Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Progress....

I woke up in an industrious mood today, and decided to go get some plywood and do a little more work on the back patio.

It was miserably humid today, but I managed to get the plywood cut and installed for the lower (enclosed) part of the patio. Now all I need to do is get the upper part screened in, and build a door. Some months ago, I bought a neat light fixture at Lowe's for 5 bucks from a clearance table. I'll install it over the door - or where there will eventually be a door! As usual, I took a few photos of my latest progress. Click the title link above, or just click July 2007 to the left (if you are on my website).

I've been very busy at work the last few days, for some reason. It's odd. Sometimes you'll go for several days with hardly any calls at all. All the techs will be beeping each other on the Nextel, "Hey, Rod, got any calls I can take for you?" Then all of a sudden, things will just explode, and everyone will be beeping each other asking for help. I've tried for years to figure out what influences these ups and downs, but I haven't come up with any answers as yet. Maybe I should pay more attention to the phase of the moon. Perhaps all the craziness happens under a full moon. The police and paramedics seem so agree things get a little nuttier under a full moon.

I almost forgot to mention - the Mail Owl paid us a visit Friday with a nice little package from Border's. Hmmm. What could it possibly be? Looks like a book - one people are camping out overnight for. Yep. It's Harry! Yeah, that Harry! We are now the proud owners of a first edition of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. We just have to restrain our muggle selves from reading any of it until we get the rest of the books.

Well, I'm going to take it easy the rest of the evening, and maybe create some art. Or something.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back in Business

Well, I've got everything pretty well back in shape again. I guess that's not too bad - from complete disaster to bck in business in two days. I've got a couple things still to install (my FTP client is one I just remembered), but otherwise all is well at the Rod's Lair Computer Room again. You can rest assured I'll never try that experiment again (see yesterday's post for what I tried).

I did leave a couple of posts on the Microsoft TechNet user's forum. I got a few replies on one of them, but very little useful information. Mainly I got questions like :"Why screw with it if it's working?" and "were the drives jumpered properly?" Both questions were answered in the original post if they would have actually read it... Oh, well....

I think what I'm going to do is get one of those EZ-Swap cartridges for the D drive in the old GW700 with Win98. I can swap out drives in that machine (with it off, I know, I know), and not have a problem.

I connected the 250Gig USB drive today (to the XP machine, that is), and it works great! I have everything on the D drive, everything from a second USB external drive, and all the useful leftovers from the previous load on the C drive backed up on it, and it's not even a quarter full. This will be great for backing up stuff like our digital photos.

One thing that pretty much saved my life this time was the "Recovery Kit" I put together after the last crash in May. Having all the documentation, driver CDs, and application CDs in one place made it a lot smoother and faster. That's why it took only 2 days instead of a week!

Now, I can pick up where I left off!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Computers Suck.... Sometimes

It’s been an "interesting" few days. Note that I am attempting to be polite.

This is going to be a long post, so consider yourselves warned.

Over the last weekend, I did manage to get the website updated with the new graphics and color scheme. I’ve used a lot of saturated colors in the past; I decided to tone it down a little bit this time. I think it will be a little easier to read, and I hope you like it.

The weekend was – amazingly – fairly peaceful. No little emergencies at all. It was nice. It was also too short.

Then Monday hit, and it is that tale that I’m about to expound on.

I am now in the process of recovering from my second major computer crash in three months. This is getting old….

Monday evening, I had no sooner arrived home when the phone rang. It was my Dad. He’s been having a lot of computer problems lately, so I figured it was one of his computers misbehaving. It turned out that he had bought a new HP C4280 printer/scanner for the upstairs computer, and was having some difficulty installing it. I ate my supper, and headed over to help. "It should take about 30 minutes," I thought. There I go thinking again.

I sat down at his computer, and – following HP’s clear, concise instructions, began the installation process. After 20 minutes or so, the installation progress bar made it to the 6/8 (six out of eight modules) position, and just sat there. And sat. And sat. For another 15 minutes, it hung at the same place. I finally gave the keyboard the three-finger salute (ctrl-alt-delete) and stopped the process. I unplugged the USB cable as instructed by HP, and the "Installation Error Troubleshooter" began its highly effective work. It started Internet Explorer, logged onto HP’s site, and promptly informed us that "There is no solution for this problem at this time…" Why, thank you, HP, for that helpful little bit of useless information!

For the next two hours I tried every trick I could think of, but the HP installation software thwarted my best efforts. Upon my enthusiastic recommendations, my dad decided to take the HP back to Best Buy, and get a Canon. I headed back home vowing never to buy another HP printer.

My evening went downhill from this point.

Last week, I finally decided to decommission my old 550mhz Gateway piece of crap. As part of the "Gateway For All" program, this was my "gift" for working for that miserable company for 8 years. I recently reformatted and reloaded this machine with Win-98SE just as a standby. It worked great for about a month, then started throwing all kinds of errors and blue screens when it booted up. It would sometimes take 4 or 5 restarts before the idiot thing settled down. I finally got tired of fighting with it, and disassembled it. It had two hard drives, and I wanted to try to recover some of the data from the D drive.

My AMD 3ghz Win-XP machine is equipped with EZ-Swap hard drive enclosures for both the C and D drives. In my naïve ignorance, I decided it would be an easy task to pull the D drive cassette, and put the other D drive in it, and bring it up on the XP machine so I could just pull the data off of it. Simple. Silly little me.

When I booted up the computer, it just threw a candy-coated pissy-fit! It threw up an error screen about this file and that file being damaged, and to use the "repair" feature on the XP CD. Then it threw up another screen offering several choices: safe mode, safe mode with network, command prompt, revert to last known working configuration, start normally, kick me in the butt, throw me off a cliff or tall building, eat my shorts, etc, etc, etc.

Oh, crap!

I shut down, took that drive out, and put the original D drive back in. Booted up; same crap. After choosing "last known working configuration," it booted up, and seemed like it was going to work, until I decided to open Outlook to check my e-mail. It immediately threw another hissy-fit, and opened a blue-screen-of-death full of the usual highly useful information: "Module 0010010038576.jpd.fhr.pdq encountered an error in location The program cannot continue. There has been an error. Insert your Widows XP installation disk, press "r" and sacrifice a small mammal to the computer gods while invoking the name of Bill Gates…"

Thank you, Windows, for that very useful insight.

After trying to regain control until nearly midnight – without success – I finally shut down and went to bed. I dreamed about flinging computers off the edge of the Grand Canyon. I got arrested by Rangers for polluting the canyon.

Tonight – Tuesday – I tried again to bring the XP machine back to life. It wouldn’t even complete the boot process. It just stopped at the choices screen, and no matter which choice I made, it simply shut down, rebooted, and stopped at the same place. I tried what Microsoft laughingly calls the "repair" feature on the XP CD. Using this feature was almost as effective as bailing water out of the Titanic with a coffee cup. Useless. Pathetic.

I finally gave up, and just ran the installation procedure for a fresh load. After about an hour’s nail-biting, the computer seems to be OK again. All my vital data is intact, but of course, now I’m in for a week of reinstalling all the drivers, updates, printers, scanners, and software. Just when I had everything working the way I wanted it – after the last crash in May – I’ve got to start all over again. So be it. But all this leaves me with one question:

Is Windows XP so freaking lame you can’t even swap out the D drive without a major disaster? This is incredibly stupid. I could swap D drives all day with Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows 2000, hell, I could even do it with Windows 3.1. Is XP really that LAME?? WTF?? Is Vista this lame, too? What gives? Have I missed something about XP (likely)? I know some folks (like my dad) consider me a "computer expert"). I consider myself a fairly experienced user with enough knowledge to be dangerous. If anyone out there can shed any light on this issue, I’m all ears – or eyes, actually. Please – enlighten me.

In the meantime, I just blew 80 bucks on a 250GB external USB drive, which will soon become the caretaker of a whole bunch of stuff I don’t want to lose (like my photos) next time this piece of junk decides to freak out.

You know, somewhere in the dim recesses of what’s left of my mind, I can recall someone spouting forth a bunch of hyperbole about how computers were going to improve our lives, and be a lot of fun. Right. That’s why I feel like I’ve been dragged under a train for the last few days.

By the way, today my dad took the HP back, and bought a Canon Pixma 600. It took a little over a half hour to install it with no issues at all. HP makes good little printers, but they need to do something with the software end of things. I’ll sure never buy another HP printer.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some Good Stuff....


It's been a long, busy day, but a good day. This morning before the service meeting, Stan called me into his office. He asked how I was doing, and I said "I'm surviving pretty well." He said, "Well, this should help you survive a little better.." and handed me a document detailing...... a RAISE! Yes! My second raise of the year! That definitely got the day off to a good start.

Then in the meeting, the regional manager had some very good things to say about our branch's performance. Things are looking very good indeed as far as work is concerned. Sometimes it's a little hard to deal with whiny, demanding customers, but this certainly makes the job a little easier.

It was a bit of a long day today. In addition to starting out early to be on time for the meeting, I ended up going out to Overland Park to help another tech, and we ran a bit late getting away. It was nearly 6:00 PM by the time I got home.

I called Tiger about the defective power supply tonight. The representative I spoke with didn't give me any nonsense, and gave me an RMA number to send it back. He gave me a choice of a refund or exchange. I decided on a refund, and will just pick up a power supply locally over the weekend. I will continue to do business with Tiger, though. They definitely treat you right in my book.

I've completed combining the Latest News and Rod's Rants sections into one section this evening, and implemented a new color scheme. It's looking good if I do say so myself. It hasn't been uploaded, yet, and probably won't be until I get the rest of the work done on the website that I want to do. The color scheme will be toned down somewhat, and I think it will be easier to read. Now, I just need to get my new splash graphic Faery Girl (you'll like her) finished. Hopefully I'll have time this weekend in between all the other stuff that keeps me hopping.

And now it's - once again - time to "hop" into bed.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time and Computer Frustrations

Well, it was a pretty frustrating few hours this evening. I ordered a 500W power supply from Tiger for my dad’s ailing computer, and went over to install it. What should have been a half-hour job turned into a three-hour marathon of frustration – just what I need after a full day of battling copiers.

I’ve had real good luck with most of the things I’ve ordered from Tiger, and this power supply was rated very highly. However, in addition to just plain not working, one of the drive connectors fell off the wires, and the 12-volt 4-pin connector was keyed completely wrong! Needless to say this piece of crap is going back to Tiger. With the limited time I have anymore, I don’t appreciate it being wasted by products that don’t work right out of the box. I’m waiting until tomorrow night to call Tiger. I’m just too pissed off to call tonight.

Moving right along, I’m going to be making a few more changes in the website soon, in the few moments a week I get to actually work on it. One major change that will happen in the next few days will be the combination of the Latest News and Rod’s Rag into one section. I’ll probably do a little work on that tonight. I probably won’t get too far, though. I have to get my goofy butt to bed a little early since we are having a service meeting tomorrow morning. I can’t imagine how much “the numbers” have changed since last Thursday, but I suppose I’ll find out. Then it’s another busy day tomorrow. I’ve already got three calls lined up for after the meeting.

For now, it’s time for a Frappuccino (I really should buy stock in Starbucks), a little relaxation, then off to bed.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday's Update

This is mostly an experimental post using the e-mail posting feature.

I'm going to be posting a special offer on the Playboy back issues on the
website; hopefully tonight. As soon as I finish up my paperwork from work
today, I'll do a little more work on that part of the site.

It was a hot one today! That's pretty normal for July in Kansas City,


Monday, July 16, 2007

Mid July Update

Here it is, another Monday. I haven’t posted anything lately; mainly because there’s just not a lot to post. Between my job and all the “little emergencies” that seem to crop up every two or three days, I just don’t have a lot of time to do interesting things much anymore.

Most of my life these days is, frankly, pretty boring. Get up, go to work, come home, mess with the computer for a couple hours, go to bed. Get up, go to work, come home, handle tonight’s “little emergency,” go to bed. And on, and on. It’s beginning to suck.

Well, enough of my whining. I’m working on a new splash graphic for the website, and I’ll be redecorating, again. I’m looking at a few more changes, as well. I’m not quite sure yet what I’ll end up doing with the Playboy Back Issues section. It’s been months since anyone has ordered anything. I’ve had a few e-mails asking questions that are already answered on the Back Issues page, but nothing beyond that. I’d like to get rid of all the remaining issues, so if you want to make an offer, drop me a line. Just keep in mind, I’m not going to just give them away.

I’ve posted a photo above of my garden out back by my telephone pole. The caladiums are sure looking good! Once the marigolds and 4 o’ clocks start blooming, there should be lots of color out there.

We’re starting to move into the dog-days of summer, now. Mid-July in the Midwest – lots of humidity, and temps in the high 90s. I’m thankful that at least I have air conditioning in the van this year. Driving all summer in that Kia with no AC last year damn near did me in!

Well, that’s about it for tonight. I’m hoping we can go see the new Harry Potter flick in the next few days. From what I’ve seen on TV, it looks like it ought to be pretty good.
Stay Cool!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another Month Arrives...

Well, here it is, another month, already! June sure went by in a hurry! I guess when you’re busy as hell all the time, tempus really fugits.

I had a nice break from work in the middle of the week for Independence Day. We had thought about maybe finding someplace to enjoy photographing one of the many fireworks displays around the KC area, but it didn’t happen. Maybe next year. We had a semi-relaxing 4th; it was nice having that little break in the middle of the week. I think I’ll petition Congress to make that a national law – a mid-week day off, with pay of course. I’m sure Corporate America will go for that!

I did get the Caravan taken care of Monday. The squealing was – as I expected – the wear indicator on the brake pads. I waved goodbye to another $174 for that little issue. Actually, I was expecting a lot more. I always try to overestimate car repairs; that way when they announce the price, and it’s less, it’s somehow a little less painful.

Speaking of painful….. Somehow, in my clumsiness, I managed to ram my right foot into one of my filing cabinets yesterday. The three smallest toes are now a lovely combination of purples and blues right now. I’m currently hobbling around like Chester on the old “Gunsmoke” TV western. The pain is starting to subside, now, so a couple more days ought to do. Guess I should stop trying to kick these old Gateway junkers!

I’m once again working on some new graphics for the website, and will be making a few more changes soon.

Thanks for dropping by!