Bill Roper's Journal
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24th-Dec-2014 07:10 pm - Don't Sleep
It appears that the problem with daisy_knotwise's computer that I thought I had fixed the other day persists. However, I now have a much better diagnosis.

The problem is that when the computer goes to sleep, it does not wake up properly. It starts to come out of sleep and then hangs, sending no signal to the monitor.

I've hunted on line and discovered that many people have had this problem with Windows Vista (and other Windows versions), but solutions appear to be mostly voodoo. One suggestion was related to video drivers -- I've updated them to the latest version, but that didn't help.

I will probably continue messing around with this at some point, but -- for now! -- I've just told the computer not to go into sleep mode.

In completely different news, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Katie and Julie to go into sleep mode tonight.

I predict that they will not hang in the morning when coming out of sleep mode.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
23rd-Dec-2014 11:04 pm - Here Comes the Sun
The weather forecast for today was for continued dreary. This was not to daisy_knotwise's advantage, as she has a fair bit of seasonal affective disorder and it has been gray and dreary for much too long now.

The phone rang early this morning. It was my dentist's office returning my call from the previous day when I'd left a message asking "Didn't we miss a cleaning?" Yes, yes, we had, and if I could get there at 10 AM, we could have one today. This sounded like a good choice, so I hustled into the shower, intent upon stopping at T-Bob's for breakfast on the way.

I stepped outside and the sun was shining brightly. This was unexpected and -- according to the bit I'd heard on the radio that morning -- unlikely to last long. So I ducked back in and shouted up the stairs, "Go stand in the parking lot!"

This is what a long-ago boss of Gretchen's told her after a similarly dreary stretch of days when the sun finally came out. As I pulled out in the car, the bedroom shade had been pulled open and the sunlight was streaming into the house.

As it turned out, the forecast had been completely in error and we had sunshine all day.

Gretchen is in a much better mood now. :)

However, her computer has decided to fail again. I think I may be making a trip down to MicroCenter for Boxing Day. *sigh*
22nd-Dec-2014 10:46 pm - Tangled
I have now wrapped all but one of daisy_knotwise's Christmas gifts. The lingering unwrapped gift arrives tomorrow, so I couldn't wrap it tonight.

I think there's a song in there somewhere...
21st-Dec-2014 10:32 pm - Full of Cheer
For those of you who are in bad relationships, or have been in bad relationships in the past, and are in good relationships now or hope to be at some point in the future, here is a lovely Christmas song by Home Free, the a capella group that won season four of The Sing-Off.

I hope you enjoy it.

21st-Dec-2014 11:11 am - Reading the Fine Print
daisy_knotwise has a wonderful old Sunbeam Mixmaster from the late 1970s. Some months ago, she was working on a project -- with the assistance of little girls, who no doubt aided by being a distraction -- when a spatula that she was using to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl collided with the beaters. The spatula was a survivor. The beaters were a dead loss.

The nice thing about a Mixmaster is that you can buy a wide variety of parts for the machines. All we needed to do was to find a matching set of beaters. And all we needed to do that was to find the model number.

Gretchen looked the machine over and came up empty. I did a cursory inspection and agreed. We looked at various beaters on line, but weren't sure that they were the right ones. And thus the mixer sat in the cabinet, waiting for beaters that would fit.

On Christmas Eve, Gretchen is planning to make Christmas cookies with Katie and Julie, because otherwise they are quite likely to explode with anticipation. Any distraction will be a good one. :) And she was lamenting the fact that she would have to use the hand mixer, because the Mixmaster was still sans beaters.

Of course, I have the annoying repository of the Internet that I carry in my pocket. So I pulled it out and typed in "find Mixmaster model number". Up popped a page that informed me that the info was either on a metal plate on the mixer or at the spot where the beaters attach.

I snagged the mixer out from under the cabinet and took it back to my recliner chair next to the 150-watt reading lamp. No metal plate. And there's a big brown plastic plate where the beaters attach, but it just has various bits of info on it, none of which look like a model number. Humph.

Wait a minute. "Hand me your reading glasses."

Gretchen complied. I put them on and looked again. There, above a line of instructions about inserting the beaters, in the tiniest of engraving, was the model number in beautiful brown-on-brown. No wonder we couldn't find it.

Two minutes later, I had ordered the correct beaters from Amazon for Tuesday delivery.

Gretchen still (and understandably!) does not approve of the number of times or length of time that I spend checking the phone full of Internet that is in my pocket.

But yesterday, it was useful.
20th-Dec-2014 11:19 am - The Laying On of Hands
daisy_knotwise reported last night that the assorted girls who had been playing with the computers in our bedroom had left hers in a state where it was not talking to the monitor. It was about time to go to bed, so I checked the connections (which Gretchen had done earlier, but you check these things anyway), determined that the machine didn't seem to be booting up, and agreed with Gretchen that I'd look at it today after we watched some TV and got some sleep.

Well, I didn't get to sleep right away, but I spent some time on the MicroCenter website and determined that, if push came to shove, I could get some sort of reasonable replacement box for $200-$300 dollars. Since Gretchen's handling Capricon e-mail, getting her back on line quickly was going to be a good thing and it's not like she's using the box for high-end gaming. If it will read her e-mail, surf the web, and run WordPerfect, that will pretty much fit the bill.

This morning, I got showered and dressed and rolled a spare chair over next to the machine so that I had a workbench. I determined that no miracles had occurred during the previous night that would cause the machine to start working again, so I dropped it on the chair and popped the cover. First, I disconnected the power to the hard drive, in case that had prevented the boot somehow. (Moving parts have that nasty high failure rate.) The machine still powered up, but wouldn't boot.

A corrupt BIOS was another possibility. I spent a bit of time looking for a jumper on the motherboard to clear the BIOS, but didn't find one, so I put that strategy aside for a bit.

Let's check the RAM. I pulled the two memory sticks out and started up the machine again.


Ok, it knows it doesn't have any RAM. I couldn't power it off from the button on the front, so I just pulled the plug. Then I plugged the two sticks of RAM back into their sockets, making sure they were nice and tight.

Start computer again. Look! It's the boot screen. But there's nothing to boot from, because I disconnected the hard drive.

Power down, reconnect the power to the drive, power up again.

And up came the computer.


I had noted the manufacture date for the machine while I was moving it around: February, 2009. We'd gotten this box because Gretchen insisted on having her own computer that she would have access to if I was going to be working at home.

After nearly six years, I suppose I can't complain about having to reseat the RAM. :)
19th-Dec-2014 05:35 pm - Free Plot For a Movie
I have a plot for a movie that is free to anyone who would like to adopt it.

It's a comic farce along the lines of The Producers, except that the protagonists here, rather than being a small struggling outfit, are the executives of a big, big film studio. At some point, in a fit of stupidity, they green lighted a movie with a couple of frequently bankable comic leads that revolved around their bumbling attempts to assassinate the leader of a Third World (or -- as some might suggest -- Fourth World) country.

Well, the time came to screen the movie and it was horrid. It made Ishtar look like an Oscar winner.

The studio was going to lose a ton of money and a great deal of face. They could just choose not to release the film, but then they'd end up taking a total loss on it. They'd bought insurance that would pay out if the movie wasn't completed or if it couldn't be screened due to some outside force not under the studio's control, of course, but insurance wasn't going to pay out just because the film was a giant turkey that was scheduled to arrive a bit too late for Thanksgiving, but just in time for Christmas.

And then someone got a brilliant idea. They could hire some mid-level hacker with just enough skill to obscure the true situation and let him release a huge chunk of files that he'd gotten from "hacking" into the movie studio's computer systems. There'd have to be some actually embarrassing info embedded in there, but nothing too terrible.

"So which would you rather do? Spend some time apologizing for mildly off-color humor or lose millions of dollars?"

"I'm thinking. I'm thinking."

Then the fake hacker could threaten to bomb theaters showing the film -- just following orders, of course. Naturally, theater chains wouldn't want the liability risk, so they'd drop the film en masse. And the studio could regretfully pull the film from distribution.

So there they are, sitting in the executive offices, drinking champagne as they're congratulating themselves for having pulled this off and gotten the insurance money.

When everything falls apart -- because, of course, it has to.

The fake hacker sees a YouTube video of the fans of the usually bankable comedy stars in tears over the fact that the film will never be released. And this touches him, so he drops all of the information about the hoax into the lap of the local U.S. attorney, the release timed for just after he has successfully fled with his share of the loot to a non-extradition country.

And the studio execs are left holding the bag.

So what do you think? Would some studio be interested in this? :)
Katie's tablet was placed into a laundry basket, probably by daisy_knotwise, at some point during the clean up before the cleaning lady arrived. It surfaced today and there was much rejoicing.

dave_ifversen took my old and new power supplies for the NAS away after the Capricon meeting and brought them back to me with the new one correctly wired. After a bit of futzing around to tuck wires out of the way, the NAS is now reassembled and running again. And there was much rejoicing. (And many thanks to Dave!)

It's good to have a theme for a post now and again. :)
17th-Dec-2014 10:22 pm - Missing, Not Broken
Entertainingly, after yesterday's post, Katie's tablet is now missing.

We are, however, certain that it's here somewhere. We just need to figure out where.

Also, one blade on the helicopter's rotor is cracked, but I have more blades on order, so that will be fine soon.
Apparently, some of the problems that Julie's tablet was exhibiting late last week were due to it being dropped by one of the neighbors, or with the assistance of one of the neighbors, or something like that. In any case, the intermittent failure to load from the internal SD card became a permanent failure, so it was time to get a new tablet for Julie.

The new, cheaper, faster tablet arrived today. I spent a few minutes configuring it for her and reloading some of her favorite apps. In addition, I managed to junk the standard launcher it had come with, replacing it with the Google Now Launcher under KitKat, which is a much happier app loader, in my opinion.

I also hid away the non-standard bit of app downloading software that had come with the tablet, as I suspect that will only bring us grief. While I was messing around with that app, it mentioned that the tablet had been rooted. Maybe so -- I didn't bother to check, but I did make sure to remove the terminal app that I'd loaded from the list of apps that she might want to download to her machine, because the picture of Julie with root privileges and a terminal app to play with was simply not a pretty one.

The old case doesn't quite fit properly (the rear camera is covered), but a bit of work to carve out a hole should fix that. And I moved the big SD card from the old tablet to the new one. (I have heard a rumor that Santa is bringing an external speaker for each girl's tablet, so they may get some music downloaded onto those SD cards to play, which will do wonders for preserving our kid CDs...)

In the meantime, Julie is happy with the new tablet.

I expect Katie to drop her tablet with malice at some point once she realizes that Julie's tablet is "better". *sigh*

Of course, what Katie really wants is a phone.

And that will not be happening any time soon. :)
15th-Dec-2014 07:47 pm - The Miracle of the Helicopter
One of the things that surfaced when I was cleaning my office is the small RC helicopter that I got a few years ago. Katie and Julie were anxious to fly the helicopter, but I (accurately) informed them that we needed to clean up the floor in the family room so that we actually had somewhere that the helicopter could take off from and land on safely. The helicopter itself is relatively sturdy, but the blades are fairly easy to break off and I don't have replacements right now. (Although I did just order a fresh set off of Amazon.)

The result of this was that the girls picked up almost everything on the floor and we have spent some time learning how not to crash the helicopter -- or fly it into the television!

This all served us in good stead this evening. Normally, we would be deeply enmeshed in cleaning up the house in preparation for the arrival of the cleaning lady tomorrow. But much of the effort is spent cleaning up the floor, which is mostly clean, other than the small pile of debris I swept up from all of the downstairs rooms. And since daisy_knotwise's back imploded again last night causing her to get little, if any, effective sleep, she has crawled off into bed to try to recover.

Or as she said, "Every part of my body hurts."

Yeah, that doesn't surprise me.

With luck, she'll feel better in the morning.
My current desktop computer is one that I built in April, 2008. It's running Windows 7 Ultimate, 32-bit, upgraded from the original Windows Vista. I somewhat regret the decision to put a 32-bit OS on it now, but changing it out to a 64-bit OS would require reinstalling all of the software, which is a process too time consuming to contemplate on a computer that is still working.

I believe it is on its third set of mirrored hard drives now. The original video card and power supply have been replaced, as has one of the case fans and the heat sink fan. The memory card reader stopped working some time ago and I never bothered to replace it.

Heck, this thing still has a floppy drive.

All that said, I originally built it out with a quad-core Intel i7 chip and 4 GB of RAM and those have, thus far, proved sufficient for my needs.

Here's hoping I don't need to build a new box for quite some time. :)
14th-Dec-2014 09:33 pm - Malled
I took Katie and Julie out to do some Christmas shopping for daisy_knotwise this afternoon while Gretchen went out in another direction to do some different shopping and decompress for a bit. Once we'd acquired the item of interest, I needed to decant Julie back into Gretchen's care so that Katie and I could go shop for Julie. I figured we could meet at Golf Mill Mall, which I used to go to a lot, as it was roughly in the middle of the search pattern and quite close to the Toys 'R Us that I'd targeted for the post-Julie segment of the expedition.

The food court has changed a lot. The only constants were McDonald's and Panda Express. Taco Bell and Arby's were both gone. We stalled there for a while as the girls had frozen yogurt and I had a pretzel. Then Julie became bored and wanted to go back to the car, where we waited for Gretchen to arrive.

After handling off Julie, Katie and I drove across the street to the Toys 'R Us where parking was completely impossible. Rather than continue to circle looking for a parking space, I headed home, arriving only moments after Julie and Gretchen.

And then Katie and I found the perfect presents for Julie on Amazon.

Thus do we gradually kill off brick and mortar shopping, although not for lack of trying...
14th-Dec-2014 04:57 pm - To Do, Or Not To Do
Well, to do, I guess, as I've knocked another item off the Big List of Things To Do (TM).

Now, I must go take my remote controlled helicopter downstairs for the girls to play with before they explode...
13th-Dec-2014 11:54 pm - Ker-Brick!
Julie's tablet would no longer load her Minecraft worlds. A few minutes later, it would no longer load Minecraft. By the time that I laid hands on the tablet, it would no longer mount the internal SD card which provides most of the storage for the tablet.

Well, it had done this before. So I booted the tablet into recovery mode and reset to factory defaults.

Sadly, the internal SD card still wouldn't mount. Grumble.

Well, let's go browsing on-line for help. Ok, here's someone who rooted their tablet and rebuilt the mount code for the SD card. I can try that.

So I rooted the tablet. And then I tried to mount a small partition on the SD card following the instructions, but they didn't work as given. Of course, they were for a different tablet.

Let's try this instead.

The tablet is now a brick. It cannot even be booted into recovery mode.

Ah, well. I had expected that I was about to buy her a new tablet anyway, so this was no great surprise. (I wouldn't have been experimenting with rooting it if I'd thought anything else was going to revive it at this point.)

The new tablet is faster and cheaper than the one I bought last Christmas.

This is not a surprise either. :)
13th-Dec-2014 10:26 am - Humph
There is nothing like waking up in the morning to discover that you need to kill something.
12th-Dec-2014 09:02 am - And Now Katie's Got It
Katie is home sick today with the same symptoms (upset stomach and back pain) that I had coming out of the weekend and that daisy_knotwise still has. Looking on line, I see that this is not an unusual combination, but it is in my experience.

Here's hoping that she throws it off quickly. (And that Gretchen finally throws it off too.)
11th-Dec-2014 10:53 pm - Prepare to Repair
As it turns out, the ReadyNAS uses a mutant mini-ITX power supply. I found one for $30 at MicroCenter and picked it up today. Sadly, the 20-pin Molex connector on the original power supply has a non-standard pinout, but it turns out that you can swap pins around with the right tool in order to get the correct pinout. And happily, Dave Ifversen has the right tool and will bring it along with him on Saturday to the Capricon meeting.

I also disabled the power supply fan which would have pointed into a blank wall on the case and provided very little (if any) cooling. Then I swapped the non-standard top to the old power supply case onto the new case. The non-standard top has ports on top and a baffle to direct air there from the case fan on the NAS, so that will probably work better than the blocked fan would have.

We'll see what happens when I power this up eventually.

Meanwhile, inside the old case, it looks like damn near every capacitor was leaking. Well, that would explain a lot...

In other news, I dropped the two old desktop computers, a laptop computer, two monitors, and the recently replaced VPN appliance off at an Oracle office today. As daisy_knotwise would say, the office feels much lighter.

Now I just need to take care of the mess that had been all over the desk and is now, well, just all over. This will be easier when the open area of the desk isn't full of NAS parts. :)
10th-Dec-2014 11:12 pm - The Operation Was a Success
Unfortunately, one of the patients died.

I have successfully extracted the old machines and rearranged my desk to create much more space -- although I will have to do some serious filing and discarding to reduce the enormous pile of stuff that is sitting to my right. And everything is working well.

Except that I powered down the NAS to make sure I didn't cause it any damage by accidentally unplugging it. And when I touched the power button accidentally, it made a crackling sound and emitted a bad smell.

I think the power supply is fried. And a new power supply is over $100, which is maybe not money that I should put into this particular box.

Then there's the question of salvaging the disks. I think that everything that's on them exists somewhere else, because this was the backup drive.

But now I need to get something running and make a fresh backup.

My employer has been chasing after my old corporate desktops for some time now, wanting to take them away from me. I have managed to resist this until now, but by next summer, they will have to go away anyway, as they're running Windows Server 2003 which I won't be allowed to upgrade from and which will hit end of life then. So when they chased me in October when I asked for a simple problem to be fixed, I told them not now, but here we are in December, and I have given up.

The new laptop arrived last week and I think everything has been moved over from the more useful old hulk. The backup hulk doesn't have anything of interest on it, nor does the laptop which I really only used when I was in the Loop office for a short visit. The new machine isn't yet completely configured, but I have a VM that I can work on.

Thus, it is time to clean off and rearrange the desk.

I have thrown out a lot of paper. I have many more things that should be filed away.

And then I will remove the fine coating of dust from every surface and rearrange the desk so that it conveniently holds my personal desktop and the work laptop.

At the moment though, I've got a big mess...
9th-Dec-2014 10:49 pm - Catching Up
I realize that I have slept in a bed away from home during three of the last four weekends.

I am now behind on many things that need to be caught up on, so I guess I should get to it. :)
8th-Dec-2014 10:15 pm - Pain In the Back
Apparently, whatever daisy_knotwise had that was being exacerbated by the bed at the motel was communicable, because I now have the same set of symptoms she did.

Happily, it doesn't seem to last too long.

7th-Dec-2014 10:06 pm - And Home Again
We're back from Indianapolis, where much good progress was made with Sally on recording drum tracks for Crosstime Bus. Katie and Julie had an excellent time visiting with Maddie and little Katie.

And the hotel bed did a number on Gretchen's back. (A lesser number on mine.) We're hoping that a good night's sleep on our own mattress will cure a multitude of sins.

Fingers crossed!
6th-Dec-2014 10:33 pm - Progress
Considerable progress was made today on the drum tracks for Crosstime Bus (because Sally is very good). We should be able to finish up tomorrow. Yay!

And Gretchen and our girls had a fine time visiting with Phil, Jen, and their girls.
5th-Dec-2014 02:41 pm - Whee!
The new computer for work came this morning via FedEx and waiting for it and starting to configure it has messed up the schedule. I should have skipped lunch, but I didn't, so I have consumed more calories than strictly necessary and burned time that I could use right now.

I think I'll manage to finish all things on time, but it's now a footrace. :)
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