Wil Wheaton, known to millions as the precocious Ensign Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," didn't just play a geek on TV. He really is a geek, fascinated by computers, the Internet and technology in general.
Wheaton, 28, first gained widespread attention for his 1986 performance in the movie "Stand by Me," in which he played the geeky writer character as a child.
Since then, he's been in dozens of films and television shows, including "Flubber," "Liars Club" and "Guys Like Us." His next film, "Jane White Is Sick & Twisted," is scheduled to be released this month. Wheaton also is a comedian, performing with the ACME Comedy Theater troupe in Los Angeles.
Wheaton runs his own Web site, at http://www.wilwheaton.net, where he posts personal and droll observations about life as an actor. His commentary on the difficulties of being confused with the Crusher character and why some people hate the practically perfect man-child has become something of an underground sensation on the Internet. He lives with his wife and two children in Arcadia. Wheaton spoke over sandwiches in a downtown restaurant.
It's pretty old. I put it together myself about four years ago. I'm on my third CPU fan, that's how old it is. I've replaced a lot of the original components. Right now, I think it's a Pentium II, 233MMX, but I'm not sure.
Q: Anything exotic running as your operating system?
I've installed Windows 2000. I was running a dual boot with Windows 98 and Linux for a long time. But when I upgraded to Windows 2000, I dropped Linux.
While I'm a champion of open source, I don't think Linux is there yet.
I think I'm drawn to alternatives like Linux because I'm left-handed. It was always hard finding a baseball glove.
But as much as I go against the machine, with Windows 2000 I went with the masses.
It's a Micron, even older than my desktop. I have to use duct tape to keep the CD-ROM door shut. It's the technological equivalent of a stone tablet and a chisel, but I can load Linux on it and it rivals my Windows 2000 box for speed and stability.
It's a Visor Platinum. I had a PalmIIIxe, and it died. These things are great. I haven't decided which is the killer application, Vindigo or AvantGo.
Q: What kind of stuff do you carry?
Let's see. Salon, Slate, Wired, Variety, CNN. I don't mind shopping with my wife anymore because it doesn't matter how many pairs of shoes she wants to try on. I can just read CNN.
I read Slashdot [http://slashdot.org]. And Drudge [http://drudgereport.com]. I really think he's a hack, and he offends me. But I do read it and then go to other sites to check out what he's saying. I also like http://www.underachievers.com and http://www.killoggs.com.
I ran SETI@home [http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu] for a long time, because it looked a lot like "Star Trek" and I thought the project was cool. But now, I don't need a screen saver because I've got my system configured to power down my monitor and my hard drive after just a short time of no use.
Q: To try to save power?
Audiovox. I really, really hate it. It's a pile of garbage. I'd like to get one like yours. That lets you download custom ring tones, right?
Q: Oh, yeah, I'm a big fan of this Nokia. [Phone plays "The Simpsons" theme].
It's just the standard stuff. To show you how low-tech we are in this arena, it was a very big deal when I went to Radio Shack recently and spent 25 bucks for a switch. Now, I don't have to unplug cables depending on whether somebody's using the DVD, the PlayStation or the satellite.
Q: How has tech changed your life?
Well, I'm really just a geek looking for validation from my fellow geeks. Since I've had the Web site up, I've gotten deeply moving messages from people, normal people interacting with me just like normal people do. I'm still very new at this; in the world of Web site design, I know nothing. But the Net and the Web have reinvigorated my career and my love of life.
The Web site lets me share myself with the audience without a media filter, and the audience is responding. It's allowed me access to anybody who's interested in what I have to say.
And what I've discovered is that there's a lot of people out there who refuse to live in the McWorld. And that's very heartening to me.
As told to Dave Wilson