Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fixing A Dead HP Computer

Friday morning my wife Sue found her HP desktop computer off. She pressed the button to start it and nothing happened. That evening she tried it again and when it remained comatose, she appealed to me for help. I tried it myself, did a couple of basic things to entice it to come alive again, but nothing. It's scary when the machine is totally dead and you know it has access to all the electrons it needs. Hard to know where to start, other than call the repairman or take it to the Geek Squad.

That evening after dining out and a few beers, I wasn't in the proper frame of mind to tackle complex computer problems, so I decided to put off trying to fix it until the morning. Sue was able to access her e-mail using her laptop from work and web mail.

Saturday morning, the first thing I did was consult the HP website for help. Since the computer is out of warranty, e-mail support seemed to be the best alternative available. My first e-mail, I thought, described the problem quite well. Basically it said "the computer is dead, help".

My first reply from the help center, an outsource somewhere on the other side of the globe, started with a list of instructions on what to do if various things appeared on the screen. Wrong. There is no screen, the computer is dead. Reading on, I found a suggestion of something to try if the screen was dark:

Motherboard beep test:

Ø Switch off the computer. Open the Tower Cabinet and look for the Motherboard, which looks like big rectangular sheet. It is the main circuit board of the computer. You can identify with the diagram
You will find RAM card on the motherboard, which looks like long narrow ruler fitted in the black slot with two white notches across it.
Pull the notches in the outside manner. As soon as you do so it will flip out from the slot.
Now pull out the RAM card and check for the beep sound if any.
If you find any beep sound then it indicates that the Motherboard is working fine.
Reseat the RAM and switch on the computer.

Now this may look strange to you, but I found I understood it pretty well, despite a few departures from the English most of us generally use. I performed the test and there was no beep. I replied with the results.

This is what I received in reply:

After reviewing your email, I understand that your system is totally dead. Neither light glows nor sound comes out from the system. (An apt description I totally agree with)
I appreciate that you have shared your concern with us and have given us a chance to assist you in this matter.
I, as a part of HP Total Care, take the ownership of your concern and would try to answer your queries accordingly and to the best of my abilities.
The most possible cause of this issue is that the power supply unit has gone bad or started malfunctioning.

Hence, in order to resolve this issue I would recommend you to check the power supply unit. I ma providing some steps below and recommend you to follow the steps that I have provided in order to comprehend it.

1. Turn
off your power switch and plug it out from the power supply.
2. Remove the cable from the CPU and start unscrewing the power supply section in order to remove the whole power supply (square metal box) from the CPU.

Once done, locate for the main ATX connector and find the green wire.
4. Also locate for the black wire near the green wire and with the use of a paper clip, connect and safely bond the two together with a piece of isolating tape.

5. Put back all the power supply and switch the system on again and ensure that your system ventilation is working.

To check whether the connection is correct, the Molex in between the yellow and black wire should display at least 12 volts.

Now we were getting somewhere. The problem seemed to be the power supply. However, I was reluctant to follow the instructions to the letter, since it was hard to tell which black wire to use, there were about 10 of them, and I didn't really like the idea of having my computer using a paper clipped power supply.

All was resolved happily when I purchased a new power supply from Best Buy and installed it. The computer came to life again and even runs better than it did previously. And it is noticeably quieter. The old power supply is pictured.

Today I got a follow up message from a different person at the help center asking if my problem had been resolved. I reported it had, and was pleasantly surprised when I got this message in reply:

Thank you for contacting HP Total Care.
This is technician Mrinal, from Hewlett-Packard Technical Support Team

After reviewing your email, I understand that the issue with your system resolved with the previous troubleshooting steps that have been provided to you.

I must admit that the issue would not have been resolved without your efforts.
We can only provide technical resolutions from our side. But, it is you who implemented the resolution to perfection. It feels good and boosts our confidence in working with such a well-informed user. It is always a pleasure to hear that all problems have been resolved.
Once again, thank you for your comments and the opportunity to serve you. It gives immense pleasure when we hear from our satisfied customer.

All's well that ends well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Central Florida Commuter Rail - SunRail - Some Questions & Answers

There are a lot of misconceptions about commuter rail and its place in a healthy transit system for Central Florida. Here are some questions and answers that address these.

Q: I’m not going to ride the rail so how can it help me?

A: Transit modes like bus and rail are alternatives to using automobiles. When a rider uses transit, chances are very good a car is not using the road system. If only a small fraction of drivers become riders, this can mean the difference between a gridlocked road or highway and one that flows freely. Recall your own experience on minor holidays and no-school days. By supporting rail an automobile driver, even if he/she never uses rail, benefits by having fewer cars on the road system.

Q: Transit doesn’t pay for itself, so why should we build it?

A: All transportation is subsidized by our governments to one degree or another, and no transportation alternative is expected to pay for itself. If you use your automobile, you are using the road system. Our taxes pay for the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of the road system. The automobile user is only paying a fraction of the actual cost of that transportation mode. Other transit alternatives actually pay a portion of their operating cost through fares collected. Of course automobile drivers using toll roads pay more, but even then tolls don’t cover the entire cost. Bus and rail transit provide transportation capacity at less overall expense than roads, they’re better for the environment and use less land.

Q: Why don’t we just spend the money on buses?

A: Buses are a vital part of a transit system, but they can’t do everything. They use the road system that is already congested. Would you prefer to sit in a bus on I-4 rather than your car? They are also more expensive per passenger mile than rail. Rail is best at carrying riders over a fixed route at medium to longer distances. Buses provide the feeder routes that take riders to and from the rail stations.

Q: Why not build light rail to the airport and the theme parks now? Why SunRail?

A: An important mission of SunRail is to take commuters off I-4 during the widening that is going to start in 2010. The pre-existing CSX rail right-of-way gives FDOT a quick, inexpensive way to get commuter rail up and running. This is the same way TriRail got started in South Florida when I-95 was widened. I-4 commuters are a ready-made, pre-existing ridership waiting to use the system. Once SunRail is up and running, then east-west light rail will be the next step. SunRail will provide a great many of the riders this east-west system will use. Without SunRail an east-west light rail system would be difficult to justify.

Q: I’ve heard that commuter rail will help prevent development sprawl. How can it do this?

A: Establishing a high-capacity rail system makes people want to live in close proximity so they can use it effectively. This demand for proximity to the transit stations increases the value of development of all kinds around the station locations. This demand focuses developer’s efforts to build close to the stations. Communities with station locations use their zoning and regulatory powers to encourage optimal development around stations and discourage sprawl. Thus development is concentrated around stations and not wherever a developer can buy cheap land and get a road built to it. The better the transit system, the better the ability of communities to focus growth.

Q: How can I find out more about commuter rail, SunRail, transit and how to manage growth?

A: . For more information check these websites:,,,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

If you subscribe to the Maine Media Workshops eNews letter you'll recognize immediately that I'm plagiarizing their latest edition. But I'm sure they won't mind the publicity, and I couldn't help but comment on the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a full-frame digital SLR with HD 1080p video capability. Maine Media Workshops is featuring the camera in a workshop with Vincent Laforet, who made the first short film photographed/filmed/videoed with the EOS 5D Mark II - Reverie. While you're at Laforet's website, take a look at his other work including some awesome aerial coverage of Katrina and her aftermath. Laforet's blog is interesting also. (The picture shows Maine Media College students Kevin Carragher and Ashish Dawar testing the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Photo by Shane Hofeldt.)

Back to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. There has been some talk of movement by the news media away from the still camera and toward video cameras. The thinking has been that if you need a still, you can pull it from the video since video resolution has improved so much. The Mark II changes the equation, however, enabling still photographers to take HD quality video when the situation warrants. How this opens up the possibilities for the rest of us is difficult for me to get my mind around. I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 with video capability. I have used video a few times, but haven't scratched the surface of possibilities. A couple of my experiments are on my YouTube channel. Interestingly, another video I have on YouTube is a slide show of still images. I'm sure we'll see much more "mixed media" mixing stills and video in creative ways.

One of my favorite HDTV programs is Sunrise Earth which features HD video of sunrise scenes around the world. Most of the "footage" of the videos is basically a live still picture with the camera fixed while it captures the scene changing as the sun rises. The scenes are usually purely nature without evidence of man's encroachment. I haven't watched the program lately. It isn't shown as often as it was since HD has moved to more traditional programming.

While I'm sending you around the internet, allow me to send you to my photo website I've recently reworked it and made it easier to get to the different web locations for the work I've done. It's likely you came here from there. If so, you're finished. Hit the back arrow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buddy Holly

A new Buddy Holly collection has been issued that includes some of his private recordings done in the last year of his life. The collection was reviewed on Fresh Air this afternoon. I was deeply moved hearing the review, not only because of the thought of being able to hear previously unreleased material, but also because of the large part Buddy Holly played in my musical life.
He was at the peak of his popularity when I was in high school, and he was killed the year I graduated. I have several of his albums, vinyl LPs, that I still get out and play occasionally. I also have "Best Of" collections on CD. My favorite song is Not Fade Away, an affection I apparently share with a majority of his fans. I have never tired of hearing his music. His was an incredible talent.
The Fresh Air reviewer, Ed Ward, pointed out that Buddy was trying a lot of different things in his latest recordings. Ed wants us to imagine what Buddy would have become if he hadn't been in that plane that night. I would hope he would have gone down new paths and gotten better and better like John McCarthy of the Beatles or Ray Charles. But there's always the possibility that he could have taken a different road like Elvis did. As tragic as Buddy's death was, it has served to immortalize him as he was at his peak. His life and his musical career were cut off, but his death also prevented any diminution of his legend. Buddy Holly lives on in my memory just as he was when he died in 1959.
This year will see my 50th high school class reunion, and I'll be looking forward to hearing Buddy's music, a part of all which we were back in high school. A part that hasn't and won't change. There's some irony in the title of his famous song. The memory of Buddy Holly will "Not Fade Away".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Replacing The Coffee Maker

On the right is the old Braun coffee maker we've had for over a decade. On the left is the new Cuisinart we purchased to replace it. The Braun had been showing signs of age the last couple of years, and a couple of weeks ago the heating element gave out in the middle of making essential morning coffee. I finished the process by pouring hot water directly onto the coffee grounds and then closing the coffee holder to let the water seep through.

Now I had to face the daunting prospect of replacing the Braun. A couple of years ago I had tried to replace it when it started showing its age, but after trying out three different makers, decided I couldn't do any better than the Braun. So I cleaned it again and kept using it. Now I had no choice but to find a replacement.

Consumer Reports didn't even list the Braun, so right away I was confused. I'd had such good luck with mine, why wasn't it listed? I went to Google. I found my Braun was still listed for sale. I tried to buy it through but when I got to the checkout, it said zero were available and I was asking for one. I went up to the next model. Still no one had any inventory. I checked the Braun website. They pointed me to dealers with nothing but shavers and hair dryers. I finally came to the conclusion that Braun coffee makers are not available to us here in the States, at least not now.

Back to Consumer Reports. I ended up buying a Cuisinart which is the same as the top rated model but has a thermal carafe. I have to say I like it a lot. But as you can see, the Braun is still on the counter. I don't know when I'll have the courage to put it in the trash. It's like a pet that you have to take to the vet to be "put to sleep". You postpone it until you can't any longer.

However I'm liking the new Cuisinart more and more every day. I don't think it will be long before the old Braun hits the trash can and joins it's siblings in coffee maker heaven. But it won't be without a proper memorial ceremony. So long faithful Braun. Many fine cups of coffee were enjoyed thanks to you old friend.

Recycling Milestone - Solid Waste Less Than Recyclables

On the right in the picture is the total amount of trash I put out for pickup on Friday. On the left are two recycling bins containing paper of all kinds, cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles. The volume of recyclables is greater than the amount of trash or solid waste. I've been looking forward to the day I could say this, and it's a milestone I'm proud to have achieved.

It didn't come easily. I had to set up a system to collect all the paper that could be recycled. Then I had to do the same for all the cans. The cardboard boxes like those used for breakfast cereal were next. They are collected and broken down so they're flat. I crush all the plastic bottles and cans I can to make them all fit in the recycling container. Finally, it helps to drink enough beer to provide cans enough to make a difference.

With this system in place and the family members all properly trained, I'm hoping there will be many more days like Friday where solid waste is less than recyclables.

Let me know if you have solid waste less than recyclables days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SunRail - Central Florida's Commuter Rail

It's been a long time since my last post. No apologies. I just knew I couldn't compete with Al Kaplan who was doing one photo and post every day for years and years. Now that he's slacked off a bit, I feel like there's room for me.

SunRail - Central Florida's Commuter Rail.
This is a very worthwhile project that needs approval by the Florida Legislature this session. I won't go into the dollars and details. There are lots of places to read about those. There are three simple reasons it deserves to get done:
  1. It will get cars off our roads. Central Florida is Atlanta a couple of decades ago but without MARTA. We don't want to go there.
  2. It will provide alternative transit to people who don't want to, can't or shouldn't drive.
  3. It's a really good deal. The right-of-way will cost less than half what it would if built from scratch, and the Feds are paying half the cost of the tracks, stations and trains.
Check out this website:

Then contact your Senators and Representative and tell them to vote for SunRail. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.