The computer I sorted for my dad about four or five years ago had finally begun to falter, and seeing it was fairly antiquated and computers are so cheap at the moment, I offered to build him a new one. This was going to be the second computer I’d attempted to cook up – the first is documented here. And of course, since my father was almost a child of the Depression, he has an inbuilt necessity to ‘make do’ until ‘making do’ is rendered impossible. Thus, he needed a new computer yesterday.

So I spent a few hours on the net checking out Charles Wright’s latest workhorse machine – where he builds exactly that, and includes the cost of all the parts. The forums on the Bleeding Edge site also proved useful, as did the exhaustive and excellent From my time doing IT kind of stuff at Momentum I’ve been using MSY to buy hardware (or ebay), because they’re cheap. Back then, they had one shop. Now they are becoming the La Porchetta’s of the computer world.

Anyway, I used used their latest advertisement to cost all the parts I was after (remembering that this is not some pimped up gaming machine, but a quick and reliable workhorse to preserve the sanity of my father). I came up with this:

Gigabyte 965P-DS3P – $149
Intel C2Duo E2160 – $112
Seagate 160g SATA – $65
2G Kit-667(2x1G) Corsair – $109
Pioneer SATA 18x 212D Black – $50
Antec NSK6500 (with 430w PS) – $139
Viewsonic VA1912W 19′ – $245
TOTAL – $869

Right. I am sure that proper hardcore geeky people could pick it all apart and provide a much better group of working parts, but it was the best I could do in the time I had. It just so happened that we had to go near the MSY shop in Malvern the next day, so I needed to get it all sorted by then. I printed out the above list. We went to MSY. I handed over the list. They handed it back. Because although they list all this stuff in their advertisement? That doesn’t mean it’s in stock. Of COURSE. I won’t even tell you what they didn’t have, and will just say that they DID have the hard drive and the DVD burner – but only in beige. And that was it.And therein lies the problem of only being a part time geek. I only knew stuff about the components I had chosen, and that was about it. Sigh. So we asked them to call their Clayton shop, but the number was constantly engaged. It was kind of on the way home, so we dropped in.

I had become more decisive during the drive, and decided that if they also didn’t have what I wanted, I would improvise, and my father would have to cope with spending a little bit more. Of course – his other option would have been to go out and drop $500 on a new prebuilt bargain box (with potentially dodgy, or at least lowest common denominator, bits in it) and a monitor and get out of the whole thing for about $750 – but I am convinced it was better to spend a bit more and know what’s been put where. Kind of like making your own cake or using a packet mix.Of course, the Clayton shop was almost as bad.

They had the case, the dvd burner (in black – yay!) and the hard drive. I had to upgrade the motherboard to a GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3R $177, they were out of Viewsonic monitors, so I went for the LG L194WT-SF $232, they had no Corsair 2gig RAM kits, so I got Kingston – same price, and the CPU was out of stock, so I had to pay more and get an E4400 for $145. Sigh. Oh. And the more computery among you may have wondered what I was trying to do – building a computer without a graphics card? Yes. Well. I did have a graphics card that I planned on using in the back of the cupboard, but of course, it was AGP (i.e. the wrong size) so I had to rectify that and, after convincing the computer shop guy that the most exciting combination of colours my dad’s computer was ever going to have to display would be contained in yet another red carpet shot of Salma Hayek and that he would not be playing graphically intense shoot-em up games, I got a cheap graphics card that will be more than adequate.

Building my second computer
[Please forgive dodgy quality of above picture, which was taken on my phone because I need to get around to recharging the batteries in my camera.]

Oh. OK. The title. The MSY Mystery. It’s just that I began to ponder. How many people does it happen to? They go into the shops with their little lists and there (probably) equally little budget, only to find that none of their hard-researched components are actually available and, guess what? There are slightly more expensive ones instead. Naturally, I’m assuming, within my theory, that most people are putting together machines they needed yesterday, if not a week ago, and are thus able to justify an extra hundred bucks. But I have now learnt my lesson, and next time? I will telephone/fax in advance, and have the items procured and put aside for me. I think they suggest that on their webiste… D’oh.