Monday, February 14, 2011


I wrote the following shortly after Christmas, but it took this long to get back into Blogger. The new machine works fast and fine, although there appears to be some issue with printing multiple docs, but I think that's the HP software. I don't trust HP in return.


The Christmassy New computer - hooked to an old monitor... doesn't show up. I can't find the discs to the old monitor if there were any anyway... connection is good, power is on, I give up for a few minutes of reflection..

Nerds: Yes I hooked up the keyboard (well, the mouse anyway, and it shows signs of life, although all I get on the screen is the instruction to move the mouse.

Okay – I have the new wireless keyboard going (I can see the receiver acknowledge it.) Nothing on screen though. I will again rip apart our cache of old install discs to find what I can.

I am lost and the starter gun hasn't been shot. Of course I am a MANLY MAN and expect setbacks, although, frankly, not this one. Since the old computer is beside it, and working, I can keep this journal.

I turn to hp troubleshooting on my old computer for instructions:

* If you have a flat panel LCD monitor, unplug the monitor power cable, wait about 30 seconds, and reconnect the cable and then turn on the monitor. This resets the electronics on the monitor.

This didn’t work.

Next step: try old working monitor on new computer. This will destroy all the care I took to dress the cables to lessen cable clutter, but no matter, for I am a man on a mission. WIN 7 pro or bust! I could also just go BUY a new larger monitor (planned for later) but let’s try this. We’ve really become addicted to computers, since the thought of losing my screen even for a little while gives me agita/anxiety/the willies.

Swapped monitors. Old one works in old computer, not in new computer.

I tried resetting the BIOS blind. Troubleshooting explained the sequence of keyboard strokes. Nothing. The next step is to take the box apart and be sure all the cards and connections are good. A REAL MAN in today’s world is not computer-intimidated. Now if I can just figure out which screws...

That was easy. Nothing was loose. And just like that, all back together again... but it still doesn’t work. Now I have to repack and send it back. I will not replace it with another of the same breed. When apart I also learned it will not accept my pro audio card. (Geek talk: it had open PCI express slots not a standard PCI slot, and even with an adaptor it seems there isn’t enough space.) Joy. More when I figure out what to do. But REAL MEN can handle a little setback here and there. I think the HP is not worth the trouble, or money.

I consulted with a GUY WHO KNOWS THINGS.

Just bought all the parts to BUILD MY OWN COMPUTER. Think of the trouble I will be in shortly. Way too much $$$ but it has everything I would want (it says here) and I am very hopeful that I can do it - or will have to buy local help. See, the prepackaged ones all have some shortcoming or cheapest something else. As I hope to keep it for quite a long long time, it should be hot as they come to start, then age with grace. Like me. PRAY for me. I don't know the mess I just climbed into.

The non-working one by HP is awaiting FedEx truck tomorrow, at the dropoff store. A final salute: “%#$!!%#$@!”

A friend writes: “Building a computer must be quite a project. Any advantages over buying a new one except for the price? Where do you get the kits? Any soldering?”

My reply: “I think the advantages to do it yourself is in a better choice of what's in it - the prepackaged ones come with a decent this and a cheap that. Choosing parts means you can have a good this and good that. The cost is about the same, but with advantages in what is included. (About $1200 for me so far).”

“NO soldering - everything is via some sort of connector.”

“But buying parts means it's not really a kit with instructions.”

And quick as you can say UPS a hundred thousand times, twin boxes arrive at Stately Wood Acres.

I look at the empty case - haven't even opened the box and already I have questions.

The build begins:

Well, there are instructions, but for each piece, in every language known to man. A 75 page ‘manual’ is 5 pages per language. There are MANY setup instructions once the thing boots, and it looks daunting, but I have to mount the hardware first (am writing in breaks from the tabletop.)

My first issue: understanding how to get the bare case apart. Something about plastic tabs. Do I push in or to a side? Push harder and risk breakage? Happily, I finger it out.

Removing the bezel: uh, what exactly is a bezel? Again, logic and careful futzing – bezel removed. Futz-o-meter barely on #2.
Now, replace the panel with cutouts for the ins and outs. EASY does it. Success. No futz.

Now the motherboard. Must be extra extra careful. De-Static wristband. Count holes. Mount standoffs. Don’t touch any soldered parts. Almost fits. Almost. Almost. Push a little. Holes align with some persuasion. Screws fit – some hard to get to, but I persevere. Next, the power supply.

My back hurts. Boy will I feel great if I can do this. Boy will I ever be confused if I arrive at the BIOS setup – there are SO many options and I am unsure which apply and how many matter. But let’s get back to the hardware. Power Supply (750w vs. the 300 w in the HP I returned. Arf!) Must not be overconfident. Must not drip sweat onto or into anything.


Yes, I am learning a lot. Sometimes the hard way. Like when I turn the computer case to stand up and the processor falls out of its home. I loudly proclaim NOT MY FAULT though clearly I didn’t understand the pressure necessary to close the latch. I DID close the latch, but a lip wasn’t engaged. Thanks, Microsoft, for that unclear pictograph with no words of help. (That way they don’t have to print all languages and it saves paper and money.) Well, it’ll be a miracle if this thing works from the get-go anyway. They’ll build a chapel and pilgrims will come worship here if it does boot up with no smoke.

Now the DVD drive and two hard drives are in – not connected, but in. Memory is in. Wiring, not so much. I am still trying to figure that out. Tomorrow I will be back at it.

Just getting away from it all and thinking about it, helped. Also, finally finding the explanations of the connectors and where they go. I don’t know how I missed this, but I did. There’s one long receptacle with many pins into which many of the power and other connectors hook up into the motherboard. What I mistook for one LONG socket is really many. That’s a big help! Little by little it comes together. It’s hard to SEE in some of the tight spaces with widdle connectors to place.

As I write this it still isn’t working, but I am sending emails and screen pictures (via phone) to the guy who convinced me to build my own. There’s an interesting twist to the process: I read the instructions, am lost, return later, reread, and it starts to make sense. Not in the DO THIS DO THAT part but in the HOW do you do this, HOW do you do that? I had lower grades in school, I think, because I would see possibilities which weren’t covered. There were never enough answers. Not enough explanation. This is a theme to my life.

I am now at the point where I am trying to configure the twin hard drives to have one mirror the other. Like building this, once I figure it out, it’ll be easy. For now, I keep looking for a screen I haven’t found. I don’t want to load anything until I have this done, otherwise the drives won’t be the same (or do they mirror after the fact? – A good example of the questions which go unanswered. I can imagine it works either way.)

Later --- I am now at WINDOWS IS LOADING FILES. This could be good. I have no idea how long it’ll take. Now after about a minute or two it is starting Windows. And I have a nice colorful yet blank screen. This is not the Blue Screen of Death. It has swirls on it. Windows 7 Pro is a large program. My computer is fast. But it couldn’t be THAT fast. Which is probably why the screen is blank. AH – it wants me to respond. I do, and on it goes. Until I discover a shattered disc in the packet. Can’t fully configure without it.

Monday I chat with a rep from Newegg who finally relents and sends me the CD or DVD – I can’t tell which it is.

Then I decide to go for it and after research and consultation buy a 27 inch new screen. It arrives later in the week and is HUGE. I have a 19 inch now. The printer will move off the desk.

If all checks out, I will run both computers while I try to figure out which programs and files should be transferred and kept forever. I still have 20 year old video I shot and NEVER WATCHED. I am a digital packrat. And now I have even more cheese.

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