stonk donk computing

I am silly. I’m a silly person. It won’t surprise you to hear my technology is pretty silly, too.

At home, I have three main devices I use for computing, gaming and accessing the Web:

A Xiaomi Redmi Note 10S from 2021. Here’s the page on GSM Arena if you want to look at the specs. I bought it this year (2023) from the UK, because it’s the cheapest modern phone that has a GPU (Mali-G76 MC4) that is explicitly supported by Niantic’s augmented reality pet breeding game, Peridot.

Aside from playing Peridot (which is not easy because I don’t have any money to throw at it) I use the Redmi for setting timers, keeping grocery lists, checking my calendar, looking up bus schedules, calling and texting people (imagine that!) and doomscrolling in bed. My other recommended phone games are ChuChu Rocket, I Love Hue (and its sequels), and Solitairica. It’s also very good for DS emulation if you want that.

A gaming PC that was quite good in 2016 when it was born. Its name is “Haunted” and it was kindly gifted to me a few years ago by a former lecturer at the university where I work. I’ve replaced the case, hard drive and power supply but the ghosts are still there. It has a comically large Gigabyte motherboard, a GeForce GTX 760 graphics card from 2013 and a 5:4 ViewSonic monitor from 2011. Here’s what that looks like:

A photograph of my computing setup. There's a nice glass desk with a silly lit-up split keyboard on a shelf under it, and a trackball mouse. On top of the desk is a comical, nearly perfectly square monitor with an old USB webcam clipped on top. Random toys are scattered around, including a stuffed horse with rainbow hair.

Haunted is a lot of fun (and very ergonomic, thanks to the Kinesis split keyboard my wife bought me) but it’s not a very good computer in 2023. It can run World of Warcraft on low graphics and Second Life at a leisurely crawl. If you try to open Substance Painter or any other 3D texturing program it instantly closes. Sometimes Visual Studio closes itself, too, while I’m trying to replace text in too many files at once. So it’s not my beefiest powerhouse. No, that’s…

A Steam Deck. My lovely dad bought me this as a graduation present and shipped it over from the United States. I affectionately call it the stonk donk and I use it as my full-time computer. This is a bad idea, but it’s a lot of fun.

Photo of a small table sitting on top of a bed. On the table is a split ergonomic keyboard, a trackball mouse, and a Steam Deck serving as the computer and tiny screen. Mog, a black cat, peeks curiously over the end of the table.

The setup in this photo is clearly bonkers, and it’s sort of hyperbolic. Most of the time, when I use the stonk donk, I have it docked in a nice dock from JSAUX that I bought used off TradeMe and hooked into a Samsung television we got for free. I lie in my recliner (usually covered with cats) and use my portable folding Bluetooth keyboard and ergonomic trackball mouse in my lap. I can also, of course, take it over to that nice glass tabletop where I have Haunted and rig everything up to it there.

The really, really good side effect of stonk donk computing is that it has been the push I finally needed to stop using Windows so damn much. Haunted still runs Windows 10 with a lot of the guts pulled out, and the stonk donk of course runs SteamOS, which is like Arch Linux with training wheels and someone gently pushing you away from the curb. As a silly person, my mission is to rip the training wheels off and hurtle into the abyss constantly. Within two hours of unpacking the stonk donk I had accidentally destroyed the built-in audio drivers and ended up having to factory reset it. Now I’m slightly more careful, but only slightly. Most damage you can do (and OS changes in general) are overwritten when SteamOS updates, which also means my computer is full of maddening notes called things like “RUN THESE CONSOLE COMMANDS WHEN EVERYTHING BREAKS AGAIN”.

How’s Arch Linux? I was always an Ubuntu guy before this, but it’s pretty great, especially if you’re silly. Many things you want to use on Linux already exist as Flatpaks, which are beautifully sandboxed and will never be broken by SteamOS updating again and ruining your day. Meanwhile, I can run almost all of the Windows programs I need through Bottles, which sandboxes each “compatibility layers” environment (WINE) I might need to set up. The stonk donk can play World of Warcraft, Second Life, everything I own on Steam, and is a really good emulation machine — crappy old Windows 3.1 games and everything from Sega Saturn to Nintendo Switch work like a charm.

Photograph of me holding a Steam Deck, the handheld Linux-based gaming console/mini computer by Valve. On the screen it's running The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

What else is there to say about the stonk donk? I don’t know if I recommend it to most people and I wouldn’t have bought it for myself. With Haunted, I hoped to move entirely away from prefabricated computers — Steam Decks, laptops, Rog Allys and what have you. In terms of repair-ability and longevity, a desktop computer with which you’ve made yourself familiar is always going to be better. My stonk donk worse than many computers but better than modern consoles. It’s really novel and funny and sometimes very frustrating (Adobe doesn’t work on it no matter how much you cry and scream).

It’s a silly little computer for silly people. I like it. If you love to spend six hours tinkering to solve a five-minute inconvenience, you’ll probably like it too.