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  • Computer Help/Rant

    Have I mentioned lately how much I hate computer problems? I have a Dell XPS 700 as my primary computer. When I came home from the trade show yesterday I had a blue screen warning. Once I rebooted my computer my video cards went crazy. This has been an ongoing problems over the 3-years I have owned this computer. I pulled my video cards and looked for any problems then reset the cards. I suspect there is a problem with the bridge as now only one card seems to work but I cannot get windows to load. As I am starting 3-4 weeks of intense testing tomorrow morning I am sending my computer out to get it repaired.

    As I am tired of playing with this computer I ordered a new computer this morning and this one will be a back up computer or end up in Las Vegas. The new computer is Vista while the old computer is XP Pro. Does anyone have a migration program they feel is worth using? It always seems just when I thought I had the greatest and the latest, new stuff comes out. I am hoping to try to stay ahead of the tech curve for a little bit this time so this computer has two 1.5TB hard drives, 8 GB RAM, a Blu Ray burner and a DVD burner.

    Mark
    "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

    I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

  • #2
    Re: Computer Help/Rant

    If you are buying a new machine now did it come with a free upgrade to Windows 7 which is due to be released very soon, like in the next couple weeks?

    Review this article on the MS TechNet site:

    Windows Vista Migration Step-by-Step Guide

    Migrating to Windows Vista
    This scenario assumes that you are installing Windows Vista on a new computer, and then transferring your user settings and files from a computer running Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home Edition.
    "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006

    https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Computer Help/Rant

      Mark,

      Regarding your comment about "latest and greatest":

      I've been in the know of computers from way, way back. My first acquaintance was with an IBM 1401 Mainframe System. This was a second generation "solid state" unit. The core processor (the 1401) stood all of five feet high about four feet wide and probably three foot deep (IIRC, it's been a long time). I remember the systems director boosting that we had the "latest and greatest" (even bigger than IBM's main Endicott system... which was still a room full of vacuum tubed relay units). That was 1965.

      Many years later (1979) I bought the "latest and greatest", an Atari 800 system with 48 k, four channel sound, and terrific 8-bit color graphics. The optional 300 k acoustic modem and the 5-1/2-inch 60 k floppy added another $300, for a grand total of $1100.

      In 1982 I had the "latest and greatest" portable, a 512 k Hyperion "luggable". Two 360 k floppies, built-in 300 baud modem, keyboard (first with function keys across the top), and it only weighed 28 lbs. Price at the time was something like $2800, IIRC. That was significantly cheaper and smaller than the Compaq which weighed about 36 lbs. (The company used to mount them on 2-wheel hand carts so people could wheel them back and forth to their cars.)

      In 1989 I once again bought the "latest and greatest", from a new company (only 300 employees) called Gateway. It had a whopping 1024 k of memory with the optional high-speed RAM card, 256 K 16-bit graphics and a 60 Mbyte Micro Science hard drive. Whopping price of $3200 too!

      About this time (through the 90's) I also found myself teaching WordPerfect, Paradox database, and basic computer fundamentals, as well as doing a lot of computer-graphics, digital retouching, document system design and other supporting stuff; as well as helping a lot of people plan for and buy their own systems.

      In 1995 I jumped to a Gateway Pentium tower unit, the new PCI bus, and two, 1 gigabyte hard drives, a 17-inch flat-screen monitor, the latest ATI Wonder graphics, and a 14.4 internal modem. Later I added a Colorado Systems tape-backup system and a few years after that I upgraded it with new Pentium 2 motherboard and a Iomega Zip drive. Again, the "latest and greatest".

      In 2003, I took a quantum leap to a Dell 8200 Pentium 4 tower with one gigabyte of 512 Mb high-speed DDR memory and an 80 gigabyte drive. Not exactly the latest and the greatest, but by then I was getting tired of trying to be "leading edge".

      Last year I added a nice laptop, 2-gigabytes of memory, built-in camera, 160 gig harddrive, DVD writer, and more "bells and whistles" than I will probably use. While it was slightly less than "latest and greatest", I've come to realize that it was more than I needed.

      I guess "latest and greatest" is a quest that is always elusive and at our very best all I've come to realize is that whatever I purchase, I can only hope that it will give me a few weeks or months before it falls in the shadow of the next offering. I've also reached the point where reading about all the latest and greatest is no longer my daily "need to know". My used-to-be "leading-edge" computer knowledge is now quite obsolete too. I'm now having to look for people like Bob D, and asking the question, "How do I ...?".

      CWS
      Last edited by CWSmith; 05-17-2009, 04:41 PM.

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      • #4
        Re: Computer Help/Rant

        Computer problems are never fun, and migrating systems is always a painful process.

        First off, it sounds like you were running dual video cards in SLI / Crossfire configuration? The way I've always looked at it, linked video cards aren't worth the trouble for 80% of the population. It's true that by using the best cards on the market it's the only way to get the highest possible performance, but most people don't run games so demanding that makes the performance difference noticeable. A single, powerful graphics card is usually the best bet. Dual cards are the hot rod engines of the gaming world, with emphasis on the word hot. Heat is one of the computer's worst enemies, and excessive heat will shorten the life of the computer.

        With a 3 yr. old system, you're making a reasonable choice to upgrade. Since you are transitioning from windows XP, I would highly recommend you try to hold off until Windows 7 is commercially available. Vista has developed into a very usable and capable operating system, but it wasn't that way when it first came out. Transitioning from XP to Vista has gotten easier, but if you are the type of person who doesn't like changes for the sake of change, Vista will cause a lot of frustration.

        The main reason why I suggest waiting for Windows 7 is that Microsoft is incorporating the ability to run a full version of windows XP within the windows 7 operating system. Essentially a computer within your computer. While it may seem silly at first, it nearly ensures compatibility with your older windows XP software. Microsoft claimed Vista was going to be 100% compatible, it wasn't and they suffered for it. They're not going to make that mistake again. Just make sure you keep your current computer's windows xp license as you'll need that for "windows xp mode" in windows 7.

        If your computer just can't make it until windows 7 release and you have to get a new one soon, Vista is probably your best option. I've been dealing with Microsoft operating systems since windows 95 and can tell you honestly that manual migration causes fewer problems than using an automated tool. The automated tools are better these days, but still are not as good as a clean install.

        When I'm dealing with a brand new system, I usually ask the user to back up all the data that is important, (documents, photos, movies, music, saved games, etc.) and put it on an external drive. Next I ask for the programs they use, and try to locate installation discs and serial numbers for installation on the new system. If they don't have these, there are ways to extract the info, but it's pretty involved and usually more time consuming than getting the originals. The last step for preparation is getting preferences data and other settings, usually the only "must have" in this category is web bookmarks, or favorites lists, which usually isn't too hard to back up to the external drive.

        The most boring and time consuming part of the manual system migration is reinstalling all the software, putting in serial codes, and physically moving the data to folders on the new drive. It's a pain, but I've always felt that the extra effort is worth it in the long run. The way the automatic programs work is by reading the registry file for all the current information, locating all the programs referred to in the registry, and graft them into the new system's own registry. It then has to update any file location links, and change references to hardware from the old system to match hardware in the new system. Much of this stuff is interchangeable, but not everything is, and sometimes the software will have to improvise, or just refuse to migrate something. It usually works reasonably well, but like I said, it often is worth it to do a manual migration.

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        • #5
          Re: Computer Help/Rant

          It looks like my computer has a bad motherboard. I sent my portable 500GB hard drive over to the computer place and they salvaged everything from my hard drive. I am not sure I will bother with repairing the computer as a refurbished motherboard is almost $700. I was able to swap all of my files and folders to one of my other computers which is running Vista without any problems. I had to have my computer guy help me with Outlook but now I am back in business.

          Now that this is behind me I am looking into maybe setting up a new Network when the new computer arrives. I am currently running Network Magic. I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations on a better way to do it or should I stick with what I have?

          Mark
          "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

          I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Computer Help/Rant

            Originally posted by ToUtahNow View Post
            It looks like my computer has a bad motherboard. I sent my portable 500GB hard drive over to the computer place and they salvaged everything from my hard drive. I am not sure I will bother with repairing the computer as a refurbished motherboard is almost $700.

            Mark
            That $700 price quote for repair is a bit unrealistic I think. If the company is giving you a price for an exact replacement of your old motherboard, that could be part of the reason why it's so high, but even then I think it's a bit outrageous. If the board is no longer manufactured, supply dwindles and drives the price up. A brand new intel core i7 compatible x58 motherboard costs between $250-$500 for top of the line. Systems I built for other people, I usually spend about $150-$200 on the motherboard.

            I'm not sure which chipset your old motherboard used, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a compatible replacement board from a different manufacturer in the $100-$200 range. If you don't plan on getting it repaired, what are you planning on doing with the broken system? I could give a few suggestions, one would be a DIY motherboard swap that really isn't as hard as it sounds, I would just need specifications on the other parts in the system to tell you what you need.

            Broken systems also fetch a pretty good price on ebay these days also. I used to buy a few to fix up and sometimes resell, but lately the sale prices have gotten so high that it isn't profitable for me to do this anymore. I don't know how the people who actually buy those broken systems on ebay are able to fix them without doing so at a net loss.

            As for suggesting a network management system, Network Magic is a safe bet. Cisco systems is one of the best out there for networking. My company uses a lot of enterprise level gear from Cisco. If I remember correctly, D-link also has software equivalent to Network Magic, though don't know too much about it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Computer Help/Rant

              I'm told I need a Dell motherboard and I would be better off buying it directly from Dell. New ones are not available and a refurbished one is $625 from Dell. I have seen them on ebay for less but I'm not sure I want to buy a used motherboard.

              This computer is a gaming computer which has stuff on it I don't need and it is twice the size tower of anything else out there. I may just pick it up and try to fix it myself with a used motherboard just for the fun of it. One thing I have noticed is how much cooler my office is now without that computer running.

              Mark
              "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

              I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Computer Help/Rant

                Originally posted by ToUtahNow View Post
                I'm told I need a Dell motherboard and I would be better off buying it directly from Dell. New ones are not available and a refurbished one is $625 from Dell. I have seen them on ebay for less but I'm not sure I want to buy a used motherboard.

                This computer is a gaming computer which has stuff on it I don't need and it is twice the size tower of anything else out there. I may just pick it up and try to fix it myself with a used motherboard just for the fun of it. One thing I have noticed is how much cooler my office is now without that computer running.

                Mark
                Yeah, I would strongly advise against buying a used Dell motherboard. As long as your other components are still in good shape and you can locate a board that supports all of your parts, it would make an excellent hobby computer. Aside from the cooler office temp, you'll probably notice a drop in your electricity bill also if you kept your computer running all the time.

                If you do get around to rebuilding the computer yourself, put a post up here if you get stuck.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Computer Help/Rant

                  Originally posted by wathman View Post
                  Aside from the cooler office temp, you'll probably notice a drop in your electricity bill also if you kept your computer running all the time.
                  At work, we are not allowed space heaters [for the obvious safety reasons]. I know of someone who has an old computer in their office, and when it gets cold turns it on to function as a space heater. The funny part is that it is just as efficient as the space heater.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Computer Help/Rant

                    Originally posted by cpw View Post
                    At work, we are not allowed space heaters [for the obvious safety reasons]. I know of someone who has an old computer in their office, and when it gets cold turns it on to function as a space heater. The funny part is that it is just as efficient as the space heater.
                    We have the same policy at work as well, however our network is restricted to Authorized company devices only so it might be hard to explain why I have an old Pentium IV at my desk... otherwise great idea

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Computer Help/Rant

                      Since this is also a rant thread, I'll b!tch about computer "techs". I had a problem with my computer and checked around for some recommendations. The local company that was recommended was also MS certified in all areas if that means anything. They do onsite service for larger companies but you can also have a take in.

                      I only gave them these instructions: I don't care about anything but two programs. If they have to wipe it and bring it back up that's fine, but I need information from these two programs and if that's going to be a problem I'll try to work around the problems I'm having to get some of the information out of the programs and THEN they can do what they need to do.

                      I was assured twice there would be no problems and no need to do that.

                      Got a call to pick it up two days later. Got home, ALL old files are gone and it's back to the basic operating system. No, they did not create an "old" hard drive folder or partition anywhere.

                      Called them. They said I was right and forgot too. Took it back but told them to put the two programs on the laptop I instructed them too in the first place and gave them an external drive (Lacie brand, been great, recommended by smorris) to place all programs on as the "old" hard drive.

                      Called to pick up again. Noone there but the receptionist. Got home and the programs I asked to be functioning could be found but were scattered/shared files throughout the system. (Hope I explain that right).

                      Call them again and ask to speak to the head person in the tech/maintenance department. He actually seems the most professional and tells me to bring it to him.

                      I carry it back, again, and sit with him for an 1.5 hours while he pieces the programs together and gets them working. The one thing I did find disturbing or unusual is that he acted like he had never heard of Mozilla Thunderbird???? I figure someone in the computer business should accidentally know about Mozilla products. Maybe I'm wrong.

                      He did a pretty good job and seemed to know what he was doing. The other people below him are idiots.

                      I often see this same chain of command in other service industries, like plumbing.

                      By the way, there rates are $70.00/hr. if you bring something to them or $120.00/hr. if they come to you.

                      I'm thinking of starting a business of repairing faucets for $70.00/hr. but you have to bring it to me.

                      J.C.

                      (P.S. They also lost a cord to the removable hard drive that Lacie replaced for free even after I told them I lost it. I give Lacie a recommendation even though they cost a little more than comparable storage.)
                      Last edited by BobsPlumbing; 05-26-2009, 12:20 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Computer Help/Rant

                        Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post
                        I'm thinking of starting a business of repairing faucets for $70.00/hr. but you have to bring it to me.
                        That might sound crazy at first, but I think it makes a certain amount of sense. I don't think taking out a faucet or putting one in is terribly hard in that I'm not afraid to do it with a replacement faucet, those connections are pretty standard. I'm not going to try repairing one though, getting all the right parts and knowing how to take apart the lots of different brands of faucets and put them back together is scary and they are moving parts so it seems like they are more likely to develop leaks after the fact if you get it wrong than the connection between the copper stub and the braided supply line which wouldn't have as much stress placed on it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Computer Help/Rant

                          Sounds like really shoddy customer service. You were right to contact the head of the department to address your problem so your request was heard directly by the person doing the work, and not relayed through who knows how many people and paperwork.

                          As for never hearing of Mozilla Thunderbird, it's possible as local email client software has been falling to the wayside as more people like the flexibility of web based clients. Businesses and corporations who are fully entrenched with Microsoft products would be using Outlook anyway, so the largest market for Mozilla Thunderbird now is small business owners or home users who deal with tons of email and need to be able to archive mail locally. Personally I like Thunderbird a lot, but Outlook offers a level of integration with the Microsoft Office suite that Thunderbird really can't match. However if I was the one footing the bill for my laptop and software, I'd be using Thunderbird + Open Office

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                          • #14
                            Re: Computer Help/Rant

                            Also, the bar for being a computer "tech" is often conspicuously low at a place like CompUSA. A lot of these guys are just high school kids who dork around with computers, but don't know much. They get paid crap, but that has nothing to do with the markup. And for the most part, they can do the simple stuff; but anything that deviates from their expected script isn't going to go so well. The advice dispensed can be equally terrible.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Computer Help/Rant

                              My computer services are $70/hr and I go to the customer site unless it's a laptop that's easily transportable. In that case, I'll knock the price down to around $50/hr or a set fee for certain things.

                              Most Microsoft certified shops will have little to no knowledge of Mozilla applications. They are tested on Microsoft products, and have to show a good deal of proficiency in those products. They are definitely NOT encouraged to become familiar with anything other than IE and Office. The notion of Mozilla Thunderbird is foreign to many IT folks. The same thing with OpenOffice. While I tend to be more generalized due to my clientel, I understand where a certified shop has to be careful about their offerings. MS gets mighty peeved when they find techs using non-MS products in a certified shop. I seem to think that's related to the fact that MS is scared of Mozilla and OpenOffice.

                              I, personally, don't like Dell or HP all that much. I prefer my customers get custom-built machines. I'll support whatever they get, however, and will ask them to pay me the 3-yr support money they would've spent on a Dell or HP extended warranty. In our part of the world, it's better for them as Dell surely won't send a tech out here. I'm happy to build a system for someone, but it's difficult to compete on price. I tell them it's a quality thing along with purchasing power. I can't order 4 million hard drives. Dell orders bottom-of-the-barrel in a lot of things (like hard drives) and often times will have major problems with failures down the road.
                              I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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