Monday, March 24, 2014

Minor System Failure.

Proper ergonomic design of personal computer workplace is necessary to prevent
repetitive strain injuries, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.

Zach Neal

We had a minor systems failure here the other day at Long Cool One Books.

What happened was that when we fired up the PC for our evening work session, the machine went though a normal start-up. Then we came to the screen where there is a button with an administrator’s name on it.

And the cursor wouldn’t move on the screen. Without being able to move the cursor, you can’t click on the button to open the desktop and get to work.

Look, we’re no tech guy.

Also, we’ve known for some time that we need a new machine.

But the real panic came from the thought of being isolated, from being unable to work and having nothing to do. We do a fair bit of online reading, watch videos and listen to music, check out the feebs on FB and everything else people have found essential for living in the 21st century.

Checking our emails has become a soothing habit.

So we nipped out and charged up a pack of AA batteries on the old company credit card—screw the Evil 
Dr. Schmitt-Rottluff. (The company founder, ladies and gentlemen. –ed.).  If he don’t like it, that’s too bad, and he’s never around when you need him anyways.

He’s off playing golf in the Caymans or something.

Someone had to make a decision, right? Turns out it ain’t the batteries. So we called Mom, our usual fall-back position, and asked her advice. By some bizarre quirk of fate, she had just bought a brand-new wireless mouse. When she showed it to us, the little green light was on and there was clearly power in there already.

In terms of default positions, we had already tried a few things with the machine. One of the things is to try shutting it off and on again, unplugging all leads to the modem, trying to go in through safe mode, trouble-shooting at its most basic.

The really strange this is, when we got back, we fired up the computer. It lit up. Mom’s new mouse was still in the bag.

On an impulse, we pulled the wireless receiver out of its home USB port, and stuck it in another one.

When we shook the mouse the cursor moved about on the screen…all them new batteries, don’t you know. 

Maybe. Or something like that.

So what the hell happened? It’s hard to say.

Did it fix itself?

Did we fix it?

Were we just brain-fried, all perceptions distorted by one too many lattes and a pinch in our Rave 
puttees just where we don’t need it most?

What if it was just a bad USB port?

Why would it go out just then?

What happens when I change it back…???

You have to admit, this is semi-interesting stuff.

But if you get enough glitches, it makes you think. I’ve (he means we’ve – ed.) had to save this baby more than once, for example by going back a week and using system restore.

But the time to get a new machine is while the old one is still working. Yeah, it’s a pain to transfer files. But it must be done some day.

Virtually everything we have produced lately is backed up in the cloud. Putting things on a disc is old-fashioned and time-consuming by modern standards.

Where is the money coming from?

Credit card.

After doing some quick rounds of The Source and Future Shop, we have determined that a 1 TB desktop PC with 8 GB of RAM is $359.00. This model was not on display, but the gentleman said he had one in the back. That’s just under $400.00 after tax.

Our present system has a 40 GB HD and 768 MB of RAM. It’s a Pentium II that is puny in this era of 
rapid-fire gaming and wonderfully-rendered video. A one-TB HD is more than twenty times bigger than 40 GB in terms of storage.

One of the problems with this machine/set-up is the dinky 18.5” (diagonal) screen. We’re sitting four feet back, after all.

It turns out a 24” 1080 px screen with 1 MS response time is about $214.00 including 13 % HST (a sales tax here in Canada.)

A lifetime, single-user version of Windows 8 would be about $135.00 incl. tax. The fellow turned the demo model on and showed me the start-up menu. He also showed me an update or version where you can get to a proper desktop. This is what everyone is used to, and what everybody seems to like.

We could get a real good wireless mouse, and a wireless keyboard, and an honest-to-goodness office chair while we’re at it, as sitting on the kitchen chair causes some old editing injuries to flare up pretty persistently.

That’s a hell of a lot of money all in one go, zapped onto the old debt-load.

What if we break it down?

A new screen would bring immediate benefit, and we could pay that off over two or three months. We could pick up the new Windows 8 and then let it sit while we pay off our debt.

We could pick up the actual machine last, and worry about meeses and keyboard-thingies and all that sort of thing later. We don’t have to jack our credit by seven hundred or a thousand bucks.

Something like a mouse; we might even be able to pay for with actual money, which is often a good thing.

Because we’re all carrying enough of a debt-load these days.

We haven’t done anything yet, and there is still plenty of time to chicken out.

(Why don’t we just buy a $20.00 mouse and carry on? –ed.)

Because when this thing finally crashes, and all computers must crash at some point, we would be in crisis mode and have nothing to do except panic, and wait, and try to recover our files by paying good money over to our tech buddy so that he can try and salvage something from the mess.

And it would be a nice treat for the staff as well.

You know, as in Keeping up Morale.

If we get this done in a timely manner, we get to keep all of our old equipment, and then we have a backup in case of emergency. We don't even have to transfer all files. We would just transfer the current ones.

And, maybe we get a little peace of mind.



Future Shop had nice little base units at around $400. They were one-third the size of a regular tower and had some impressive specs. That being said, the accessories, e.g. the screen, can be used with any unit.