When Things Break Down

This is a similar make and model of video card that broke.
Friday night came and woohoo... weekend!

As the Loonie IT Guy, after spending hours in front of a computer at work, you can find me spending a few hours in front of my computer at home.

As it was Friday evening and Wifey would be busy calling her parents abroad, I usually find myself playing some video games for about an hour or two before 8pm. Last Friday night was no different.

After an hour of farming in Marvel Heroes, I shut off the game and watched Marketplace on CBC.

When the show finished, I shut off my computer. Or at least I tried to. Seems something was amiss. The monitor wasn't displaying Windows correctly. As I was tired and didn't want to deal with it then, I powered down the computer and went to bed.

The next morning, when I booted up my computer, I found the graphics not displaying correctly. It was like something out of the 1980s. Instead of the rich millions of colours I'm used to seeing, I was face to face with a shocking 16 colours. Well, that's not good. First thing I did was check the device manager. It reported a problem with the video card. First thing I did was attempt to reinstall the drivers from NVIDIA. Of course, reinstallation didn't work as NVIDIA couldn't detect the video card.

Just to make sure it wasn't a motherboard problem, I took out the video card from the in-laws computer and plugged it into mine. The colours were back. It definitely was the video card causing me problems and not the motherboard or monitor.

This was bad news on two fronts.

First, I would need to get another one.

Second, I would need to spend money.

Fortunately, because I have a decent reserve of funds saved up, putting down money for a new video card wasn't going to be a problem.

Since I use my computer very frequently, Wifey suggested I get one right away.

There are a few options for purchasing computer parts. When I was younger, I used to go to Best Buy and Future Shop. Occasionally, I would visit a store called CompuStore (?), CompuShare (?), or something like that. They have since gone out of business so it doesn't matter anymore. Nowadays, I check out Canada Computers, Tiger Direct, and sometimes Amazon.ca.

Usually, I price shop, but in this case, there weren't many options available. Actually, let me rephrase. There are lots of options available. The problem is that 3 years later, they've jumped from 1GB DDR5 memory to 4GB DDR5 memory. A jump of 4x the memory usually equates to a jump in price as well. It looked like it was $400+ dollars for some of the latest and greatest available. As I wasn't interested in spending those dollars for the latest and greatest, I debated whether or not I should choose 1GB or 2GB. The price difference was effectively double as I was looking at $140 for a 1GB card vs $280 for a 2GB card.

I decided to settle on the 2GB card. With that in mind, I needed to figure out where to buy the card.

After looking at a few places, I settled on a card from Canada Computers. Mainly because Canada Computers lists inventory for each store and Tiger Direct is hit or miss depending on what you're looking at. Also, the Canada Computers store is 10 minutes closer than the Tiger Direct store, so that gave Canada Computers the upper hand.

I looked at a few reviews of the video card and nothing was overly negative. I did notice a small issue though.

Seems in the past three years, the display port has become more ubiquitous. As such, the newer video cards on the market usually come with 1x DVI port, 1x HDMI port, and 3x Display ports.

My monitors are pretty old. I think they were manufactured in 2010. As such, They come with the old DVI and VGA ports. Since I use two monitors, buying this new video card would leave me with one unused monitor.

I would either need to buy a new monitor (with an HDMI or a Display port) or go back to using one monitor.

As I mentioned previously, once you start using two monitors, it's really difficult to go back to using one.

As I was already going to spend $280, I didn't want to spend upwards of $150 for a new monitor that I didn't need. So, I looked for alternatives to my situation.

First thing I did was look for an adapter. A DVI to VGA adapter is readily available, I assumed there would be something similar for a Display Port to DVI. Turns out I was right. For $25, I could get a cable that connects to a Display Port on the video card and to the DVI port on a monitor. It was also at Canada Computers. I looked at Amazon.ca to see if there were cheaper alternatives. There were cables for $10, but I'd need to wait 2 to 4 months for deliver.


Okay, nevermind.

It was unfortunate that I needed to spend the extra money, but better than buying another monitor that I didn't need.

In the end, we picked up the parts we needed. By noon on Saturday, my computer was up and running again.

However, as a result of this surprise occurrence, I needed to put down $350 on my credit card.

Fortunately, we have the money to cover this expense. First my budget covers this expense, so it is within our monthly comfort range. Second, we have the money in the bank to pay off this expense when the credit card bill arrives at the end of the month.

This got me thinking. For those people who are living paycheque to paycheque, this $350 could break their budget.

While they might not spend $350 on a video card, that $350 could easily be an emergency car repair or unexpected dental work.

We are able to fit this expense into our budget because we spend much less than we bring in each month.

While I'm not happy I have to spend this money, overall, it's not going to break us or put us into debt (or deeper depending on some financial situations).

Some people would be forced to put an unexpected expense on their credit card despite not having the money to pay it off. As a result, their $350 expense soon turns into $358, and then $367.

If they already owed money on the credit card, the $350 expense would already be accruing interest!

If you're living paycheque to paycheque and $350 would break your budget, start cutting your expenses, spend less than you earn, and start building up a reserve of funds.

You'll be happy you did... because the unexpected happens.


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