I'm still here. And I've got good news, everyone!
I've ordered a new video card!
New being a relative term, anyway. A GeForce 6600 GT. Got it off Ebay for $22 ( $15 shipping). We're not exactly talking cutting edge here, but it should be a pretty major step up from both the GeForce 5200 FX and even my old GeForce 3 Ti200. I may actually be able to play Team Fortress 2 on medium settings for a change - shocking!
About an hour after I won the ebay auction, the 5200 must've known its days were numbered. The fan on it began making that high pitched whine/grinding sound again, except this time I couldn't get it to stop. Eventually I just pulled it out. I'm currently speaking to you from the wonderful world of onboard video (VIA/S3G Unichrome). For those of you who don't know what that means, essentially most computers can fake a video card if you do not have one plugged in, but it's the worst garbage imaginable - and apparently, the S3G Unichrome one of the worst of them all. I'd basically have problems even getting Quake 2 to run on this thing.
The rub is that without the 5200 plugged in, the nVidia control panel vanishes. This is something of a problem, because the 17 CRT I was using is very old. I was using the nVidia control panel to artificially turn the brightness on the monitor up, otherwise it's too dark to see anything. With the nVidia control panel gone, the monitor basically becomes worthless. Essentially, without the nVidia Control Panel, this is what my big 17 inch monitor looks like:
That's obviously pretty unacceptable. For now, I've switched to a back-up monitor; an old one we've had for a while. It's smaller, but it gets the job done.
It's weird, though. Having a smaller monitor with weird colors (they're all washed out and kind of blurry) makes it feel like I'm on somebody else's computer. Hopefully once the 6600 gets here, I'll be able to switch back to the bigger monitor again, but it'd be nice if I could get a brand-new monitor entirely. But those are like, $150, even on Ebay. Even considering my birthday is in a little over a week (July 6th), I don't think that's going to be a possibility.
In other news, my Xbox 360 is on its way out. This is the second 360 I've had, with the first one having a long, harrowing tale involving Microsoft losing my console for three months and eventually just sending me a refurbished console with a free game as an I'm sorry gift. This one doesn't seem to be red ringing yet, but games are freezing fairly frequently now. Knowing Microsoft, part of me almost wonders if they've tried to make it more resilient to displaying red rings in recent dashboard updates (eg. it doesn't display a red ring of death even when it should). People have already told me plenty of home-made remedies (the towel trick, calling Microsoft and just lying to them about it having red ringed). We'll see what happens. Personally, I blame GTA4 and the increasingly warm summer heat for this - even though it still freezes even when the console is nice and cold, the damage was probably most likely done when it was hot.
Some final notes: for those of you who are interested in the games I make, I recently registered a spot on Moddb for my big Sonic game, Sonic: The Fated Hour. I post videos and stuff there pretty frequently, and I just made a fairly big news post about the upcoming beta test/demo I will be holding in the coming months for the game. I think you guys should check it out.
That's it. If you're looking for my next game review, I'm still cranking away at a GTA4 review. I took a TON of notes while playing the game and I'm having a hard time arranging them all without sounding too repetitious. I hate writing huge long reviews, but considering the scope of GTA4, that may be unavoidable... we'll see. Already I'm at five or six paragraphs and I've barely talked about half the stuff I wrote in my notes.