Bad News First…

A sad face emoji in black spray painted on an off-white wall.
Photo by Jan Prokes on Pexels.com

I’ve written before about how my laptop has served me well for nearly a decade at the low cost of several replacement parts. Unfortunately, one of the things I didn’t think to replace was the thermal paste on the CPU and GPU. This is the goop that helps transfer heat away from those critical components and into the cooling system so they don’t overheat and fail. This is particularly critical if you’re doing intensive tasks like editing video for a YouTube channel.

I started getting some weird slowdowns and freezes on general tasks and then full crashes when trying to edit video. The crash log helpfully said “GPU Panic” and a bunch of other things that are probably only decipherable by a hardware or firmware engineer. After the third or fourth crash, I decided that if I wanted to continue using my laptop, I’d need to offload the video editing to a different machine.

I decided to go with a Mac again, since my main use case was video editing. I’m not in college anymore, so I realized I didn’t really need to be mobile which is great since adding a battery and screen means laptops are more expensive and more likely to need repairs than a desktop. The new Apple Silicon Macs aren’t really repairable, but it is rare that you get a chance to jump to a completely new, but well-supported, platform. So, I gave into the new and shiny by getting an M1 Mac mini.

A Mac mini sits on top of a 15" MacBook Pro Laptop. The Mac mini desktop has a smaller footprint than the laptop. The laptop has stickers from Sparkfun electronics, NaNoWriMo, and the Center for Civic Innovation on it's lid.
My New Mac mini on top of my 2010 MacBook Pro

A big part of why I went with the Mac mini is that it is the greenest option if you do want to go with an M1. The storage and RAM aren’t user serviceable like on my Macbook Pro, but since there’s no battery and the screen, keyboard, and mouse are all separate components, I can use peripherals I already have. Plus, if one of them breaks, they’re easily replaced.

As Solarpunk Druid recently said, most modern devices are not built to be repaired, so we have to do the best with the options we have available. I’ve been very impressed with the new computer, but I’m glad the laptop still works as I’ve formed an emotional bond with the machine after using it so long and replacing so many of it’s components. I’m hopeful that this new machine will be as long-lived since while it’s less repairable it also has fewer components that could fail. I guess we’ll see.

How do you balance sustainability and replacing or repairing the broken things in your life? Are you reading this on a thirty year old computer and laughing at my boasts of using a mere decade old laptop? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Bad News First…

  1. Craig

    So I have had my old Fuji life book for about a decade now, and it’s had a fair few repairs. The power socket had to be replaced. I had to use sugru putty to patch up the audio jack. I’ve upped the ram twice and now it seems like the connection wire for the screen is going.
    Like you I fear I’ll have to give up the fight and replace it soon, and getting a powerful editing desktop is the best bet.
    I’ve actually seen you can get good spec refurbishments. For example.ive found an i7 tower with 16 gig of ram for under £200, the catch being the i7 CPU is so old the model is no longer supported.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Navarre Post author

      Yeah, unfortunately it’s hard to keep computers, especially laptops, going forever. My dad used to refurbish laptops from eBay and resell them at the Ham (Radio) Festival each year. Things were a lot more modular twenty years ago, so it is possible to build them to last longer, if not indefinitely.

      I was able to pick up my mini for $500 including tax since it was an open box, but a PC tower will definitely give you more options for upgrades. I have a tower I built in 2009 that’s mostly the same now except I got a used motherboard for $100 from a guy here in town to upgrade it a couple years ago. We use it as a backup server and to stream some shows to our TV, so it’s not anything wildly powerful, but it certainly gets the job done.

      Hope your laptop stays alive for many years to come! I’m still using mine for everything but video editing and it’s ok so far. 🤞

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      Reply

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