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If A Computer Had Teets, Alex’s Would Be Up

Thursday, April 6th, 2006


- Unknown

I hate computers.

OK, sometimes I hate computers.

OK, I ALWAYS hate computers when I have to fix them.

Alex’s computer (formally my Big Fry before Delzella walked in and laid it right on the table) took a great big steaming shit in the punch bowl of my life.

“Dad, my computer won’t turn on.”

Sure enough, the bastard was as unresponsive as Monika Lewinsky’s gag reflex.

I opened it up and after clearing away 7 pounds of dust bunnies, I gave Alex a little tour of the inside. I pointed out where the processor was, right below that big hunk of metal known as a heat sink whose purpose was to pull away the heat generated by the processor. There was a fan on top of that to dissipate the heat even faster.

As I was pointing this out, I noticed that there was a very loud clanking sound coming from it. I couldn’t find the source (it almost seemed to be coming for everywhere) and decided it was definitely under the heat sink.

There is no logical reason this was because in hindsight, there was no room under there for a fan to even exist. Since it makes no difference in the story other than to highlight my idiocy, I’ll sneak peek you the source of the noise. It was a fan on the underside of the computer, directly on the other side from the processor. I had to take off the other panel and a piece of the fan had broken off and wedged in such a way that the blades were clipping the broken piece like a playing card in a kid’s bicycle spokes.

The heat sink was held tightly down on each side by two metal brackets that hooked under each end. I couldn’t get the damn brackets off no matter how much violent force I used. Cussing didn’t help either and it took a screw driver to pry it open, threatening to break something to include every bone in my hand.

When I had bent the shit out of… I mean got the brackets loose, I pulled off the heat sink to expose the actual computer processor.

It was at this point that I made a series of really dumbass mistakes.

First, I noticed that I had not removed the power cord so any slip of the screwdriver would have at best, shorted out the board and fried the computer permanently. At worse, pump 115 volts through me. That’s not good for making it to the century mark, folks.

Yes, I was an avionic technician for 5 years fixing intricate avionic equipment for Harrier jump jets. So.

The second mistake (1 ½ being the bend brackets but let me finish…) was when I turned the power back on without putting the heat sink back on. What could be the problem?

I found out in about 30 seconds. Seems that running the computer without pulling off that heat from the processor can cause it to take a nap. Hopefully not the dirt nap but at the very least, it just shut down on me.

“That’s what you call frying your computer, Alex. Are you taking notes.”

By this time, he probably thought the man who gave him life was a complete moron.

If not, my next move pretty much set that thought in cement.

“That’s the processor” said I as I touched the little silicon square with the tip of my finger.

Have you ever accidentally touched a hot iron? Have you ever touched one PURPOSELY? If not, use your imagination.

Touching the surface of that chip was something like laying your tongue on the Sun.

My hand shot back which caused a very vile cussword to escape my mouth. Again, are you taking notes, Alex?

So if you are keeping score, I was using a screwdriver to fiddle around within live circuitry, I broke two brackets, I ran the computer without the benefit of cooling the processor causing it to shut down, and I touched the scalding surface of the chip itself. Does that about fill my dance card?

I had three hard drives to work with. Two of them were the Maxtor drives inside the unit and one was a old 20 GB I thought I could use as the OS drive. The one that had recently died was a big 120 GB and was formally serving as the only working drive in the computer. The other one had died a couple of years ago (even as a replacement for the original that had also died) but I left the 200 GB paperweight inside of it.

It’s almost like I start over every single time I have to do this but I’ll spare you the gory, frustrating details.

No I won’t.

Basically, I use a Windows 98 startup disk to format the hard drive and then use 4 Windows 2000 disks to install the OS. If need be, I upgrade to Windows XP after that but in this case, I thought I would just stick with Windows 2000 since it was an older computer and all Alex really uses it for is to access the internet.

I formatted the first drive and then the thought hit me that I had gone through all the trouble of getting everything set up right, I might as well go ahead and unhook the first drive and hook up the second drive, running through the same process (I’m all about efficiency when I can achieve it, folks). Then I would repeat the process for the third drive.

After this was accomplished, I tried to set up the 20 GB drive as the main OS drive but it seemed content to stay in a shitted bed of its own creation. It was as dead as my dreams of being filthy rich and spiraling in a nightmare of elicit drugs and debauchery. That would be sooooo cool.

Anyway, the little guy was teets up so I tried the big 200 GB monster that had stopped working years ago. This one too had crossed over and was enjoying his 40 virgins (I think it was an A-rab, the dirty bastard.)

So I was left with the 120 GB that had started this whole mess and the thing I didn’t like about this was that when it was formatting, it kept pausing and informing me that it was “trying to recover memory location..” blah blah blah. This meant that it was finding cow patties in the hard drive meadow and if it couldn’t fix it, it should at least cordon it off so it doesn’t try to use those parts.

But that’s my conjecture, all I really know is that it was trying to recover the location and that it took a hell of a long time to get this done.

Everything else seemed to go OK with getting the software loaded, other than the inordinate amount of time this takes out of my otherwise exciting and ever-changing life.

A couple of times the damn thing just shut down which worried me. I had jerry (or is it jury) rigged the clamps to hold down the heat sink but it wasn’t as tight as it was before, causing it to vibrate and make the most annoying sound (hello spam-o-rama). The unintended shut downs, I concluded, were either that bastard-son-of-a-bitch-molten-lava-finger-cooking-ass-stain- of a processor overheating because I couldn’t get the heat sink on good enough or it was the drive trying to access the cow pattied areas and doing a narcoleptic heave-ho.

I did have a bit of a problem getting it hooked up to the internet. I plugged in a connection DIRECTLY using a cable but it refused to see it, turning its electronic back to the suckling teet of the internet (that’s thrice I’ve used the word “teet” in one post which has to be some kind of record.)

It wasn’t until I brought down the wireless antenna and plugged it into the USB port that it picked up the signal. Hmmm, it wouldn’t connect directly but would connect through the wireless. Now it was just fuckiin’ with me.

The only other “I want to drop you from the lip of the Grand Canyon after dousing you in gasoline and loading the interior with bricks of C4 explosive” moment I had with the computer was getting it to recognize the video card. Since it didn’t do this automatically, I was stuck with like 6 colors and everything looked spongy. I had lost the drivers so I was trying to find them on the internet.

First I had to remember what card it was. That was a hassle and had to cast my net wide by going off the part number because God forbid they put the make and model on the card, although I was informed that it was made in Thailand which helped me about as much as my own teets. (Three times, Baby!!!!)

Once I narrowed it down, I went to their site and found the “Download drivers” section.

OK, did you feel the rant coming on? If not, you should really be more attentive to these things. It’s all but obvious.

It used to be that you could download a simple one-file driver and put it where it’s supposed to go. Maybe it came with a little text file that told you where to copy it to. At the most, it was an executable file that you launched and it did it for you.

But now, you have to upgrade ten different software programs, usually having to do with Microsoft utilities on your computer. Then they have you download this and that, frameworks, etc. Most of these programs don’t even tell you if they installed correctly so if you have a problem, you don’t know which of the 27 steps screwed it up.

It’s a bad sign when you go to a driver download section and it has like 50 steps full of external links.

After you go through the gauntlet of set up ass-jams, they want you to download a huge suite of management functions bundled with the driver.

Look you dumb fuckers, I just want to update my driver. Is that so hard to understand? I don’t want the crapware management suite bullshit that will monitor my entire video experience and suck up half my RAM when sitting dormant and that I will be reminded to upgrade it twice a week until I want to jab a shrimp fork into my eyeball.

But I had no choice and to add insult to injury, they make you restart your computer a couple of times just in case that shrimp fork didn’t pierce through to the optic nerve.

Finally, I got it installed and then continued on to put all the antivirus and spyware protection on the computer. My son was amazed that along with the antivirus realtime and scan protection, I run 7 different spyware protection programs.

Although he probably could have done without some of the cussing and dumbass moves I showed him, it was good that he saw the process of reformatting a hard drive and reinstalling all the software.

When he logged into his beloved Toontown, everything worked except some of the graphics were not showing up. We investigated it and updated some programs (going through similar situations as the rant described above) until it finally worked. Again, it was good for him to see glitches and working through the process of finding a solution.

But the fact still remains, I hate fixing computers. As my financial situation continues to improve, I think my ability to deal with these computer maintenance problems will decrease. A couple of times I considered just throwing the damn thing out and calling up Dell.

Because we all know that’s a stress-free solution.

Free Advice for Today: “Choose work that is in harmony with your values.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.