Monday, March 24, 2008

News Update - Monday

Today, so far at least, is a welcome fresh breeze of calm and tranquility. Of course, now that I've said that, it's likely that all hell will break loose shortly. I hope not.

The weekend was - as usual anymore - busy, busy, busy. We had a rather hectic day Saturday with Comcast out for the nine millionth time to try to get our cable working right. I have to laugh every time I see one of their ads with that girl blathering on about how great it is to have Comcast's cable, phone, and broadband all in one package. Yeah, great. We couldn't watch TV, get on the Internet, or call anyone to come fix it. Just great, Comcast. Thanks, but I think I'll stick with AT&T and my DSL.

I finally got a little time to update the News section, and add the News Page for March. Click the link on the left to read the synopsis for March. If you are not on my website reading this, and consequently wondering what the heck I'm talking about, just click the title link above, and it will become clear.

The new computer is up and running nicely. I had a few problems during assembly, but that was due mostly to my frame of mind not being the best due to all the recent crises in the family. I probably should have picked a different time to try to assemble a computer, but no matter - it's done and working fine.

I'm hoping to eke enough time out of the chaos that I refer to as my life to get a lot of things done this spring and summer. I'm hoping to have a garage sale in the not-too-distant future - April or May. It will most likely be May, because I'll probably have to have cataract surgery on my left eye pretty soon.

Well, enough of my rambling for now. I'll have more soon - hopefully more fun and less chaos and tragedy.


Monday, March 10, 2008

March - In Like a Lion

This has been the most chaotic, gut wrenching, stressful month. And it’s only 10 days old.

Saturday, we laid my step-mom to rest, and that’s always a heartbreaking thing to do. My dad is doing OK, although he’s finding the loneliness hard to deal with, just like Jo’s mom did, and still does. I’m hoping I can get him re-started with his genealogy research again. It will help keep his mind busy, and it’s something we can work on together if things ever calm down.

As time has allowed, I’ve been assembling the new computer, but it’s been more difficult than I had anticipated. I got everything assembled, then it dawned on me that this system needed a video card, since there was no integrated video on the motherboard. I picked up a decent NVIDIA card at Microcenter Sunday, and put it in the new computer. With everything ready, I powered it on. NOTHING!! The lights and fans came on, but there was no video, and no indication that anything was happening. No beeps, no disk activity, nothing. I was not pleased.

After calming down a bit, I took everything out of the case, and re-assembled it carefully. This time, it worked. I don’t know what the heck I did, but it worked. I must have not grounded something properly, or not tightened a certain set of screws tight enough; I don’t know. All I know is it’s working now.

Then I tried to set up the hard drives using Western Digital’s CD they include with the drives. It booted to the CD, tried to recognize the drives, then stopped, and did nothing further. Damn. Now what? After perusing WD’s website, I found some documentation that indicated WD doesn’t recommend using the CD to install the drives if you are going to use Windows XP. They say to just use Windows XP install to set up the boot drive. It took about 2 hours for Windows to format the drive, but it worked. I was able to install the second hard drive in Window’s disk management. Again, it took a couple hours, but these are 320-gig drives. Hopefully, throughout the week, I’ll be able to get everything else installed – drivers, updates and so on. Then on to the software. Sheesh.

Then today, I got an email from PayPal indicating a debit card purchase for $29.99 from some outfit called Digital River. I hadn’t purchased anything with my PayPal card recently, so naturally, I panicked. I thought some low-life, green-toothed hacker had somehow hacked into my PayPal and was fixing to furnish his yacht at my expense. I immediately deactivated my card, and transferred all remaining balance from my PayPal account to my bank account. I then shot a rather indignant email to Digital River. They responded and said they did not handle customer issues with Computer Associates. So THAT’S who it was! About that time, an email came in from CA informing me that they had automatically billed my card for renewal. I did buy CA’s Anti-Spam package last year, but I do not recall authorizing them to automatically renew.

I got on CA’s website, and found a toll-free number. After waiting about 15 minutes on hold, I ended up speaking to some hoser with a heavy middle-eastern accent. Why do all these companies outsource to the Middle East?? Why do we support those people? 99% of them would just as soon see us all dead. Anyway, I told him I had not authorized the automatic renewal, which he debated, of course. I then rather emphatically told him to cancel the order and refund the money, which he did. At least he says he did. It will take 7 to 10 days to “process” the refund, and have it show up in my account. If it doesn’t I guess I’ll just have to get the cruise missiles ready.

Now, I’ve got to apply for a new PayPal debit card, and transfer the money back. Sometimes I wonder if all this Internet / Computer “convenience” is worth it.

I’ll have some photos of the new system soon.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New Computer Coming Soon

Well, the new barebone system arrived today. This thing is going to be an industrial strength smokin' beast! I've begun construction this evening, but I'm not going to rush this one. I'm checking everything twice (at least), and taking it slow and easy. I want everything to be perfect.

I have the motherboard and power supply mounted, and the DVD/RW drive is mounted in the case. I'm using an old floppy drive I pulled from another system; the only "off the shelf" bit of hardware in this machine. I've taken the bezel off the front of the drive, cleaned and lightly sanded it, and applied several coats of black paint to match the rest of the case. I'll put the drive back together tomorrow night. I don't have a lot of uses for a 3.5 inch floppy anymore, but I'm putting one in just in case. I still have a few floppy disks laying around.

This case has two places for 120mm fans, so I'll pick up a couple fans at Microcenter tomorrow, or over the weekend. The front fan will draw air directly over the hard drive cage which will be home for two 320-gig drives. This case has a clear side, so I think I'll put an illuminated fan in the rear fan mount. It's gotta look cool, ya know.

I'll be adding some photos to the March News (which I hope to create this weekend after the funeral), and a step-by-step description of the construction.

I got an email today from a lady that did some modeling for me about 12 years ago. She's getting married in August, and wants me to do the wedding photos. She's buying my Budget Package. I may post a link to my wedding prices shortly, in case anyone else would like to have me shoot their wedding. My prices are quite reasonable. Stay tuned.

Saturday is the funeral for my step-mom. I hope it's the last one for many, many, many years. I'm tired of funerals. I'm tired of saying good-bye to loved ones. But I guess it's part of life - albeit a painful part. But I'm ready to take a break from it for a while.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Another Quick Late-Night Update

Just a few quick notes tonight....

The funeral is set for Saturday. I'll be one of the pall-bearers, as I have for the last several funerals I've attended. Over the last few years, I've had to help carry far too many friends and family members on thier final journey. I hope I can take a break from it for a few years.

Things have been really stressful the last couple of weeks. In addition to the family crises, it's been nuts at work. The tech that works downtown is gone for a week of training, so I'm getting all his calls - downtown - as well as my own.

The new computer kit should be here Thursday. UPS tried to deliver it today, but with Jo in helping her mom, there was no one to sign for it. She's back home tonight, so they will deliver it tomorrow. I picked up a USB keyboard for 15 bucks yesterday to see if it would work on this goofy AMD machine. It works fine, but as always when I think of a way around a problem, fate has a way of defeating my work-arounds. Now, the wireless mouse doesn't work. The mouse that came with my Wacom tablet does work, but I don't like it as well. You have to keep it within the 4 X 5 inch tablet area. I'm used to using as much table top as I need. But it will suffice until I get the new machine up and running.

The new computer will run at 2.8 ghz, will have 2 gigs of RAM, two 320-gig drives, XP-Pro, and of course a double-layer CD/DVD burner. And that's just the start. I'll be adding more goodies as we go along. My overall goal is to have two good systems and get rid of all this halfway-working junk. I'll probably get a Powerspec system from Microcenter a little later on. It will run Vista and will have 2-gigs of RAM, and a 320-gig HD.

Now, it's time for me to get my fool butt to bed.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

What am I Doing Wrong??

Now, in addition to everything else going on in my life (or what’s left of it), my stereo that I bought less than a year ago just shot craps, and now this idiot computer is starting to act stupid again. It drops the keyboard after a while, and the only way to get it back is to shut down and reboot. What the hell am I doing wrong??

I have ordered my new computer (barebone kit) from Tiger, so hopefully I'll have a fully functional computer again soon.

Another Farewell...

This will be a short, sad post.

This morning my step-mom Margaret passed away. She had stopped breathing, and the nursing home had called the paramedics. They were doing CPR as they left the nursing home, but to no avail. She passed away on the way to the hospital. My dad is doing ok for the moment, but it’s going to be a tough week. For all of us.

Jo’s mom is doing better. She was released from the hospital Friday, and was even able to go to a birthday party in Olathe for her and little Josh, her great-grandson.

Someday, maybe I can post something happy here. I’m sure getting tired of this never-ending tragedy in the family.