Noisy Alien in Computer Removed

Well, this afternoon the computer repair guy returned and fixed the computer in about 15 minutes. The noise was gone after he replaced the power supply unit, the fan of which was the source of the mini-helicopter noise.

Obviously, this was a case of extraterrestrial invasion.

Seriously, though, once we got past all of the stuff about software checking, the repair was very quick. It turns out you can’t check the condition of the power supply unit fan with software. The noise problem was solved the old-fashioned way.

Computer Crisis Progress Report

The title of this post is supposedly about progress toward fixing my Dell computer, the one with a mini-helicopter noise in the tower. The Tech drove to my house yesterday from Ouad Cities. He had the parts the Agents ordered for fixing the noise in my PC tower.

The parts were wrong. He drove an hour to get here and was done in about 15 minutes. He looked and listened to the noise before and after removing the case cover. He knew right away it was not a software problem. He ordered the right part and now the next step is for him or another Tech to return on Monday to do the job.

There are Agents and Techs working for Dell. For 2-3 days, Agents pestered me with software shenanigans, even to the point of insisting I reset my PC. Agents never looked at my machine. I sent them the video of the PC and its racket. I’m not sure they listened to it.

I think the Dell Company pays Techs more money than it pays the Agents. That’s probably why Agents spend more time with customers, maybe distracting us with chores like PC resets.

But I’m trying to look on the bright side. The Agents are polite and trying to be helpful. They evidently know a lot about software, which can create problems for which they have a long list of suggestions. The Techs know how computers actually work as machines.

It’s a little like the difference between a couple of the reality TV shows (though the analogy is not exact). Compare the heavy wrecker operators (the tow truck guys) on the shows Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue 401 to the Bigfoot researchers on the show Expedition Bigfoot.

The tow truck guys focus on getting the Canadian highways open and do it with their hands, hooks, chains, and heavy trucks. They have to know something about the physics of the job. It looks real.

The Bigfoot researchers know a lot about Bigfoot lore and what little science there is about it. The only Bigfoot you’ll ever see on the show is a doll the size of GI Joe pinned on a researcher’s backpack.

Keep looking up. You don’t want Bigfoot to drop out of a tree on you.

Another Computer Crisis

Another day, another computer crisis. I’ve been hearing this mini-helicopter noise from my PC tower for a while and finally contacted the manufacturer’s computer support center on the web.

I have hopped through many hoops in the past couple of days, including resetting my computer. Remember I had to do that with Sena’s computer?

How can a noise which seems to be a hardware problem (a rattle in the tower) be a software problem? I don’t know.

The most recent request from support services was to make a video of the noisy tower. Yes, I said video. So, I took the video, with enough audio (I hope) to convince people that the problem might be something physical inside the machine.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Geezer Survives Another Computer Disaster!

This is another gripe about computers. I had to reset Sena’s PC because I accidentally crashed it after trying to follow Dell’s YouTube video instructions for how to fix the problem that a lot of Dell computer owners are having: the inability to install or reinstall a piece of software called Dell SupportAssist.

There’s another ongoing problem which is just as frustrating. It’s another app called DellUpdate. It doesn’t work at all and keeps telling you to reinitiate something called the Dell Client Management Service. It repeatedly fails after only a day or two.

Both of these apps are related and trouble with installing, reinstalling, and updating have been ongoing for at least a year.

The Dell YouTube video is a little over two and a half minutes long and explicitly tells you to do something I usually strictly avoid, which is to delete keys from the computer registry. I can find web entries that say you can’t hurt the registry at all on up to warning that messing with even one of the registry keys can cause the earth to explode.

I tried to restart after deleting 3 folders and 3 registry keys (I couldn’t find each and every one of these) as Dell instructed and got a black screen, a blinking arrow pointer, and a blue rotating circle. The computer failed to boot. Dead in the water.

Remember, this was after I saw well over 100 comments on the Dell YouTube video, the vast majority of which said the Dell solution was not only not a solution, but caused some computers to crash, necessitating resets and system restores, hospitalizations for nervous breakdowns, zombie apocalypse episodes, and so on.

What was ironic was that the Dell instructions were very simple. Just delete a few folders and Registry keys. Ha, Ha! The video was only a couple of minutes long. It wasn’t like we were being asked to download the gold star reverse engineered Extraterrestrial virtual dual quad gravity generating drive to be applied to the innards of the computer tower using neutrino multipliers welded with triple strength strips of Miracle Whip (not Mayo!) to the reverse oscillating cooling fans.

In a panic, I called the Dell support line, knowing that the machine was way beyond warranty. I got a warning on the chat service that if I needed step-by-step instructions, I would be charged a hundred bucks. The Dell chat tech was extremely helpful and obviously worked hard to avoid a step-by-step situation.

Avoiding that was not so hard to do. I was running back and forth between my room and Sena’s room like a chicken with my head cut off, while also trying to find an empty USB thumb drive on which to download a fresh copy of windows to restart Sena’s machine.

One of the chat tech’s first suggestions was to turn on the machine by pressing the power button, then immediately start pressing the F12 button repeatedly as soon as the Dell logo appeared on the screen. I have a distant memory of being told to do that after one of my past computer crashes.

This booted me to the BIOS screen where you can see the diagnostic utility—which mystified me because I have no idea what to do with it. I also got a link to the Dell support page where I could download software to make a USB media copy of Windows to upload to Sena’s computer. I think that actually saved me.

On the other hand, I unintentionally left the chat tech too long who politely disconnected, leaving very helpful support links.

I finally booted to the desktop, which amazed me—but didn’t amaze me as much as the crazy font showing up on the icons. They were a series of geometrical shapes which I could not change.

So, at last I gave up and reset the PC. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was not my first rodeo with computer resets. It’s a long process, but it’s mainly waiting several hours while the computer chews up all the old pieces of software that probably interfered with it in the first place over the years, and then finally loads a fresh copy of Windows while keeping the files and folders.

And after all that, I was able to install Dell SupportAssist and Dell Update, which then worked without a hitch.

What did I learn from all this? Never mess with a computer registry again—just go straight to PC reset.

There’s a great upside to this story. Sena’s favorite interactive computer game, Scrabble on CD-ROM (published 1999 by Hasbro), will now play on this machine. I’ve not been able to get it to work for years. Nowadays, I think the only place you can get a copy is on eBay. There’s an interactive computer opponent called Maven who has all kinds of mannerisms and reactions to your game play. She really likes it—until the next time I crash the computer.

Green Shirt Green Screen

In a couple of days, I’m going to get a green screen delivered. I hope it works to create special photo and video effects I wouldn’t otherwise be able to pull off—unless I used an old green shirt like I did for the chicken wishbone video. The wishbone is obviously way out of scale compared to the chicken, which is one of several sculptures on the Iowa River Landing Sculpture Walk in Coralville installed in 2013. It’s called Iowa Blue: The Urbane Chicken.

The green screen I’ll get is more professional and will likely take alien guidance to learn how to use it properly. Since aliens never reply to emails (greenguy@galaxy9dotorg) or take phone calls, I’ll have to get directions elsewhere. The link is to a website where I saw the abbreviation TLDR for the first time; it means “too long; didn’t read.” It’s very long, but I did read a fair chunk of it.

I used the green shirt sleeve to help me edit my video in order to make a composite of the wishbone and The Urbane Chicken. I just set the chicken bone on it and made a short video of it. Then I used video editing software to clean out all the green from the chicken bone video and superimposed it on the big chicken photo, making it look like an alien object hovering next to the chicken.

I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I did it anyway. I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with a real green screen, if I can figure out how to use it.

The Dictation Dragon Breathes Fire on the Windows 11 Word App

I just got my new computer a couple of days ago, the Dell XPS 8950. I posted about this some time ago. Of course, It came with Windows 11 installed. I’m still trying to get used to it. It has a voice recognition feature that puzzles me. I can dictate in Word and probably other Microsoft applications. However, it seemed to work whether I used a microphone or not. That was puzzling until I relearned by trial and error that my webcam audio connects when my desk stand USB microphone is not plugged in.

I dictated this entire post on the Microsoft Word application containing the dictation feature. I write all my posts in Word before copying and pasting it into my blog, So, this was just an extra step. However, it made the work of creating the post a lot harder.

I’m pretty sure this feature was on my last computer and the Word application that came with it. I just can’t recall it. I know I never used it.

However, it still works the same way as another voice recognition system I have used before-and that’s, of course, Dragon Naturally Speaking. I left a few examples of how this usually works in this blog post just for fun. I have italicized them, but that was probably unnecessary.

I use dragon a lot. When I was working as a. The guy in the dental hospital.

I left that last sentence just exactly the way it was when I finished dictating it, just to make a point.

The point is obvious. You can get a lot of comical errors from using voice recognition software. And I noticed a lot of times that I could type a lot faster than I could dictate.

I used to use a disclaimer, like a lot of other doctors did, after I finished my dictations, similar to the one below:

“This note was created by speech recognition. Minor errors in transcription may be present. Please call if questions.”

This won’t provide immunity to malpractice. But mistakes were so. Problem. In voice recognition software that it seemed necessary to make apologetic–sounding excuse for them.

The voice recognition Feature in the. Microsoft Word app. Has the same problem. You’d better not hesitate more than a microsecond in between words. It’ll put periods everywhere you do that. It will also create capital letters for words that don’t require that. Who are?

That last quotation mark? Who are? Was supposed to be.

OK, OK, it was supposed to give me a new line because I said, “new line,” but it’s a lot faster to just type than to dictate. Notice that the italicized portions of this post are becoming more prevalent. Move on. I said “new line” please:

I don’t think these hiccups are specific to Windows 11 or Microsoft or the Dell XPS 8950.

In fact, I’m pretty happy with my new computer. It does weigh 30 pounds (I did not say 40 pounds, but for some reason the dictation dragon asked me if I said that).

But it’s a lot quieter, except when it’s breathing fire.

picture from pixydotorg

Call Carlos for Computer Help

I’ve been getting messages from Microsoft needling me to update my computer to Windows 11. I’m familiar with the tone and wording which is supposed to nudge me to do something which I might regret. I’m also familiar with the awful blue screen of death. Even though Microsoft assures me my computer is Windows 11 ready—I’m not.

And I’ve seen the article about the old computer wizard named Carlos who was able to update his 15-year-old Intel Pentium computer to Windows 11. That should have been impossible. It doesn’t make me more comfortable about updating my modern machine.

I’m also sort of in the market for a new computer. I was all set to order a Dell XPS 8940. Sena is a genius shopper and asked if I’d checked to see if there was a newer model on the launching pad. She reminded me that I had made a similar purchase several years ago and regretted just missing the new model that came out only days after I bought the machine which I thought was the newest model. I’m thinking of an old commercial from many moons ago, showing a happy guy driving down the road in his convertible, his arm draped lovingly around a big box containing what he obviously thought was the latest and greatest computer—which he had just bought. He looks up and sees a billboard showing a picture of a model that is obviously the next generation up from his.

So, I got on line and searched and could find nothing newer than the Dell XPS 8940. I searched the Dell web site and could not find anything on the XPS 8950. She got on line and triumphantly called out she had found a newer model in the wings, the Dell XPS 8950. I rephrased my search term to ask a question, “Is there a Dell XPS model newer than the 8940?”

Bang, there were several hits for the XPS 8950. They were mostly press releases from late October 2021, although one of them was a question from a guy who tapped the Dell Community users web page. He asked “Should I have waited for the 8950?!—I just bought a 8940—Need Advice.” It was dated October 28, 2021. One user suggested looking a web page which pointed to an XPS 8950 press release with 138 comments. Many of them were obviously from experienced computer experts who spoke tech lingo beyond my understanding, but mentioned things like the 3 fans and a liquid cooling system in the much larger tower, and the opportunity to easily overclock the CPU.

I remember reading about overclocking many years ago. It involved soldering, if you can believe that. I think I flunked soldering back in shop class. I guess overclocking is easier now—for guys like Carlos. Incidentally, why does overclocking sound like a perk? Why can’t Dell just make the CPU powerful enough to obviate the need for overclocking? I probably just don’t get the power gamer culture out there.

Anyway, the XPS 8950 is supposed to be out by next month. Needless to say, there are no Black Friday deals for it, especially if it’s not even advertised on the Dell website. Maybe Dell is just trying to sell down the XPS 8940 inventory.

There are more than 7,000 customer reviews out there about the XPS 8940, most of them positive. You can get it loaded with Windows 11, which has not been out there for very long. My impression of the negative reviews is that the machines take a long time to boot up. Could Windows 11 be influencing that?

Maybe Dell should hire Carlos.

Just Because it’s Vintage Doesn’t Mean it’s Wreckage

I still have a vintage calculator. It’s a Sharp ELSI MATE EL-505. You can buy one on eBay for $30. I bought this dinosaur back in the early 1980s just before heading to college at Iowa State University. It’s still usable, so just because it is vintage doesn’t mean it is wreckage. The original batteries last for over a decade at least, and probably longer.

My original major was engineering but I quickly changed my mind and eventually ended up in medical school at The University of Iowa. I’ve been retired from being a consultation-liaison psychiatrist now for a year. A couple of days ago, I ran into someone I know from the hospital and she asked me how retirement was going. She was on her way into and I was on my way out of Best Buy (nothing big, just a toner cartridge). I mumbled something quickly about having ups and downs but in general doing OK. The automatic door kept opening and closing. It was distracting so we said quick goodbyes.

We’ve got a couple of computers at home that are probably quickly becoming vintage, especially now that Microsoft is pushing the next iteration of the operating system (OS), Windows 11. The introduction is having a rough start, beginning with the puzzling PC readiness checker. You got a message that your PC would either be good to go with Windows 11—or not. That was pretty much it until the complaints started cropping up, generally starting with “What the heck do you mean it won’t run on my machine; why not?” They finally dropped the PC checker routine.

We’ve been through pretty much every Windows OS since Windows 95. If you’re wondering why go through all that, let me say that I actually started with a Mac at the hospital in my first year on the job at the hospital, on the advice of my mentor and first supervisor on the psychiatry consult service. He had a Mac and liked it a lot. On the other hand, even though I liked it too, it soon became clear that it was often impossible to interface with the PC-based office support staff network. I ended up going with a PC and have been dealing with Windows ever since.

Actually, my very first computer was given to me by an endocrine staff physician who co-attended with me in the medical-psychiatry unit. I didn’t pay a dollar for it and it was obviously vintage, in the negative connotation as I soon discovered after trundling it out to the parking lot in a cart and getting it home. When I pressed the power button—nothing happened. I returned it the very next day. My colleague could not explain it.

I could not get Windows 95 to run basic computer games at first. Even Myst, a simple point and click game that probably nobody remembers, would freeze and lock up the machine. I spent hours on the phone with tech support. You could do that then. It was not fun. Windows 98 was only slightly better. I’m still trying to forget Windows Me (Windows Millennium Edition or Mistake Edition). Windows XP had some longevity and ran OK. Windows Vista was another dud. I can’t remember much about Windows 7. I hated Windows 8 Live Tiles nonsense. We’ve been coping with Windows 10 and the updates to the present day.

Now here comes Windows 11 and seems like the most I can recall from articles about it is that it will have a Mac-like graphic interface. Then why shouldn’t I just go back to the Mac?

In some ways, my vintage calculator has done better over time than Windows. I can even spell “hello” on it.

More Reset Woes

It can take a while longer than you expect when you do a system reset of your computer. I’m still trying to get my software reinstalled. You know, it’s not very funny when you get the message that all of your apps are going to be expunged and the long list you see on the screen is followed by the promise that (not to worry) this list will be available on your desktop after the reset, so you don’t have to remember it or try to copy it down.

That’s a bald-faced lie; don’t believe it.

The best example today is my quest to track down the software for my Webcam. Since it got wiped during the reset, I navigated to Logitech’s web support page thinking I would just re-download it from there.

Wrong. The only software listed were updates that either didn’t work, were not applicable for what I wanted to do with them, or were incompatible with my video editing software. No kidding, one of the apps recorded audio but the video editing software could not play the video.

Now I knew that the software for my particular version of the Webcam was old but it worked with Windows 10. None of the other new apps did, which was ironic.

I couldn’t find the old app on Logitech’s site at first. In a roundabout way, by googling and sitting through a YouTube that displayed one of Logitech’s web pages, which was not really obvious at first–I eventually blundered onto Logitech’s web page where I could download the old rickety software. It was at the bottom of a long list of apps only a couple of which were compatible with Windows 10.

But it worked with my video editing software and, unlike the new software, didn’t give me annoying messages in big red letters suggesting that my nearly new computer didn’t have the resources to run it.

I like the Webcam part of making videos because it allows me to do things like put my talking head into a PowerPoint presentation, like the one below:

I realize that’s work-related and I’m supposed to be retiring. However, just before I did all that hunting for the old Webcam software, I had been out in the yard with my wife, me trimming the edges of the lawn while she mowed. I also applied grub control granules with a drop spreader. That’s actually about just as much exercise as a moderate jog around the block.

Finally, the explanation for the picture of the hummingbird feeder above. Today we retired it, which fits the theme of my life in a way. For one thing, it’s a pain to fill that thing with sugar water (which I have to mix each and every time, 4:1 water to sugar).

The other problem are the pesky carpenter ants which climb all over it. I know there are ways to prevent that–sort of. On the other hand, hummingbirds have to deal with them all the time in nature, don’t they?

How do hummingbirds usually defend themselves against ants, anyway? Maybe they need to take martial arts classes. They could also use their brains, which proportionally are larger than ours, by the way. They’re smart enough to come up with a clever argument to persuade ants to scram: “It has been documented in numerous scientific studies that sugar water makes ants explode.”

Our hummingbird feeder is now just another decorative object in the garden.

So long, it’s been good to know ya…

Reset Day

Well, I spoke too soon yesterday after following complicated instructions to fix the File (or Windows) Explorer Not Responding” issue. The fix didn’t stick and I wound up doing a system reset after all. It took up most of my day, which is a long time to grind my teeth.

Not that I have a lot going on in the off phase of phased retirement. But I could think of better things to do than reset the computer.

And whose idea was it to embark on a crusade to instigate yet another Microsoft debacle—Windows 11 or 12 in the pipeline? After grinding my teeth a bit more, I dug into the web a little more deeply. I was relieved to find out that this was a rumor only, according to a news story about a week ago.

I think reporters do that just to get your dander up.

I can remember hassling with tech support on the phone for hours after I got our first computer and tried to cope with Windows 95. Thank goodness I missed Windows Bob, which I had never even heard of until yesterday.

One of my earliest memories of Windows 95 mania was a TV news spot showing a long line of customers at Best Buy clutching their godforsaken copies of the cursed operating system—and when the register opened, a guy leaped up to the counter, obviously ecstatic to get his treasure first.

And from then on, it was one disaster after another, with every iteration of Windows crashing our machine or prompting calls to tech support with wait times often exceeding half an hour or longer.

Remember all of that? It’s no different now. And there’s no compelling reason to switch back to Mac.

Oh yes, I started off with a Mac when I started working at the hospital as an assistant professor. That was on the advice of one of my senior faculty teachers. I soon learned that, with all the support staff in the administrative office using IBM PCs, it didn’t make much sense to push through with a Mac, no matter how much I liked it.

Now, after all these years pounding on the PC, I don’t think I could get the hang of the Mac OS—although I have considered going back many times in the past few years, especially since yesterday.

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