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.

Maybe we need to go back to an icebox.

Product Image 1We’ve been having a bit of a time replacing our refrigerator.  And it only got worse yesterday.

A little back story to start..

On July 2, all of a sudden our venerable Kenmore refrigerator died.  It was one of the older workhorses, it was here when we moved in, in November of 2000. Apparently at that time it was already 10 years old, and managed to work for a further 18 years before finally chilling its last ice cube.  Consequently, for the last week the wife and I have been living out of a cooler.  No frozen food, lots of make-do dinners, eating out and so on. Despite this hardship, we still were able to host guests over the weekend, but were expecting to have a new appliance delivered at mid-week and things would be hunky-dory again.  The day after it went belly up, my wife and I were shopping online, and discovering (again) that a major holiday (USA) is a bad time to lose an appliance.  Generally it takes awhile for any retailer to get a delivery going and to you, unless you happen to have the means to get the appliance from the store to your place.  After measuring, re-measuring and measuring again the old fridge, we were shopping online and finding that with a limited space, there are only so many newer models that fit our needs, and we were at best going to have to go with a smaller internal sized unit than was originally in the space.  After having gone through a fair number of hoops, we managed to find a good deal through JC Penney (of all places!) placed our order and were informed that it would be delivered the following Wednesday, July 11.

Except that it wasn’t to be.

We had been informed that we would get a call from the delivery people on the day before (July 10) and no such phone call arrived.  When we called them at 7pm last night, we had to go through the usual runaround of automated systems and weren’t having much luck.  Finally, calling customer service struck pay dirt.  Sort of.  The customer service rep informed us that for some reason when we made the initial purchase through the JC Penney website, the payment was declined.  The woman further insisted that JCP had informed us of that, by a phone call as well as an e-mail, but when we checked our respective end, no such communication existed.  Furthermore, our payment was being listed as ‘Pending’ on the payment processor site, so there didn’t seem to be anything wrong on our end, but JCP was adamant that it wasn’t their problem and the refrigerator was NOT going to be delivered tomorrow.  As a matter of fact, even if the payment had been correctly processed, it wasn’t likely that it would be delivered for …another 2-3 WEEKS.  Holy fuck!  On JCP’s website, the order was there, plain as day, except that it was still listing delivery as happening on the 11th.  When asked why that was, the CS rep didn’t have an answer.  She sort of hemmed and hawed about it being a ‘glitch’ in their system and it wasn’t something that she was well versed in.  So we’ve been sitting here for the better part of a week, living out of a cooler and blowing $5-10 every 2-3 days on ice expecting to get something that we’re not going to be getting.  Needless to say, both the wife and I were extremely upset at the conclusion of that phone call.  So much so, the wife is going to be writing to the CEO of JCP and letting them know of her displeasure with their company and policies.

Bottom line, we’re back to square one.  We went back to the Lowes.com website and found a refrigerator that fit the dimensions that we needed and ordered it.  Except that it’s not going to be able to be delivered until July 25.  If we’d gone with Lowes last Tuesday, then we would have had it in the house this past Monday.  I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it!

I’m beginning to think it was easier when one had a large chunk of ice in the bottom of the icebox.  Literally.

Update: It’s now nearly midnight on July 12-13. On Wednesday we decided to get a dorm sized fridge to ‘get us through’ until July 25. While we were at the place looking at it, I just happened to look at some of the other refrigerators they had and voila! They had the one we’d been looking at. Though it was in White only, not Black or any other color. BUT, they were able to deliver it Friday AND haul away the old one for free. So guess what we decided to do? Yup. It’s due to be delivered in 10 hours. The wife just came downstairs to haul me up to bed. So I’m going. Hopefully, no more updates of a negative nature on this post!

Kickstarter

I’ve been supporting people who have projects of Kickstarter for the last 6 years or so.  If it’s new, or piques my fancy, I’ll probably have a few bucks in it.  Some things work out, others don’t.  I’ve put my money into an innovative ice cream shop in Cannondale, Colorado (bust, they didn’t stay in business for more than a month) supported several indie films and have gotten in on several cutting edge (at the time) technological projects you may or may not have heard of; (Hudly, Beastgrip, SELFly, SideKick) several books, and even a fellow in NH who had the desire to turn part of his farm into a humane slaughterhouse and butcher shop.  (As for this one, it’s been 6 years, but they just got their certification through the USDA, so they may be able to ship out-of-state by this fall.)

With crowdsourcing, it’s very hit and miss.  At least it used to be.  Nowadays, a lot of the projects you see on the site are going to be completed, only because the people who do them have seen what occurs when their predecessors failed, and sometimes failed spectacularly.  When you gain several million dollars (US) for a project and then fail to deliver, your backers can get quite boisterous.  And downright nasty.  A lot of these backers fail to remember they’re for the most part investing in an idea, not necessarily a full-blown product.  So there are going to be issues with production and unforseen mishaps along the way.  Mishaps mostly cost money.  You may have a widget that you’re wanting to bring to market, you do your due diligence, do your research, find a manufacturer, the right components and all that, and the first run fails for some unforseen reason.  Now you might have enough money to make the run again, or you might have just blown through your capital and don’t have enough left to finish the project.  Now you have backers that are expecting the product you promised.

I just received in the mail yesterday something called a Hudly.  It’s a Heads Up Display, a lot like what you might see in a fighter jet, except it’s for your car.  We all use our phones in our vehicles, even to the point of what might be construed (depending on your locality) as illegal activities (texting, talking on the phone, or looking at the screen for directions instead of looking at the road).  The Hudly gadget eliminates the need for looking down at your phone because it mirrors what’s on the screen and displays it on a see through screen that sits on your dashboard.  Neat, right?  Too, it sits on your dashboard unobtrusively, and it’s powered by the cigarette lighter/12v aux socket.  Since very few vehicles anymore have a cigarette lighters in them, they have multiple aux sockets (my own 2016 Ford Edge has 4!) it’s relatively simple to power this contraption.  About the only thing you need to worry about it has to drape the power cord so it doesn’t get in the way of all the other doodads on your console.  With a few cord directors (that come standard) you can fix that relatively easily.

As of this writing, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.  But I hope it will become a good investment, and not just another piece of technology that ends up sitting gathering dust.  Time will tell.  Though I expect I’ll continue supporting other Kickstarter campaigns that interest me.

Change of the Guard

Warning: Geek talk ahead.

It’s been about 3 years, it’s time for a change.  No, not that sort.  This is more technical.  About every 2-3 years I change the identity of my SSIDs and the passwords that go along with them. For WiFi access to my home network.  Since I have older equipment that runs on the 2.4 GHz band as well as the 802.11g frequency, I have a dual band router.  But both SSIDs are visible to the neighborhood as well as to anyone that might be passing by or visiting.  I can’t have something completely technical, but it has to be me as well, so about every 2-3 years I change the names.  I’ve gone through my Harry Potter phase (2.4 was Dumbledore and 5.0 was Hogwarts); most recently I did my Greek God phase, where the 2.4 band was Hephaestus (the God of fire & metalworking [there, my geeky/kinky fetish for metal]) and the 5.0 band was Ares (God of War).

Generally I leave the guest accounts alone.  I honestly think they’re good choices (2.4 is GuestOfUs & the 5.0 band is StrangeWomenLivinginPonds).  If you can figure out why the 5.0 band is named the way it is, well, I’ll be more than happy to offer you a coconut.

Of course when you do a change of this magnitude, there are going to be hiccups.  Especially when you don’t mention to the wife that you’re tweaking the home network.  About an hour after I had switched everything over, she tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that she had been unable to access the home WiFi for the last 45 minutes.  Oops.  When I told her what I had done, I got an eye roll and the offending bit of technology, since it’s my job to ‘fix’ things when they’re broken.  Or borked.  Once I put in the new info, changed the password and handed it back, all was well again.  Until this morning, when I had to change her tablet’s info.  Of course, this reminded me that I needed to change the house repeater, which was still set on the old network info, so the wrong SSIDs were being broadcast upstairs, essentially blacking out that part of the house.  A few other things that also communicate with the router need to be changed, but I’m getting to them as needed.  I’ve almost gotten the 5.0 SSIDs password memorized, since that’s the one I’ve been using most often.

At the very least, I won’t have to revisit this for another 2 years or so.  Not sure what I’m going to use at that time for identfiers.  Probably Avengers.  Fwiw, I do the same thing with my hard drive names.  At the present time, they’re all CS Lewis characters from the Narnian book series.  Told you I was a geek.  Yes, and a dork, thank you for reminding me, pet.