Wandering Thoughts archives


My sunk cost fallacy relationship with my home desktop

Over on Twitter I said something about my current home desktop:

Another mysterious lockup on my home desktop, not long after I brought my new NVME drives into a software RAID mirror, which could be coincidence.

(My relationship with this machine is rather sunk cost fallacy.)

This machine has a number of symptoms, including locking up when it's cold, some of which may be remediated by now but others definitely aren't. It's quite unclear where the problem or problems are. At this point I'm required to suspect all of the different parts of the machine except the CPU cooler (and I might take a chance on the RAM). Including the case, unfortunately, because the machine has a persistent issue where apparently pressing on the area with the front ports can reset the machine.

(For a long time I thought I was accidentally hitting the reset button despite it being a bit recessed, but recent events have convinced me that it's not just that. Also, in the past simply plugging in a USB cable into the front ports has triggered resets. For obvious reasons I don't experiment with this much, and it seems tangled up in some USB Linux kernel software issues that also cause reboots.)

At this point I can't say that I trust this machine. It mostly runs fine as long as I'm careful with it, but maybe there are still issues (given the lockup I tweeted about). The logical thing to do is to write this machine off as a sunk cost and replace it almost entirely, especially as I want to migrate from my current SSDs to my new NVMe drives and I have no other machine that takes NVMe drives; if I migrate and the machine becomes more unreliable, I will have real problems.

However, this machine dates from early 2018 so it's only about three years old now. Three years is a pretty aggressive replacement cycle for desktop machines today, especially when I bought it as a relatively good machine that I was expecting to last me for at least five years. And more importantly, there's the sunk cost fallacy. I want this machine to work, and I want to persuade myself that magically it will work well enough for me not to do anything (or at least anything substantial). Just as I expected back in August of 2020, I've done nothing so far and just coasted along, and so far that has actually worked out in the sense that I've avoided both total failure and too many issues (although I had one alarming incident). It's easier to do nothing than to act.

(Two of my current excuses are that in general computer hardware seems to be in short supply, and there are a bunch of technology transitions going on where the new technology is expensive but the old technology has little future.)

PS: Since August of 2020 I have reseated some bits and pieces, which seemed to do some good and also was necessary because at one point the machine froze and refused to boot with an apparent memory issue. That was an alarming incident, especially since I discovered it at the start of a workday.

PPS: Another issue is that since I assembled my home desktop from parts and it doesn't work reliably, now I get to wonder if I screwed up the assembly somehow and if I'd do something wrong again if I built another desktop. In theory I should have confidence in my ability to do this, since I also built my work desktop from parts, using many of the same ones. In practice none of us are entirely rational beings, regardless of what we'd like.

tech/HomeMachineAndSunkCosts written at 23:05:02; Add Comment

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