Author Topic: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem  (Read 340 times)

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Offline Jason

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2021, 01:33:53 pm »
Finally caught up with your story and read the last 4 chapters in rapid succession. Fascinating and I look forward to how it will all turn out. I'm thinking an explosion.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2021, 02:09:07 pm »
The end of the story has been written already. It wont be changed. So here are the choices:

a) there will be no explosion
b) Jason's thought - the Acer will explode
c) Buster's wife Marilyn will explode (sort of) with anger
d) both Marilyn and the Acer will explode.

There are absolutely no prizes for guessing correctly.
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline Jason

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2021, 12:47:58 am »
I guess I'm stuck with b then. :D
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2021, 10:00:32 am »
Chapter 8: A Long, Long process, and a Disappointing Outcome

I will guess I was seven when my cousin Ken and I saw an ad on a cereal box that promised a wonderful thing: a jet fighter airplane that sat on a ring, and when you pressed the right spot, it shot from your finger and soared into the sky! This was about 1947, and the war was still in our minds, though my dad was back now. And all we had to do was send 35 cents and one box top to the special address, and it would appear right in our home’s mail box! So Ken and I both sent away.

As you can guess, the ring and plane were tiny, and when you pressed the lever, the plane hopped off the ring and fell sullenly to the floor. We were very disappointed, but apparently the lesson never sunk in. I had forgotten that lesson from almost three quarters of a century before and I approached the flawed computer with confidence.

The Acer had Win 10 on it before, so I knew I could get a legitimate replacement for it from the Microsoft site. As to the install, I have wiped most of that long and painful process from my mind, and even singing the Beatles’  ‘The Long and Winding Road’ doesn’t help ease the pain to this day. Here’s the problem.

After getting something from the Microsoft site, and transforming it into something boot-able with Mint, I inserted this precious USB stick into the Acer, and turned it on. And it ran smoothly and installed something, though the trauma has erased even that from my memory, but whatever it was worked and I could see I was on the right path. What I didn’t see was that it would be a very long and very winding road, though ultimately sort of successful.

If I remember correctly, and I can’t be sure of this, I was told to reboot and remove the boot disk. Because I was hungry, I just turned it off, removed the stick and went upstairs to get some food.

               ..........................................

When you install a Linux distro you go through a fairly simple procedure that puts everything on the hard drive that you need fairly quickly. Then you are asked to remove the install disc and reboot the computer. The system shuts down, it reboots, and Bob’s your uncle, you use the operating system. So easy.

The Microsoft people have to graduate from the ‘How to Make Things Difficult’ program before they are allowed to work on install design. There is a feature of their installs that caused me great suffering, though actually it’s not so bad if you don’t have evil beings lurking near the computer. In my case their method was exhausting. And unexpected.

Windows installs are long and slow to begin with compared to Linux. The little installers inside are old and wizened gnomes who take lots of coffee breaks. I started up the Acer and it told me nicely to wait while it did some adjusting and settling in, and then awakened to a new stage of the install, finding even more software and poking about until a message came on the screen that explained I needed to reboot. Sure I said confidently and clicked the button.

And while telling me not to turn off the computer, it poked about inside there somewhere, and finally shut down and restarted. Sort of restarted because the Acer didn’t get to the actual restart screen.

The one-eyed Cyclops was staring at me again, like a long lost friend.

Tomorrow: Talking to GeekMan
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline Jason

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2021, 01:52:05 pm »
The plot thickens! And I must say it's good to see you take a shot at the Windows install! You've earned a reprieve from losing your geek patch and a beating by Linux nerds.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2021, 09:55:09 am »
Chapter 9: Talking to GeekMan

A beta Microsoft tester friend, living near the capital of Canada, has experienced a multitude of unusual computer problems over the years. We had met Geekman and his young wife Bonnie on a great vacation in 2008 at a Cuban resort. We’ve been friends ever since. When I phoned him, on a rainy unpleasant morning, and explained my problem, I was taken aback by his complete lack of sympathy and the total absence of words of condolence. He took everything in and said very brightly, ‘Well that IS interesting isn’t it?’

We actually had a reasonably sociable morning talking mostly about his trials and tribulations over the years with his tests, highlighted by the story of the time his video card had a fireworks display. But he’s experienced and rational, and he suggested a way to get past Cyclops when the evil thing appeared.

‘Unplug the computer. Press and hold the start button. Let everything rest. Plug it in, and try starting it again.’

It worked! I phone Geekman back and asked him why that worked.

He replied, ‘No idea. Any other problems?’ And the conversation stalled and came to an end.

But I could now continue with the install and see if Win 10 sorted itself out. And I worked out a big time saver – when it said it needed to reboot, I shut it down! The Acer said not to unplug or something like that and I watched as it played around and settled for the night. I could even take a break and maybe get a glass of Australian wine to celebrate getting back on track. The world is always better with a rich red Australian wine.

And I now had a work-around when Cyclops stared at me. 'Geekman’s Solution', while not aesthetically pleasing, did have one quality that all computer people like – it worked!

So time passed and the Australian red eased the boredom and the job was done. I used the Acer a bit and it was very smooth and good. I felt pleased and satisfied, but I couldn’t leave well enough alone, at least for one night, and clicked ‘reboot’.

Welcome back Mr Zombie Eye.

Tomorrow: Chasing Down a Solution
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2021, 08:32:37 am »
Chapter 10: Chasing Down a Solution

The remnants of the Great Depression lay scattered about our house after the war. Many ancient ones reading this will remember some of these things. My wooden bedside table, which had lived its former life as an orange crate, was getting little drapes over the open side. My mother had sewn some old clothes into something that slide on string to open or close the space. Her words as she admired her work were heard often in our house. ‘That should be good enough.’

My dad used to bring large soap flake bags home from the factory where he worked, and after my mother had carefully pulled them apart, she would sew them into bed sheets, and they were, as she said, ‘Good enough.’ And my dad used the same phrase when he made a yard gate from scrap wood gathered from the alley behind the house, and again when he put a hole in a piece of wood, put a screw into it to attach it to the fence post, and by spinning the piece of wood around the screw, we could lock or unlock the gate. Even I knew ‘that it should be good enough’.

So what I actually needed was something ‘good enough’. But in hindsight, I wasted too much energy and time looking for perfection.

I had spent the beautiful day inside on the phone when I should have been outside, almost anywhere outside. And I chatted with three people – my son, Geekman, and a friend who builds and repairs computers for a living. All seemed to agree on the problem, and from that a solution could be found. Apparently, over the years, Microsoft had forgotten about some piece of hardware in the Acer, and there was either outdated driver software for it, or no useful driver at all. That was the consensus.

Solution: Download free driver analyzer software, and decide what to do.

Reading the software reviews, choosing the software, learning how to run the software doesn’t make interesting reading. And reading about how I used the software to chase this driver a number of times over the next few days would serve no purpose. The end result was simply a reality that had to be faced - if the problem was a faulty driver or missing driver, I couldn’t find it. If I spent anymore time looking for the mysterious thing, my love of wine and beer would tip over into full blown alcoholism, and I had no desire to go there. So I would have to find a ‘good enough’ solution to keep Cyclops at bay, at least for now. And that was the best I could do.

A good enough solution is obvious once you think of it, but not necessarily easy to find before the idea hits you. I mentioned this earlier. You simply can never let the computer reboot. And with some poking about you can make this so. Now most of us know that the only way truly to refresh Win 10 is with a restart. Oddly the off/on doesn’t quite do it because some stuff is stored. Nonetheless my solution did seem to do most of the job. But there are times when a restart must be done, and Geekman’s Simple Solution must be used. And this is fairly easy to do.

So change the update procedure to ‘download and ask’ or words to that effect. And never reboot, but shutdown. Restart when you’re ready.

You would think that this is the semi-happy ending to this quest. But I decided to engaged the enemy with one last battle.

But before I do, I think I should reply to an email from a reader, and reply publicly. Geekman thinks that his carefully cultivated James Bond image has been tarnished by what I wrote, and that he should be presented as he would present himself. “The name is Geek, Resident Geek, Agent 01010100  01000010”. However, in my mind, I always see him prancing across the floor in his leotards, his cape fluttering behind, and a large G emblazoned on his chest. And even more important, his young wife thinks he would look cuddly and adorable in a cape and leotards, and is going shopping for supplies tomorrow. And the teller of this tale has been strongly swayed by the word ‘cuddly’.


Tomorrow: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ....
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline ssfc72

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #22 on: May 04, 2021, 10:22:06 am »
150 views and counting. :-)
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Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2021, 10:20:57 am »
Chapter 11: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

One bright, sunny, and quiet day I pressed the start button for the Acer and looked away as the longest boot in the history of computers started its sloth-like amble towards usability, and in the calm I thought I heard a soft thunk. New hope bubbled up. I shut down and started the computer again and listened intently. And it was easy to distinguish now - a mechanical sound like the grunt of effort that a man might make lifting something heavy.

It seemed the quite old and maybe sick hard drive required a big jolt of juice to get rolling. Is it possible that the effort needed for this prevented the reboot from getting beyond the zombie eye ? And the Acer said quietly but unheard, ‘My muscles are too tired and weak.’ And in a very tiny weak voice it might have whispered ‘Power supply......’

The world seemed a brighter, happier place for the next few days while I plotted out my purchase and use of an SSD. This would be the third time I had put a functioning OS onto an SSD so the process should be easy. And it was 500 g to 500 g which assured a simple procedure.

As it turned out, there was a bit of a snag when the really good Macrium Reflect software tried to make a process backup on Microsoft One Drive, which I don’t have. The help page told me to redirect the files, quite small, to some spot on the hard drive. And on the third attempt everything worked. (So I guess in my life threes are important.)

And now the mop-up of this long campaign that started with my wife saying ‘The bloody computer wont start’ was taking place. The final stages. The SSD with the cloned Win 10 was removed from the usb gizmo, and the side and front panels of the Acer were removed. The weak old probably infirm hd was removed and placed somewhere in the junk room. The SSD was installed and I was ready for the dawning of a new day.

With a sense of excitement I pressed the start button and heard a very soft soul-destroying clunk.

 Some less battle hardened soldiers might have given up and walked away, but immediately something at the edge of my awareness was nagging at me. And it only took a moment to deduce that whatever was making the noise was still there, and it could only be the DVD player! So I could have solved this problem long ago by listening and thinking a bit. Ah well. And I turned back to the task.

Take the front and side off the Acer, reach in and disconnect the DVD player, put it back together and Bob’s your uncle.

I pressed the on button, listened carefully and there was no thunk. And it booted quickly and has proved to be an amazing machine. And to do the final test I pressed the ‘reboot’, or actually in Windows, ‘restart’, and quietly watched. It was blissfully quick until Cyclops stared out at me.

Red wine wasn’t going to handle this disappointment. Time for the Irish Whisky.

EPILOGUE

Almost every problem has been solved, except this one. And the workaround is no big deal. It’s a wonderful computer, so I’ve adapted. Sorry I couldn’t end the narrative with a complete victory, though in some ways it was complete, or at least satisfying. My family’s dictum that ‘good enough is totally fine’ shall be my new motto. My grass is green enough. My house is clean enough. My furniture is not quite dilapidated enough to need to be replaced.

And I, after all this, see Cyclops as a worthy adversary who probably just needed some attention. And we went at it pretty good for awhile. As I’d grown so fond of him in the game we played, I renamed him Oscar, and he’s become a bit like a pet, like a cat sitting on my lap while I use the computer. When I sit down at the computer I always now say, “Hi there Oscar. Good to have you around my friend.” And he apparently, as a thank you, told the Orcs to go away and torment someone else other than his human friend. And we both find the dusty, cluttered basement room feels less lonely now.

Note: In April of 2021, months after this story was written, I did an update on Win10. I just wanted to turn it off and let it complete the process when I turned it on again. So I selected, sensibly I thought, ‘Update and shut down’. The big unforeseen here is that the process is not quite what the words imply.  What actually happened is that it did do the expected update. And it did start to shut down. And here the “let’s make it difficult” Microsoft programmers added a very short Restart to the process. Not much of a restart – but just enough. Oscar and I stared at each other grinning. I held the off button manually til Oscar went away. I didn’t do anything with the power cord, but I did count to 10. Then I pressed the start button and magically it worked! So I have been forced to come to the conclusion that Oscars in a computer are exactly like dragons in the forest. If you treat them with respect and kindness, you find out they are not so bad after all.

And at this point, finally after a long, long struggle,  I think I can say that everyone lived happily ever after.

Tomorrow the final, end of story, post: Some Fan, and Some Not So Fan, Followup Messages I Received
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline fox

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2021, 10:37:40 am »
So let me get this straight. The "cure" is to hold the power button until the boot is complete?
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Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2021, 11:47:17 am »
"The "cure" is to hold the power button"

Goodness gracious Dr Mike, there is no 'cure' if you have a Cyclops living in your computer!!! As with any computer, if it freezes, you can hold the power button to turn it off. If Oscar is in a good mood, a few seconds rest and the power button restarts it. Until we got to know one another, I had to use a full 'Geekman's Simple Solution' to get it up and running again.

Next time I see Oscar I'll tell him that Dr Michael Fox wants to 'cure' him. Oscar will get a kick out of that.
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline ssfc72

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #26 on: May 05, 2021, 02:20:34 pm »
I can just picture, all those old Acer desktop machines sitting in the recycling centres, throughout the world, because of the cyclops eye syndrome. When all that is needed to make the perfectly useful again, is to hold in the power button until it shuts down, wait 10 seconds and the hit the power button again.  Such a waste of perfectly good computers.

Thanks for posting a great story, Buster. I enjoyed reading it very much. :-)
« Last Edit: May 06, 2021, 08:30:59 am by ssfc72 »
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Offline buster

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #27 on: May 05, 2021, 03:06:58 pm »
I suspect there is probably more to it Bill for my Acer. Something malicious was on the old hd. Hard to explain how the bios on the new computer got damaged unless it came from that old drive. Scrubbing that drive clean was probably a big step too, and then replacing it ultimately with a new ssd.

Towards the end it was just Oscar that I had to deal with, and that was not much of a problem, and he often doesn't show up for weeks.

But it could be that this particular build by Acer did result in many computers suffering from CES (Cyclops Eye Syndrome) and ended their life sitting in recycling centres.
" Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not. " Eric Idle

Offline Jason

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2021, 04:59:18 am »
I can just picture, all those old Acer desktop machines sitting in the recycling centres, throughout the world, because of the cyclops eye syndrome. When all that is needed to make the perfectly useful again, is to hold in the power button until it shuts down, wait 10 seconds and the hit the power button again.  Such a waste of perfectly good computers.

Not sure if you meant that to be funny, Bill, but I laughed. :)
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason

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Re: The Really Unpleasant Computer Problem
« Reply #29 on: May 06, 2021, 05:14:52 am »
A lovely story with a hero and a villain and intrigue but it needs a live triangle for it to really work.  :P Seriously though, I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing it with us. I would have said it was the power supply right up until the end which is what I think William prophesied. Although, perhaps the power supply had second thoughts about its approach after you abandoned it and wanted to get you back.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata