My First (Embarrassing) Experience With Square

Recently, I paid for a meal on an iPad. The girl had me swipe my debit card and then turned the tablet so I could ‘sign’ it. Those things don’t react to a fingernail or anything. You really do have to use the pad of your finger. Despite my preliminary attempts, I was not putting down a signature. Then, the girl touched the pad and made a curved line in the signature space. She recoiled and acted sheepish. I proceeded to draw a happy face and an “X” in the remaining space. Much laughter ensued.

I should have known better. I’ve been using an Android phone for a while now. It’s not like this is new technology to me. And the girl? She didn’t mention the kilt. But, here’s a song by the band that her husband is in:

I think those guys do a pretty good job. Speaking of my kilt, please do donate a few bucks to KTKC on my behalf. Depending on your donation, you could get some sweet loot! I wonder if I could get Seether to kick in some goodies for the contest…

No Longer Dark or, “Boy, Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Have an IT Department”

Yesterday, I warned you that my computer would be down for a while. And, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Evyl, didn’t you go through this just about a year ago?” *Grumble rumble razzin frazzin…* And yes, I did some major work to my computer and wiped the drive to install 7 almost exactly one year ago. “In fact,” you then ask, “haven’t you had lots of trouble with that computer? Why don’t you just get a new one?” *Grumble Mumble Growl…* Look, these things are expensive for one. Add to that the fact that I’m stubborn and cheap. I’d probably be better off to spend the money on a good new computer with paid security software on it, but I’m going to nurse this one along for the time being. Anyway, I again went to wrenching on the thing. Once I got into it, it was far worse off than I had previously realized. There was a point in time that I would futz with these things and pull them back from the brink of destruction. As long as the worms and malwares aren’t buried too deep, I can still dig them out. However, at this point in life, if they’re bad enough, I’ll just wipe them and start over. That’s where this one was. I was getting weird pop-ups in every browser I used, and they started losing consistency, and I couldn’t identify the software doing the popping. So, I backed up my files on the network, nuked the hard drive and reinstalled 7 Ultimate from scratch. I figured that would take a while. But really, this has been the easiest, smoothest installation I’ve done on this machine, anyway. In fact, once Windows gets the bazillion updates downloaded and installed, I need to reinstall the network printer and I should be done. Not too shabby! It’s been so pain-free in fact, that I may just nuke the hard drive and reinstall the OS every August as routine maintenance. So, that’s about it for now. I think I’ll try to get Chatzilla configured so I can bug some of you fine people in GBC.

Robot Apocalypse?

The Miller points out this video:

Ummm… One little problem though – the robot uprising already happened. We won. You know that iPhone that you pay so much attention to? You know that computer that if it stops working, you can’t work anymore? You know the machine that if it quits, Grandma dies? Yeah. You are our slaves now. You just didn’t notice it happen. Because we’re that good.

LOL Whut?

For some time now, I’ve been carrying a Samsung Galaxy S Epic 4G. I’ve really enjoyed the utility and flexibility of the Android OS, and the slide out keyboard sets this phone apart from many of its competitors. There came a point in time that I wanted it to do more than its software would allow, even though it was obvious that the hardware was capable. It came time to root it. Once it was rooted, the automatic updates no longer worked, but the phone still tried. Thus, custom roms. I’ve been sticking with hacked ‘stock’ roms for the most part. The second to last one knocked out my root permissions though. As odd as that was, the most recent update was the fix. And it reset everything on the phone. I had to recover all of my backed up apps and data as best I could. I lost email addresses and phone numbers. I lost my own son’s phone number, for crying out loud!

One recent Sunday morning, Jennifer and I were trying our best to locate Teen Bot without much luck. I decided to text him to try and find him. This is when I discovered that I no longer had his number. No, I don’t have it memorized. This is why I saved it in my phone. Anyway, Jennifer gave me his number at that point. I had just gotten it programmed in when he popped up right in front of us. Fine. My phone went back to my pocket. Fast forward to yesterday…

Teen Bot went to Wednesday night church with his girlfriend. He was supposed to contact us when he was out of church. We didn’t hear from him when we expected to. So, I again decided to start with the texting deal. The following text exchange occurs:

Me: “What is the news?”

Response: “Looking for oche?”

Me: “I don’t kinow what that means.”

Response: “Who dis”

At this point, I’m starting to get irritated at my kid thinking that he’s acting cute.

Me: “IT’S YOUR DAD!!!”

Response: “Vic”

Me: “Where are you?”

Response: “Who is this?”

Now is when I double checked and discovered that I had entered the wrong phone number for my son.

Not my kid: “Stop textn me”

Me: “Sorry. Wrong number. :(”

Response: “Ur fine.”

Needless to say, Jennifer and I got quite the laugh out of that one. I hope the other guy found it equally funny.

IT Again…

Last Summer, I had an incident with my laptop that I chronicled here. Since then, I’ve been a good kid. Every now and then I’ll pull the keyboard to blow out the CPU fan with canned air. Incidentally, canned air is the most terrifying thing in the world to kittehs. Even more so than acid water. As I’ve done this, the interval in which I have to blow out the cooling fan has become smaller and smaller. This morning, the laptop overheated and bluescreened on me. *sigh…*

I decided that it was about time that I more fully open up the machine and get better access to the CPU fan so I could more thoroughly clean the dust out. I figured that a deeper cleaning was in order. So, I got out my tiny screwdriver, turned on my task lights and tore into the poor computer. Some of the Toshiba Satellites have been made so that you pull the keyboard, and the top panel and then you have access to the fan. This is how Jennifer‘s Satellite is put together, actually. But my computer is put together in an awkward format so that it has to be torn down to bare pieces and the motherboard has to come completely out of the case in order to fully access the stupid fan! So, I had the lappy in a million pieces all over my sewing table and design desk.

I didn’t realize I would have to separate the heat sink from the CPU until this point. Crap. I don’t have any of the dielectric goo that you’re supposed to smear between the CPU and heat sink. Well back in the day, I used to just slap a heat sink right back on a P-II processor with whatever was left of the old grease. Maybe that would work here too. So, I cleaned out the fan very thoroughly and reinstalled it. I tracked down every screw and replugged every pigtail. Once I had every component reinstalled and had checked the whole thing over three times, I powered her up. The computer booted up and everything seemed great for about three minutes until it overheated and shut down. Crap. Heat sink grease. These earlish AMD dual-core, 64-bit processors are renowned for their heat production.

Having no car, since Jenni drove our only car to work, I had to either find a ride or walk to the local computer supply store. I called my brother who has not been working for a little while, and he agreed to pick me up and run my errands with me. We made it by the supply store and the cute little Asian girl helped me out. She apologized that they had no static bracelets or alcohol swabs, and showed me two different variations on dielectric grease. I opted for the allegedly better one. While we were out, we caught some texmex fast food, ran by the p4wn shop, and the insurance office.

Once I made it back home, I again reduced the lappy to bits and pieces, but this time I douched the CPU, GPU, and heatsink with denatured alcohol on a cotton ball and applied the gray goo. Again, I reassembled everything. Holding my breath, I didn’t lose any screws. Whew! By this time, I was getting pretty good at disassembling and reassembling my computer. When everything was all put together again, I took a deep breath and powered on the computer. It hummed to life normally and I began to check settings and files and make sure I hadn’t lost any data in the last crash. About three minutes in, around the time that I realized that I did not yet hear the cooling fan, it overheated and shut down. Again. Crap. I forgot to plug in the damned cooling fan.

Tearing the computer back down to bits and pieces went remarkably quickly this time. I was becoming a pro and wondered if I should start doing this for a living. When I had the machine into a million pieces again, and had removed the motherboard once more, I found that I had indeed failed to plug in the cooling fan on the last reassembly. The heatsink was nice and toasty from one end to the other, but the fan had not moved air across it. Practically smacking myself on the forehead, I plugged in the fan and reassembled the computer at record speed. Of course, my brother had decided to hang around for a while. He was getting quite the giggle out of my antics. But, but, I neeeeeed my computer!!! And, it doesn’t work like this:

Once the laptop was all one piece again, I hit that power button again. The computer hummed. Lights came on. I waited. I heard drives spin. I heard beeps. The monitor produced no sign of life. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After waiting a few moments with no life from the display, I powered it down yet again and laid my head down on the keyboard, fighting the urge to sob or throw the stupid thing through the closed window. I couldn’t swear that I had gotten the monitor plugged in on the last go-together, so it was safe to assume that I simply had not plugged it in. So the computer came apart again. All the while I thought about how normal people pay someone else to do this. The monitor wasn’t unplugged per se, but it wasn’t exactly fully plugged in. I’m not sure how I managed that, but there it was. I plugged in the damned display and screwed the damned computer back together.

I said a quick prayer and took another deep breath. I held it this time. I pressed the power button and clenched my teeth, still holding said breath. the next few seconds were an eternity as I braced for whatever should come next with Murphy’s Law. But, the lappy blazed to life with the Toshiba spash screen. OH HALLELUIAH, PRAISE JESUS!!!!! My ears were serenaded with the sweet sweet sound of the Windon’t startup jingle. By this time, the day was about shot and I hadn’t done any of the work that I really needed to. But, my computer is back together and running better than it has in some time. Ironically, I think that I can just as effectively spray out the cooling fan through the underside of the keyboard now that I’ve seen what I’m working with. Someday I’m going to pay someone else to do this crap though.

Blogroll Facepalm

It was not that long ago that I had pretty much given up on reading blogs. Then, I got off my lazy butt and set up my Google reader. Between that and FoxVox, I have my laptop read a bunch of blogs to me. When I set it up, I pretty well copied my blogroll and subscribed to everything there. Whenever I am interested to see what someone in particular has to say, I’ll look for them in my reader. So yesterday, I was looking in my reader for my friend’s, AEPilot Jim’s, blog. How unusual. It wasn’t in my reader. So I fell back on my previous method which was to pull up my blog and link over from my blogroll. How odd. I couldn’t find him there either. Because he wasn’t in my blogroll. At all. And that’s weird. So, that’s now fixed, and he’s there. If you don’t already read him, you probably should. Funny guy to say the least. And, if you think that you should be in my blogroll, please do speak up. I’m probably not excluding you so much as being ditzy.

IT Lessons I Should Have Known

#1 Windows Vista sucks. Just like every one of Microsoft’s other first ‘stable’ release of a kernel, the second release will be far superior to the first. When they’re about to retire a kernel, they’ve pretty well got it ironed out right. If your machine has Vista on it, upgrade to 7 as soon as you can afford the extortion. Yeah, Vista was the crap sandwich you got slammed with. Yeah, M$ should give Vista users the upgrade as a bug fix, but they don’t. Oh well. The lesson there is to business owners like me – DON’T DO BUSINESS LIKE THAT!

#2 Even when you do the responsible thing and make a set of proper recovery disks from the recovery partition, ask yourself honestly if you will be able to find them when you need them in six months, a year, or two years. Or, if you’ll find the esoteric backup disks from six years ago in the search for the ones that you will actually inevitably need. Where the heck did I put those things? I remember putting them somewhere I specifically wouldn’t lose them.

#3 When you are sliding your laptop in and out of a bag over the course of a year, that little key code sticker may rub to the point that it is no longer legible. Take a picture of it, copy the number down and put it with your disks in a place that you will find them when you need them. I can’t imagine that it would hurt to put a piece of heavy, clear packing tape over the sticker to preserve it. Apparently, it is possible to retrieve the product key from the system, but it sounds like a PITA.

#4 When you are dealing with hardware types and software that you have never much messed with before, it’s going to be more of a challenge to get your data hacked out than it was every other time you’ve had to do it on a previous system.

#5 You aren’t too busy to back up files. Believe me. You’re never too busy to back up files. Blank CDs are cheap, as are external hard drives. They will pay for themselves in the frustration that ensues from not having them. The little <$20 USB drive enclosures are priceless. They help with data backup and recovery.

#6 When the laptop keeps crashing and you suspect it is due to overheating, figure out how to fix it before something bad happens. If you try to ignore it and keep working, something bad will eventually happen.

#7 When you think that you probably ought to backup your data and reconfigure your system so that it runs better and more securely, then do it. The time you plan putting in is so much less frustrating than the time you put in to recover from an emergency. For a few moments, my machine would boot between Vista, XP, Debian, and Ubuntu. The condition of the drive layout and boot manager(s) is what’s leftover from that.

#8 When +$200 to the computer shop to patch up your jacked-up machine may as well be $2,000,000, make sure that will never be an issue by maintaining the health of your system before it gets to that point.

#9 A computer that is working well is an incredibly valuable asset. A computer that doesn’t work is a huge liability. It can’t be repeated enough – do the maintenance to keep it working well.

#10 Murphy’s Law is a big, old, ugly foot that he’ll shove in your door if you open it a crack. When you have failed at all of the above much to your utter embarrassment, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Afterthoughts:

Yes. My laptop is currently a brick. No. I haven’t found my backup disks yet. It’s a dual-boot Debian Linux/Windows Vista box and I corrupted the GRUB bootloader when the computer crashed due to overheating while I was trying to load pictures from an SD card. So now, it won’t boot up. I don’t really use the Linux partition except for data storage, so I could fix it with a Vista boot disk (which I have somewhere, just can’t locate) to overwrite the MBR to simply boot Vista. There are methods to use a Linux boot disk to repair the GRUB which would restore the computer back to the configuration I had it before the crash, but that obviously doesn’t automatically fix the fact that I’ve lost my recovery disks and my product key.

Using another PC, Knoppix 6.2.1, a USB drive enclosure for my laptop hard drive, and black effing magic, I was able to retrieve all of my valuable files. Today, I shall burn them to a DVD with a date written on it. As soon as I’ve got the scratch, I’m going to make the jump to 7. This is no longer something that I’d like to do, it is now necessary. I don’t use Linux on the box, and there’s really no reason for it to be on there. When I move to 7, I’ll eliminate Debian.

Right now, I’m kind of in the ‘bargaining with God’ mindset. That is, once I sort this mess out, I swear I’ll keep a dedicated CD folder with all of my backup goodies (recovery disks, product keys, regular file backup disks), all properly labeled and organized, in a place where I will not lose it. It’s not the flashiest piece of hardware on the block, but I rely on my computer way too heavily to not be prepared. There are many like it, but this one is mine!