I’m not bitter… (updated)

Sigh. Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent nearly $200 to get a computer operational. It was rebooting randomly, and possibly spontaneously turning on. I really figured the regular user was forgetting to set the blank to “Shut Down” rather than “Restart.” Thought the motherboard was bad because a couple of capacitors were popped out on the top when they should have been flat. Problem is, the board was so old I would have to replace the CPU and RAM too, and I couldn’t use the video card any longer (AGP slot). So I got a MB with a built-in video, and a CPU bundled with it, ordered a fan/heatsink to go on it, and 2 sticks of memory. One was actually bundled with it, but there had been reports that some were bad, and it wasn’t the kind I wanted anyway.

Assembled the computer. Only real problem at this stage was the heatsink and fan. I really didn’t like the way it attached, but it seemed to be staying in place. Finished hooking everything up, keeping the old HD and CD-ROM, and it still didn’t work. Same issue as before, but add in a lot of other things not working right. Then it stopped working at all; it wouldn’t even power up. So I figured, damn, the power supply was the real problem. Ordered a new one. Installed it yesterday, and it didn’t work either! In fact, the computer constantly did the same exact thing as before; random reboots. If fact once it booted itself up, without me touching it. WTF????? I was grouchy, tired, pissed off, and ready to break things. And because of that, I didn’t click to the obvious answer.

In frustration, I set everything aside until I was in a better frame of mind, which was late this evening. First problem was that even when it half worked, I got no beep on POST. I hit Google; first result mentioned the LED light staying on, which I had noticed. “That’s a sure sign you have the floppy cable backwards.” Yes, this system actually has an old floppy drive. I have no idea why, I haven’t used a floppy in years; I can’t even recall how long it’s been. But it’s there if I need it.

But you know…. I don’t. So let’s just yank it. Now what about the HD cable? Is it backwards too? Well, I’d looked for anything to indicate pin 1, didn’t see it, but reasoned that they wouldn’t make it so that the cable (which always goes out of the plug sideways) ran right into the 24-pin power plug, right next to it. Right? Surely, it goes this way…. Wrong! Ok reverse it. In fact, now that I had to put both the optical and HD on one IDE channel (only one IDE on the MB), I replaced the old cable with the new one that came with the board, which allowed me to move the HD for better cooling.

Disk boot failure; I don’t even hear it spin up. You know, the old mobo had multiple IDE slots so both drives were probably set to single or master, and I bet it should be cable select…. Pull the drive so I can look at the top…. no such setting: Single, Master, Slave. No CS. Looking at the label, Western Digital’s manufacture date catches my eye. 1999. Officially: wow. Damn thing’s an antique, wonder if I can sell it as a collector’s item?

Now bear in mind that I’m being vexed by random restarts during all this, and the occasional shutdown too, but I can’t pin down what the hell is causing it. Anyway, I finally figure out the Master/Slave jumpers, hook everything back up, start up, annnnnd……. partial load then blue screen of death.

Now this problem, I actually expected all along. The system is still on Win2k, and the HD is seeing all new hardware, so it’s not happy. Grab my Win2k disk, boot from it and tell it to do a repair. It starts….


WTF? Again? After a few minutes I get it going again, only the random reboots are nearly constant now, and every few minutes, there’s another shutdown. Sigh.

I am, by this point, highly surprised at my own patience. I haven’t even ordered my minions to kill anyone yet, let alone break out the axe myself. Well, there is the problem of not having any minions to order, so maybe that’s it.

Started disconnecting and reconnecting items one by one, to see if I can isolate which piece of hardware is causing the problem. Answer: none of them; it will reboot or shutdown without one damn device attached to the motherboard. While fiddling with the power connectors, thinking they might be loose (how?), I bump the fan, like I have a dozen times before… and the whole heatsink/fan assembly shifted. Wait a minute, it’s not supposed to do that! I feel down near the bottom… hey, it’s hot–but the fan never kicked on.

Got to fiddling around with it and realized that there had been so much resistance when I tried to flip the lockdown lever, I’d never properly fastened down the heatsink. I’d tried, but it didn’t seem to want to lock. I decided to go for broke and force it, which is generally a bad idea with computers, but this time, it worked. Ok, that should solve the random shut-downs; it was obviously the motherboard’s temperature sensor.

I still keep getting random reboots though. It’s like there’s an intermittent fault feeding power to it…..

Aw, crap.

Don’t tell me.

Do NOT tell me.


I pull the front panel and look at the on off switch. Nothing obvious wrong with it. I detach the actual switch from the button, and clean some dust out. Still nothing obvious, but the system still boots and reboots spontaneously. I pull the wires loose on the motherboard end. No spontaneous booting; the system stays off. I touch the contacts to the pins on the MB, and the computer starts up instantly — the switch is live, with no one pressing it.

Well crap.

Crap, crap, crap, crappity-crap. I’ve spent $200 to rebuild this POS computer, and the problem was a 30-cent switch all along???

To quote Excel Excel, “I’m not bitter, but GODDAYUM!”

In the end, it turned out that the reset switch was also bad. I can’t leave either one connected, or the system will reboot itself. However, it will stay off if the reset switch is the only one connected, and I do a “hard off” using the power supply switch. (And then turn it back on, of course, to test that.) As I write this, the system has remained up and running for a full hour. It still blue-screens though, so I’m going to do a complete re-install. I’m hoping I didn’t fry it the first day when I was tired and aggravated, but I probably did. Tried to hot-connect the power supply, and got a spark…the drive’s not meant for that.

Sppt! Not a sound you want to hear from a HD.

Sigh, another expense, chalked up to a dumbass switch and even dumber computer owner….

UPDATE: Drive was fine, WD builds some good stuff. Re-installed the O/S, and it’s running like a champ. I left it on Win2k rather than upgrading to XP, because the user isn’t very tech-savvy and I don’t want to throw him with a new OS that puts things in (slightly) different places. Now I’m off to Radio Shack to find a couple of “momentary on” switches. Or whatever the term is. Oh yeah, and install the wireless LAN card and all the drivers for it and the motherboard.

UPDATE 2: Well, that was quite an experience. Of course you can’t find the exact switch used by any given case, not even from the manufacturer. Generally, if a switch goes bad, you’re screwed. Throwing out an entire case because a cheap switch has gone bad doesn’t appeal to me, even without all the money I’d already spent. So, I knew going in, that I’d not be able to find exact matches, and that I was probably going to have to scratch-build some kind of mounting. After a trip to Radio Shack and a quick comparison of the new switches to the space involved, I realized it was going to be tight, and I was also going to need a soldering iron. I haven’t used one of those in 30 years, and wasn’t good with one to start with. Ah well. Off to Ace Hardware. I’m looking for drill bits (lost all of ours that small), a soldering iron, solder, and something to make the mounting out of. I ended up buying some small metallic signs, about 1.5″ by 8″. Two of them together, cut short, fit nicely over the mounting posts. I ended up having to cut two more, for spacing reasons, then drill out small holes for each of the screws, and two larger holes for the switches. Lots of little metal burrs, which I had to file down–took me half an hour to find the file. Sigh. They were adhesive signs, but I also slapped a layer of tape over them to keep the switches from contacting the metal directly. Mount the whole thing in the facade, then clip the wires off the old switches and solder them to the new ones. Amazingly, I even managed not to burn myself in the process.

By the way, I’m making this sound a LOT more straightforward than it was. Hell of a lot of experimentation and fumbling my way through it going on. Finally got everything screwed into place and wired up; and it even works again (yay!). Now I can close her up and be DONE with this beyotch.

Not so fast. It seems the tolerances were a little finer than I thought… the back of the switches press hard against the front of the case frame when I put the facade back on. I’d figured on intermittent contact, so I put an insulator between the back of the switches and bent the contacts out to the side for extra room but it wasn’t enough. The switches are much larger than the originals, so they’re slammed up against the front button, causing permanent contact.

Hm… I have two or three possible solutions, but after pausing for supper, I decided on the simplest one; there’s nothing behind that part of the frame (it’s space for a fan I didn’t need), so I just cut a hole for the switches to stick through. Problem solved, and I can now install the wireless LAN card, then load up on the drivers. Incidentally, since this system was a complete rebuild, I gave it a new name: Mayu, in honor of the star of GSNK. I’m thinking if the old mobo and CPU are still good, I may build it out also, and call it “Stopgap Mikuru,” which is a joke you’ll understand only if you read Derailed by Darry often.

Of course, for some reason, after every thing’s fixed, the system didn’t want to talk to my wireless router. Cue another half-hour of crap trying to figure that out. Eventually moved from channel 10 to channel 1 and the problem cleared up; must have been another system nearby interfering.

Have I mentioned that this isn’t my system? I mean, technically, I own it, but it’s the one I set up for the rest of the family to use. So, I have to install Firefox and Thunderbird, and figure out all the site URL’s and passwords that got zorched with the old o/s. And slowly go insane trying to cope with people that don’t remember those URL’s and passwords, and don’t know the difference between a URL and an email.

No, I’m not kidding. They lost the paper where they wrote the passwords down too….

I’m really not kidding. There were the wonderful instructions like, “I want you to set it up where the names are up at the top again.” Wha……? “You know, I could just click and there they were.” Answer unclear. Try again later. “The list. I could click and get a list of all the sites I’d been to.” Right. (Sigh.) Well there’s just one problem with that… to get them into the URL blank, I have to type them in. “Yeah, so?” Well I have to know what they ARE first! “Well it’s my email!” Right, on the web. “Yeah. It’s myname@myisp.net.” That’s not what you type in to get your email. “Yes it is! Well, that and my password.”

Bear in mind, that homicide is beginning to look like an alternative here. I’m on my third day and well over $200 out of pocket operating on this system. I’d refused help paying for it since it was my system to start with, and things just kept snowballing. Add to this that my brother thinks it’s fun to “kid” people. “Yep, next time you’ll know better about the switch!” Homicide is beginning to look like a really good alternative.

I have a suggestion. How about you just shut up and go away, and I’ll deal with it.

So I dealt with it. It’s done. The system works and it’s much faster than the old one. Yay.

Of course, while I was trying to update this post, my brother kept pestering me to come look at something. Three times. He finally tells me that the icon I made for him to open Firefox isn’t there anymore. I go point it out, right where it was before. “It’s not working.” I double-click it; it opens right up. “Well it didn’t do that for me!” Double-click, dammit… always double-click. That didn’t change. “Oh.”

No minions, but I think there’s an axe around here somewhere…..

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4 Responses to I’m not bitter… (updated)

  1. I know how it goes. Very frustrating.

  2. Will says:

    Oh, I dread going to my folks’ place anymore. They just can’t grasp the concept of secondary drives and folders. Every time I go out there, “The computer’s running slow.” Muck about checking active processes checking for malware and what not only to find the primary drive is 1% free. It’s all digital picture grabbed off their cameras. Blargh.

  3. Windows doesn’t help with that, what with “My Everything” being the default location for nearly all programs to store incidental stuff, and with it being on the root drive.

  4. Pingback: Mahou Meido Meganekko » Blog Archive » Worst Honorable Mentions, 2008

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