My nightcap

It could be said that I’m starting to lose my hair.  To be more accurate, I’ve been (over time) losing my hair probably for the past 20 years.  I used to tease a former store manager because he has a bald spot and I started to notice it around 1995.  23 years later, my own bald spot far and away outstrips his.  So much so, at night I’ve been feeling a bit of a breeze on my pate, and it’s been keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep more than once.

A couple of years ago, the wife asked me (as she always does this time of year) what I wanted for Christmas.  I’ve never been the sort that liked accepting Christmas presents, even when I was little, it was a chore to tell my parents what I wanted.  For the most part, my mother had to watch me carefully, see what interested me and then extrapolate from what she had learned what my wish list was.  I just never really go out and away and talk about it.  So, my wife inherited that problem.  Even so, she’s managed ok, with some rather weird exceptions. (Naturally talking about the 1960s model Batmobile, the Quidditch set, and the teddy bear she got me last year)

2 years ago, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I’d been bothered by the breeze on my scalp and had been looking at websites that sold nightcaps.  Obviously I didn’t want an overly festive one, or one that was too sparkly, or had a big pom-pom etc, I wanted something that was subdued, useful and not gaudy at all.  Come Christmas morning, I opened a package and was happily presented with a dark blue night-cap.  I actually discovered it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to use.  I have sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP for the last 19 years.  The mask that I use is a bit unwieldy, and when one attempts to wear a night-cap as well, it makes for a little bit of an uncomfortable night.  Almost too much headgear to get a good night’s sleep.

So, for the past 2 years I’ve used the night-cap off and on.  For a time it ended up underneath the bed, and I only discovered it because we were needing to vacuum under the bed, and I stumbled upon it.  I had placed it next to my clock radio, and again forgotten about it.  I found it again last night, since the night before, my head was unusually cold and I thought about it again.  I suppose I was tired enough last night, that the whole headgear and night cap problem basically resolved itself and I slept pretty well…not to mention my head wasn’t cold!  So, it worked!  Just have to make it two for two.

Good night!

Recycled Nostalgia

I have a hard time throwing out things.  Especially if they can be fixed.  Or at least if I think they can be fixed.  Consequently, I tend to have a lot of items in the house that are in the process of being fixed.  Or if someone I know has something they’re considering discarding, I’ve been known to ask if I can have it.

For example:  My department manager at work has a tendency to throw out things if they don’t work when he wants them to.  He’s been known to throw away computers and buy new ones, rather than have them fixed.  I know…I know.  WTF?  Fortunately, he doesn’t do his banking online or anything of that nature, but if someone was to mine his various hard drives, there would be a good amount of info in the browsing history, if nothing else.  But try as I might to impress upon him the need to be more careful, he does what he pleases in that regard.

Last week he informed me that he was trying to use his nostalgic stereo console that he’d purchased a couple of years ago, but the turntable wasn’t moving at the right speed.  So instead of having it fixed, he went to the local Kohls and purchased a new one.  Which meant, what to do with the old one?  His solution was predictable, he was going to pitch it.  Throw the whole thing away because one component wasn’t working (the CD player/recorder, radio and cassette player worked just fine btw).  I asked if he’d be willing to give it to me instead.  He was more than happy to do so.

So on Sunday, he presented me with his old stereo.  I brought it home, looked up the manual online and managed to repair it in about an hour.  So now I have a really neat looking stereo and it didn’t cost me a thing!  I’m pretty stoked.

nostalgia

Music of the season

I love Christmas music.  Always have.  When it comes to this time of year, I like to immerse myself in the music that I grew up with.  Yes, some of it is secular, and I’m an avowed (and sometimes proud) atheist, but it doesn’t make the music any less wonderful.  Just because I don’t agree with the story behind ‘Away in a Manager‘ doesn’t mean I won’t sing it lustfully loud in the shower (there are times it’s good that the wife is a bit deaf, I can sing as loud as I want in the next room and she can’t hear me!) regardless of the words or the meaning behind them.  The same goes for standards like ‘What Child is This?”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and others.  They’re music. They’re good singing music, and just as nice when you listen to them as much as you want to.  So there.

Even so, whoever decided that elevator music should include Christmas ballads needs to be hung up by their gonads and beat with a truncheon.  I can’t count how many good solid standards have been maligned or downright destroyed by a smattering of electronic sounds and a beat so fast that it completely destroys whatever intent that the originator of the music had in mind.  Too, when you play the same some 5 times in a 2 hour period, someone needs to have a little talk with the one that’s programming the playlist.

I use Spotify for my music nowadays.  It’s the most recent tool/program that I’ve come to, having utilized a cornucopia over the years. (Napster, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Pandora and a few others that I can’t remember right now)  I use the paid version, so there are no ads, and create playlists for my various electronic devices.  I like Spotify in that they at least give the creators of the music their deserved royalties, and yes while I have to pay $10/month for the use of the service, it’s a necessary and acceptable outlay.

In the last few years I’ve been reminiscing over some of the holiday music that my family played when we trimmed the tree, and kept the silence at bay during the holiday season.  During the 1970s, vinyl records were the norm, since CDs and MP3s were decades away from being invented, cassette tapes were just becoming available and 8-track tapes were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  When my mother was shopping at the local A&P (Atlantic & Pacific Co, in case you were wondering what the initials meant) she found a compilation album of Christmas music and bought it.  It was added to the playlist of albums that we used at that time of year and I fondly remember the music even now, 40 plus years later.  Somehow in the time of moving from one house to another, I lost that album, but I still have all the other albums that my family had, but rarely use a stereo (the one my family had is in storage) to listen to them.  With the advent of Bluetooth technology, I’ve been contemplating digging out the stereo, setting it up and connecting it via Bluetooth so I can control it remotely.  And of course using the stereo in the house for it’s intended purpose.  During the various moves from one house to another, I kept the speakers from our stereo, and within the last year bought a 40 watt amp and hooked them up to my 42″ LED tv in the den.  The speakers may be 40 years old, but they sound just as good as they did back then.  At least as much as I remember.

I did happen to find another copy of the aforementioned A&P album on eBay in case you were wondering.  When I get the turntable and stereo out of storage, get everything set up and acclimated, I hope it sounds just as good as it did back then.

ChristmasAlbum

Here we go again (computer rant)

Ugh, here we go again with computer problems. Everything has been going ok on thedesktop6 computer front over the last several weeks, so I suppose its high time for a computer problem to rear its ugly head again. I came downstairs Wednesday morning and tried to rouse my computer from its slumber (I’ve been putting it in ‘Sleep Mode’ instead of shutting it off when I’m done with it each time. I didn’t think this was going to cause a problem) and it started like it normally does, only to shut down after about 15 seconds. Upon rebooting, it did the same thing. “Oh great” I’m thinking to myself, “now what“? After letting it do this for a few minutes, I shut it down completely and let it sit for about 10 minutes, thinking that perhaps it needed to ‘cool off’ and I’d try it again. Welp, no difference, same result. It doesn’t even get to the point where I can actively access the BIOS, it reboots endlessly. I am working from my laptop again, trying to troubleshoot the problem remotely.

So far, according to various sources, it could be a number of things. Bad RAM (memory), although I think this highly unlikely because the memory has been in the tower since I built it. A bad or overworked power supply. Again, I don’t think this is the problem, simply because the power supply is a replacement, still practically new, and if anything it’s OVER powered, not under. Someone else with a similar problem suggested it might be a lack of thermal grease on the CPU, but since I purchased a new cooling fan for the CPU/motherboard, it came with its own thermal grease smeared on the underside of the heat sink. The other possibility is that the motherboard itself is shot. This might be possible, since it’s at least 5 years old, and it was present when the original power supply blew.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve tried several fixes, but nothing seems to work. I’ve gone so far as to disconnect all of the components that draw power, but when I go to turn on the computer, the same result. I really have a hard time believing that this is due to the power supply failing. I’d really rather not go to the expense of buying another PS, only to discover it was the motherboard all along.

Update: After a couple of frustrating days, I finally fixed the damn thing.  I was about to the point where I was going to purchase a new power supply, and hold onto the ‘old’ one when I found an obscure post from 2005 on a board that I frequent.  The person had the same exact problem that I did, and explained how he managed to fix it.  He removed the memory DIMMs (sticks) from their sockets and replaced them.  Just to be certain they were stuck in.  Once I did that and powered on the tower, it stayed running.  Crossing my fingers, I shut it off at the power button, put everything back together and carted it back to where my computer desk was.  Re-connected all the peripherals and voila!  It works.

Once I had it running, I made sure to back up the hard drive again, since it hasn’t been backing itself up over the last several days.  Made sure my email downloaded so it’s not cluttering up either the cloud or the mail server, and reveled in the wonder of being able to see on my 27″ monitor again.  Definitely not certain how long this is going to work, but it’s working for NOW.  A fact to which I’m grateful.  Now, on to other problems.

Danger, Will Robinson!

I got a wake up call the other day.  In the form of spam.  Though I should have expected something like it at least by now.  And in retrospect, it’s probably a good thing it arrived, as it got me thinking about security, which I’ve been rather lax in for at least the last several months, and even years.

Suffice it to say, it was one of those emails that gets your attention when you’re scanning through the inbox.  In the subject line, all it said was ‘account was hacked’.  So I clicked on it, and the body of the email certainly got my attention, which of course it was designed to.  It revealed essentially the password to one of my email accounts (accurately), and said that whoever it was that had sent me this, has/had been monitoring my account for the last few months, not to mention they’d supposedly accessed my webcam (at this point I determined it was unlikely, since I’d received zero information from my computer security portal suggesting there was anything amiss) and had been recording my doings from both without and within.

After that info, there was the kicker.  Send $700 USD to their Bitcoin account within 48 hours and they’d ‘delete’ whatever information they had, and everything would be just fine.  (Of course, there was the implied threat that if I chose to ignore it, my ‘friends and family’ would get an email with compromising information in it.)  At this juncture, I was ready to call their bluff, since too many factors about the email were not adding up.  The only thing that concerned me was that indeed they had gotten the password correct for the email account they’d referenced, which meant there was a security problem, though it was one I was well aware of, I’d just been rather lazy about doing something about it.

Consequently, I spent the next hour upgrading my security, changing passwords and making them MUCH more secure.  Whereas a lot of the email passwords were easy to hack and quite basic, mostly for the ease of entering them in over the years.  I went the distance and changed them to complex alphanumeric ones, that are far and away more secure.  I went ahead and upgraded some other things as well, and talked to the people who host my domains, to make them aware of what had transpired.  I was assured by them that their security measures are definitely what I’m paying for, so things on their end are and have been good to go.

Looking back on this, what these people are doing is certainly unethical, mean (and certainly probably illegal) but in a way they did me a favor, opening my eyes to the fact that in some ways I was kidding myself in terms of what I was calling security for some of my online activities.  I’ll certainly be more aware and cognizant in the future!

Full Circle

After dragging my old desktop out of purgatory and setting it up again for daily use, I was left to figure out what to do with the laptop I was no longer using.  My plan was to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Win10, but being me, I didn’t do anything with it for a couple of weeks to be sure how this ‘new’ desktop was going to work.  Fortunately, nothing seems to be going amiss with it, so last night I decided to finally bite the bullet and do the deed of getting rid of the old (after having backed up the old hard drive information) and starting anew.  One of the things I needed to do was get a program off the web called Magical Jelly Bean.  What it does is, if you can’t remember where you put the CD key for your Windows installation (and if you happened to not put the sticker that came on the box onto your computer) you can use this program to find it in the hardware of your machine.  It can also locate keys from other programs that you have installed on your computer, and even better it’s what’s called ‘freeware’, meaning that literally, it’s free, you don’t have to pay for it.  Which is pretty neat, I have to admit.

Using the bean program, I got my CD key information, took a deep breath and went to work.  Using the same flash drive that I’d used for reinstalling Windows on the desktop, I accessed the boot sector on the laptop and reinstalled Windows there too.  Oddly enough, this time it didn’t ask for my CD key, like it had with the desktop.  It just booted from the flash drive, installed the operating system without a hitch and rebooted again.  Cortana, the Microsoft Alexa type assistant, popped up and spoke to me about getting the computer set up.  Figuring ‘what the heck’, I used it and got the laptop set up pretty quickly.  After the last reboot I went into the software to check and sure enough it stated that Windows was registered.  I’m thinking that Win10 was able to detect the CD key information from the computer BIOS, so that it didn’t have to actually ask me for it.  So long as they’re satisfied that I purchased the software, I’m ok with it too.

My thought this morning was to possibly dual-boot the laptop for Win10 and Linux Ubuntu.  I’ve been meaning to try Linux again, but (as usual) have been a little lax with getting it done, and having a computer starting over from scratch, it will be a prime candidate for such an experiment.  It’s been a long time since Linux was using RedHat solely, I fiddled around with Ubuntu once before, but wasn’t really satisfied with it.  It’s worth it to see if I can get it to work now.

Out of mothballs

I’ve been having intermittent computer issues over the last several months.  It pretty much started when I discovered that my laptop wasn’t performing the way I needed it to, and I’ve always been lacking in storage on it anyway.  It came with a woefully undersized hard drive (100 gigs) and I’ve been backing it up and using an external 4 HDD enclosure in an attempt to keep the warnings about lack of space on the laptop at bay.  Have to admit, it hasn’t been working as well as I’d hoped.  Of course, were we to go back about 2 years ago, I would have been working on my desktop computer that I built myself, but I blew a power supply on that and then got lazy.  After purchasing a replacement, I didn’t just put everything back together, I let it sit and used the laptop in the interim.

About a month ago I got the brilliant idea of upgrading the hard drive on the laptop.  I figured it’d be a quick fix.  Get a 2 TB hard drive, back up the current small one, clone it to the new one, pop the top, drop it in and put everything back together.  Fire up the laptop, -bingbamboom- done.  Only….not so much.  After firing it up, there continued to be problems.  Plenty of space, but for whatever reason the laptop didn’t seem to like the new drive.  Granted the old one was a solid state (basically a bigger flash drive) and the new one was a HDD with moving parts, the whole nine yards.  Everything slowed to a crawl, it was nearly impossible to do anything, I was just having a hell of a time.

Walking through one of the bedrooms upstairs one morning, I tripped over the old desktop for the umpteenth time since I squirreled it away up there.  Then it hit me.  Why not just put that back together?  It had a new power supply, the processing chip was still good, and I’d been meaning to put Windows 10 (the 64 bit version) on it ever since I discovered only using 32 bit was allowing me to only use half of the memory it had on board.  Instead of buying a whole NEW computer (probably an outlay of $600-800) and having another tower et al cluttering up the house (the wife would thank me, surely) I’d resurrect the old beast and be back in business.

So, I went ahead with that plan.  Of course, being me it took a little while and more than a few headaches to accomplish.  As of this morning, it culminated with me having the old box slid under my computer desk, an older 15″ monitor in place of the 27″ widescreen I’ve been using for 3 years (they’re not communicating for some reason) and only about a tenth of the programs that I’ve counted on using on the laptop at any given time.  But it works!  And it’s speedy.  Boots up immediately, connects to the ‘Net and I can bring up a browser and don’t have to wait forever for things to come to me.  Bliss!  And it doesn’t even smell like mothballs.

[Update 8/16]  I swapped out an HDMI cable and now the widescreen monitor is working with the computer, and this afternoon I installed 2 120mm exhaust fans (LED purple…squee!) in the case for further cooling needs.  I’m rather surprised nothing has exploded while getting this whole thing going again.  But for the time being, I’m content.