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The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem

Started by buster, April 22, 2021, 05:34:30 PM

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The events of this story took place about one year ago, as covid was taking off, but some parts of it just didn't seem to work as a story. So every few months I took a new look at it and worked it again. Adventures with a Ten Year Old Computer' just seemed easy in comparison - drink and write and not care, I guess. Just as the repair and work were much tougher for Marilyn's very fine computer, finding a way to write it was much more difficult as well.

The almost repair is factual. Any reference to my childhood or parents is factual. That is what happened. Oscar is real to me, but may not be to readers. Ms. Tao is back, and Mike and Bill will back me up that she is real and we saw her in Tim Hortons - Bill is still probably drooling. The computer I gave Marilyn to use after hers was assaulted by Cyclops is the 10 year old computer of the original story. The dusty cluttered storage room is unfortunately all too real.

I apologize in advance for some of the very short chapters, but that seemed a good place to cut the flow. If you have anyone in your head's memory banks (even people you don't like) who might like this, please send them a link. The other three stories seemed to be quite popular, and that made me feel really good. Also, it brings people to the site, and that may change Microsoft users into converts. Warning though, while I used Linux in the repair, I did restore, sort of, her computer to Win10.

Jason has promised to set up a suitable link from the front page that may be found by some kind of PLUG search in Peterborough. And maybe tomorrow I can get to publishing chapter one.

(Note: No CPUs were harmed during the writing of this story.)
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Sorry for the delay in publishing the first chapter, but Marilyn, when reading some of it, found that my depiction of her is unfair. She says the woman in the story is quite a bit less refined and pleasant than she really is. I tried to explain that a woman that sweet and kind would not work in this story. So we spent a lot of yesterday either in different rooms or screaming at each other.

Maybe tomorrow.
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


 ;D ;D :D You're a blast, Buster. And I don't mean that sarcastically, you do make me chuckle. The typo in Introduction gave me a chuckle, too. :) Looking forward to the first chapter. I want there to be something before I link it. :)
* Zorin OS 17.1 Core and Windows 11 Pro on a Dell Precision 3630 Tower with an
i5-8600 3.1 GHz 6-core processor, dual 22" displays, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB Nvme and a Geforce 1060 6 GB card
* Motorola Edge (2022) phone with Android 13


Chapter 1: My Wife's Computer is Suffering

When the world's humans are getting sick, it's hard to get too excited about a computer problem. But when you are house bound for days, annoyances around you seem to expand to fill all the parts of your brain. So over the last while, I went to bed thinking of this aggravating problem, and when I woke up, even though the sun was shining magnificently through our bedroom window, it was the first thought in my brain, with the exception maybe of getting the kettle on for tea.

It started one quiet, bright and sunny morning with my wife calling out gently to me from the study and, rudely I thought, interrupting my peanut butter and toast breakfast. But it seemed much like most of the one or two calls a day I get about emails that have disappeared, attachments that look dangerous or strange notices that have arrived from Microsoft. Buster, the bloody computer wont start!' I looked longingly at my tea and toast. There really wasn't anything to worry about though. So I said my usual confident Never fear my dear, for Buster's here'. I'd been here before. No sweat.

The lovely little computer case was sitting on her desk, and it is a very little case, staring at me with only the on-off button lit. So I pressed and held this button to force a shutdown, waited a bit, and restarted it, knowing this would probably put my wife's life back into its usual happy orbit.

After a while, I realized her computer was not going to awaken from its zombie state, but was instead going to stare at me with one unblinking eye, probably forever if I left it. Cyclops was watching, and I realize, in retrospect, probably grinning.

My dusty downstairs storage room is cold and dark. On a tiny corner of a crowded table that I pretend is a workbench, I took off the side of the case and looked at the motherboard. 12 gig ram, quad core AMD cpu, no loose wires, no excessive heat, and not much dust. But in cases like this it's always good to re-seat the ram, and carefully I did this. I wiggled wires and examined all the parts in computers that over the last quarter century had presented problems for me.

The work had to be delayed while I went upstairs and booted my laptop, put in the password, and showed my good, but on certain days annoying, wife where her usual program shortcuts were so she could use my laptop. No thank you was spoken, because any computer problem is somehow my doing. Apparently in her non-technical mind I plan these mishaps - I do them on purpose. Any married man knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Downstairs I hooked up her computer to an old flat panel TV, the Internet, a mouse, a keyboard and finally some power. For most of you this sounds easy, but let me tell you, for an old person, on his hands and knees, in a dark corner behind the desk where he can hardly see because his glasses keep slipping and it's bloody dark, this verges on seniors-abuse, granted self-inflicted.

The result was the zombie eye staring at me again, maliciously. This formerly lovely computer was not going to start. Cyclops stared maliciously, probably silently laughing.

Tomorrow: Chapter 2: My Wife Needs a Computer, Now
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


I think this is going to be good. Looking forward to the next chapter!
Ubuntu 23.10 on 2019 5k iMac
Ubuntu 22.04 on Dell XPS 13


Chapter 2: My Wife Needs a Computer, Now

Marriage Rule Number One: A husband who wishes to be happy must first make sure his wife is happy. It might not be a fair rule, but it is the primary rule.  Accept it or be miserable.

My wife doesn't like using my laptop. It's different. The keyboard is funny'. She is never satisfied with the angle of the screen. The password is hard. The shortcuts aren't in the right place'. Now, I don't encourage her to use it. But she needs a computer to find the really great recipes she uses to cook the really delicious meals I like, and to find the weather reports that help to organize our walks and gardening afternoons, and to communicate with our kids and grand-kids. So pretty well immediately I need to build one, buy one or locate one somewhere in our house, because hers is not going to be up and running anytime soon by the looks of things.

To be clear for the computer people, her broken computer did not get out of the turn on the cpu fan' stage. Nothing on the screen, no access to bios, just the unpleasant zombie eye staring and making me uneasy. Maybe I was trapped on the set of a 1950's s/f movie. Or in an old episode of the Twilight Zone. Or more likely I was tired and stressed while shuffling about in a dark, dusty, messy room. On the other hand the spiders who live here seemed to feel no unease, and were quietly serene. Maybe they even had little spider smiles ââ,¬â€œ kind of hard to tell in the gloom.

Sort of fortunately, I had acquired a 10 year old Compaq computer, upgraded it to Win 10, and it ran really well. That was chronicled in Adventures with Ten Year Old Desktop'. But sort of fortunately' because I had taken out the ram for a different computer build. With a will there is a way' I had heard may times from my extended family. I still don't believe it, but I might be able to solve this particular problem anyway.

I carted the old Compaq to the other room where there was good lighting, took off the side, and saw what I didn't want to ââ,¬â€œ there were only two memory slots. I went back into the dust and dark, rummaged for longer than I wanted to, and found my little bag of ram sticks ââ,¬â€œ four of them. Each is 2 gig. Four makes a nice 8 gig memory bank. But 2 gig each in only two slots means the limit is 4 gig, and this is Win10. After a sigh and a think, I realized my wife uses one program at a time, doesn't stream, and barely touches the potential of a Win10 machine. The Compaq would function, she wouldn't notice, and Marriage Rule #1 would be achieved. And that's about all a husband can wish for in trying circumstances.

The real problem would be solved when her desktop was safely sitting on her desk, but for now I wrote out the different password for her replacement, and I'm pretty sure the replacement was not happy to have to face such a dull and unexciting life. But it said nothing rude.

And it was so. Not without complaints. But time heals all wounds, and she grew to like the big black box. And it ran like a top, but certainly not like a cheetah. Life at our house became happier. So Buster was happier.

Tomorrow: Chapter 3: Buster Plays Doctor to a very Psychotic Computer
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Chapter 3: Buster Plays Doctor to a very Psychotic Computer

The wind and rain were battering the house, so I decided to pass the day with the computer's little problem. Nevertheless, the little' problem soon made me feel seriously unsettled, much like the weather outside. It wasn't going to be a pleasant day inside or out. The Acer was apparently a malignant little fortress.

I can't remember ever not being able to get into the bios of a desktop that indicated it had power and a running fan. I tried the usual keyboard stuff for an Acer with nothing. A hammer applied to the keys would have gone unnoticed, and fortunately no hammer was nearby.

I forced a reboot a few times and suddenly a blue screen emerged and Microsoft said  An attempt will now be made to repair this install.' A miracle was happening before my eyes. And I grinned. Lucky me I thought, stupidly as it turned out.

The process was orderly and reassuring. I saw the white line going across the screen, and I almost opened a beer to celebrate. It did take longer than I thought it should til the screen showed something like, Process unsuccessful.'

The next few things I did are faded memories, except I was revisited by Cyclops, who I'm convinced had an even more malicious look in his staring eye. I looked around the cluttered room and wondered if this box would join the messy inhabitants gathered over the last half century. And then I had a breakthrough. Using my patented poke and see' method of problem solving with a keyboard and a finger, I hit something and I got a blue screen with choices! And one of them was a way to take the computer back to a saved point when it actually ran quite well. I rushed down this road to computer salvation and started this much desired process. And I grinned. Lucky me I thought, stupidly as it turned out. Again, the process was orderly and reassuring.  And finally the screen showed something like, Process unsuccessful.' Being more hopeful than realistic, I retried this method not once more, but twice more. Hope springs eternal in the human heart. Waiting proved to be an excuse to drink more than is healthy. I was happier, but probably not any better at solving computer problems. Every option that was available to try on the blue screen was tried, sometimes more than once. To say I wasn't successful is sort of like saying cows aren't good conversationalists. It was obvious the computer wasn't going to do anything.

I did try a number of other things, and time passed, but nothing was different. This lovely computer was just a pile of computer crap, waiting to be recycled, unless inspiration struck.

And then my intoxicated mind came up with one of my absolutely stupidest ideas. And I would put this idea into operation tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Chapter 4: The Zombie Eye Gets Loose!
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


LOL - fun stuff. 

For what it's worth, whenever my wife has a problem with her computer, I always tell her it's because of all the "porn sites she visits".

"I don't visit porn sites" she says.

I tell her "That's what they make you BELIEVE incognito mode is for.... but every time you use it.... a sector on a hard drive goes bad."

Then she rolls her eyes so hard I'm surprised she doesn't pass out.


  • You need flashlight, AAA or AA.  Keep one in toolbox and another by door.  You'd be surprised how often you use it.
  • My guess is ram or power supply.


Thanks for all the comments that indicate you are enjoying the story. That makes me feel good, and it also indicates to everyone that you personally have refined, or possibly even exquisite, taste when it comes to appreciating truly great literature.  :)

And if you wish to send copies on to anyone else, or link the story on another site or somewhere else, please feel free to do that. But make it very clear in your intro that this is not a manual for repairs to computers - this is, rather, a story of a sometimes incompetent person and his broken computer of the day, who is happy when all of the wiring circuits of the house still work when he is finished.
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Chapter 4: The Zombie Eye Gets Loose!

Sometimes we wake up in the morning and know for sure we have the solution, finally, to a problem. It's bad enough that others deceive us. It's ludicrous that humans deceive themselves so much.

 The zombie box had evolved to something really bizarre. When I pressed the start button, it didn't just stare anymore. It began some burst of activity and then went off. When I persuaded it to start again, it had this noticeable burst and then again went off, and then again I received the malicious zombie stare.

But as Baldric would say,  I have a cunning plan.' Those who watched Black Adder know that his plans never quite worked out. My cunning plan was like Baldric's, it was disastrous.

My plan was simple, some might say simple minded. I had my wife's computer which I assumed had some faulty boot software, or a corrupt and so far undetected bios. I also had a wonderfully quick, relatively new Linux Mint desktop that I had finished building about a month before - powerful, smooth, quick. Many new parts. This would be my test machine. This problem would be solved once and for all. The hard drive would either work or it wouldn't. If it didn't, it's the hard drive at fault. If it boots beautifully into Windows, it's the bios in the zombie machine. However the universe isn't yes/no, 0/1, black/white all the time. Sometimes things are more complex than we imagine. This is one of those cases.

Taking out the new ssd from the spanking brand new computer I had built, and replacing it with the maybe faulty older style hard drive from the bewitched computer was not hard, but tedious. And little did I realize the orcs were creeping up on the house, waiting to attack. So after getting the old drive in place and ready to boot, I congratulated myself on figuring out a way to get this job done. I leaned back, admired my thought processes, and pressed the start button.

What happened next is akin to the time I stood up after picking something off the kitchen floor and introduced the top of my head to the bottom of the cupboard door I had left open. In both cases I was totally shocked as you can imagine.

My lovely new machine was starting, going off, starting, going off all on its own. I held the start button down until the computer was silent. So the only problem I had was on the old hard drive. In retrospect I wonder how many times it's possible to be wrong during a computer repair.

I went to bed that night thinking I understood the problem. I didn't realize my lovely, innocent new Linux Mint computer had been left alone in the junk room with orcs hiding in the shadows.

Tomorrow: The Fall and Rise of the Wounded New Computer
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Chapter 5: The Fall and Rise of the Wounded New Computer

Humans simplify the complexities of the universe in an attempt to understand it. We see what we want to, and what we are capable of absorbing. Same with understanding computers. What happened next is beyond my ken, and I really don't want to investigate it too closely. I do know it involves Cyclops of the staring eye, the orcs hiding behind the boxes in the junk room, and the vulnerability of new computers. The presence of malicious forces is obvious, no matter what the rationalist say.

I reinstalled the Mint SSD into the new computer and, just to make sure it was OK, I pressed the start button.

It was like standing up under a second open cupboard door in the kitchen.

The new computer started to boot nicely, everything looked normal, when suddenly it shutdown and rebooted. Odd, but not too frightening, because it rebooted smoothly again. The door hit my head when it interrupted and rebooted again, and again, and again. The bios was corrupted! 'Sadness descended' is the easiest way to describe how I felt.

In the old radio shows and movies, when things looked really bad like this, the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, or Roy Rogers would ride down out of the hills and save the day (with of course Pancho, Tonto, or Dale Evans).  And out of nowhere, at the critical moment, a hero did arrive, and I not only have never seen a hero like this, I've never even heard of her.

So, completely unaware that she was riding bravely to my rescue, I watched dumbfoundedly as my brand new computer build went on and off. I guess I was in mild shock, grieving the loss of my new pride and joy. The orcs behind the dusty boxes were probably celebrating, however orcs might do that.

With swashbuckling panache, the computer screen lit up with a message, as if this is an everyday occurrence for a modern motherboard: 'Would you like Terabyte to install the backup bios?' It took me a bit of time to react.

I checked this on the computer upstairs, and found out that yes, a Gigabyte motherboard does this if needed. Back downstairs the message was still on the screen. Keyboard work maneuvered the message to where 'enter' would activate the 'yes' answer. The click on the key returned the computer to normal mostly, and the Mint install could expect, in Operating System terms, a full and healthy life. I didn't feel unbridled joy. Mostly I just felt exhaustion, and relief.

There were scars from this battle that have never fully healed, but nothing serious. Multi deep dives into the bios by me have never resulted in the reinstatement of all the USB ports. But there are so many, the computer and I do manage very well anyway.

But that scary moment had taken Marilyn's unpleasant computer no closer to resolution.

   (A link to the building and various trials of the 'New Computer' can be found in the story at, or near the end, of this long thread.)

Tomorrow: A New Strategy
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Chapter 6: A New Strategy

There are only 3 rules for further work on the unpleasant computer. And they are easy to remember because all three are the same rule.  Don't mess up the new Mint computer!' If what is left of my wife's computer is sophisticated junk, don't add in another shiny new piece of junk that I had just built and then destroyed.

I knew the evil infection, or whatever, was on the hard drive. It could also be in the bios, but that bridge could be crossed if and when I reached it. So step one involved scrubbing the hard drive clean. And I had the tool to do that. The Linux Mint OS has two lovely pieces of software sitting right in plain site in the menu ââ,¬â€œ USB Stick Formatter and USB Image Writer. These two pieces of software, using a simple process, will give you a bootable operating system on a memory stick.

So I booted into my new Mint computer, went to the Mint web site and downloaded the latest stable Mint OS. After that was done, I rummaged through the dust and junk and found a USB stick that had been kicking around, stuck it in, and using the Formatter software, cleaned it up. And magically, and rather cleverly I might add, used the download from the Mint web site, the newly formatted usb stick, and the Image Writer software to place a boot-able Mint operating system on the stick, which took patience but was really no big deal.

I realize this isn't very dramatic, but many times saving injured and suffering computers doesn't require  sword fighting, but just tedious grunt work. And as the foot soldier bravely toils, the man on the horse get all the plaudits, and the unfairness of this is seen by few. But these unsung heroes are the saviours of many sad and broken operating systems and should be applauded.

So applauding myself, I opened a beer, and toasted my doggedness in the face of mind numbing boredom. And even after one lovely beer, more slogging was required, which might need another beer. Salvaging Marilyn's Acer was at this stage like being forced to watch a Reality Cooking Competition. And the beer helped.

So after looking up the keyboard keys for booting from other than the main hard drive, I put the USB into her computer, turned the Acer on, hit the appropriate keys and watched with satisfaction as the computer booted into a problem free live Linux Mint operating system! This bios is still OK I now knew for sure, though how that can be after the near disaster with my new Mint computer is a story that shall probably be taken to the Acer's grave. And in retrospect, I have to keep in mind that humans love to use the certainty and clarity of logic to convince themselves that their conclusion is 100% accurate, when in fact their conclusion might be made of clouds and dreams. Logic works best in math class and detective stories. Logical conclusions need rock solid premises. A house needs a solid foundation. Without solid premises, logic is useless.

Marilyn called down to the basement, 'That pretty woman you like to stare at rudely is coming over tomorrow.' And I heard the door click shut. Impossible! I never stare rudely. I always glance discreetly. I observe the way a secret agent does in enemy territory. I never stare. And I did know who the pretty lady was.

Tomorrow: Out with the Bad, In with the Good.
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.


Ubuntu 23.10 on 2019 5k iMac
Ubuntu 22.04 on Dell XPS 13


Chapter 7:  Out with the Bad, In with the Good

The shade from the old Maple protected us as Ms Tao, my wife and I sat on our front porch discussing mostly children, grandchildren, and food, which they tended to disagree on with long rambling conversations about health, prices and preferences. (One likes raw fish, and the other doesn't.)  I wish I had recorded it so that all the people reading this, who are probably a bit geeky, could revel in words like asparagus, vitamins, and cooking times. But they get along famously. Mostly I just got to listen, enjoying the light breeze. I did notice, quite accidentally and just in passing, that the beautiful Ms Tao had matched perfectly the rich red of her lipstick with the equally rich red of her expensive silk skirt. However IRemoved special characters was much more interested in the fact that her son it seems is doing very well as the assistant programming manager for a relatively new start up. Ms Tao herself seems wealthy, and dresses very well and obviously expensively, and with great taste I might add, though the source of the wealth is unknown to us. And her son gets a pretty fair stipend. Her son and mine have actually been in touch though their businesses, though I can't begin to comprehend what it is that they discuss.

She reminded me with a sort of forceful, off the cuff comment, of the day she had found the silver hard drive in my junk room, and I sensed she was taking a fair chunk of the credit for the computer repair back then for herself. At least in her mind finding the old hard drive was 50% of the repair. But her reminder of that day put an idea into my head. But first I needed to do some clean up.

Downstairs was thankfully free of food and offspring talk, and I settled down with the 'sort of functioning' computer that had been my wife's. And as I rested my hands on the keyboard, I worked out that the daemons on the hard drive had to be annihilated to make the computer safe. So that would be stage one, destroy the hiding places and burn the landscape to the ground.

I booted into a live Mint OS and called up GParted, one of the best pieces of software for manipulating hard drives anywhere. (It became quite famous you remember about 2015 or 2016 when the popular little ditty 'Let's never be parted Gparted' was filling the airwaves with its catchy tune.) And starting from the right, I eliminated the partitions one by one.

And for the final cleansing act, within the live Mint I hit the install button, and within about 15 minutes I had the drive converted, and it worked when rebooted, and there was no trace of the malignant threat. And Mint functioned perfectly! A lovely system. And everyone who uses Linux is muttering as he or she reads this, 'Well use Mint you bone-head!' Or maybe even a less polite term is used? Whatever, the Linux kernel had the drivers for the hardware. But the voyage was not headed for that particular port. I could hear the muttering and complaining from our Linux group all the way up into the North End. My wife would strongly prefer Win 10, and that would make her happy, and that would satisfy rule #1 for a happy marriage. And that is the end of that decision making process! But I was not defeated yet. Ms Tao had reminded me of the silver hard drive she had found in the workshop. Oddly enough it was free again. It had been used in Adventures with an Old Desktop, but it had been replaced with a much quicker SSD. So it sat forlornly in the dust and dark waiting to be put back into harness, to be useful again. Hard drives do not do well in retirement.

So here was the plan: Set the Mint hard drive aside as insurance. That's the backup plan  that drive worked fine. Ignore the unpleasant hints from Peterborough Linux members who feel I am a turncoat. Install Win 10 on the other hard drive found by the lovely Ms Tao.

An important question here about my personality and mental abilities: Why will I never learn that things don't ever workout the way I think they will? And why did Marilyn keep insisting that evening that I embarrassed her on the porch by staring, when I know I'd never do that?

Tomorrow: A Long, Long process, and a Disappointing Outcome
Growing up from childhood and becoming an adult is highly overrated.