Saturday, December 30, 2006

Buying a computer for Dad (part 1)

My father, who is in his 70's, has become a flightsim fan. He has had a lifelong passion for aviation. He took flying lessons as a teen (soloed in an Ercoupe!) but for various reasons was not able to keep up with it. Still, he loves airplanes-- reads books, magazines, takes rolls of pictures at airshows, etc.

For years he had been the recipient (victim?) of his children's old computers, whenever we upgraded. He attempted to get various flight simulators to run on them with less than satisfactory results. Eventually he saw FS9 running on my brother's laptop, and this became the holy grail. I determined that his latest hand-me-down was completely incapable of running FS9, I came up with a plan about a year ago to put together a system for him to run. It was an old Pentium III rig that I got from work, but at least it had a gig of RAM. I put a new 128MB video card into it, and it ran, albeit with pretty poor frame rates. Dad was thrilled nonetheless.

Well, recently the Pentium III's hard drive handed in its dinner pail, so to speak. No point in trying to patch up this old dinosaur any more, so I came up with a plan to get him a replacement computer. Even the low end systems that are selling nowadays should run FS9 with acceptable results, certainly much better than what he was used to. My own system is pretty modest and I am happy with how it runs FS9 (let's not discuss FSX here!)

However, sometime when I wasn't looking they stopped making PC's with AGP slots! Finding a basic CPU with a processor 2.3 GHz or faster, with half a gig of RAM and lots of hard drive space, for under $400 is easy, but they all take PCI-e graphics cards. I have a reasonably good AGP card that I want to reuse, and this is a vital factor in keeping the cost down. I finally did find one system that will work, sold by Microcenter (this one), but they are currently out of stock so I'll have to wait a bit until I can start to work on it.

I can't wait to do this. Compared to what he's used to, this new system will scream. Once I get the new PC I will load up FS9, then do a Golden Wings version, then add all of my favorite freeware planes and scenery. Toss in some must-have utilities like F1 view and the recorder module. I think I might buy another copy of Flight Scenery's Rhode Island package, since that's where Dad lives.

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