atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#272: The bullet bit me.

There is no emoticon which can express what I am feeling right now.

Monday I took a trip to Best Buy for an IDE interface card and a 21st century OS. I ended up buying Windows Vista Home Basic Upgrade and a $36 Adaptec IDE card. Fine.

Because of miscellanious stupidity I didn't notice that Windows Vista Upgrade can only upgrade Windows 2000 or XP. Not Windows ME.

But that's okay! There is a way to do a clean install of Vista from the upgrade version; it's a bit clunky and annoying, but you can do it. Since I bought the copy of Vista in good faith, believing that I could upgrade from ME to Vista, it shouldn't even violate the license agreement.

Having gotten the computer (more or less) to a point at which I could justify swapping the hardware, I got out the tools and utterly stripped the Gateway case...and then discovered that the new motherboard would not fit, because the Gateway case is engineered for this specific motherboard. I could actually install the new motherboard in the Gateway case--it would physically fit--but the connectors would not match up with the holes in the back.

With Nothing Ever Goes as Planned by Styx going through my head, I reassembled the Gateway. Well, what the hell; at least I got to thoroughly clean it, right? No more dust bunnies!

But the goddamned thing would not boot.

I tried all the obvious stuff first, and finally ended up stripping it down to the bare motherboard before I got it to do something other than give me a blank screen. In the end it turned out to be the floppy drive's power cable--it was off by one pin--and correcting that fixed the "blank screen" problem.

But JESUS CHRIST this stuff is annoying!

People wondered why I bought this Gateway originally, since I could have built a much more powerful system for the same amount of money--well, this kind of shit is why! Working as a technical writer for a major avionics manufacturer, I had more money than free time--and before I got that job I'd spent seven years as a PC technician; I was sick of messing around with computer hardware.

To tell the truth, though, this kind of shit only cropped up when I was working on my own stuff. It only happened very rarely when I was working on someone else's computer. I don't even know why; the kind of stuff I tried to do with my own hardware was no different from what I did at work. The only difference was, I wasn't getting paid for working on my own computer.

The first sound card I bought was a Sound Blaster Pro. (This was in 1992.) I decided to upgrade to the Sound Blaster AWE-32, but for some reason I could not make it work both in DOS and Windows 3.11; it was one or the other--not both. It didn't matter what I did or how I did it, either. Even pulling the card out and manually deleting every single reference to it in all the system files did nothing to fix the problem. (That's not as big a job as it sounds. This was, after all, 1992; there was no registry. Windows 3 handled all that configuration stuff with WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI, and they could be edited with NOTEPAD.) Even after that, installing the AWE-32 with the supplied driver software yielded the either-or bullcrap. I ended up taking the AWE-32 back and reinstalling the SB Pro. Considering that the AWE-32 cost $300 at the time, I saved myself a bit of money, but it was rather disappointing.

And there have been other such situations. In 1997 I wanted to install a CD-R drive. It was a SCSI-2 device, but that was all right since I already had a SCSI-2 card in my computer.

See, I got my first CD-ROM drive when 2x CD-ROM drives were state-of-the-art; back then, if you wanted a CD-ROM drive, you had to have a SCSI interface, and I went with an Adaptec SCSI card because Adaptec was a good name. And when Iomega came out with ZIP drives in 1996, I bought a SCSI ZIP drive, and upgraded to an Iomega JAZ-JET SCSI-2 card, because Iomega had also been around for quite a long time (remember the Iomega Bernoulli drive?). The Toshiba CD-ROM drive didn't care what kind of SCSI interface card it was plugged into, and the ZIP drive was also perfectly happy.

The Philips CD-R drive, however, absolutely would not work. And it would NOT WORK regardless of which SCSI card I used--the old Adaptec, the Jaz-Jet, or the one that came with the fricking CD-R drive! The other SCSI devices were perfectly happy.

Tech support was no help whatsoever and the included documentation was utter shit. The whole kit and kaboodle--a $600 dollar item!--went back to Best Buy.

Understand, I am not a computer novice. I have been involved with computers in one way or another since fricking 1981 and I have built more computers than I can count. At one company I worked for, I was it--their only technician--and there was no one I could pass the buck to if I had a problem I couldn't get around. I managed quite nicely; and that continued to be the case at my next employer for quite some time. I had no one to fall back on for help with problems; if I couldn't find the solution, I was screwed--so I found solutions and made the stuff work, every time.

And that was when the stuff wasn't meant to be installed by "Joe Average".

I don't even want to think about what it would be like for someone without my knowledge and experience. How far would he get? Or would he just pay the "Geek Squad" a couple hundred dollars to do it for him?

I can only conclude that I somehow used up all my "computer karma" on fixing other peoples' computers, and when it was gone, that was it. I don't really mind most of the reversals I've suffered during this little project--I was expecting problems--but this shit with the floppy power cable causing a no-boot situation just really pissed me off. I don't mind having to buy a new case or OS, but it just drives me absolutely bugfuck when some stupid little mistake happens that takes almost forty minutes to fix.
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