The spirits of computer failure target me again.

January 19, 2013

Once again, I’m having computer issues. This time, it’s with my beloved eeePC, which I may have used the most for writing and editing in the most unlikely places over the past four years or so.

Everything seemed to be fine Thursday midday. I’d taken it to work with me, and not actually used it on the bus because I’d been procrastinating for a week and a half on reading the other entries to the latest SDMB short fiction contest. So I quickly transferred those stories to the Kindle before I left home and read like crazy all the way to Burlington.

The eeePC battery tends to drain itself fairly quickly even when the netbook isn’t turned on, and it doesn’t actually realize that it needs to recharge until you turn it on. So I quickly powered it up on my lunch break, then plugged it in later that afternoon so the battery would top up. I remember that the desktop came up as usual.

After walking to the bus stop Thursday evening, I powered up the eeePC – and things were going wrong. It was prompting me for a password, which it usually doesn’t do on boot, and when I typed in the usual admin password, it just kept returning me to the same prompt without any message of what was going on:

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I didn’t take these photos on the bus, but it wasn’t hard to recreate the same prompts at home. But back to the bus for now – I was quickly getting critical low battery messages as well, which was a bit unusual, so I packed up the netbook, hoping it was just a weird reaction to booting on a low battery. Maybe if it booted up fine plugged into AC power, I would order a replacement battery. Pulled out the Kindle again and read some of “Maybe Baby” and watched part of an ‘8 Simple Rules’ episode with John Ritter, on the iPhone.

But things didn’t work out any better once I got the netbook home. Same login prompts when I tried to boot from the solid-state drive. Yesterday morning, I made up a liveUSB stick with Xubuntu 10.10 on it – several versions back, but one version ahead of what was on the netbook, and it was handy. It took a while to re-enable the right BIOS option to book from a USB hard-disk device, and that seemed to go promising to start with.

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The splash screen for Xubuntu took a long time when it was running off the flash drive, over half an hour:

 

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But eventually, disaster struck:

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The error message I was getting was something like “udevd[166]: timeout killing /sbin/blkld -o udev -p /dev/sdb1′ [378]”. After a while, I also got some “udevd[166]: /sbin/blkld -o udev -p /dev/sdb1′ terminated by signal 9 (killed)”

So, it kinda looks to me like the eeePC is toast. There’s one option on the liveUSB that I haven’t tried yet – to reformat the SSD and reinstall Xubuntu onto it. But if I can’t even run Xubuntu off the liveUSB, I have very little hope that a reinstall will even finish, let alone work the way I want it to.

Any geeks out there have a better prognosis or suggestion for me? I know that all electronics do have an expected lifespan, and the eeePC has given me much over the years. But I’ll be sad to see it go this way.

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A Christmas gift of battery power

December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays again, friends and followers. December the 25th is almost over in this time zone, and I hope you had a great Christmas, (or an alright day, if you don’t celebrate Christmas today.)

I went up to Kitchener to celebrate with my family, and had a great time – catching up, exchanging presents, throwing things at each other in the traditional Christmas wrapping paper fight, then a great turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, and dessert after.

But the present that I’m thinking about wasn’t something that anybody in my family set out to buy for me, but just a simple favor of a moment’s time that was given without hesitation.

As I’ve probably mentioned several times, my Alphasmart Dana has been having some issues for several months now. I think I first  noticed it in the spring, with little things – it was taking more time to respond after powering on and showing weird screens occasionally. Over the months, as I used it to work on short stories, to do Block Revision and start the first draft of “The Witches of Arion,” it became clear that the battery was no longer as strong as it once was, and all of the other issues might relate to insufficient power.

During November, I got to the point where I was nervous about losing my words on the Dana in the middle of a write-in, so I started taking the netbook instead, and I backed up frantically after every screen when doing the Block Revision for “Storm Mirror.”

Now, the Dana comes with a rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack, and on my particular unit, the battery compartment was screwed shut with a tiny screw that I’d never been able to loosen. Today, I packed Dana along with my Christmas cards and wrapped presents, and asked my brother-in-law for his help. He’s an engineer, a generally handy guy, and I was pretty sure he owned more screwdrivers than I did.

Quickly the two of us and Dana were down in his basement, and after trying half a dozen screwdrivers he found one that worked. Together we figured out how to pry the rechargeable battery pack out of the compartment, and unclip it from the power cable. He even had some AA batteries sitting around, and we were able to use them as a replacement power source, (which is an option listed in the Alphasmart manual.)

 

 

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I’m not sure where I go next with my Dana. Probably it’ll be worth using it with the AA batteries for a while to see how much they last, and I’ll look around to see where I can get a replacement recharge pack here in Canada, and how much it’ll cost. But I feel blessed just to know that this wonderful writing tool has more life left in it, that I wasn’t going to see it fade further and further away until it couldn’t even write a single word for me.

I also got eight lessons in Holly Lisle’s ‘How to Think Sideways’ course from my sister! Not quite sure when I’m going to be able to focus on these, especially since I haven’t finished ‘How to Revise your Novel’ yet, but I’m sure I’ll have fun when I get to them. Oh, and here’s a picture of the Christmas tree, just because it’s nice.

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National Novel Writing Month 2010 – Day 1

November 1, 2010

Stats Roundup:

Words written today: 2,588

Scenes written: 6

Times I’ve had to resort to brackets and [include something I’ll research later in here]: 1

Local write-ins attended: 1

Local writers that attended the write-in, including me: 6

Times my eeePC started flashing a low-battery light during the day: 1

Characters appeared from my outline: 3

Characters appeared who weren’t included in my outline: 2

A good start to the month, overall.


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