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’….

You Know You’ve Played Neverwinter Nights 2 a Little Too Long When….

Weird things happen when you play a computer game for awhile and then Skype with a Nemesis a little too late, like really strange dreams. This all started yesterday when I played Neverwinter Nights 2. In my current campaign, I’m playing a female Sun Elf wizard and my PC casts spells a lot–well, pretty much all the time. For those of you not familiar with the game, when you play some of the spellcasters in the game, you choose your spells from a large list to fill up slots in your ‘spellbook‘. You can change the spells in your spellbook as needed to adjust to the situation at hand. Once you fill up your slots, you then ‘rest’ to activate them. This means that you can pick a bunch of nasty fireball and lightning spells to take out all the bad guys. When they’re all dead, you trade the spell out for one to unlock all the locked treasure chests in the area if the rogue isn’t handy. Then you rest, unlock all the chests with your unlock spell (which, for some reason I can’t fathom, is called ‘Knock’ in the game instead of the more sensible ‘Unlock’), scoop up all the goodies, switch back to the killer spells, rest, and go on to the next area of monsters.

So, I spent a good while doing just that in order to get to Act 2 and meet up with Sand, who is hands-down my favorite NPC in this game. He has an acerbic wit, and the game developers gave him some of the best lines in the game. His quip when you encounter a red dragon in the fire giant mountains made the price of the game worth it alone. Anticipating more witty comments from him since I planned on keeping him in my party more this playthrough than my first, I played quite a bit yesterday to get to the point in the game where he joined my party.

Then I finally took a break from the game after dinner and Skyped with Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon for awhile about the existence of God, debate styles (and my lack thereof), and general Lucasforums gossip, not necessarily in that order, but definitely far too late into the night. I finally went to bed and got about 6 hours’ sleep when Jimbo, husband-god that he is, brought me a cup of coffee. I was still in that twilight stage of sleep where you dream for awhile just before you wake up, and the coffee woke me up the rest of the way.

Me: Honey, you are a husband-god for bringing me coffee.
Hubby: Thank you. I like being called a god, you know. I didn’t want to wake you up too soon, though.
Me: That’s OK, I was having a really weird dream.

Hubby scooted me over on the bed a little to sit down next to me. Apparently he thought ‘weird’ meant ‘bad-dream-nigh-on-nightmare’ and was prepared to comfort me. He didn’t quite understand that in this case when I said weird, I meant ‘really, truly, it’s weird‘.

Hubby: So tell me about this dream.
Me: Really, it was weird.
Hubby (soothingly): I understand, dear.
Me: Well, I dreamed I was in the bathroom, and I had to blow my nose. I had two spells–stoneskin and ‘blow-my-nose’, and I had to use the ‘blow-my-nose’ spell to, well, blow my nose.
Hubby: You had a spell to blow your nose?
Me: Yeah–isn’t that weird?

At this point, hubby, who has played Neverwinter Nights 2 and knows about the stoneskin spell and the general workings of the game, started howling laughing. Thank goodness he had sat down, because I don’t think he would have been able to stand laughing that hard. It was like he’d turned into a giant muscle spasm.

Me: So I blew my nose, and it was really gross. If my sinuses had been that bad, I really would have needed a spell to get all that stuff out.

Hubby continued laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.

Me: So I got all the stuff out. then I changed the spell out for a new one–don’t remember which one–and rested on my knee in the bathroom to activate the new spell.

Hubby was now lying on the bed twitching, past the point where he could make much more than squeaky sounds as he laughed.

Me: I’m not quite sure why ‘blow-my-nose’ was a level 4 spell. I mean, it was ranked right up there with stoneskin, for heaven’s sake. I think at the very most it should be level 0. I was also amused that I had the foresight to change that spell out and rest. Not sure which new spell I picked.

I finally had to stop talking and drink some coffee so Jimbo could recover.

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.