So this all means that it's probably high time I got this computer replaced. I have owned it for about seven years now, which is well over the expected life expectancy of a computer, but it's been into the shop so many times and had so many parts of it replaced that I think the only original bits left are the keyboard (which has lost a lot of its lettering, which doesn't worry me so much as I'm getting to the stage where I can type in the dark, but means that nobody else can use it), the case (which hasn't given me any problems - about the only part of the computer which hasn't) and the DVD player (which will only play American DVDs. As most of my DVDs are for the Australia / New Zealand region I mainly use it only for playing CDs).
So, at the moment I'm trying to think of what I should get for my new computer. My thoughts so far (subject to the usual changing of plans that trying to talk people into selling me a computer inevitably entails) are:
Operating System. Would have to have Windows 7 on it (I need Windows to run Access; and with XP deprecated and Vista a steaming pile of manure 7 is really the only option). Ideally it should be dual-bootable with Ubuntu (there's apparently a very good new version out that made it onto the PC World DVD last month).
Optical Drive. Would have to include a region-free DVD player. This is not negotiable. With my TV system having been out of action for five months now (due to aerial problems; the TV still works but all the things that sit on top of it are waiting for the aerial to be fixed due to impossibly complicated TV signal engineering things I have no hope of understanding). I don't really have any interest in Blue-Ray (it isn't enough of a quality advance on DVD for most of what I'm watching to make the added annoyance worth it).
Video Card. I'm beginning to think I might need one instead of just letting the video look after itself, which is what I had done for this computer. Apparently anyhing more complicated than looking at basic still images is a bit more than basic computers can handle, and when you're looking at things like computer games then basic equipment just gives up in disgust.
Image Editing. I managed to restore Photo Editor after the last major session of other people tinkering around inside my computer lost it for me, but apparently it's not going to work on Windows 7 at all. Instead, at work they use something called Irfan View which does a lot of the things Photo Editor did, but is also a lot clunkier to use and (this will its main failing) it regularly takes 15 to 20 seconds to open an image. (These are huge images - 4 MB .jpgs from my digital camera - but still, even the image manager on this old bucket of circuits is quicker at opening them (they are too large for Photo Editor)).
Storage. The computers at work have an interesting sort of system... they have two hard disks linked together so that if one fails, the other still contains all the data. This doesn't protect data against the sort of gradual corruption that's happening to my database and emails, but it at least protects against a hard disk failure. So I should probably look at getting something like that for the main booting up drives.
Networking. One thing I've wanted to do for quite a while is have some sort of network set up here so that one computer can be the base, and I can work on it from terminals in whichever room I'm working in at the time (and can, for example, run an email check before I head off to work without having to go and start up everything in the study). This would be part of a major reorganisation of what I do in which room, and where I store all my books and stuff, but a lot of the overall reorganisation will have to wait until I stop having regular polterguests.
Hmmm... need to think about all this a bit further (and then wonder where the hell the money is going to come from).
Additional thoughts: I'm going to want something that picks up RSS feeds. Currently the only way I can subscribe to RSS feeds is via Live Journal, which works all right, but clogs up my friends page (and sometimes they play up a bit).