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The times when I hate computers.

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by Wolfman, Jan 22, 2005.

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  1. Wolfman

    Wolfman New Member

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    The partial crashing of a second computer in my house has finally gotten me motivated to get not only that machine fixed, but also address the other machine that arbitrarily decided to no longer be internet capable nearly two years ago. Also this is one of the primary reasons WHY it took me nearly two years to get around to fixing the networking problem that prevents the other machine from getting on the net.

    On January 12th, I was watching the news, where they mentioned that Microsoft had several critical security updates that spanned their entire operating system lineup dating clear back to the days of Windows 95. As I have broadband, and basically have a 24/7 active connection to the 'net, I immediately got busy with updating the two machines (I have three around my house) that still accessed the 'net.

    One machine, and the oldest of the three, crashed four times during this process. It's been another machine that I've been putting off upgrading as well, since it's primary purpose is to store data gathered from a weather station installed at my house. Irritated at having what shouldn't have been more than an hour's work turning into nearly a day, I decided that enough was enough, and it was high time to replace that system. I head into town, and to an electonics warehouse type store called Fry's Electronics. Here I pick out a brand new Pentium IV motherboard, 2.4 gig processor and finally a 256 meg memory stick. I'm out the door for a bit over $200. Not bad for an upgrade. The more I'm thinking about my new parts, the more I'm thinking that they'll be put to better use in the machine that quit connecting to the net. BTW, it's called "HAL." as it had on it at one time, that desktop theme. Cool, I'll upgrade TWO machines for the price of one.

    It's too late to get started by the time I get home, so I simply install the memory and processor to the motherboard, put it back in the anti static bag, and put it away for the evening. Next day, after work, I decide to get busy. I do a couple of quick final tasks on that machine, before shutting it down for surgery. I pull the box out from under the desk (it's a 3 foot tall server tower), and I'm off to the dining room table to perform the parts replacements. I get the old board out and new one in the box. I grab my video card, only to find that it too will not work on this board. Damn another trip to the 'puter store.

    After work that Friday, I head over to Fry's for the second time, and pick up a new video card for the new motherboard. This time around I also noticed that they had a new style of hard drive, (Serial ATA), and it's specs were better than the IDE version of the same drive. It was also on sale, and cheaper than the regular drive. I grab one to install into HAL. I'm out the door again, this time to the tune of another $170. I'll get $50 of that back in rebates - hopefully. I get home, and decide to quickly install the new video and at least get a bench test on the box before calling it a night. HAL comes up once to the expected CMOS error, where I get to go in and tell the new board some of what is connected to it. After saving the settings, HAL crashes hard. I'm now PLENTY pissed, and it's time for bed. I'll mess with it Saturday.

    After work Saturday, I get back to the task of trying to figure out what is amiss amongst the new parts. I can find nothing installed incorrectly, so I figure it was something incorrectly selected in CMOS. I clear the CMOS, and the machine comes back up. Windows goes through the task of recognizing all of the new "goodies" on the new board and is happily installing it. All looks good untill time for a reboot. Once again, HAL is playing dead. Once again, I clear the CMOS, and it comes back up, only to crash again on the next reboot. It's now too late to even think about taking anything back, so I call it a night. Since this will be the third time back to Fry's, and it's an hour and 15 minutes one way to get there, I decide to wait untill after work Monday to go back, and I bring HAL along so that I can leave the store knowing that I won't have to come back yet again.

    Monday comes along, it's my Friday, so I don't have to be so concerned with the clock either. I head over to Fry's, and sit down with tech support on figuring out what is causing HAL's problems. They concur with my suspicions - a bad motherboard. Out come the new board, and I go through the return line to get my money back, and go get a new one. I'm back over to the tech support, and we install the second new motherboard. It's worse than the first one, no boot, no tones, no CMOS, nothing.

    Now they give me the OK to just go back to the shelf and grab another. Now, what will be the third motherboard goes back in. I'm now back to my original problem. It's now approaching 9pm, and they are getting ready to close. Mad, I leave HAL there, with a work order to find the cause of this problem. Tuesday and Wednesday both pass, with me calling them, and having no solution to the problems. Thursday, I'm back to work, and I finally get a call from them. HAL is ready, and booting consistently. After work, I go back to Fry's, for the fourth time now, and pick up HAL. Apparently, the memory chip was bad, and I needed to exchange it. All they have left that was not the same brand as the one I was returning, was 512mb chips. Another $120 later, I have a new memory chip, and also a replacement CPU fan and heat sink to replace the one that I broke a few days eariler. I install the new components in the store, and check again that the machine is working before I finally leave.

    I get home, and install that new Serial ATA drive that I bought a week earlier. I'm impressed as I watch it format a full 160 gig drive in about three seconds. I then transfer all of the materials (music, recorded TV programs, pictures, etc..) from the old 120 gig drive to the new one. Once done, I verify that everyting works correctly on the new drive. HAL now works correctly, with the exception of the old refusal to connect to the net. Finally, something went smoothly. Calling it a night, I shut it down.

    After work yesterday, I head back to the house, go down to the neighbours for a short visit, and then return home to get back to the job of what should be the final step in getting HAL fixed, and then, getting the weather station PC back up and running. I take the small 10 gig hard drive out of the loop, and proceed to install windows on the 120 gig drive. The first several attempts gives me corrupt data errors, and I'm finally forced to go back to CMOS to reset the drive boot order, so that the machine will go to the CDROM drive like it's supposed to. Windows finally begins it's installation process. Formating THIS drive takes the typical forever and a day. It still wasn't finished when I gave up and went to bed.

    I wake up this morning, only to find "the blue screen of death." Great, now we are back to fighting tooth and nail for every tiny incriment forward. HAL locks down twice more, before I finally get mad, and start that drive from scratch. It was still formatting when I left for work this morning.

    All of this effort now, for what should have been maybe an afternoons worth of work. On top of this, a program that I had the DVDR set to record last night, failed. I'm PRAYING that I'll be able to go home from work tonight, and find HAL patiently waiting for me to tell Windows to continue it's setup.

    Right now I HATE computers!!!!!!!!!
  2. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    I haven't bothered to "upgrade" a computer in over 15 years. It has been my experience that the new hardware/software will find some critical compatibility issue with the old hardware/software and not play nicely at all.

    I had a 1988 Zeos computer (Remember them?) which overall was a fairly nice machine once I had it running. When I first got it out of the box, it only booted successfully 1/2 of the time. Zeos sent a new MB and that cured that.

    I tried to upgrade the memory from 4 MB to 16 MB, but it only recognized 12 MB. No matter what permutation of DIMM's I used or the jumper settings. I wanted more HD so instead of getting rid of the 20 MB HD, I ordered an 80 MB HD. For some reason, the machine only allowed me to use the 20 MB HD as the boot drive.

    Networking issues are even better. I can almost guarantee that any sort of always-on connection has been hacked and you haven't even noticed, unless you run a very high quality router with appropriate antivirus software that is routinely updated.

    And yes, I've noticed the quality of the parts (Motherboard, HD, DVD-R, etc) has been flushed down the crapper. Although you seem to have better luck with Genuine Intel MB, it's not guaranteed. Not by a long shot.

    If you really want to have fun, do an Industrial Process Control upgrade. Take a DCS that has run without fail for 18 years. Management has decided it needs a "modern" interface AKA Windows XP, along with that $$$ "integrated" manufacturing software that is so s***** it reeks even when you're upwind of it.

    Five weeks later, the operators are still using the old DCS and you're still stuck at the Windows XP splash, which is as far as it will go before giving a Stop. Before I start tugging at my hair or getting down on my hands and knees to chew on the carpet, I keep telling myself this:

    "I bill by the hour I bill by the hour I bill by the hour I bill by the hour all work and no play makes jayman a homicidal maniac all work and no play ..."

    This actually works for me. I calm down at once and hum a happy tune while jabbing the reset button, which by now is so worn out you can see sparks jump off it.

    Maybe all this crappy hardware/software is the real reason our society is becoming so violent and going down the tubes.
  3. Frank Hudon

    Frank Hudon Senior Member

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    yup "1 n 0's" nothing's simple in life.
  4. Ken Cooper

    Ken Cooper New Member

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    Just underwent my my final Microsoft Windows PC crash. No more. I bought one of the new iMacs (20" screen). I now use both (after much pain getting my MS Windows PC back in working order - Still have internet related problems with it though). So, I use the iMac for internet work, chess, and new MS Office projects, and the PC for programs that I've collected over the years. So far, with the iMac, haven't seen so much as the hint of a popup, or any other internet related issue.

    Here's what I recommend to any PC user (wish these had been available when I experienced my latest PC crash):

    . Buy the new $495 MiniMac
    . Connect your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and printer into it
    . Use the MiniMac for internet work.
    . Use your PC and your MiniMac for all other work (and play).

    The New York Times article I read on this subject stated that you can get switch boxes that allow you to easily switch back and forth between your PC and your new MiniMac.

    Imagine, being virtually free of viruses, worms, spyware, and popups. So far, that's been my experience with my new iMac.
  5. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    I really do envy you folks who can mess around with the innards of these machines with impunity. Regretfully I almost know enough to ask an intelligent question. The latest computer I had tailor-made with all the bells and whistles, except added a Radeon 9800XT graphic card and a gig of RAM, read somewhere that twin HD's in raid 0 configuration might speed up data transfer so did that. Guess if I lose one drive I've lost the works. Anyway being retarded....errrr....retired I only use it for graphics, a little CAD, and my latest return to childhood, flight simulation and, of course, PriusChat.
    I do have an electronic KVM switch so that I can bounce between the new and old computer using the same keyboard/mouse and display .
  6. Wolfman

    Wolfman New Member

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    Canuck, PC's are extremely easy to build. The only real challenge nowadays, is getting consistent quality in the components. About the worst you can do these days, is install the panel LED plugs backwards, or reverse the keyboard and mouse plugs. Installing the LED plugs backwards simply means that they will not light up, and reversing the keyboard and mouse plugs means that they won't work untill they are swapped around. All internal plugs like the power supply connections, card slots, memory slots, and even the CPU are all keyed to fit in their respective plugs only. Most hard drive and floppy drive cables are keyed as well, although I do have a few that are not. Then it's just a matter of making sure the stripe on the edge of the cable lines up with pin 1 on the connector. This is labelled on the board as well.

    My new motherboard is an oddball in that the CPU speeds are set by two jumpers. That one is taking a bit of trial and error to get right. Every other board I've bought, autodetects the right processor speed.
  7. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Thanks, Bryan, for the encouragement. I reckon I have maybe two more years and I might just give a home-built a try.
  8. deh2k

    deh2k New Member

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    I built a PC a few years ago and can definitely recommend going that route. There's not much to it, especially since PCs are only made up of a handful of parts. I frequented some build-your-own websites for a while, did some web shopping, put it together, installed my software, and was cruising without incident.

    The advantages of building your own are:

    1. You can get it the way you want it. Do you care about audio, or video, or disk space, or CPU speed, or expandability, or fan noise? You can choose according to what's important to you.

    2. The quality is generally better. PC vendors cut corners to save a few bucks. You have to buy the package. On the other hand, component vendors survive by the quality of their products because customers can easily get a similar part from another source.

    3. You are not forced to pay a "Microsoft tax", so if you already own a Windows license, or if you install Linux, no money goes to the Evil Empire.

    4. You save money. Some, but not a lot. You can probably get a PC for less, but not one that's as good.

    5. It's easier to upgrade. Need a faster CPU, better video, etc.? You can put in new parts without tossing out the whole thing.

    If you build a PC and run Linux on it you get the highest possible honors for Independent Computer User. It's not for the faint of heart, but it can do almost anything you want (if you put in enough effort) and it will be truly rock solid. I have run Linux systems continuously for years at a time and only shut them down to make hardware changes.

    If avoiding hassles is paramount to you then getting a Mac is clearly the best way to go. It's as reliable as Linux but has a much better user interface. It's better than Windows in almost every way. You may pay a little more but you get a lot more value in return.
  9. DanH

    DanH New Member

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    I too would recommend the 'build it yourself' route for the same reasons. I think Wolfman would possibly agree his recent experience is not the norm. ...but some days...) I have been putting my on PC together for years, starting back in the '386 days. Just a couple weeks ago I upgraded my processor and motherboard to a 3.2GHz P4 processor and so far so good. (knock on silicon :) )Like others have stated, these days it is quite easy: Pick your parts, put 'em together and install OS. By far, most of it autoconfigures these days.

    Then again, I occasionally consider the Mac option too, especially now with the sweet little Mac mini that just came out.
  10. DaveG

    DaveG New Member

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    You can get much the same effect by switching to firefox and using a good email spam-filter (I recommend the open-source package "POPFile").

    I've got a Mac powerbook as well (freebie from work), but I still use my PC 90% of the time.

    Dave
  11. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    Way back when they came out with an upgrade to turn a plain-Jane PC into a 286 I was advised by computer-geek friends that I'd be better off with a whole new computer. Too many compatibility problems.

    My current computer was assembled by a local store that does only that. You tell them what specs and features you want, or if you are more savvy you can specify component parts. They put it together, test it, install the OS and whatever software you've bought from them, and finally tack on a one-year warranty. I've been quite satisfied with it overall. The difference between what it would have cost me to assemble one myself, and what I paid them, was money well spent for the exasperation avoided, and their superior experience and testing equipment to assure a properly-working machine.
  12. BobA

    BobA New Member

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    You all and the build-it-yourself thing makes it sound soooo easy... my first computer was built for me by a guy in Reno in 1995.. you could get a 486 at Sears at the time... a friend had found Ming a Chinese man to build one for him.. the friend and Ming had some kind of argument and when I told Ming I wanted a computer that was better than my friends, Ming smiled and built me a 486/75..and was fast for the day.. the hard drive was 80megs.. I would crash the computer and take it to Ming... looking like Linus in Peanuts he crouch on the keyboard and fix the machine... his line was "how you screw up'? .. my come back was ' if I knew, I wouldn't be here...fixxie box..he would and I was off to play some more.. in 2001 I was in Denver, no Ming.. a very old computer although I'd had some upgrades done..but it didn't have a math co-processor and couldn't do some things.. I went to Dell and Gateway chatting with techs on line... when they'd laff at my computer..I always said ' I got here to talk to you, didn't I ?' I have a Gateway, that is not big enough...but I'm here..aren't I...

    Bob Andersen
  13. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Until I get the courage to build one myself and take the financial risk of destroying a major piece of the puzzle I find my local "assembler" Sneakers Computers warranty pretty attractive:
    " New computer systems (owner specified)- 2 years parts with lifetime labour warranty and unlimited phone support warranty".
    I researched PC World and Smart Computing magazines over the six years I've had subscriptions and regularly visit the geek forums before I decided which components I wanted in the beast. System now one year old and only one visit to the computer doctor when I stupidly plugged the mike into the speaker jack.
  14. MarinJohn

    MarinJohn Senior Member

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    I finally learned one of life's secrets (works for me anyway): Get good at what I do and pay someone else to do what they are good at. It costs me more in money, but less in time and aggravation . Money comes and goes, but time (and aggravation) are finite. Another lesson I learned is I never have too much money, but there is always enough. Why I was too stoopit to learn these lessons 30 years ago I can't say.
  15. Wolfman

    Wolfman New Member

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    Yes, I do agree. This is the first machine to give me such fits in many many years.
  16. Wolfman

    Wolfman New Member

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    Well, HAL is now up and running for the most part. The USB ports all still refuse to function, and all drivers are present, updated to latest, and accounted for. Hopefully, this will be the last wrinkle to figure out, and I can get back to other projects. The weather system is also up and running. I acutally expected it to, as it is basically HAL lite, with HAL's old board, memory, processor, video card, and 10 gig hard drive. It will remain as is untill I get the data transferred back over to the 120 gig drive. Once all this is done, I'll create backups on DVD's and then purge the 10 gig to clear the corrupt registry (prevents that system from accessing internet), and restore weather back to it's original function.
  17. inventor00

    inventor00 Orange County Prius Club

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    Hard drives are so cheap, that we all use them for backup (in addition to DVD-ing the data). I back up one hard drive to the other using Ghost. I always build my own so I can have a case that has two open bays for two removable hard drives (in addition to one DVD and one CD). When we had a fire next door, I was ready to just pull out the hard drives and go. Very easy and convenient.

    I also organize all my data on D drive to more easily back it up.
  18. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    I back up to an external HD. It was pretty cheap. Plugs into USB2. Once the backup is started it requires no attention. The rest of the time it is physically disconnected from the system. And during a backup the modem is switched off.
  19. Speedracer

    Speedracer New Member

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    Woo, you are not alone :roll:
    I also had bad luck for computer this weekend. My Toshiba Raptop decide to die Saturday nite. 2nd time with in 8month :roll: It seems alike HD drive crash or Fried so no longer function. So she is going to repair center in Japan and worst part is it take 3 to 4 weeks to get fix :cussing: Because I bougth this raptop in U.S market :roll:
    Good thing is I have back up laptop.
  20. snarfo

    snarfo New Member

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    Interesting. As an IT guy and a system builder, it's cool to me to read the problems people have. ---and no, I'm not being patronizing or anything. Of course I build all my own systems and several for work on a regular basis so I'm extremely confident in my abilities. It's like a mechanic friend of mine said about car maintenance--- "You can do it, it's easy!" WRONG! It's easy if it's your hobby or job, but for regular mortals it doesn't come that easily.

    Part of the PC building thing is to be certain to buy parts from good manufacturers. When I read 'ram, cpu, and motherboard for 200 bucks', I shuddered. Not trying to sell anything here, but the only motherboards I ever buy are ASUS boards--- you pay a few dollars more (literally), but ASUS is a top-tier maker. Whether you buy AMD or Intel these days is irrelevant--- I've very, very rarely had a DOA cpu. I HAVE had a number of DOA motherboards and RAM, though, mostly from super cheapie sources. Avoid.

    Don't forget that Windows XP really requires a minimum of 256 megs of RAM to run acceptably smoothly, but 512-1 gig of RAM is a must if you're doing anything demanding like playing games or working in Photoshop.

    As to the long hard drive format... during Windows XP setup, you can choose a full format or a quick format. The quick format takes seconds. If the drive has bad spots, you can try a full format and if it takes an inordinately long time to complete you may have a bad drive on your hands. Oh yeah, a note on SATA: at this point, better specs don't mean squat. Hard drives have long been limited by their hardware (caches, rotation speeds, access times, etc.) so no amount of bus improvement will be apparent to the end user. Most drives barely saturate the ATA/66 bus, much less 133 or 150.
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