Monday, September 28, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

It was a good weekend, despite the rain. On Friday Susan and I drove up to Roanoke Va. We had a few things on the list for Saturday. However, the weather was not very cooperative. It rained Friday night, all day Saturday, and all night.

We did quite a bit of walking and looking into small shops downtown. We went to see the “O. Winston Link” exhibit at what used to be the major train station. “OWL” was an innovative photographer and was commissioned by the Norfolk and Western railroad to photograph it’s trains and lines at the end of the steam era. Over the course of 5 years he took a ton of photographs. They are tastefully displayed in the “museum”. There were a few that really stood out, but one that struck me as really cool was a picture of people in their cars at a drive-in theater, an airplane on the movie screen, and a train screaming past on the tracks right next to the theater. The picture can be seen at this link:

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We visited “The Hotel”. A gorgeous hotel that you just have to see to believe. We sat on rocking chairs out front and watched the rain.

We later had a fabulous dinner at a restaurant called “Red Clay”. This restaurant was 2 or 3 doors down from the theater where we took in a play called “Elvis Blossom.” The story was about a woman, who apparently had some mental illness, and her fascination with Elvis. She believed that her child (conceived 10 years after Elvis’ death, by one of many unknown Elvis impersonators) was the child of Elvis. The story was told in flash backs and forwards. It was enjoyable, but I really thought there was going to be more humor. In the end it left one hanging as to how she was going to survive, after her child won an International Elvis contest and decided that he wanted to be his own person, not what his mother expected him to be. Also, her husband Jerry, decided to cast off his lifestyle of Elvis impersonator, to be his own person, yet vowed to take care of her (he only continued in the Elvis persona because it was her wish to be surrounded by all things Elvis).

After that we drove back to Winston.
By the way, lodging was scarce in Roanoke because Virginia Tech was hosting University of Miami. That may not have been a very fun game for the spectators because of the rain.

On Sunday, having no local plans, we decided to go to Linville Caverns. That is about a 2.5 hour drive, yet still shy of going to Asheville. It was a beautiful day and the cavern was fun. At one point we were asked to stand still and they turned off the lighting. TOTAL darkness! You could not see your hand in front of your face…really amazing. When I was much younger, my family went to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky…now I would LOVE to go back there.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. It is now Monday and I am already looking forward to the NEXT weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

PC Upgrade

So I decided it was time to upgrade my computer. A long time ago this was a straightforward process…way before Windows. Now, Windows really binds itself to your hardware and has all these internal hidden files. The process is tougher today, but supposedly still doable.

I bought a new motherboard, CPU, hard disk, and memory. 2 Gig of Ram as opposed to 512Meg before. The hard disk is twice the storage of the old one. There is a process called “cloning” which allows you to copy all the data from an old drive onto a new one, byte by byte so that the contents are identical, except that the bigger one will have a lot of free storage when done. That software was a download from the manufacturer’s site.

The new hard drive is a “SATA” and the old is “IDE”. My old motherboard does not have connections for SATA, though the new one has connections for both. Unfortunately the cloning needed to be done using the old motherboard. So I bought an adapter that converts SATA or IDE to a USB port. Nice, but slow. The cloning process was kicked off at about 8:30 PM Thursday and finished about 11:30 pm Friday. Yes, you read that right…27 hours I did not have to sit and watch this process.

On the weekend I set to installing the hardware. When all hooked up nothing happened. Double checked and found that I forgot to plug the power cable into the new drive. Did that and the computer still didn’t boot into Windows, though it was close. There was some hardware error. With a few hours of checking, trial and error, I decided to “punt” and install Windows fresh. That required reformatting the drive, wiping out the 27 hours of cloning. At least I still had all my old data on the old drive AND that wonderful adapter that I could hook up when everything was done.

Still had a little trouble but finally got a good install when I disabled the second processor on the CPU chip. I think I can re-enable that now, but it took me awhile to figure it out. In hind sight, that was probably what caused me to punt and reformat.

Oh well, now I have reinstalled and downloaded all the latest and greatest patches and service packs. The machine flies compared to the old. And that is running only on one core. Would like to see it with the second enabled.

My next problem was in getting to my old data. I hooked up the IDE drive to the USB adapter and found that the folders with my data were “locked up”. I had set up a user account on my old system and that protects the files. A little searching and about a half hour of doing a fix and waiting for it to be applied and now I have “taken ownership” of all the files on that drive. Thank you Microsoft Knowledge Base!!!

So, now I can leisurely copy files from the old drive to the new. Everything works and is a joy. The system is faster, quieter, and boots in 1/10th the time.

And to answer the inevitable question from my dad…no, I did not record the amount of time that I took to do this and calculate how much it would have cost due to my time being worth money. This was just hobby work.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Wireless Mouse

After weeks of working overtime and having my wired mouse get hooked once again on the pull out keyboard drawer, I just got a cordless mouse. It’s nice because the receiver plugs into a USB port and clips into the bottom of the mouse when travelling. I can use it at home and at the office. At home I placed a little 4 port USB hub at the base of the monitor and routed that to the USB connector in back with an extension cable. That is where I plug in the mouse receiver and a Jump drive. At the office there is a convenient USB port on the side of the place where I drop in the laptop PC. The package says that the mouse will work for about 6 months on one AA battery (included).

Already using it at home and it is wonderful. I don’t see the need at this time for a wireless keyboard. I would highly recommend a cordless mouse if anything about your mouse has been bothering you. This one cost $23 but I have seen them for $20.