MalwareBytes has been one of my favourite programs for years. Will have to try your other ones. Thanks for sharing.)


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      After finding SpeedFan, I loaded it on all my other computers. Turns out that two of my external hard drives were on fire, and it’s the two that have my photograph collection and my music collection. I bought two very quiet cooling fans run by USB, so every time the two computers are on, the fans are blowing air on the two hard drives. Now they run much cooler!

      Liked by 1 person


    I wish I would have known about the cooling fan that could have been installed on my last computer. I REALLY liked that computer. I don’t like the one I have now near as much as I did the last one. This one does have something called HP Coolsense, that is supposed to monitor how hot it gets and keep it cool. So far it seems to be working. Maybe I will download Speedfan just to make sure! 🙂



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