Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

The other day I had what I call a "Tech Wake Up Call".

Out of the blue (literally) an error screen popped up in the course of booting, followed by a Windows XP "apology message." This, needless to say, was not helpful in charting my course.

Let it be clearly understood that one of my uppermost concerns is optimal system performance.  Diligent system management does not just set the expectation of dependability and instantaneous response; it reinforces a sense of being justified in that expectation. (Yeah, I know.) 

So, after going through several reboots and getting no closer to a login screen, (in fact the result became "no input signal for <monitor>, going to power-save mode" and monitor shutdown) I figured it was time to get out the XP installation CD.

Booting from the CD got a monitor display...of a number of files that appeared to be loading, and finally a "C" prompt. Well, it was an improvement. Not exactly Windows, but at least a door.

Using a spare laptop to get online I found:

  • a lot of entries about this on the net (some real interesting hits on "signs video card is failing")
  • more than a few symptoms that might lead you to think otherwise, but all associated with the video card
  • the ever-present comment: "[the video card] is just bad so get a new one" 

That last is the chiller because this video card is now obsolete (although as of 10/2010 I found 3 sources on eBay, certainly for this). 

At the (literal) end of the day my problem was solved, so far, although I have no evidence that running CHKDSK /R and the recovery CD procedures deserve the credit other than a sudden normal reboot from the BIOS. (No log message saying "Baby, I'm back!") 

As I retraced all my activity, from the massive security patches applied to the system earlier in the week, until that fateful "apology", I can only conclude that something I did while cleaning the system upset the delicate balance. (Make sure compressed air is used while system is off! Doesn't matter how many fans are going... It's not. A good. Idea!)

However, the underlying inescapable reality is that after five faithful years of service I have to replace my system (the ultimate upgrade?). Or at least consider it. 

Well, you may be thinking, that is painfully obvious.

But I've read that it's common for businesses to [very] reluctantly part with what they are familiar with. This has been most evident in the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I have never held the opinion that any software at any point in business operations should be the only alternative for carrying that business. I've even had the experience of supporting legacy software that was indispensable yet could not be re-created... (Thanks very much, got the T-shirt).  😉

Yet, I am a little surprised to find I have developed an affinity with this machine. We've been through a lot together and it has been essential
in my growth. It is the first machine that I've used truly beyond the boundaries of my employment. I went back to school with it. I've explored everything from Hubble telescope photographs to more mundane fare.

It is also the first machine with the purpose of trying to build something that is mine.

The days of this being my primary PC are coming to a close and I have to say on the whole, I've been fortunate and thankful for this high quality assembly by PC's For Everyone.

One thing I will be on the lookout for is hardware monitoring software, any as trustworthy and as comprehensive as I can find. I've also taken a few other steps that will provide more options should I encounter this situation again.

Another take-away I've gained is it might help to get a spare video card with next purchase of a PC or within a year or two. That might "save the horse for want of a horseshoe nail." In any case it's a sound strategy to have a 3 to 5 year plan for replacing a computer system or enabling an overhaul that will yield the same results.

In a future entry I'll share some of my considerations in this area.

Guru And My Past Have A Message

I'm beginning to think there's no such thing as "the road not taken" because the longer you're around the more likely you will find that road again, in one sense or another.  Several weeks ago I had a "six degrees of separation" experience that transcended any before.

A friend called and asked if I would drive another friend arriving from L.A. to visit a sick relative.  I agreed and contacted the visitor C-- to arrange a schedule.  As we talked about the city I mentioned a street where I used to live. C-- said "Oh! I lived on that street too when I was little. What number?" The answer shocked C--. "I lived there for a short while before we moved!"

It was gradually revealed that C-- was a person who definitely knew what she wanted from a young age and fearlessly pursued it, even with little resources/contacts or clear idea how to achieve it. C-- would do whatever it took to get there -- except compromise principles. This is in the intensely competitive world of acting that until recently (for me at least) was one of the few volatile fields to jump into.

Against the backdrop of the day visiting the excellent facility, elderly being cared for and struggling with Alzheimer's, we talked about having faith that we can realize our dreams.

I told C-- I had briefly considered acting but believed it was too much of a gamble, even when I got a juicy part in a play at a small theater. The lead was a young man who came in as a last minute replacement  with a very dynamic and powerful interpretation. After the run I would see him a few years later in a major motion picture, followed by several more where he was a character actor. When you see someone you know make it, you inevitably wonder about that road not taken.

When I told her about this young man, she realized with dawning amazement I was describing her husband. Needless to say this was a mind-blower for both of us.  A chance call from a mutual friend wound up connecting her to 2 parts of her past and one of her present.

At the end of that week/beginning of the next I attended a memorial service for Keith Elam, known as the rapper "Guru",  who passed away too early at the age of 48 from cancer. Here again was another profile in courage.

He chose his own path, created his own style; and in another highly competitive field he did not compromise his artistic vision, combining hip-hop/rap with jazz.  His family is very accomplished in professions such as law and education, but he took another route and inspired them as well. I saw his father certainly enjoyed a tune played at the remembrance: "When Harry Met Barbara".

One of the many tributes that resonated with me was when a relative wished him well in his now complete and unmitigated freedom to be who he wanted to be.

I share all of this to express the coincidence of concepts that I was reminded of as I advance on this journey (credit to both C-- and Guru):

  • The tenuousness of Life: we don't know when our health will fail
  • The realization that we won't ever know unless we try despite how daunting it seems (or we tell ourselves)
  • The fact that fortune happens generally to those who put themselves in position to allow it
  • All we have is now and make the most of the moment
  • Don't repress yourself

What’s New?

The hardest thing about learning something new might not be trying to understand it, but being receptive to the opportunity to learn it after paying so many dues for the knowledge already acquired. It's not necessarily just an "ego thing" (or at least not to those who look for more than simplistic answers) because an evaluation process is, or should be, going on.Continue reading