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I've had "crack case and vacuum computer" on my To Do list for months, but even so, when the fan would kick in to high gear I'd just shrug that it was summer, ponder whether the ever-increasing pigginess of software justified a new toy, and reach for my A/C remote. Today it was overcast, so when the fan sounded like it was about to have an electronic coronary, I got up from my computer game and walked alllll the way across my office to get my computer vacuum.

Since I was in the middle of a large file transfer, I started on the outside, vacuuming the vents and joints. When I took the vacuum's tip away from one spot, it pulled a tuft of dust out of the case with it. Uh oh. Maybe it was just that one spot—after all I'd been good about clearing any accumulated dust or cat hair from the external vents. Then another tuft. And another.

Download finishes, I get the computer powered down to open the tower, and confirm that not only do the tufts and layer of dust continue inside, there's even a little spider nest. Fortunately it had not yet disgorged its tiny-yet-twitch-inspiring spawn three feet from where I spend most of my waking hours.

I feel like I deserve a visit from computer protective services.

My computer is back to being pretty quiet (for an over-powered full tower), and I expect the performance will pick up a touch too. It's a minor miracle it was working at all, and testament to some serious over-engineering in the cooling system.

Looks like Dell is still treating Alienware as an independent subsidiary, so hopefully they'll keep making their great gaming machines and just gain some operations expertise from Texas. And not just because there are too few technology vendors who understand that electronics can have style too—I know I paid extra for my case in plasma purple with green lighting. Hey, Apple folks pay extra for style, but they don't get a color choice since Steve Jobs seems to be channeling Henry Ford on that topic.

Now off to add a recurring task to Outlook to keep that dust under control. Computer vacuums which are gentle enough to not suck the wires off their connections and come with tiny attachments can be found for less than $20—good to have one around.