Computer service

Strange posting schedules seem to have become the norm around here. I would like to say that I am planning to change that, but I am not sure if I have any intention of trying to. For the most part I am going to just use this site for what I never really intended it for; random bitching when I am really pissed.

I may actually get back into posting a bit more frequently though, just because one can only play so many on-line games of dominoes before getting really tired of it. That being said, don’t expect much.

The reason that I decided to bang something out tonight is because of yet more computer problems…Not mine though…

To start the story from roughly the beginning, the PC that is used where I work was initially bought in about 1997. The software that is used for the purposes of the store can not operate on any system later than windows 98 (it has to have a pure DOS environment, something that you really can not do with windows me/xp). Sometime around 2000, the owner was trying to upgrade his system. Problem was that his daughter was trying to build him a new machine using all of the old parts (a new motherboard and processor, everything else the same) including the antiquated windows95 operating system that was already on the hard disk. It went horribly wrong.

It took a couple of technicians several days to get the machine to a workable condition, but even then a lot of the stuff didn’t really work quite like it should. Most notably everything related to the files for the store. I wasn’t able to get any support from the software manufacturer for the store files since they went out of business, but I was able to get some support from the manufacturer of the actual PC to POS software, and got it all working again. It took a damn long time and I prayed I would never have to do it again.

One day, in December of 2002, there was a huge power surge in town (for unknown reasons), which shouldn’t have been a big deal since the PC was plugged into a battery backup/surge protector. Problem is that the surge protector was plugged into an outlet that was not grounded. You know where this is going. Thing is, the communication cable between the PC and the Cash Register was connected, and the Cash Register was also not grounded. The power supply in the PC was completely fried, the motherboard in the Cash Register was partially fried, the communication cable was fried, and, as a bonus, all related surge protectors were also fried. It was a bad day.

The Cash Registers are under warranty (service contract actually) so that was not a big deal. The communication cable only actually burned the contacts in the connectors, which was easily fixed. The PC, however, was a totally different story.

The PC was taken to a shop called Computers and Things in Casa Grande, Arizona. They said that not only was the power supply bad, but the motherboard as well. I actually believe that was probably true. After the surge hit you could smell electrical fire from a long ways away from the pc. They were going to build a new tower, using only the existing hard drives. There was a problem. They said that the hard drives were so horribly infested with viruses that they were not even able to complete some sophisticated virus scans, the drives would simply freeze up. After a lot of discussion (and my steadfast gurantee that I had backed up every important file on a weekly basis) we told them to throw away the smaller drive, format the larger drive so that I could use it for backup purposes, and install a new primary drive. When we got the tower back we thought everything was golden.

It took me, again, several hours to get all of the store files reinstalled and the communications between the register and PC to work properly, but I did. The hand held scanner, however, never worked properly. I had to remove that communications port (via the device manager in the control panel) and restart the PC every time I needed to use it. I thought that it may be something related to different versions of DOS on the new system, hell, even now I don’t know why that was necessary. The thing is that it worked for our purposes, albeit a bit laborsome to use it, it worked.

Fast forward to last Thursday…

The PC had been running so slow, and randomly freezing, that I thought that it might be horribly infested with spyware. I attempted to download AdAware, but was never able to since the thing kept freezing. A tech that I know (though more an internet tech, as he owns an ISP) ran a program called HijackThis on it and found that there was some spyware, but not much. I did a disk clean-up on it, then tried to defragment it, freeze again. The bosses called an actual PC tech to take a look at it. At this point I was thinking it was either a worm of some sort that was in the Regedit or a bad hard drive, but since the hard drive was only a couple of years old I was leaning towards the former. I told the tech the symptoms, one of which was a “windows protection fault” during boot, which he said was symptomatic of bad RAM. The RAM test came through fine. He tried to run a hard drive test on it, but it froze before it got 2% into it. He said that he wanted to take it back and put it into a “clean system” to check it for viruses and trojans, which seemed like the next logical step. Problem is that he was trying to take the old hard drive, the one that was there for backup purposes only. When I told him that, he re-booted the system into the BIOS. The guys at Computers and Things had actually installed windows onto the drive that I specifically told them to only put back in so I could backup my files. I never thought to check that when we got the pc back from them, I was more worried about the whole “does it work” factor. It was at exactly that point that I knew the truth.

The guys at Computers and Things had installed windows back onto the old, worn, possibly corrupt hard drive. They then installed a brand new hard drive as a backup. They did exactly the opposite of what I asked. Bleh. I really should have actually checked it myself, if not in the BIOS, I could have simply clicked the drives to check their size and seen what they had done. Let this be a lesson to me to never take the word of a ‘tech’ without using my own limited knowledge to verify. The hard drives, both, went to the shop.

It came as no surprise to me when the tech, who was working with me yesterday, called me to say that the hard drive was bad. Of course the hard drive is bad. It is eight years old, it is used on a PC that is turned on and off a half a dozen times a day, it lived through a power surge that destroyed the rest of a PC, yeah, no surprise there. The only upside being that I have been using the other drive for backup purposes exclusively, thus it was working fine. Installed windows onto it and the PC was all better, to a point. Of course there were no drivers for the devices, took me a good hour to find the modem driver, but the machine runs just fine now. I didn’t try to get the store files running today though, since the one program has a utility on it that stamps something from the hard drive into a file called ‘reset.exe’, which can only be deleted by a tech at the POS manufacturer. I am sure that I will have it all up and working by Monday, but I am so pissed that Computers and Things used the wrong hard drive that I just had to bitch.

The “Computers and Things” that I am talking about is located in Casa Grande, Arizona. They are a bunch of shysters. Do not ever take your PC to them. Unless, of course, you enjoy paying hundreds of dollars for extremely inadequate service. They will take your money for sure, what you get in return is a computer that is just as broken as the day you walked in. Broken a bit differently, of course, but, broken is broken. They also offer the internet access, which is as worthless as they are. I went through c2i2 for internet access for about a year, I could never keep a connection for more than a half hour. Stay Away.

Meta; PC; Games

Okay, so just an open question here. Please do respond if you have any personal knowledge on this issue.

Since the problems (conveniently discussed below) with my old PC continue, I decided to try to find some other sorts of malware/trojan/virus removal programs. Most of which I got from Here is the problem: They all give you a ‘free trial version’ which will show you all sorts of malicious crap on your machine, but not a damn one will actually remove it unless you pay for the program first. But, you see, I wouldn’t be looking for a new program to remove this shit if the current programs I have could do it… Currently all of the programs that I have to remove this sort of thing completely freeze the PC when the trojans in the registry are being removed. They simply will not do it. How in the hell does a company expect me to pay 30 bucks for their product when they won’t even let me see if it will actually do the job that it was designed for? It is like I just said to my wife, no one would ever expect you to buy a pretty new car just based on looks, they always give you a test drive.

I do understand that in the world of computer software it would be far too easy simply steal the products, hell I have a copy of Paint Shop Pro that is on something like day 1246 of my 30 day trial period (I actually did buy the license for it, but lost it on a system restore and never bothered to register it again). Isn’t there some way that they can make it possible to actually use the software before purchase? I was thinking that maybe it could quarantine all of the objects, even if only for 24 hours, to let you run any system scan you want to make sure that it actually got rid of the crap. Then, if you don’t purchase the license, it just reinstalls all the crap that it got rid of. There has to be some way that you can actually test this type of software before laying out cash for it.

The open question is: Do you know of any programs that will actually remove the trojans from the registry before making me pay for the program? Or, failing that, a program that will simply give me the actual path name so that I can do it manually?

Any help would be appreciated

It is Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Well you may have noticed that it has been quite a while since I posted anything here. No real reason why, well I guess there actually are a couple of reasons why, just they aren’t very good reasons. The main reason is that I just really didn’t feel like it. The other reason is just a lack of interest stemming from very little response to what I do write. I never expected that I would be getting hundreds of emails every day, but I would have thought that I could have generated a hundred in the course of a year, which did not happen.

As the anniversary for my site approached I briefly thought about not renewing the domain and giving up altogether. Why I decided against that is something I may never know. I guess I really do enjoy having the site when there is something on my mind that I really want to bitch about. It is a pretty liberating feeling to know that you can throw all your opininons out there for the world to see, regardless of the fact that only a handfull of the world ever actually read them.

This is all self-inflicted of course. If I had chosen to do something other than feature a couple of stories that I wrote a long time ago, like, say, have an actual theme, or actual content, it might make the readership swell a bit. Unfortunately, my only expertise is in the butchering of deceased bovines, I doubt that this would make for very stimulating reading for anyone who was not in the industry. I could spend more time commenting on news items, but that has been done to death IMHO and done far better than I could do it anyway. If I was really interested in generating some hits I could simply feature a Porn Pick of the Day, as it seems that the only search strings that result in hits to my site have the word porn in them.

When I made my decision to keep the site open, I made another decision at the same time. I am not likely going to ever be back to doing a daily update. That being the case I am going to quit wasting the time to save each page individually. I am going to start having a weekly update page with any posts made during the week separated by Horizontal lines. The latest update will always be at the top, and if the page seems to go too long I will add handy linking to the particular days (not that I forsee this as being necessary at my current posting schedule). This will have the added benefit of making it easier for me to set up an archive system, if I ever get off my ass and try to get caught up with that. The major benefit of this (for me) will be to have multiple posts on the same page, thus people who only visit once a week (and never click any links) may actually find something worth reading and, hopefully, commenting about. It’s my fantasy damn it! I can pretend to believe anything!

• Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I treated my wife to dinner at a local place and we exchanged cards. Of course we actually exchanged gifts on Friday night, as we both bought each other computer software, and they were both newer titles, and we didn’t expect that either of them would work correctly on the old PC. Boy were we ever right, but more on that later. The games that were exchanged were Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 , which she bought for me, and Leisure Suit Larry – Magna Cum Laude which I bought for her.

If you have never played any of the Leisure Suit Larry titles, you should know that it is not exactly the type of gift that you should buy for a woman unless you are very sure that she has the sense of humor to appreciate it. The entire premise of the game is that you are a guy, a real loser, and the entire game is spent trying to get women to have sex with you. This lends itself to a lot of hilarious situations, and it is one of the most entertaining series of games I have ever played. The wife also loves the humor and situational comedy, that is why I felt confident to buy it for her, as a Valentine’s day gift no less. I even went so far as to pay extra for the uncut and uncensored version, just to gurantee the most humorous gaming experience. Yes, it is fun. I would highly recommend it.

The latest Roller Coaster game is pretty sweet as well. They completely changed the interface and I have been having a hell of a time learning the new commands, but it has so many more options that it makes up for it all. The single best part of it is the option to ride the rides. That lets me actually get onto the roller coaster and see why the people don’t like to ride them. It took me a while to figure out how to import the roller coasters I designed in the other games, but once I did I was easily able to see why no one wanted to ride them.

One of the coasters that I built has an intensity rating that is about 24 (which the game calls ‘ultra extreme’) and having seen it run through on the pc screen, I can see why. There is probably not a span of more than a half a second where there is not an inversion, there are so many loops and corkscrews that I lost count, and it is a launched coaster; launched directly downhill. I can see myself having a lot of fun with this game just trying to make the most fucked up riding experience (for me at the monitor). The strange thing is that when you sit down in the chair and watch the ride, you feel yourself leaning into the corners (at least I did, but that may have been just since it was such a new experience). Definitely a very enjoyable game. I will probably write more about it later, after I have gotten a bit more used to the interface and all of the available options.

Getting back to the issues with the old PC. The old PC only has a 466mhz processor, but it does have 256mb RAM, a 64mb 3d video card and a 40gig hard drive. It meets most of the requirements for games that are coming out today, the only one that it really lacks is the processor. The thing is that all of the titles will install and run on it, then randomly freeze. Not like just run really slow and choppy, but complete lock up. It didn’t seem to me that it should do that if the processor was just a bit slow…

I spent quite a bit of time on Friday night trying to figure out just what the hell the problem was. I found that by running Ad Aware from safe mode I was able to remove a lot of crap that I wasn’t able to do while in normal Windows (98) mode. Then, via, I found that I have two Trojans in my Registry. The unfortunate part of that is that it doesn’t actually tell you anything other than a name (which a search of my pc did not find a match to). I downloaded a Registry Editor from and got the same result. If you know anything about computers, you should see where this is going.

The only way that I am able to get rid of the trojans (which are both just spyware, but they are memory resident) is to boot into safe mode and run Ad Aware. Then I have to go to either a normal or clean boot, either options is going to load the Windows Registry, thus reinstalling the damn spyware. If I knew the actual command lines for the damn things I could just go into the Registry and delete them myself. Problem is that if the trial version of the Registry Editor told you the command lines you would never need to actually pay for it. I am certainly not going to pay the $29.95 to buy the Registry Editor for this PC, since it may or may not actually be worth that much at this point, but I sure would like to be able to get rid of those damn PC slowing trojans.

I actually have a ‘rescue disc’ for the pc in question ( the one that I am typing on right now, as it were) which could restore the entire thing back to factory settings. There are many problems with that option, most of which are not all that serious, but one is horrible. I could get past any of the problems with most of the after market stuff, like the cd burner, the video card, all of that. The problem is with the hard drive. When I bought the 40gig hard drive for this pc, it took me several hours of fucking around in the BIOS to get it to work properly and recognize the size of the drive. The drive did not come with any sort of an instruction manual, so I had to do a long guess and check game to get it to work in the first place (not to mention that I had to modify a cable to get the thing plugged into the motherboard, since the motherboard did not support this type of drive). That is something that I am really not planning to do again, unless it is obviously necessary.

If you happen to be privy to information about removing trojans from the registry of a windows 98 system without simply wiping out and re-installing the software, please do tell.

That is all for today. Tune in at some future point for more…

Existential epiphone

I posted a couple of things over the last few days that I am sure that no one ever read. Keeping in that spirit, I want to relay to you today an anecdote of sorts. It is not a story, as it has no real beginning or ending but, it is a story of personal triumph(?) over adversity.

I will get right to it.

When I walked into my home tonight, I just marveled at it. I am not completely sure why; It is the same house that I slept in last night, and the same house that I left this morning when I went to work. Somehow, though, it hit me a whole lot different tonight. I have been kicking this around in my head for the last several hours and I have yet to figure out why it was just now, today, that I had this feeling.

Now we must go back in time.

The year was 1990. I was living with my Father in Oregon, while both of my siblings were living with Mom in Arizona. The reason that I was still living with Dad, while the siblings were both with Mom, came right down to opportunity. I was (not only by my own testimony, but also mentioned by many of my high school teachers) a pretty intelligent child. I had very high hopes for myself. It was my goal to graduate High School, then go on to college to get a degree. My Ultimate goal had always been to work in Micro-Technology. That was what I wanted for myself and for my parents, I wanted to make them proud.

When my Father died (on Christmas Eve in 1990), it threw my future into a downward spiral. Not that his death had anything to do with the events that transpired, more that I made a lot of irrational decisions in the wake of his death. I, and I alone, chose to continue living in Oregon. I know that my Mother was not happy with that decision, but, at the time I had been dating a girl steadily for several years. I didn’t want to throw that relationship away to go live in a shack with my Mom and brothers… I was in love… That type of love that never works out and always ends up on the evening news…

I also had a weird notion that Dad was going to come back (I was sixteen at the time, mind you, you have lots of weird notions at that age), so I figured that if I did things that I knew he didn’t approve of he would surely show up to scold me. This was not an idea without merit, mind you, I did this on a lot of occasions with great success(not after he was dead of course). There were several times when he wasn’t yet home from a night of drinking by the following morning. Being worried about his safety, and with no way to contact him, I would just take one of his cars out for a joy ride. Alomost invariably he would show up only minutes after I put the car away. That was sort of what I was hoping would happen after he died, even though I really knew that he really wasn’t ever coming back.

The first thing that began to suffer was my education; With a lack of discipline I was cutting a lot of classes. I also was working full time at my job to try to make ends meet while waiting for Social Security to start sending a check. In the 20/20 of hindsight, I know that I really could/should have been going to classes everyday, funny how a sixteen-year-old mind doesn’t look further into the future than the weekend.

The next thing that happened was that I started drinking, heavily. That is a malady that I am sorry to say I still have to this day. Today it is in some sort of control though, while back then it certainly wasn’t. I lost one job because of my drinking; Failing to show up because I was hung over actually. I think that the drinking probably also had a great deal to do with why my wife to be left me, at which point it only got worse.

By 1994, I had been drinking like you would never believe, lost my wife to be, lost my job, got a DWI, and just generally didn’t really give a fuck about life. I spent some time living out of a friend’s van, sleeping under freeway overpasses, basically just a vagrant. I did eventually get another job which afforded me the luxury of renting a friend’s garage, which was not insulated in any way and had a horribly leaky roof. At that time I was also having to attend some faux AA meetings, which I had to pay for, my driver’s license had been revoked, and I was horribly in debt from various legal problems, as well as a lot of bad checks (mostly written by my legal guardian, but with my name on the account). I was at the point where if I were to miss a payment I was going to jail, not just for a day but until the entire amount of the debt to the state had been repaid, being that you only get a couple of bucks a day for time served, I would have been there for a very long time.

When I lost that job my life changed forever. Not to say that I was some sort of cowardly pussy running away from my debts or anything like that, more like I was some cowardly pussy that was trying to buy myself a bit of time to figure out what to do about the debts; I skipped the state. This was no small undertaking, I didn’t even have enough money to buy a bus ticket. My mother sent me the money to buy a bus ticket, but since I had no I.D. (when I say they revoked my license, I mean the physically took it away from me), I had to cash the check at one of those “check cashing” places, where they took 10% of the check for themselves. That meant that I had to sell the one posession that I had that meant anything to me, my guitar, to make up the difference. I then traded what stereo equipment I had (a receiver, cassete player and cd player) for a folding garment luggage type thing (as I had no luggage).

The day that I stepped onto the bus I was carrying only that bag. Inside that bag I had exactly three shirts, two jeans, a pair of shorts, a couple of tanktops, and a couple dozen tapes. Nothing else, really, that was all I had when I stepped onto that bus. I did have a walkman, which I was wearing at the time, but that was it. My enitre life’s work, for the first twenty years could easily be fit into a single overnight bag.

Once I arrived in Arizona, I had a job within a week. I still have that job today. While it might not be the most glorious job, it is my job and I take it pretty seriously. I went from living with my mother to living on my own within six months or so. With the help of my boss, I was able to start putting money into a Mutual Fund account, while still trying to take care of the problems I was having in the state that I had deserted. Within a couple of years I was able to pay off the debts (well my half) from the bounced checks and the legal problems. Sure I was living in a little studio apartment, using only used soup cans for both bowls and glasses, but I was getting a better start, albeit a bit later than hoped. My personal investment really soared during the ‘tech-boom’ of the late ’90’s, and I ended up far better for the investment.

To fast forward several years…

I am now very happily married, my wife makes almost 50% more than I do, and we have been making payments on our own home for the last three years. We don’t have any children (mutual agreement), but we have two dogs and a very large yard. We are happy, the dogs are happy, hell even the fish and cockatiels (we have seven cockatiels, 3 of the boys are for sale if you are interested) seem happy. This is a situation that I would never have imagined I would ever be in, at least based on my status when I originally moved down here, but here I am.

So, getting back to the walking into the house and having an epiphone, I really am a very lucky man. The trail that led me here is exactly the same trail that leads a lot of men to suicide (something that I tried three times, but only once did I really hope it worked). I am living proof that you can overcome any sort of adversity and go on to be successful. Not that I really think that home ownership proves success, more that I think that happiness is a sign of success. My wife and I are happy with no children, two dogs, and a home that is ours (well it belongs to the mortgage company for the next 27 years, but as long as I don’t miss a payment..). We may never be really wealthy, likely we will never be really wealthy, but we do have this little spot on the earth that we call our own. We have the fishes, and the birds, and the dogs, and that is enough for us. Especially when I think about what I came from to end up at this level; Life is beautiful.

A friend (knowing that I could have prevented the death of my father) recently asked me, “If you could go back in time, would you have made that call?” This is a horrible question to ask, but one that I really had to think about… If my father was still alive, I would likely have gone on to my career in micro technology, I would probably have married the girl that I had been with before his death, and My Dad would still be alive! The other side of that question is that if my Dad had not died, I would not have been subjected to all of the things that I have been. I would never have left Oregon. I would never have met my wife. I would never have been in this place at this time. That is a question that I certainly can not answer, yet, I can say that my life now is far better than I had ever hoped. So, would I change the past to make my father still be alive? I would only do that if the circumstances that put me where I am now remained the same. Which means that I likely would do the same thing if I had it all to do again. I dunno. My father’s life (at the point of his death) was pretty miserable. To trade his miserable life for my happy life is not the question, the question is, “Would I throw away what I have now to see my Dad alive?” I really don’t think that I could.

Sorry, Dad, I am happy and wouldn’t change this life for all the world.