For those of you who have been following our computer woes (here and here), this is where we are now.  In limbo.

The very good news  A friend lent us his device that turns an internal hard drive into an external, usb device, and we were able to copy the data to a new one-terabyte backup drive.  (Time out for a sigh of amazement.  One terabyte?  We used to do our backups on 5 1/4 inch floppies with a capacity of 110 kilobytes.)  Losing the hard drive would not have been a total disaster, as I have several layers of backup, but they are a bit spotty and it was really, really nice to have access to the files as I had left them the night before all this started.

The related bad news  What's the point of having backed up the whole C drive instead of just my own data, if one can't transfer all that information over to a new machine?  Apparently the way the Windows Registry works, all the programs will have to be reinstalled anyway—which of course means not only a lot of work but that I lose whatever came preinstalled with the original machine.  Oh for the days when they gave you the original disks—even for the operating system—when you bought a computer!  I guess that will save me backup space from now on, unless someone can tell me there's reason for backing up anything other than my personal files.

The lovely news  We've been studying The Five Love Languages in a class at church.  Porter has been exhibiting "Acts of Service" at a great rate with regard to this computer problem:  making phone calls, doing Internet searches, driving across down....

The very frustrating news  The Internet search for the appropriate motherboard was fruitless.  According to the people Porter talked to, that board is very popular right now; many people are trying to find it.  I wonder if it had an expiration date and everyone's is going bad?  Like sour milk or stale bread?  Getting anything other than the correct motherboard would require getting a new case for the machine and kludging things together, as the Gateway motherboard is not a standard configuration.

The absolutely ridiculous customer "support" news So Porter broke down and called Gateway to see how much an out-of-warranty repair would cost.  Guess what?  Not only will Gateway not sell the necessary parts, they won't do out-of-warranty repairs themselves!  I guess one is supposed to buy a new computer, but I don't see how that helps Gateway, since there's no way I'm buying another computer from them...unless all the major companies are in collusion.  But I'm not a conspiracy theorist—yet.

The temporarily hopeful news  The Gateway tech recommended a website for finding the correct motherboard.  It was one Porter had found, and indeed they had the right board, but it was "out of stock."  Buoyed by the Gateway recommendation, Porter called the company, which appeared to be helpful.  Yes, that board was out of stock and they didn't know when if ever they would get it again.  It was a very hot item, and they had another Gateway motherboard that was similar which several people had bought instead of the correct one.  We could buy that and try it out, returning it if it didn't work—they'd even waive the normal 15% restocking fee.  So Porter ordered one ($200) and we had a "party" at the home of the above-mentioned friend who lent us his hard drive enclosure.  Now this is a guy whose life is in large part computers, both his vocation and his avocation.  He had built every one of the uncountable computers in his house, except for the castoffs he as adopted, and I suspect he's done a lot to modify them, as well.  So it was encouraging to see him and Porter settle down to installing the new motherboard.

The discouraging news  At first it went well, thanks to our friend having some spare parts, such as ribbon cable, that had somehow been lost while the machine was at the repair shop :( , and despite the fact that the motherboard came with absolutely no documentation at all, and looked as if it is used, not new.  :(  :(  But it was a case of "almosts."  The board doesn't quite fit so some of the ports wouldn't work.  One capacitor is too tall, so the heat sink doesn't quite line up, so they ahd to monitor the CPU temperature while working.  If it ever works, we'll have to rout out the heat sink some.  But we didn't get that far.  After much twiddling, Windows boots!  Sort of.  But only in safe mode; otherwise it hangs.  After much effort and frustration, they gave up and we went to dinner.  So that's where it stands now:  in our living room, in pieces.

The dilemma  So what do we do now?

  • Pour a lot of time and energy into trying to get Windows working, followed by making all sorts of kludges to get other things to fit/work, and (probably) reinstalling all my programs?
  • Pay to send the motherboard back and hope we get some of our $200 returned?
  • Buy an inexpensive new computer with space for good working parts (e.g. DVD drives, hard drive) from the old machine?  Easier said than done—the "basic" computers I've looked at tend not to have a lot of expansion space.
  • Invest (again!) in a fancy desktop computer and hope this one lasts longer?
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to get a new laptop and hope it lasts?
  • Give it to Jon as a Christmas present?  After all, it has a (probably) working motherboard, a DVD read drive, a DVD write drive (both very nice), a 250MB hard drive, a high-speed, dual-core Athelon processor, a GB of memory, and a few other bells and whistles. (My suggestion)
  • Don't give it to Jon, as a Christmas present for Heather.  (Janet's suggestion)
  • Use it as a boat anchor.  (Porter's suggestion)

The interim solution I'm using our (old) laptop, having devised a scheme for keeping large quantities of data on the Maxtor 60G portable hard drive I take with me when travelling.  The immediate reason for this is that the laptop's hard drive capacity is only 20GB (actually less) which is woefully insufficient to hold my data alone—and Porter and I share this machine.  I think I like the idea, and plan to continue using it even when/if we get another machine, because then I won't have to worry about synchronizing data when we travel.  The interim solution is actually working fairly well, my primary frustrations being (1) I can't burn CD's or DVD's; (2) I can't read DVD's; (3) there are only two USB ports, and (4) the USB ports are old and slow—not only does data transfer take forever, but I'm heartily sick of having Windows tell me, every time I plug in a device, that it would peform faster if only I had a USB 2 port, when it knows quite well that I don't.

Stay tuned.  I believe it's time to write my friend Bill McCollum a letter.  It's a little early for Christmas cards, but I think he's due one in his capacity as Florida's Attorney General.  I need to vent about Gateway to someone besides my faithful, but small, blog audience. 

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 8:05 am | Edit
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What would you think if you bought a top-of-the-line piece of equipment, and 19 months later—seven months out of warranty—it completely stopped working?  I wouldn't be happy even if it were a $25 item.

What if it cost over $1000—would you be a bit annoyed?  What if it was a piece of equipment necessary for much of the work you do?

But hey, sometimes things happen.  That's what repair shops are for.

But what if the manufacturer refuses to sell you the part you need to make the repair? (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 2, 2007 at 2:58 pm | Edit
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After much internal debate, Porter decided to invest in an air card, a device that plugs into his computer and allows him to connect to the Internet from anywhere.  Well, make that anywhere with Cingular—oops, I mean the New AT&T—cellular service.  Unfortunately, that excludes some important locations, like Granby, Connecticut.  But it does include a great many places.  I tried it out on the way home from the airport a few days ago, and only lost service once on the 45-minute ride, and that for no more than a second.  The speed is not as fast as our normal broadband connection, but it's really not bad, especially if you use the accelerator option, which reduces the quality (and thus the downloading time) of images.

I foresee several uses of this new device in addition to the obvious business benefits that were the excuse for its purchase.  The one that is emblazoned in large letters at the present time, however, is that the major lightning strike of about an hour ago, which took out our cable connection, has not left us without Internet and phone service.  Ironically, I only two days ago I filled out a survey stating that Bright House's cable service has been very reliable and its customer service fine.  I still don't fault the cable service—a lightning strike is bound to wreak havoc.  But Bright House customer service can offer us help no sooner than next Tuesday!  That really is unaccepable.  If they were only offering cable TV service, that would be one thing, but when people are depending on you for Internet and phone service—especially phone service!—you need to be more attentive to repairs.

So I'm very grateful for our backup.  Thanks to the air card, we not only have Internet access, but were able to connect to CallVantage and have our phone calls forwarded to Porter's cell phone.

With this coming on top of my own computer being in the shop—status currently unknown—I'm once again feeling a little nervous about our dependence on technology.  There should always be a Plan B—and probably C, D, and E as well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Edit
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Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
(Robert Burns, To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough)

I had plans for this week.

They did not include dealing with a computer that refuses to awaken from sleep. My alarm clock went of at 5:15 this morning, and I was up and about within seconds. Not so my computer. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 27, 2007 at 7:51 am | Edit
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I really have little right to complain about Windows Media Player as I'm only in the beginning stages of trying to understand it.  Jon and Heather gave me a great gift recently:  a 40G mp3 player which I plan to integrate into our stereo system as an N-disk CD changer, where N is a very large number.  How lazy can you get?  But I know I will take much better advantage of our large CD collection when I don't have to go to all the bother of actually replacing the CD in the player.  This gift was a delightful surprise, not only because it's something I've been thinking about for a long time but hadn't done anything about, but especially because I didn't have to do the shopping.  :)

To my even greater delight, Jon altered the firmware so that I can see the device on my computer directly through Windows Explorer (which, to show my age, I occasionally call "File Manager") instead of through the mediation of Windows Media Player.  But I like WMP for playing CD's, so I decided to try to figure out how to use its Library feature. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 17, 2007 at 9:31 am | Edit
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As one who habitually indulges in catastrophism, I appreciated this essay by John Stackhouse on why people don't get back to us right away when we communicate.  I'm not usually upset when people don't answer e-mails immediately, because if everyone answered e-mails immediately, we'd get sucked into in a destructive vortex.  However, I confess to what might be an inordinate desire for blog comments; my hope for many of my posts is that they will be discussion-starters, and with any of them it's nice to know that someone is at least reading my offerings.  What's more, there are certain blogs I check frequently, looking for information, commentary, and discussion, and it's hard not to be disappointed when nothing new is forthcoming. (I'm not just referring to my own family's blogs, though of course they are the most important and most eagerly sought-after.)

My resigned sigh of "Everyone is too busy actually living life to write about it" is much more accurate than my joking, "Nobody loves me."    Perhaps the most useful response, however, is to remember the times I'm slow at responding to e-mails, or fail to make a comment on a post I like, or to acknowledge a comment on my own blog—as well as the days I allow to pass without providing a new post for my own readers.  In my own case I know there are good reasons for my lack of communication.  Okay, so some of the reasons aren't really all that good—but none is malicious.

Assuming the best rather than the worst sounds like a far happier and healthier approach to all of life.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 6, 2007 at 6:41 am | Edit
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Our laptop has been used in a docking station for months, and today I took it out to use it independently.  No go.  I could not log on.  Do you have any idea how maddening it is when Windows keeps asking, "Did you forget your password?" when you know for certain you did not?

I tried all the obvious things—CapsLock on?  NumLock on?  Making sure they were both off had no effect; I still couldn't log on.  I'm writing the saga so that (1) I won't forget, and (2) it might help someone else as clueless as me. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Edit
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That's the subtitle of a Wired article by Edward Tufte.  My brother sent me the link.  I prefer to believe he didn't know I was in the middle of working on a PowerPoint presentation of pictures from our recent trip to Europe.

Tufte is not speaking primarily about education, but he makes this perceptive observation: 

Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.

PowerPoint isn't really the villain here, however. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Edit
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The May 21, 2007 issue of Computerworld has an interview with Amory B. Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute.  Talk about RETHINKING—who would have thought industry had a good use for slush?  (

You advocate using, of all things, slush to cool data centers. Can you explain that? We recently did a design for a high-tech facility in a temperate climate that was originally going to have over 20,000 tons of chillers, and by the time we got through, the number was zero.

We found we could meet about 70% of the load with the coolness or dryness of the outside air using either air-side or water-side economizers, depending on the time of year. The rest [came from] a mountain of slush sprayed out of snow-making machines into a hole in the ground on a few cold nights and used to provide 32-degree Fahrenheit meltwater all year.

Twenty thousand tons of chillers originally planned; zero used.  They use snow-making machines to generate the slush; perhaps the next step should be finding a way to use the mountains of snow urban areas are always struggling to dispose of in the winter.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Edit
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Our router seems to be acting erratically again.  Last time the problem was the power supply, and I have a spare one to try now if necessary, though it's hard to believe this one would fail after just three months.  (Then again, I said that about our car battery recently.)

It's fine at the moment, but in the past 12 hours has twice done strange things like allowing just one half of a telephone "conversation," or allowing e-mail to be received and sent but not allowing web access.  To be on the safe side, I've set up the system to ring my cell phone if it doesn't establish contact via the regular phone.

Computers.  You can't live with them,'s hard to remember that we once lived without them.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 8:33 am | Edit
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I wrote earlier about our failing telephone system.  We limped along for a week with all calls forwarded to one or the other of our cell phones.  Actually, it wasn't much of a limp.  It was slightly annoying not to be able to have more than one person on this end of a call, and since my cell phone has no "free" minutes (it's a prepaid plan), I was conscious of the cost of every call.  But it wasn't that much, really.  A definite plus was that the forwarding message, "please wait while we try to contact your party" effectively foiled all those robotic telemarketers!

Still, now that it's fixed (details follow), I'm glad not to be so tied to my cell phone.  I said to Heather, "I feel like a teenager, carrying my cell phone in my pocket all the time," to which she replied, "You're not a teenager, Mom.  You still jump every time it rings."

So, I'm sure you're all wondering:  What was wrong, and how did we fix it?  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 9, 2007 at 9:24 am | Edit
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If you try to call us in the next few days, please be patient.  All calls are being forwarded to our cell phones, so it may take a little longer than usual to connect.

Our CallVantage Linksys router stopped working.  Well, to be more accurate, the router still works, or I wouldn't be posting this.  But the Telephone Adaptor part no longer functions. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 3, 2007 at 9:14 pm | Edit
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To Whom It May Concern:

If you need to reach us, try the good ol' telephone, or leave a comment here. For some bizarre reason our e-mail is down, even though our general Internet service is working fine. I've only been able to get a few e-mails all day, and none at all in recent hours,

It appears to work for sending, though I don't really know that, either. I'll have to remember to check when it comes back up and see if what I sent was actually received.

"When it comes back up." Soon, I hope. But at present the technicians have no projected duration of the outage....
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 6, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Edit
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So, Porter delves into the dark recesses of an accumulation of objects, lifts up an old keyboard, and shouts, "I see a mouse!"

Perfectly logical. Janet had discovered that not one but both of her computer's mice are malfunctioning, and I knew we had a spare one somewhere. Unfortunately, this was the wrong kind of mouse.

It was PS/2 instead of USB.

But at least we didn't have to figure out a way to trap it.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 16, 2006 at 11:02 am | Edit
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When I have a problem, I'm always amazed at how often a simple Internet search will reveal other with the same problem and very often a solution. But sometimes not. The negative results fall into two catgories: either I'm having a genuinely rare difficulty, or I haven't found the right combination of search terms to narrow the results down to something relevant.

I don't know which was the case with our recent Firefox problem, but I couldn't find any help, so I'm posting this in case it might help someone else.

Invisible Firefox, Firefox opens invisbly, invisble window, can't maximize window, perpetually minimized window, can't see open application window. Maybe that's enough search terms, at least for someone who thinks as I do. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 7:34 am | Edit
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