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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How can so many computers be one too few? ;)

December 14, 2012

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I collect digital devices of many kinds. Before my Medion Desktop tower blew up her motherboard on Monday evening, she was one of three working computers in the apartment running Windows XP home – along with the widescreen Toshiba Satellite laptop and the Acer Aspire One netbook. I also have a 4 gig Surf eeePC running Xubuntu, the Alphasmart Dana, and so on down through the smartphones and PDAs.

I don’t tend to anthropomorphise the computers much or treat them as if they had will and intent of their own – they’re sophisticated tools with their own eccentricities of design. But it’s kind of funny how since Serena died, the two windows laptops have been assigned new responsibilities – which mean that they’re not available for writing and other creative work.

I’m hoping that that’s temporary and will get sorted out soon. The Toshiba has been on video conversion duty, but there’s no new videos coming in from my LG DVR, because I cancelled my cable TV service and that got turned off yesterday. There’s still at least a half dozen files to get converted, but there’s more than enough time overnight to get them sorted, especially since I’m now certain I have the right settings for AnyVideoConverterFree.

The netbook has mostly been dispatching data recovery – I’ve been using it to connect to the hard drives recovered from Serena, copying the files either to the netbook hard drive or to my terabyte NAS box. Again, I’ve been making good progress there and most of it should be done by tomorrow morning.

So hopefully I can get to bed early, get a fresh start tomorrow, and do some writing and editing in between cooking and shopping for Christmas presents. 😉 What are your weekend plans?


I should be packing right now…

June 23, 2012

I’ll get back to work on it in just a few minutes, but I wanted to drop you guys a little note. So – packing has been one big focus of my attention since yesterday evening – ever since I did the math backwards from my flight time tomorrow and figured out that I should be leaving at seven AM. (Three hours at the airport for an international flight? Sigh… at least I’ll have videos to watch and can do writing or critiques on the netbook.)

I’ve written a little more for story #7 today – and I actually crossed the 16k line that was my minimum word count goal, but that doesn’t count for as much as getting eight stories finished. And we’ll see about getting the critiques done in advance too – I’m working on number sixteen out of twenty-four, which will be two rounds of stories out of three for each other author in the workshop. I’m already good for Monday to Thursday’s stories, for the first week, so that’s pretty good.

And I went to the Can’t Stop the Serenity screening in Toronto and had a great time, though I had a bit of a headache, (stress?) But I’m glad I came out to share in the fun – there was video of a really cool dramatic reading that Joss wrote, with three girls each telling one story of a troubled girl from a different part of the world, that Equality Now has helped personally and wants to be able to do more to prevent other girls from being badly treated in the same ways.

I left a few lots into the charity auction, after biding one up to the $45 cash I had with me, and being seriously outbid with a winning bid over $100 Canadian. I hope that everybody has a great time at the shindig, but the stuff I have to do here is more important today.


Alphasmart Dana deserves a Camp merit badge

June 5, 2012

It’s been a while since I pulled out my Alphasmart Dana portable word processor for doing some writing on the road – nearly a month, when I took it to Toronto for ‘The Avengers’ and got a decent start on my contest story “Tough Love” riding on the subway.

But I grabbed it before work today, and got over 1600 words written on the bus, working on my third short story of the month, “My Perfect World.”

I’m a big fan of taking netbook computers with me on the go, especially if I’ve got editing or critiquing or any similar tasks to do. For flexibility as portable computers, they’re hard to beat – until really good hybrid tablet-keyboard devices finally get here. 😀 But when I just want to concentrate on writing a first draft, the low-distraction environment of my Dana makes it a great tool.

EDITED TO ADD… I meant to say something about the technical difficulties I had when using the Dana to create a list of my music CDs, as part of organizing the living room. Thanks to Elizabeth for reminding me! What was going on was, I’d wake the unit up out of sleep, and it would freeze for a long time, maybe half a minute or a bit more, possibly go back to sleep, and then show a message window talking about charging state, that the unit was plugged into a DanaHub, the battery was charging, and the touchscreen and keyboard deactivated. But when I pressed a keyboard button, that message window would go away, and everything would be fine.

That didn’t happen yesterday, and I think part of the reason why might be that I’m being a bit more careful about how I recharge it – not taking the USB plug out while it’s asleep, for example, but waking it up first. Hopefully that’ll continue to do the trick.


C is for Celtx

April 3, 2012

The Script Frenzy A-Z challenge so far…

Different people use different software for Script Frenzy, including MS Word and Final Draft, but no script writing program has quite become a part of Script Frenzy culture, in my opinion, like Celtx. It’s the only program that has a forum devoted to it on the Script Frenzy message board.

There are lots of good reasons that Celtx gets plenty of love with Frenziers. It’s dedicated to scripts and other media projects, yet versatile enough to do reasonably well at lots of different kind of scripts. It can be used collaboratively, in browsers, or with a single computer offline. And, possibly the biggest factor in its favor is that you can use Celtx for most things without having to pay for it. 🙂

I started using Celtx for Script Frenzy… let’s see, it was probably my third year, 2009. What motivated me was the fact that it could be run on my newest toy, the eeePC netbook. In fact, they had a special eeePC version as well as the vanilla linux version at that point. So ever since then, I’ve got a lot of mileage out of using Celtx both on the road and at home, copying my screnzy.celtx file to whichever computer I’m going to use next.

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Xubuntu

April 28, 2011

X is for…

Well, this is the point at which I geek out, it seems.

I’ve been using Xubuntu of one sort or another on my eeePC netbook for a few years now, I guess. When I wanted to move on from the hokey Xandros OS that came with the eeePC, there were a bunch of eeePC specific linux OS installers around, and I picked eeeXubuntu because it seemed to have a reasonably good support community at eeeuser, where I was already familiar with the wiki and forums.

But I quickly came to appreciate Xubuntu’s mix of power and user-friendliness, with the Thunar file explorer (reassuringly like Windows XP’s in a lot of important ways,) the down and dirty mousepad text editor, and the global keyboard shortcuts that let me give all my favorite programs an easy to remember shift-key combination, so that I don’t need to worry about how to add anything to the start menu. (Good thing too, because the Xubuntu start menu, on the other hand, is ARCANE! I still don’t really know the details of where and how I’d need to construct a shortcut file to get Celtx on my eeePC start menu.)

And behind the Xfce desktop environment, of course, is all the power of the Ubuntu operating system core, with the Synaptic package manager to make it easy to find new software packages to install, like OpenOffice, Gambas programming tool, Unison to sync my work with a flash drive, and so on.

I wanted to update the Ubuntu version on the eeePC over the winter, and I tried the ‘Ubuntu netbook remix’ version first. But I wasn’t impressed with that interface – it seemed to have its own ideas about what people should be using netbook computers for, and customizing it to the purposes I wanted seemed like too much of a pain. So I went back to Xubuntu, Maverick Meerkat version, which has worked well ever since.

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National Novel Editing Month update, week 1

March 7, 2011

But first! A scheduling update, as promised.

I said that I’d be adjusting the Kelworth Files schedule, and the fact that I’m not doing a Crusader spotlight tonight is evidence of that. I’ve finished off another series, “Blog the Cat” screenwriting, and there’s a few short features that I want to start for March, and a scheduling conflict with Wednesdays. So, here’s what the rundown looks like for the next few weeks, before A to Z hits and leaves the entire blog a mash of Frenzied chaos…

Nanoedmo updates will be Mondays, as the month of March started on a Tuesday and thus each week ends on Monday, so I can do roundups for week 1, 2, 3, and so on.

Similarly Script Frenzy preparation will be covered on Fridays, as I can do ‘3 weeks until Script Frenzy is here’, ‘2 weeks…’ etcetera, since the 1st of April will be a Friday.

The ‘Wizard of Mars’ chapter reviews will be staying on Wednesday for this week, and then moving to Sunday, since there are two upcoming blogfests that are scheduled for Wednesdays. (I suppose that Sundays will also leave me free to continue doing reviews in April without needing to worry about alphabet letters, if I have the energy to, otherwise it may go on hiatus until May.) Do stay tuned to A wizard of Mars, as some very interesting things are coming up in the next few chapters!

In light of all of this,  the Crusader spotlight feature will be moving to Tuesday. It looks like off-topic Thursday is staying put, and sharing exercises moving to Saturday, though either of them might get bumped in favor of Crusader business.

Okay, with all of that explained, let’s get to Nanoedmo.

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