Crash! Part 3

When last we left my not-so-trusty computer, nuked by a stupid virus, I had just F11’d the hard drive back to its (allegedly) pristine ‘factory condition’. This was done after making a backup on my new little external drive, bought just for this occasion.

That was the plan, anyway.

My first clue that things would not go as planned should have been the ‘format this before using’ instruction sheet, helpfully written in Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, German, Lithuanian, Swahili, Navaho, Nepalese, Papuan, Latin, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and pictures for those of us who speak English. My computer wouldn’t even boot Windows–how the heck was I supposed to format the new drive? I’m sure there’s some way to do that from the DOS command line, but that wasn’t covered in the English pictures. Not to mention I’m allergic to anything done in obscure monochrome abbreviations. I avoid as much as possible the “C>:” (or “C-prompt” for non-geeks–and no, it’s usually not prompt in its actions). It was bad enough going to the BIOS settings with its 1976 Pong-style graphics, but at least you get a little color there, and the programmers helpfully spell everything out, so long as you can speak 1337 computerese.

I followed the picture instructions to the letter. Or in this case, to the picture. After plugging in the hard drive, I was greeted with the question “Do you want to make a recovery backup of your files?” I said ‘not just yes, but heck yes!’ and pushed the appropriate button and waited for the backup. And waited. And waited. And waited. Once that was done, I hit F11, wiping the hard drive and loading from the recovery partition.

This was suspiciously easy.

I expected to jump through 18 million hoops and the obligatory “Do you want to wipe your hard drive?” “Are you sure you want to wipe your drive?” “Have you consulted HP, Microsoft, your loved ones, your friends, and the hackers’ forums before you considered this?” “This will destroy everything you’ve ever made, copied, downloaded (legally or illegally), and listened to in the last 500 years. Are you sure? Really sure?” “Really sure with whipped cream and a cherry on top?” “OK, we can now proceed with wiping the drive, even though we know there’s a simpler solution, but we’re not going to tell you, ha ha ha.” “There. All wiped. Are you happy now?”

I cheerfully plugged in the Maxtor, pulled up the copied files, and looked through the saved files. Only six files were there. Given that I have more than six games installed alone, not to mention all the other files, I was a tad suspicious that something was amiss.

The helpful Windows File Recovery Tool made some interesting choices in what it ‘recovered’ and copied. I found sample music from iTunes (but none of the music I’d loaded or downloaded). It copied some system files. My favorite was the Adobe PDF instruction manual, never mind the fact that all my actual documents, and Adobe PDF reader itself, were completely gone in electronic oblivion. Luckily, my trusty Hubby had bought a 5Gb card for the new camera, and I hadn’t erased the pictures from said card when I uploaded them to my computer. The Good Lord must have been watching out for me in that respect.

It took me about a week to re-install all my files, games, music from iTunes, Firefox bookmarks and extensions, and so forth. You’ve not lived through computer hell until you’ve had to deal with lost iTunes music or trying to remember all your passwords.

But wait, there’s more.

I discovered the hinge for the lid was cracking, and it was splitting from the screen along the side edge. So, I had to contact HP. And that’s yet another story.

It’s never a dull moment in my Geeky world….

CRASH! Part 2

If you’ve been along for the blog ride, you’ve already seen CRASH! Part 1, in which I described the Great Computer Crash. It was not pretty. It involved a virus taking out my winload.exe file, which pretty much means that unless you fix it, you now have a very expensive paperweight.

Well, after discovering that the recovery disk (that HP made me make because it wanted to save maybe 18 cents by not supplying one) did not work, I checked out the HP site for support. I hoped they would have an easy fix. Yes, I know that was probably a delusional thought, but one can always hope. After searching the site for some time, it appeared my only option was to buy a recovery disk at $10 (plus shipping and handling), because a missing winload.exe file now constituted a ‘problem’, and HP will sell the disk to you if you ‘have a problem’. I could also wait 7-10 business days for it to get delivered because I hate paying overnight charges. Well, that was entirely too long for this gaming Geeky Mom. I can be patient, but I’m not into suffering internet withdrawal.

Now, I could use the desktop, but that would involve kicking hubby off of his Oblivion game or the Terry Goodkind forum, neither of which he really wants. Sweet husband that he is, he would do it if he had to, but I didn’t want him to suffer withdrawal, too. The laptop was very considerate in the timing of its crash, and it broke down while Jimbo was at work so that I could use the desktop to look up possible solutions. How’s that for geeky–sitting at a desktop with the laptop on my lap at the same time.

Of course, fixing it meant going to the Lucasforums’ General Tech Discussion forum, which is a far more debonair-geek name than “Help Desk.” I figured if anyone would know how to solve this problem, it would be Trusty Friends stingerhs, Astrotoy7, ChAiNz.2da, or any of the other LF computer gurus. While waiting for their replies, I googled “winload.exe problem and my recovery disk won’t work”. Up popped an HP page on just how to solve the problem. Apparently, this page is so cleverly disguised that HP’s own search engine can’t find it. Maybe they should use Google.

So, how to fix the problem on my computer? Hit F11. That’s it. One stupid key stroke.

It gave me the option to back up my files. I chose that and drove over to Best Buy to pick up a portable external hard drive. I discovered an 80 Gb hard drive costs about the same as a 4 Gb flash drive. Apparently, the 4Gb on the flash drive are gold-plated or something to make it that expensive. Well, I got home, plugged it in, and saved the files to the external hard drive. I F11’d the viruses into oblivion as I reformatted the drive.

Then all I had left was to reload the saved files. Did that work? I’ll give you two choices, and the answer is not yes….

CRASH! Part 1

It finally happened. My computer crashed catastrophically.

I’ve owned a computer of some sort for 11 years, and used a computer in some way or another for the last 20 or so. However, I’ve never had a crash like this before. Sure, I’ve had the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) and black screens before, and I’ve had trouble with a bad sector or two on my older laptop. Still, I never had anything that required a complete hard drive reformat.

Until yesterday.

My computer had been acting a bit odd–Skype chat wouldn’t respond when I clicked it, and OpenOffice just sort of disappeared–the shortcuts suddenly pointed nowhere. It was like the computer when “Huh?” anytime I clicked those. This happened shortly after I removed a porn post from Lucasforums. Being a. a super-moderator, b. a mom, and c. totally anti-porn, it was my responsibility to protect the young impressionable minds at LF from raunchy abject crap. Yes, I know that the kids can see all the porn they want with just a click of a couple links, but that’s not the point. I am a Mom, and in the realm where I wield the Mighty Edit Button and Ban Stick, there shall be no Naked People.

So, there I was, checking out the new posts on the forum, when I saw a post in Italian. Since LF is English-only (I use the term very loosely in view of 1337- and IM-Speak), my internal Crap Detector ™ red-lined. Unfortunately, it over-shadowed the Mom Sense (also tm) which was telling me “There must be Naked People in that thread.” I have no clue how the Mom Sense developed. It just did. Many a teen has rued the day that Trusty Friend Rogue Nine cajoled me into the super-mod position, because it now meant they could no longer post their naughty pics and comments for any length of time before the Momerator caught it.

Well, I clicked on the thread. I saw a bunch of Italian links. My Italian is limited to “Buon Giorno!”, “Ciao!”, “Lorenzo di Medici”, “Cappuccino”, and a couple swear words my Italian step-mother taught me, which I shall not repeat here. The first five or ten links did not have any of those words, and unfortunately I did not read far enough down the long list. If I had, I would have seen ‘erotici’, which, while not part of my Italian vocabulary, is nevertheless equivalent to “Naked People” in Jae-world. I clicked a link. And promptly had my eyes assaulted with things I never wanted to learn. And undoubtedly picked up the charming little trojans that infected my computer.

A few days later, things on my computer started acting funny. A virus scan caught nothing. My spyware caught nothing. I went to C|Net’s site and downloaded a more aggressive malware detector (HijackThis), suspecting some invasive spyware. Sure enough, the two trojans showed up, hiding out in my HP games. Fortunately, I don’t play either computer Parcheesi or Sudoku on my computer. Why play those when I have Kotor, Kotor: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, and my newest game, Guild Wars? So, the viruses had not exploded and spread everywhere, and I deleted the games to get rid of them.

All appeared well, and Skype went back to acting normally. I went to bed after shutting down the laptop for the night, thinking life was good. Silly me. When I turned on the computer the next morning, Windows cheerfully informed me that it could not load. I asked it, not so cheerfully, why not. It, of course, just blinked blankly at me and asked me if I’d like to do a scan. I informed it that I would like it to actually start, but if a scan was required to do so, then I would jump through that hoop.

I waited patiently (or not) until it beeped and said it couldn’t find the system32\winload.exe file. This is Microsoft-speak for “You’re totally screwed.” Even I could figure out that if the program that loads Windows is corrupted, it is Not Good.

Using the desktop for a Google search, I learned that yes, a missing winload.exe file really does mean I was totally screwed and that I needed to load from the recovery disk, and so I pulled out the one I’d made shortly after I got the computer. HP, in its infinite wisdom (and no doubt the desire to save shareholders a fraction of a cent in costs) decided that it would not supply recovery disks for its users. You can copy the recovery files in a special partition to your own disk (which is easier said than done–HP doesn’t like it when you play around in the recovery partition). You can also buy recovery disks from HP for $10 (plus shipping and handling), but only if you have ‘a problem’. Can you check to see if your recovery disk actually works? Only if you want to reformat your hard drive. Needless to say, this isn’t one of HP’s better ideas.

Did my recovery disk work? I’ll give you two choices, and the answer is not ‘yes’….

Men, Women, and Computer Repairs

Jimbo and I are geeky enough to accomplish some of the simpler repairs and upgrades to our computer. No, we are not geeky enough to convert from Windows to Ubuntu (although we are geeky enough to know what that is) or read code, though I have picked up a book on basic HTML to figure out how to put the stupid Adsense code into the right place, since the directions here assume you have a Master’s degree in mind-reading. I’ve followed the instructions to the letter and the thing still won’t work. That’s a discussion for another day. 🙂

However, I have learned that men and women approach computer repairs very differently. My style:
1. Read all the instructions before starting.
2. Get all necessary items, including but not limited to appropriate tools, anti-static mat, anti-static wristband (you can’t have too much anti-static), a can of dust-off, and appropriate computer-repair music. For computer-repair music you have to have Enya, Yanni or something with zamfir flutes. It’s like Computer-Repair Valium for those times when you just want to beat the snot out of the computer because it’s not doing what you want it to do, and it’s laughing at you as it gives you the BSOD.
3. Consult the internet computer repair sites, and determine make, model number, size, shape, color, personality of the creator, as well as date, time (including seconds) and moon phase of manufacture of the part to be replaced so that you purchase the correct item the first time. I hate making multiple trips to a store, even if it is Best Buy.
4. Consult Consumer Reports to see if there are any articles on said item, and get its Reliability Data, even if I have absolutely no intention of doing anything different from our current course of action. I just feel better consulting it.
5. Consult and print off multiple online diagrams and articles on how to accomplish a repair, because I’ve discovered that nearly everyone has A Secret Tip. You can never have too many Secret Tips for tech repairs.
6. Find a safe place to put all screws that come out of the case. Place screws in separate tiny baggies that are labeled with locations those screws came from. Identify and label (at least mentally) all parts and where they come from and what wires are attached where.
7. Have phone charged so I can call Dad, who’s done programming for a living.
8. Have the Computer Abuse Hotline number available in case I feel like smashing the computer into little bits.
9. Have another computer with online access available should the above not work as you planned. Note that none of the above will _ever_ work as you planned, unless you have a PhD in computer repair. I bet even Gates swears at his computers now and then.
10. Have Diet Pepsi available in a spill proof container, because, as you know, caffeine makes any project go more smoothly. You gotta have spill-proof, because the Probability of Liquid Disaster increases by natural log zillion if you have an open container.

The Male method:
1. determine it’s the DVD drive causing the problem
2. Go to Best Buy and return home with something about 4 hours later, which may or may not include other things unrelated to the DVD drive.
3. Open up the case, unplug everything, plug the DVD in, screw the case back together, and discover the hard drive now also does not work.
4. Say a few choice words.

Now, this all started when the DVD stopped working during the climactic end battle of Jimbo’s campaign through NeverwinterNights 2, which is a very fun game. This meant that when the DVD burned out, it went from being a mere annoyance to be repaired within a week to ‘Dire Emergency That Must Be Fixed Now’. I pointed out that the cost of a DVD drive was half the cost online as it was at Best Buy, and we would still get it in a couple days, even overnight if we wanted. This did not deter Jimbo in Making Neverwinter Nights Work Again, which had now took on the tone of ‘epic quest’. I suggested that he take the case off and pull the old DVD out so that he’ll know what to get. After all, this made sense to me–then you can match the one you have with the correct one in the store. He thought there was only one kind, and so he declined to do that. He wanted to get going right away so that he could continue mortal combat with the King of Shadows. So, off he went to Best Buy.

Normally, Best Buy is about a 25 minute drive from our home. So, I became a tad concerned when he still wasn’t home about 3 hours later. However, he was fine, and when he returned home he was the proud owner of a new DVD drive, 3 blues CDs, and a bottle of Diet Pepsi. He proceeded to unscrew the case and took apart the various components, and discovered one very important thing: there are different kinds of DVD connectors, and he had the wrong one.

After a few choice words and some hand signals in the direction of the computer, he grabbed the old DVD, the new DVD which he now had to replace, and drove back to Best Buy. Well, since he now felt the true urgency of the call of the King of Shadows, it only took him about 47.2 minutes to get back home. I didn’t ask him if he’d been speeding.

He promptly discovered that the new DVD was about .2 mm too tall for the top slot that the original DVD drive came from. He did discover that it would fit if he switched slots with the DVD and CD player, and so he unplugged the cord that plugs into both and reversed the hardware. He turned on the computer–not only did the DVD not work, but the CD now was also out. This did not help Jimbo’s mood any. I decided it was time to consult the Starwarsknights chatbox, because a variety of Trusty Friends happened to be chatting, including stingerhs, who repairs computers at his job, and Kitty Kitty, who has put all her computers together herself since before the Commodore 64 was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Well, we first determined that the DVD had been the Master and the CD had been the Slave, and we needed to flip a couple switches when plugging them into the new slots. While Jimbo went to work to reverse the social hierarchy of the hardware, Kitty Kitty and I broke out chat-singing the Depeche Mode song “Master and Servant” and had a fine geeky time. Jimbo screwed the case back together (with an extra screw left over) and restarted the computer. The computer decided it would not recognize the hard drive, as if the hard drive were now a foreign country and we had not established diplomatic relations with it. This did not help Jimbo’s mood one bit.

I consulted the Chat Box Help Desk once more, and they suggested we check all wires. Jimbo insisted all wires were secured tightly. We then, for approximately the next hour, took a tour through the Bios settings, checked temperatures, input commands, and did a variety of other things to make the hard drive and computer want to re-establish diplomatic relations, all to no avail. Kitty and/or stingerhs mused that the hard drive might have fried because Jimbo was not using anti-static toys. Since all the save games for NWN2 are on that computer, that really made Jimbo start using words I had not heard since he smashed his thumb with a hammer while re-roofing the garage (thumb and roof are doing well, thank you). With language like that, he was going to need to ask for diplomatic immunity from the hard drive, I think.

At some point during all this talking, cussing, and grumbling, Jimbo suddenly noticed that there was a rainbow-colored wire just hanging off of the hard drive in open space, like it was modern art or something. He actually said “I wonder where this plugs in.” It was the power cable for the hard drive, and once that was properly re-attached, the hard drive and the computer suddenly talked to each other and became geopolitical allies once more. Kitty Kitty and I tried hard not to roll our eyes at this, but we failed our Will Saves rather badly. He replaced the computer case, with only 4 screws left over.

So, yes, about an hour after Kitty first suggested that all wires should be checked, the computer was back up and running, and the King of Shadows met his demise.