Aspire One

Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:28 pm
davidn: (rant)
Thanks to everybody who offered advice on my last post about this (but especially Whitney and her parents for doing the actual paying part), I've now got my early birthday present. We were going to go with a Samsung nf310 netbook right up until the moment we decided to order it, at which point we discovered that the model had been discontinued for nearly a year.

On the strength of so many recommendations, then, we ordered an Acer Aspire One 722 instead (there are several sub-model numbers with such memorable names as AO722-BZ454 but the difference between all of them seems to be in colour at best, or purely imaginary at worst). I read this morning that TigerDirect insist that you sign in person for their deliveries (as I would hope, for something like this), and sent out a work email saying that I would be working from home until it arrived - I then drove back across the town from work at 10am, noticing five UPS vans and chasing one all the way home, where it didn't stop at our house. It's surprising how every passing car seems to sound like a delivery van when you're waiting for something, but a couple of hours later, the one that I'd been waiting for arrived. The driver came up to the house, dumped the package on the doorstep and immediately turned around and left - so much for security.

I left it on to charge while I was away at work, and most of this evening has been spent doing the new computer setup rituals - it hadn't occurred to me until now that I hadn't bought a computer since 2003. Hidden files have now been shown, file extensions unhidden, StickyKeys turned off, and it was strange when I was preparing to write this post - having to download Firefox, then look for Notepad++, then download Notepad++ because it wasn't there, then look for Paint.NET and download that as well, then realize I needed to download WinSCP to upload things. With those in place, though, it's beginning to feel like my own, and I'm beginning to love it - I haven't yet got past the feeling that this time I'm going to keep an organized file system and not let it get cluttered with downloads and random files, an arrangement that will last a week at most.

I thought that I would be compromising on performance by getting a mini-computer, but it turns out that my ex-work laptop is now so ancient that this half-computer is actually still a step up from it in every respect except screen resolution (with six times the hard drive space and a decent amount more memory). The one thing I'd really be sacrificing, if I had any plans to use it as such, would be for games - but I've already established it can run Magicland Dizzy, and that makes it good enough for me.
davidn: (rant)
As part of a very planned-in-advance and non-surprise birthday present this year, we're thinking about getting me a netbook to replace my increasingly confused and decrepit laptop. The idea is to get something light and with a good battery life to do MS Office and Internet-type things, run Dosbox and possibly MMF, as I'm still going to be using my desktop for anything heavier than that.

The trouble is I've no idea about netbooks, other than (now) that 1024x600 seems to be a pretty standard resolution for them. We went out today to Micro Center, an electronics place that was somehow transported forward in time from the late 80s, and the Acer Aspire One d255e seemed like it fit most of the above requirements, though reviews for it online are a bit mixed. Does anyone have any brand recommendations over any others?

Thanks for any thoughts.


Oct. 7th, 2010 04:02 pm
davidn: (skull)
Paraphrasing slightly:
Thank you for installing Adobe Flash Player 10.x . Your hard drive is 12% fragmented, and we recommend that you download this tool to increase your computer's efficiency:

What the hell are you doing poking about on my hard drive? I relented and allowed you to install something after your incessant badgering - put it down and go away, don't critique the wallpaper while you're in there. It's bad enough that you now have to actively tell things that you don't want an Ask toolbar installed into IE, or a free McAfee scan during the download. It's becoming more and more expected that if you're on Windows, it does what other people want it to rather than what you do - drop your guard for a second and you'll get all sorts of garbage you don't want piled into your operating system.

In a vaguely comparable real-life story, I've also found out this week that the National Grid in America shows exactly the same model of efficiency that you would expect from the GASMAAAAAAAAN in Britain - over the past few weeks there had been a barrage of phone calls with them insisting that they had to set up an appointment to replace the gas meter, and I'd always passed them off to the condo association, who had to get them to guarantee that they could only do it in place of the current one and not modify the outside of the building. With that sorted out, they phoned me again, finally set up a date on which they would come and do it, I stayed at home yesterday to let them in and they didn't grant me the courtesy of turning up.

The iPad

Sep. 15th, 2010 06:46 pm
davidn: (Jam)
I think I've fallen quite embarrassingly in love with the iPad. Like most people in the world, I laughed at it a bit when it came out as something that looked like a step backwards in technology, looking like the equally poncey iPhone except more cumbersome and without the phone capabilities, but ever since my parents-in-law conspired with me to get one for Whitney's birthday, I've come round to understanding what it is.

If you'll humour me for a moment or two - do you remember the Van Helsing film from about 2005, and more importantly, did you stop laughing at it for long enough to take in anything that was being said? I'm reminded of the thing that Mediaeval Q Substitute presented in that, the sort of holy hand grenade that he said was an amazing invention but nobody could work out what it was for. The iPad had the same problem - it occupies a sort of unique space in being a non-computer that's used... slightly like one in some ways, and people didn't really know what to do with it.

What it's mostly used for between the two of us is as a sort of roaming physical web browser, going between the kitchen, living room and bedroom. The moment I realized how much I liked it was when I was curled up watching British television on Youtube with it in my lap - it's far more convenient than starting up the PS3 and trudging round an onscreen keyboard with its Youtube proxy, and you'd be very surprised how much more manageable a device is when it's just a screen. When you need it, the on-screen keyboard is surprisingly workable for something with absolutely no tactile feedback, and while I wouldn't want to do any extensive word processing on it (imagining for a moment that anybody else in the world has called it "word processing" for the last fifteen years), it does its job for making couple of paragraph long replies to things.

Already I vastly prefer it over my work laptop for idle forum browsing, even though unlike my previous Slimnote, using my current Thinkpad isn't like sitting with a square, bleeping rhinoceros on your lap. You don't even have to lug around a charger or worry about where the iPad's plugged in most of the time, because it's made by Apple and therefore you can safely watch DVD-quality video with the volume all the way up for eight hours and only use up half the battery. You would think that the lack of multitasking would be absolutely crippling, but it isn't - you don't multitask on it, because it's not a computer itself. Instead, it's like having a single window on your computer that you can just pick up and walk away with - and I'm beginning to realize the convenience of doing that.

There is one criticism that it, along with all other Apple products, will never be able to escape from - that being that it is incredibly expensive.


Aug. 12th, 2010 09:16 am
davidn: (skull)
As I was in a Commodore 64 mood thanks to yesterday, I was remembering some of the other things that I used to play about with on it. I really have no idea where any of the diverse tapes that we had for this thing came from, but one of them that I remember loading up quite a lot was a sort of graphics program called The Designer's Pencil.

I say "sort of" because while its focus was on producing graphics and music, this was done through programming a routine to draw and play them, like some sort of unlikely prototype of a cross between Mario Paint and ZZT. An analogy that falls down immediately, because the interface was nothing like either of them - as far as I can tell, on the right you have a list of commands that you can select from to add them to the list on the left, and you can then edit some of their parameters. Different variations on the commands let you draw in a direction for [variable] number of pixels, so you can set up things like loops, and the whole thing can get surprisingly complex.

The language is quite understandable and LOGO-like on the surface, but thanks to the limited space, all the commands are named things like JSUB and it looks like Assembler - and it wasn't helped by the way that the designers had declined to use the arrow keys and instead put up/left/right/down on F1, F3, F5, F7, which doesn't really make any more sense on a Commodore keyboard. Naturally, through this extraordinarily cumbersome interface I failed to create anything worthwhile of my own at all, but it came with a library of example files. Some of these were algorithms like a spiral, and some were very impressive complete little programs, drawing things like helicopters and cars. But while scrolling innocently through these titles when I was four - CUBES, MUSIC, SAILING, COPTER - I eventually stumbled across one called FAROUT. It... was terrifying.

The horrific spectacle looked like this. )
davidn: (skull)
I don't think it would be overdramatizing it at all to describe today as a cavalcade of failure. We hired a car and went up to the house again with the aim of doing a few more tasks before moving in, namely putting the television bracket on to the wall, putting the door of the spare room back up, and generally moving a few things over to the new house including my recently re-deaded computer.

When we arrived we found we'd already been getting junk mail - they really get you by advertising painters and decorators just as soon as you've moved house - along with a nice letter from our new neighbours saying that they'd moved a parcel from the rain down to the little basement porch sort of area that we both share. It turned out to be a replacement power supply from Corsair, which they'd apparently just shipped off without confirmation - I was worried for the sogginess of the box at first, but it was in shrinkwrap inside the cardboard. I put it all together with the computer pieces that we'd brought with us and my computer is ALIVE once more - it's ALIVE and is lying on the floor of a basement of a house I'm not in, but it's a start.

However, none of the tasks that we'd expected to perform that day ended in success. After going around the hardware place again and getting some more supplies, we found that we couldn't just replace the hinges on the doorframe of the spare room because they were built into the wall. The idea came to take the folding door to the basement, which we didn't want up anyway, and move it up to the room, and a lot of hammering, banging and WD40 ensued trying to get the rods out of the basement door. Eventually, it was carried upstairs, where we found that the door was the wrong way round and wouldn't fit into the frame when inverted.

With that task out the way, we tried to put up the bracket for the television, but after hauling the 30-pound monster out of the case we found that it wasn't wide enough for the marks that we'd made on the wall. This is unusual because our wall beams are about 20 inches apart and the bracket we have is designed for up to 24 inches - so perhaps we're just mistaken. Either way, we couldn't do more than just marking where we might want to put it up because we didn't have a big enough drill to continue. We're going to need someone to come in and help us with the installation of that.

After getting home, we realized that I would need a wireless adapter on my desktop, if the router's going to be upstairs and the office is to be on the lowest level. I had a USB one that had been lying at the bottom of a drawer for ages - I tried downloading a driver for it to test it out on the laptop. That didn't work, either.
davidn: (skull)
Overshadowed by the rather large change (and physical exertion, see last weekend) of buying a house is the annoyance that my desktop computer is once again inoperable - some natural defect or the 90-degree-Fahrenheit weather last week, or a combination of the two, caused my indestructible Corsair power supply to melt. Rather, I don't see anything physically wrong with it, other than when I came back to find the computer had shut itself down the back of the machine was mildly warm - but the motherboard power light remains stubbornly unlit.

To confirm the power supply's deadness, there was a test on their site which involved connecting a paper clip from the green wire to one of the black wires on the plug that goes into the motherboard, which I thought was just asking for trouble and was possibly a way for them to keep a perfect record by quietly eliminating anyone who encountered a problem, but I tried it with no electric shocks at all and it had no visible effect. So it's now embalmed in bubble wrap and laid to rest in a coffin marked "Medium Flat Rate", and is on its way across the country where it'll hopefully be replaced by Corsair, having lasted one and a half years out of the five year warranty - less than the lifespan of the power supply that I got with the computer when I built it!

With this uptime record recently, I'm beginning to worry that I'm just going to have severe problems every few months no matter what happens, now. I can't help but remember that when I was in sixth year of school I had a Pentium 3 that never had any maintenance done to it apart from a blast from a hair dryer every now and then to get the mountains of dust out of it, and it's still working fine.
davidn: (skull)
For a long time now, I'd thought that computer viruses were things only contracted by idiots and users of Internet Explorer (qualifications which it must be said often go hand in hand). But we had an infection of something at work last week that necessitated going out to buy a new hard drive, and my work laptop's just got something today as well. I'm not sure how it happened - as far as I can remember I wasn't doing anything with it that was more horrific than normal.

I got a trojan warning from Avast when things were going well on massive upgrade #3 of 4 in the middle of the day, and not too long after that, I noticed a process taking up far too much CPU time, and a pop-up advert appearing that was an Internet Explorer window trying to look like Firefox (the icon in the taskbar was wrong). Further, it seemed that some Google links were being redirected - I thought I'd just misclicked the first couple of times, but when I clicked on MalwareBytes and got a page about how to have a healthy pregnancy I was beginning to suspect that something was wrong.

Spybot caught it, it's called Virtumonde.prx and fiddles with your Internet traffic, so I've disconnected it from the network while it runs a giant scan to see if it's been successful in removing it after one reset. HijackThis couldn't seem to, though, so if that doesn't work I have Combofix and a big list of instructions to fall back on.

It lives

Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:00 pm
davidn: (ace)
After a three week long struggle and the escalation of the problem from a dead graphics card to a dead motherboard, I have a working computer again. Well, nearly - Windows XP may start up well when you first install it (I was going to time how long it spent on the Windows logo screen but it disappeared in under a second) but it's easy to forget how stupidly it's set up at first. "Files on C:\ are hidden to prevent damage to your computer" - let me in! I'm not a moron, I've just spent hours putting you together. The memory was the last component out of the string of deliveries I received - it looks very impressive and shiny compared to the circuit board look of my old stuff, and has to have clips around it to contain its power. I don't know.

Despite being an inch bigger the case is pretty much just as crowded as my old one (see diagram), without the nice gap that SATA used to have down there in contrast to the chaos, because that space is taken up by a million different tiny cables for the front panel sockets and case fans. On turning it on for the first time I found that I had not destroyed the motherboard with my overenthusiastic slathering of thermal paste, and that indeed everything worked fine apart from a "Cpu Fan Error!" message. The fan was definitely turning, but I changed where it was plugged in from the three-pin connector that looked correct up at the top corner to the four-pin connector that looked wrong below it, and the problem went away - it seems that only one of the sockets actually allows the motherboard to detect the fan, even if both power it.

To my surprise Windows started up on the old hard drive, but it was so decrepit and confused due to being transplanted into entirely different hardware that I was forced to euthanize it and start over. The contents of my media drive are now borrowing space on Whitney's computer, the media drive itself is now what I'm planning to be a dedicated Windows/application drive, and all my actual data is going to go on the new SATA with a backup plan to a partition of Whitney's monstrous external drive. I have to set up a hundred different applications now, and I notice that the sound doesn't work, but that's not a new problem for me and I'm sure I'll get it with enough fiddling. The only component problem remaining is that apparently computers don't use PS/2 mice any more, along with 939 sockets, IDE drives or DDR2 memory, so I'll have to hunt one of those down. And then I'll be back up and running again.
davidn: (skull)
The pieces for the new computer arrived last night and it was all very exciting - the new cobalt-blue case is about an inch deeper than the old one, and while this doesn't sound like much it gives all the drives and cables a lot more space to be comfortable in. The near-toolless design sounded like a decent idea on paper, but in reality the locks don't really work all that well and everything is prone to sliding about a bit if you push on it hard enough. Just about everything got set up smoothly, except when I was transferring in my giant CPU fan, I put far too much thermal paste on and had to clear the excess dripping around the socket, but thankfully it doesn't seem to have damaged it or the motherboard. It definitely turns on and POSTs.

The greater problem is that I hadn't counted on my memory being a further victim of the complete obsolescence of the computer that I put together only three years ago - I have DDR2 memory and the new motherboard has DDR3 slots, which the old memory won't fit into. This is actually just as well, because the voltages of the two types are also different, so the change is to prevent people like me from inserting it anyway and blowing it across the room.

So I've sent off for yet another parcel from Tiger Direct. If my budget expands another couple of hundred dollars, I could have spent the money on Steve Jobs' latest offering instead - let's do another content-locked Flashless tablet by putting the old one under a magnifying glass and naming it after a popular type of feminine hygiene product.
davidn: (Default)
I haven't really had the best week, partially because of running out of levothyroxine just before the pharmacy was closed for three days, so I nearly turned into Jack Dee. And yesterday, a combined effort at work finally uncovered that a bug that I had been tearing my insignificant hair out over was caused by an object comparison with a == - be careful, because it happens to everyone!

I have been spending far more time on the news feed page for Crystal Towers 2 than is frankly healthy, though, and it's really nice to see updates happening as they go past. I'm currently mustering up the courage to submit it to a couple of the bigger independent game sites. I've also been keeping my promise to work on it this year, forging ahead with level layout and beginning to draw up a tree of the eventual layout of the entire game. This is going to get finished.

To that end, I bought a new computer this morning. Or three bits of one, at least - thanks to everyone who responded in the various places I posted the suggestions (even if everyone on Facebook misread the title "Computer advice needed once again!" as "Please have a Macfest in this thread immediately!"). I went for almost exactly what I had posted, but with a Phenom instead of an Athlon. That should keep me going for a few years.

I think the state of the week is summarized best by a series of phone calls that I had to make to our Internet service provider recently, after we had no connection in the morning. In order:
  1. Called the support line on the landline phone. Got as far as reading them my account number when the man told me I was breaking up really badly, so I said I would call back on my mobile.

  2. Called the support line on my mobile phone and was redirected to the office in California. I was given a number to call to specifically get the one that was appropriate to where I lived.

  3. Called the new number and got to a man who sounded very confused before revealing that he was in the Massachusetts sales office. He said he would put me through to support, but hung up instead.

  4. Called the number again, went carefully back through the menus, found the right support option, got through to an actual person, turned around, looked at the router and then had to explain to her that I had spent so long on the phone that the Internet was now working and no further action was required.

Well, that's not very Comcastic, is it?
davidn: (Jam)
As it seems the graphics card wasn't the only problem but that my motherboard appears to have died well after it became obsolete, my problem scope has now extended to replacing just about the entire base of the computer - CPU, motherboard and case. I'm looking for something that'll last me (as comical a requirement as this might be) but that isn't necessarily top of the range. I'm currently looking at:

ASUS M4A77TD Motherboard (AM3)
This seems to have everything I need on it, and the layout is convenient (PCI Express 2.0 16x that isn't placed too close to the drive sockets, for a start). I was surprised to find just how obsolete my current stuff is, with the lack of a second IDE channel on every motherboard ever now, but I'll just get a lot more use out of my external case, I suppose. If I can fit it back together.

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Dual Core Processor
I used to know about processors, when it was a nice linear scale caused by Intel releasing a new standard every couple of years. Now I basically just spin round twenty times and point at the screen at random. But the socket matches, which is as much as you could hope for, and it comes with a fan as well if my current 939 fan turns out not to fit on to an AM3 socket.

Cooler Master Centurion 5 case
You'd think that a case should at least be an easy choice, but they seem to jump straight from tiny to completely mental, and this is just about the best middle ground I could find. I wanted something slightly bigger than my current case (I measured) because it was getting crowded in there, and this is just about the only one I could see that fit that requirement without including four LED fans and a front display that allowed you to directly control the speed of the processor. The tool-less drive bays are nice, too.

This all adds up to about $200. Basically, what I do with my desktop is some amateur musicianship and development - I'm not after something that can necessarily run games that were released after 2007 or anything, and all of these are an upgrade from my current computer. Do let me know if I'm buying anything completely disastrous.
davidn: (skull)
I don't know what it is about the last week, but everyone's computers seem to be failing in one way or another. Mine got progressively worse over a couple of days, first appearing to be suffering from a dying graphics card, then a dodgy motherboard, and then the hard drive eventually deciding that it wasn't going to spin correctly when I attempted to rescue it.

Despite that evening's conclusive awfulness I couldn't leave the hard drive alone in the morning, and needed to have one last try at trying to bring it back to life. Starting it up in the external enclosure again just gave what we'd heard before - a promising spinning-up start followed by a cutting out noise and then multiple sort of pathetic revs as it tried its best to get going. So thinking I had nothing to lose, I went with something that Whitney had suggested the night before and that I'd never thought would work, MacGyvering together this ramshackle arrangement.

What you're looking at there is the hard drive running independently of any kind of case, powered by the power supply unit in the otherwise pretty dead desktop it's sitting on. Attached to it is the interface ripped out of the external drive enclosure, which is still powered by the enclosure's own cable to get the USB working. I thought the best that I could hope for with the combination was a sizeable explosion, but on turning it on it certainly sounded a lot healthier than it had before, and when it was connected up to the laptop, the drive was recognized as intact. So as quickly as possible I added a couple of other things to complete the post-apocalyptic backup system:

From a hard drive powered from the dead computer, through a virtual sort of USB drive enclosure, into the laptop, then into a more traditionally-powered external drive. And using that arrangement I managed to get the really important stuff off it - the My Documents and MMF2 folders, Modplug, and so on - before the desktop cut out with a CPU overheating alarm. It turned out that this was just from a stray IDE cable physically blocking the fan.

It looks like I certainly picked the right time to upgrade, and even though I'm not now convinced that there's anything fatally wrong with the old hard drive after all, I'll be using a new one and backing up much more often from now on. And the fan interference is certainly a sign that it's wise to get a new and bigger case.
davidn: (skull)
To summarize:

  • Installing the new graphics card still just gives the "video failure" POST beep

  • This means that either the graphics card is just dead (not totally unheard of) or the problem is the connection on the motherboard

  • So it's likely I'll need a new motherboard

  • The Socket 939 motherboards that my CPU fits into have been obsolete since three years ago

  • So I could hunt around for an older one, or just take the opportunity to upgrade

  • New CPU as well, then

  • Transferring my main hard drive into an external enclosure reveals that it's having some sort of trouble spinning up

  • Bugger

I do have a small number of backups on another drive - CT2 is mostly still around as it was near the end of last year, for example, though the source file for the demo isn't (so if I do release it this weekend, everyone's getting the Clickteam version!) But with things like this happening every time I say I'm going to start work on it again, I frankly get the feeling that it's time to take the hint.
davidn: (skull)
I'd appreciate any graphics card advice!

I'd been doing my best to ignore random occasional lockups on my PC for some time, but as I was shouting at iMovie on Whitney's computer I finally heard a dreaded POST error beep from the other side of the wall. Coming back to a pair of blank monitors, I had to reset and listen to it a couple more times because my internal speaker is quite indistinct - at first I was terrified that it was dash-dot, as that means that the main board has gone, but seeing as my computer appeared to be correctly going through the motions of hard drive activity despite the monitors remaining resolutely blank, I'm pretty certain I'm actually hearing dash-dot-dot, which means it's just the graphics card which has gone on strike. That was definitely the pattern I heard when I listened to it closely after taking the case off.

I ripped it out and ordered a new one online - I trusted my instincts and got the Geforce 9400 GT, but when I suddenly remembered that I had an unbroken record of ordering graphics cards that were completely awful, I immediately got on the phone to cancel it again and seek advice from other people.

I'm not after anything madly expensive or indeed capable - the above card is a budget one at $50 but I'd be prepared to go up to about $100. Around my computer, I generally try to keep the fact that it's the 21st century quiet - I think the most stressful thing I ever ran on it was Portal. I just need something that's PCI Express (I have a 1.x slot but 2.0s are backwards compatible), capable of running two monitors and likely to last.

Any recommendations?
davidn: (prince)
A lot of the work day yesterday was spent installing a new fan assembly for my laptop, which my boss had ordered online to preserve his own sanity and everyone else's in the office - the computer had been making noises like an annoyed zombie with stomachache for some months. The process of getting into the computer was rather more involved than I had thought, involving the use of a screwdriver, a pen magnet to extract loose screws, a second screwdriver to use in conjunction with the first for unplugging tiny little fragile components, thermal paste, compressed air to blow away the dust because it was like Raiders of the Lost Ark in there, and old-fashioned brute force. Unsurprisingly my mind didn't stop when the operation was eventually successful, and on the new and improved quiet laptop this was soon produced:

(Don't use the magnet anywhere near the hard drives or you'll get up to 10 points of... data loss.)

To explain the middle item on the right, this came from an easier procedure that was performed a few months ago, following a recommended fix for getting around a design flaw of IBM's laptops. Some of the fan assembly went over the graphics chip and I could probably have left the now-baked-solid stack of paper out if the fan provided the necessary pressure itself, but it's still in there to be on the safe side.

Now it's much quieter, and seems to be running cooler as well - I keep on having to check that the fan is still actually spinning as I'm not used to it working with any degree of subtlety.
davidn: (Jam)
I find it difficult to conceive just how installing Word Viewer (and then the mountain of compatibility packs on top of that when I realized that it couldn't actually View anything much) made Windows completely lose my program and icon associations for TXT files and wouldn't allow me to put them back until it was scrubbed from my hard drive. Microsoft have a unique collective ability to do things not quite as well as any software that's available for free.

Now I've just got to see if I can put DOCs back to OpenOffice again as well. It's not perfect by any means, but at least you can put it on your computer without ill-effects.
davidn: (Jam)
Just as I've been getting better, it's now my work laptop that has become terminally ill - starting yesterday evening after I got back from taking Whitney to the airport, it would manage to get two minutes into Windows before freezing up completely, with no hard drive activity, PC speaker warning noises or response to any input (including being hit with a hammer). After some searching around, I found out that this symptom matched up to a known problem with the T40 range - basically, it's dying of a design fault that causes one or more vital components to become unsoldered from the main board after a couple of years, meaning that the whole thing can die with the slightest amount of movement if it finds the processor suddenly missing. On the advice of another forum I found, to test this diagnosis, I ran it with this crude fix yesterday morning:

And with weight placed on the spot below the keyboard, that allowed it to survive for hours rather than the couple of minutes that it had managed on every other attempt, though obviously it made it slightly difficult to use. During that time I took the opportunity to back up as many useful files as I could think of, and sent a message about its impending death to my boss, who - after a tricky Indiana Jones-like moment when I had to roll the water bottle off it and keep it clamped together while reading the serial number off the bottom - is organizing a replacement.

That'll take a while to arrive, though, and in the meantime I attempted a do-it-yourself solution suggested by the Internet, because as we all know my ability in this area is second only to my cooking.

Thinkpad repair - a photo guide )

And with this unlikely and unorthodox solution in place, it seems to be running quite healthily, even if it does have an awkward bulge underneath the Space bar. I would at least hazard that it'll be as usable as usual until proper salvation arrives.

The curse

Sep. 27th, 2008 06:57 pm
davidn: (skull)
Me: I have an inexplicable urge to work on Crystal Towers 2 again after not touching it for ages. Playing Ratchet and Clank all week's given me even more ideas to start putting in and then have a crisis about the likelihood of ever completing.

Computer: GROOOOOAANNN sudden silence.

Me:: Well, the noise from the power supply fan's improving at last. Wish I could say the same about the startup time.

Computer: Give me a chance, this hard drive's nearly six years old, you never clean it up, and American electricity's all weird.

Me: Just have to check my email first... and private messages... and then look at my Friends page... and the Clickteam forum... and... that's a strange sort of smell. It must be the students downstairs barbecuing something. Possibly tyres.

Computer: (Seems happy enough.)

Me: There, I've opened MMF2. I think that deserves a biscuit.

Computer: EXPLODE!

Given that this is virtually a repeat of what happened the last time I tried to pick this up again I'm now convinced that there is a curse on this project and it's doomed to just be a nag in the back of my mind telling me to complete it and blocking all future game-making attempts forever. After the screen froze, went black, came back in again and finally died, I quickly dived under the desk to disconnect all cables coming from the case, noticing the suspiciously burning hot patch at the back of the top, and dragged it out on to the desk to have a look.

The problem is definitely the power supply, judging from the horrible smell and the way that it had a surface that you could have fried an egg on - it seems that the fan just gave out after only a couple of years of happy spinning. (They really don't seem to make computer parts like they used to - the Amstrad under my desk at my parents' house is still going strong with no replacement parts since 1987). I was actually rather happy to see that the rest of the inside had not in fact melted, and even though a power supply failure is a dangerous thing to everything else in the computer, I think that the rest might be all right.

Not knowing anything much about the technical side of power supplies before today, I looked up the measurements and statistics of the depressed electronic squid that's now sitting on the coffee table and ordered something from Tiger Direct that seemed comparable but slightly more powerful and robust. I've gone for the Corsair VX550W, expensive though it is compared to my other parts, and I'm linking to that particular review of it because of my fascination with them being able to enthuse so much about a power supply that they sound like the cast of Top Gear going on about the latest Aston Martin.

The order will probably be here in about a week, by which time I'll have forgotten everything else I was going to do today.
davidn: (savior)
First of all, I have never encountered a computer making a noise more distressing than the one produced when SVN fails. Every time I try to submit something for work without connecting to the private network first I feel like I've dreadfully upset it.

In general, though, my computer is now feeling a lot better, because after the CPU fan just decided to stop last week, I found the replacement that I'd ordered had arrived while I was away in New York. And apparently this one doesn't just think of itself as a fan - it's a TR2-R1 Thermaltake (R1 Flow Type). After I'd carelessly grabbed it and splodged my index finger right into the middle of the layer of thermal paste on the base, it was surprisingly easy to install, with a clip that just went on right away rather than having to be forced in with a crowbar like the last one. And it's enormous - I had to twist a few power supply cables away from it for fear of them getting caught.

14As you'd expect from something that size, it cools the CPU down to a temperature much like the one I was getting by blowing a Vornado air circulator directly into the open side of the case. I'm going to have to keep one eye on the temperature over the next few days, but I'm confident that it's going to stay safe from now on, or at least for the next six years (by which time I might even be finishing off Crystal Towers 2).

Which leaves me only able to complain about how rubbish ITE Smart Guardian looks. This is what happens when you get OS-level coders to design the look of a program. The icons for the thermometer, processor and power were obviously done up in MS Paint in about five combined minutes, and nothing even lines up right - it look like somebody sneezed a bit too hard on it and knocked all the objects out of place just before they sent it off for production. Also note the incredibly professional Comic Sans title font and their logo at the top done (with no expense spared) by

But at least it reports the fan is now moving - it's also apparently ultra-silent, but you'd be hard pressed to tell because thanks to my overenthusiastic cleaning of the case I seem to have knackered the power supply fan now and it moans unspeakably when the computer is first turned on. I know from experience that this goes away over time, and it's also temporarily curable by hitting it at the back of the top of the tower - one of the nice things about computers is that if they don't do what you want there's no law against slapping them about a bit.

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