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Vacation, Computer Issues, and Some Interesting Things

July 23, 2006 at 8:52 PM

My family's going on vacation to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in September - it's been seven years since we last went there!

But there's bad news...

My future temporary doe-license-processing job starts before and ends after my vacation, so there's a schedule conflict.

But there's good news...

I later found out that the days for that job are flexible, so my family and I can take their vacation after all! =D

As for what else I've been up to, read on:

After six years (closer to five-plus, actually), Mom's finished with her secretarial position at the Lions Club! She took her last set of notes, and all that needs done now is to give the files needed for the stuff we did for the Club to the Club President. This should free up some time for the family - I'm sure my Mom will be very happy that she doesn't have to be at every meeting now, taking notes, and asking me to type them afterwards! =D

And now, two different issues with computers:

A few weeks ago, I helped set up a computer for another relative (who used to be a teacher at one of my schools) who had their computer put away for awhile and needed to hook it back up. I got everything reconnected, updated a few programs (as well as - with her permission - adding a few replacements for programs that either weren't working right or had a much better alternative available), but after doing all of that, I found out that the printer and speakers weren't working. The printer wouldn't turn on, and no sound was coming from the speakers (unlike the printer, they turned on, but nothing I did got any sound from them).

With her permission, I took her printer home to see if I could find out what was wrong with it, as it wouldn't turn on. I noticed something interesting about the AC adapter cable it used: there was a light on the end that plugs into the printer, but it was dim and flickered quite a bit, so I thought that maybe that the AC adapter may be the reason why the printer wasn't turning on. I looked online for a replacement, found one, and bought it.

When I got the replacement later on in the week, I noticed that the light on its AC adapter lit up brightly, didn't flicker, and the printer actually turned on this time! After cleaning the cartridges a few times, it printed just fine, but fails every time I try to align the cartridges, not to mention the color cartridge didn't seem to be working at all (I searched for replacement cartridges, making note of the item number and price, just in case). I brought it back to her house afterwards, hooked it up, and was told that the color cartrige wasn't working right, and may possibly have been empty as well. Earlier, I had read that cartridge alignment will fail with this printer if either the black or color cartridge is empty/malfunctioning, so given what she said, that's probably why the alignment (and color printing) aren't working. It's a good thing I looked up that information on replacement cartridges =P

Later, when Dad came to pick me up, I told him I got everything set up and also got the printer working, but I still couldn't get sound from the speakers. We decided to shut down and unplug the system so we could look in the case. I tried opening it earlier, but thought I'd end up breaking something for as much force as I used - it turns out, though, that you do need a lot of force to get it open! When we opened it, we found that the sound card was loose. It was pushed back in, the case was closed back up, everything was plugged back into it, and we let it boot into Windows...And this time around, the sound worked just fine! =D

Now for the second computer issue:

Recently, when using my one uncle's computer, it blue-screened all of a sudden, and I wasn't exactly sure why. I had been upgrading some programs (which I also did some of the other times I had come over), but since it didn't crash in the process of any of those upgrades, I felt that the blue-screen may just have been coincidence. Restarting it led to the same screen again, this time before booting up was finished, and nothing I tried to do to figure out the problem would work (booting into Safe Mode had the same result). I jotted down the error message that showed up, in case it might be of use later on.

I then took his computer home to see if I could figure out what was wrong, and switched the drive in it with the drive in my old desktop computer (which hadn't been used in awhile). Unfortunately, it still didn't work, and didn't even boot up this time. Not only that, but because of what I did, I can't boot up that computer anymore right now with the original drive, either. Instead of hearing one short beep from POST (which is normal), there's one long beep followed by three short ones...and from what I've read, this may either be a problem with the RAM or the video card (which I never touched, so I really hope I didn't somehow mess them up when switching hard drives). Also, the monitor is not being picked up, and it shuts down automatically after (I assume, since I can't use the monitor to see what's going on) it's finished booting up =(

After all of this, my family decided to have his computer taken to the shop that built my two desktops, and it turned out that partitioning issues were the source of the problem:

  • It was an 80 GB drive with two partitions, one 2 GB and one 78 GB.
  • The system originally had Windows 98 on it, but first partition was formatted as FAT-16, judging by its size of 2 GB.
  • The MBR had (somehow) become corrupted.

It seems this issue was always present, but nothing bad came of it until recently. On the plus side, it turns out this wasn't my fault after all - this problem would've happened eventually anyway, most likely when one of his kids would be using the computer. To fix this, the technicians at that shop got a temporary drive, set up the system on a 10 GB partition, copied the second partition from the original drive to the second partition on the temporary drive, and then cloned the temporary drive's contents back onto the original drive. Aside from having to reinstall some software, my uncle says it's working now, which is very good news. Now I just have to get mine fixed =P

In other news:

Recently, when playing a few games on emulators, I noticed something in particular with one game, Super Metroid: One of the stages seems to give the exact timing necessary to properly perform the "bomb jump" maneuver. It not only is the only way to get into certain places, but with some practice/luck, you can get into places that you're not supposed to get into until much later in the game. Where did I find what the necessary timing is? Very late in the game, actually: In Norfair, after you take the elevator to the lower half of the stage, pay close attention to the beat of the drums in the music...because that shows exactly when to place your bombs to properly do the "bomb jump" move. Interesting, isn't it?

Also, I recently found a nifty program called XAMPP. With it, I don't have to install Apache, PHP, and MySQL separately to test things out (not to mention I couldn't get certain PHP libraries working, and I had problems getting MySQL to work) - this program installs all of them together! Not only that, but I found some nifty things it provides as a demonstration of its capabilities (such as graphic creation via GD), and with it, I can finally test out things like phpBB now! =D

Lastly, I've been messing around recently with a vector drawing program called Inkscape, and it's pretty interesting to use. Years ago, when I had to help design cards, banners, etc. for people, I sometimes had to take an already-existing vector image (usually clipart in WMF format) and make minor tweaks to it. My only tools at the time were PrintMaster in the early days and, much later, the programs in the Microsoft Office suite...and it was tricky to work with them at times, especially since I couldn't save that modified WMF as a standalone file. Inkscape - plus a "conversion-to-WMF" utility - would have been very, very helpful back then. Oh well...

Anyway, I've recently created a few images in it:

  • Ragnarok's Esper form. This was a practice drawing, and the first one I made in this program, so it's not perfect.
  • A 70s flower for Mom's upcoming high school reunion (Class of 1975), which she needed a paper copy of to trace larger copies onto colored posterboard (no link is provided - sorry!). One big circle was drawn in the middle, and two smaller ones were drawn outside it, centered vertically and overlapping slightly (much like a two-circle Venn diagram). Those two smaller circles were joined together as a single piece, placed around the circle at eight points (grouping, duplicating, and rotating were used to ensure it would have radial symmetry when complete), and joined to the bigger circle as a single piece. The final steps were making all of the nodes smooth, exporting a copy as a PDF file (as large as I could make it on a single sheet of paper), and printing it out. I personally feel this was the easiest thing for me to draw so far in this program =)
  • The "Diamond and Carbuncle" band logo. This was done by opening the original raster copy of the logo in Paint Shop Pro, splitting each letter apart (and closing up the gaps in the "D" and "C" where the "n" was overlapping them) and saving the separated letters as a new image, importing that image, using the "Trace Bitmap" function, removing excess nodes in each letter, fixing up the colors, and joining them back together.
  • Wolfey's "Abaertyn" logo, featured on his laptop case (PNG of case design / SVG of case design) and shirt (PNG of shirt design / SVG of shirt design). These took the longest to do as I had to draw them from scratch, but it shows just what you can create with this program =)

That's it for this entry!

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