PC’s; The MacGyver of True Value

Well as my regular reader(s?) might have noticed there was no new blog thing on Saturday. If you are upset about this feel free to voice your displeasure in the Complaint Department.

You see, what happened is that I had a hunch (go Velma!) that maybe the reason that the cd drive from my computer would not work in my mom’s computer was that it required me to install drivers prior to shutting down the pc and installing it. This led me back to believing that if I were to just get a cd drive I would be able to format her hard drive and reinstall the operating system. So when I got home from work last night, that is what I did.

And a big thanks to Ron (a guy that I used to work with) who donated the cd drive, which through some miracle was exactly the same brand and speed as the one in my mother’s pc, even though it was pulled from a system that was three years older than hers (which just really proves that she took it anal when she bought this system to begin with, at the price she paid anyway.)

Now, trying to make sure that I had this thought through pretty well, I made a clean windows 98 boot disk on my own machine and clicked it to write protection (this is possible the only time I have ever done that on any floppy ever, that may be why viruses spread so easily, lots of people probably never take that one second to write protect their floppies.) okay, now I needed to make sure that I was booting in the order that I wanted to. Into the BIOS I went, first boot set to floppy to make sure that I got a clean boot. Second boot to cd, though it wouldn’t really matter since I was using a floppy boot disk, I just wanted to make sure that it didn’t try to boot from the hard disk. With fingers crossed I restarted the system with the boot disk.

I got it booted to an a: prompt, and switched it over to the cd drive. I typed in setup, and it worked! It asked if I wanted to restore core system files or format the drive and reinstall windows, and I went with format. It went to work telling me that it would take 30-60 minutes for the process to complete. I called my mom to get her windows 98 key, thinking that I had the problem all but solved, yes, there is a but, about fifteen minutes into the process it abrubptly stopped. The screen said “Write error! boot sector virus detected. continue y/n”. Of course when I typed either of the letters on the keyboard nothing happened and I had to power down with the button on the tower.

I really thought this was just a minor setback. I figured I would be able to format her hard drive manually, then do the install. I went to search the internet to find information about formatting a hard drive, since I had only ever done it once without just using a system rescue disk. Once I had the information that I needed I popped the clean boot disk back into the floppy and powered on her machine, nothing happened. Well, the light flashed on the cd drive a couple of times, and the power light on the tower came on, but nothing displayed on the monitor at all, and the floppy drive never gave any indication that it was trying to read. I hit the reset button a couple of times, tried to shut the power off and restart, even unplugged it and plugged it back in, ’cause I mean it might work, right? Nothing.

There is one thing that was odd about the machine though, and that is that each time I opened up the bios after trying to load windows it seemed to randomly set which device booted first. I only tried to load windows a couple of times while I was initially looking at it the first day, but each time I went into the BIOS afterwards the boot order would be different, and on occasion either the floppy or cd drive would have been disabled.

I am wondering if when I tried to format the drive and install windows again it somehow did format the drive, but then replicated the virus in the boot sector. I am not sure if that is even possible, as it would require that the virus be in the actual system memory. At any rate, I theorize that if I were to remove the old hard drive from my system (which has a working, bootable OS on it) and put it into hers it would probably boot. At least I was theorizing that last night when I looked at the clock and saw that I had just spent another four hours fucking with the damn thing. It would make sense though, if the infected boot sector of the hard drive was the first thing to load it would never make it far enough to load the drivers for the other devices, right? I honestly don’t know.

I had exchanged several emails with Flux over at BlackChampagne regarding this problem, and I started thinking about what he said about putting a value on my time. If I were to be paid the wage I make at work for all the time that I spent working on/researching the problems that this machine is having it would be about 200 dollars. This machine is worth way less than that, even in perfect working order. In fact, I just went on ebay and bought a system that has the exact same hardware as her’s: 366mhz processor, 6 gig hard drive, 64megs ram (well hers only has 32, plus I have an extra 128 on the shelf that I will throw in it), with the same integrated sound and video as her system, but it lacks a modem, which I will re-cycle from her dead system. How much does this pinnacle of modern technology cost on today’s market?? 49 dollars (74 after shipping). Had I known that in the first place I might have just gifted the damn thing to her, as she did have a birthday last month, and paying 74 dollars to replace a system that she paid about 17 times that for would have seemed to be a nice gift.

Mind you that 74 dollar system comes in working order with a Windows 98 operating system already installed. No monitor though, god damned cheap bastards. Let that be a lesson to me to always check on ebay before I decide to pour all these hours into trying to fix an old, worn out piece of shit.

This makes me think of a quote that I heard from a guy at the local True Value hardware store. He said, “it doesn’t make any sense to be penny wise if you are dollar foolish.” He said this to me when I was trying to extend the life of my bathroom sink faucet by replacing all of the seals in it. The repair kit for the faucet cost 7 dollars, a cheap new faucet was 12. I bought the repair kit and spent a good hour fixing it, I was damn proud of the five bucks that I had saved by doing it myself. Unfortunately about a month later one of the water inlet pipes on it rusted completely through and, with water spraying all over under my sink, I was forced to pay the 12 dollars for a cheap new faucet. As I was buying it, the guy smiled at me and said, “dollar foolish”. (I have been buying parts at this place for years so, no, he wasn’t just trying to be an asshole, he had told me originally that my faucet should be replaced, that was where that whole quote came from.)

• This guy at the hardware store, he wears a name tag that says “MacGyver” though his name is Dave, has helped me solve a lot of problems since I bought my house. Even after he told me about being “dollar foolish”, he told me that instead of using expensive cleaning compounds to remove calcium deposits from my cooling system I should instead use vinegar, but when I am not at home so the smell won’t drive me out of the house. To cover up the smell after the vinegar has done its work, just a tablespoon of liquid fabric softener. That solution cost less than a buck, while the chemical cleaners that yield the same results cost about ten.

When I was trying to replace a piece of pvc pipe that had broken, but the water would not shut off completely so I could get it dry enough to clean it and put on pvc cement, he suggested that I take the crusts off of a piece or two of bread, then roll the bread (not the crusts) into a ball and stick them in the pipe while I worked on it. A few minutes later the repair was done and I went to check the faucets to make sure I was getting water, I could see the bread dough coming through them in little bits and realized that that was why he said to use bread, so I wouldn’t clog up the line.

When I was trying to replace the hinges on some of my kitchen cabinets (I have enough hinges to replace almost all of them, but the rest still work, and I am lazy) but the screw holes were stripped out, I thought I would have to replace the wood, nope, he told me to put a bunch of toothpicks in the holes with some wood glue. I let it set and was able to replace the hinges without a problem.

Don’t even get me going on what this guy can do with a box of baking soda.

Any time that I have to go to the hardware store now I always look for Dave. He is going to tell me all of the conventional options as well as what he can come up with to save me a buck. As I think about it, that is kind of like why customers buy meat where I work. I will tell them exactly what is the truth, no more, no less. I don’t lie to them to make them buy a more expensive cut, I just tell them the truth. I think that is why a lot of people don’t mind paying a little bit more to buy stuff from people who know their business, as opposed to saving three cents to ask a kid how to hang drywall or cook Chateau Brionne. For that you want someone who knows what they are doing.

If you do need to know how to cook Chateau Brionne just email me. This is possibly the most delicious dish I have ever tasted. Beef is the main ingredient in this dish, but really good beef.

That is all for today.

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