The heartbreak of capacitor incontinence

If your caps hemorrhage, it's best to just remember the good times.

Logic Board Capacitors

Bulging, leaky capacitors do not bode well for the health of a logic board and computer.

Credit: Bob Skelley

The sudden death of the AMD Athlon 64 Ubuntu Mate tower left me somewhat disheveled. Check that, I was more properly forlorn.

The bulging and leaky capacitors on the logic board finally sounded its death knell when the system went down without warning for the last time. This ancient yet versatile beast was one of my production machines. In addition to disheveled and forlorn, I was also disappointed.

I felt like a scorned lover, complete with hurt feelings.

I futilely tried swapping power supplies and memory just to hear its fans spin one more time (sans the head that was its monitor display), but I understood all too well how leaky caps would be its undoing. I was left with no choice but to pull the plug on it, as one does a failed relationship.

On stay-cation recently, I had some time, so I removed the PATA/IDE boot disk and placed it in an external USB enclosure. It started up quite nicely on two available Windows 10 desktops, albeit not with the range of monitor display resolutions I would have preferred.

The OS and loaded software, however, were now effectively repurposed as diagnostic and repair tools.

This wasn't the end of the world. Mate was just feeling really comfortable and I had grown accustomed to its (type)face.

I had fleshed out the resolution issues on my relatively short-lived Mate of a desktop computer, long before it began shutting down on me. The printer I sparingly use was recognized right out of the box. WiFi via a wireless USB adapter was sublime. Everything was working to my satisfaction and then the logic board one day decides to whisper in my ear, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Can’t say we don’t see it coming

Before Mate I had Windows 7 on the now tower-in-my-rear-view mirror. It would randomly throw blue screen of death errors.

These should have been a sign it would soon forsake me altogether. Until the errors came regularly, though, I was in denial -- ignoring, rebooting and living with it -- as are lovers with an expiration date long since passed, staying together for fear of being alone.

When I couldn’t bear this faulty (pun intended) Windows 7 relationship any longer, I began cheating with different flavors of Linux -- regular Ubuntu, Ubuntu Mate and Mint.

They were all thrilling, but eventually I settled on Mate and couldn’t have been happier. Things were going wonderfully. We were just a couple of kids walking hand in hand on the beach, drinking Linux Wine with Microsoft Word and crackers. The future looked bright.

Alas, the beginning of a great love affair is not always as it seems.

Many of us are able to decide when to call it quits regarding tech. We don’t often have the decision foisted upon us as a result of something as “unexpected” as hardware failure. I say unexpected, because the majority of the enterprise and consumer set see the sense in purchasing new hardware.

Leaky Caps Photo by Bob Skelley

At least we'll always have pictures (until the giant meteor hits).

And if you don’t believe everything you read and hear, you may be surprised to find out that the average time between new computer purchases is now six years. Or at least that is what the industry is preparing for. It also helps account for the steep decline of the PC industry as a whole.

As much as computers have been a commodity for a while, there are also a large number of people who understand there will always be capable desktop PCs with accompanying large monitors. Tech greybeards have come to appreciate, and yes, even love, the relationships they enjoy with their computers -- young and old.

The death of my beloved Linux tower coincided with a trip to the eye doctor for an annual exam. Everything is good, although I did ask the good doctor about Lasik developments for my particular situation. As it turns out, it’s probably still best to maintain my current eyeglasses regimen in favor of any surgery considerations.

Lasik surgery that corrects any vision problems to 100% satisfaction rates are still a ways off in the future. This means job security for beefy, powerful PCs with big screens and comfortable, expansive keyboards.

Mobile is necessary in the field, I do grant you that. But I will cry no tears for these relatively diminutive devices once they’re gone.

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