Friday, May 01, 2009

Weekend Assignment #265: Darn Computer!

Okay, I'm postponing the topic I started to write up this morning, and starting over:

Weekend Assignment #265: If you're a blogger, you almost certainly have a computer. If you have a computer, you've had computer problems. Did your monitor go dark? Hard drive get hacked? System go silent? Tell us a computer horror story!

Extra Credit: Which has fewer problems, a PC or a Mac?

This entry is way late for several reasons, but the main one is that I've been having computer problems for several weeks now. Every day the computer has slowed to a crawl, the hard drive loudly chugging away, the dreaded words "Not Responding" appearing intermittently in parentheses next to apps.

Looks so innocent, doesn't it?

It's hard to fix what you can't diagnose, and I have several contenders for the position of troublemaker:

This CD, for a different troublesome device, turned up under the desk last night.

The slowdown seems to have started right about the time I installed the software that came with my new Canon camera, the software the documentation insisted had to be installed before the camera was connected to the computer for data transfer. Really? You need these six programs? I like the photo tagging feature, but I can live without that if the tradeoff is Picasa suddenly being convinced that certain photos should be oriented horizontally when they're actually meant to be vertical, and a PhotoStudio edit can't shake that certainty. And it sure as heck isn't worth the computer endlessly chugging away, unwilling to do much of anything. But do I dare uninstall? What happens if I attach the camera without it? Does it blow up or something, invalidating the warranty in the process? Or, as is more likely, does the computer simply revert to listing the five other protocols available for data transfer, instead of all six? So far, I haven't dared to find out.

One possibility I've already eliminated was a full hard drive. File Manager insisted at one point that it was full, so I pulled off several months' worth of raw photo files. Then I checked the storage info, and it turns our the drive isn't even two thirds full. So much for that. I also had my suspicions about a particular build of Firefox, but it's been updated a couple times since then, and it didn't help.

Maybe it's a conflict between Firefox, Norton and Window, all of which want to protect my computer against the big bad world of hacks and viruses and phishing and worms. If so, I have no idea how to get them to play nicely together.

Or maybe there's some background program running that I should disable, sich as a file indexer. Once I opened the startup program manager, and any possibility of disabling anything is greyed out. Nor does the indexing program seem to offer any options.

Maybe I just need more RAM. But a) I can't afford it, cheap as it probably is now, and b) over having just Firefox open doesn't seem to solve the problem. And I usually need to have at least AIM, Firefox, Word or Excel, and problably PhotoStudio open. Is that excessive? It didn't use to be.

Another possibility is it has something to do with the external hard drives wanting to back up the main one, even though they only actually get to do so when I get tired of the error messages, reboot and do a backup with nothing else running. Why does the computer insist half the time that it can't back up any files at all, and refuse to tell me why?

For now I've done the one thing I knew how to do. I did a defrag on the C: drive and the two external ones. It took nearly seven hours. And now you know why this entry is so late!

John, of course, is still using a Mac, still claiming that Windows is way more problematic than whatever big cat Apple's current system software is named for. He could be right, but I found my last Mac, a second-generation iMac, at least as much of a hassle as the Windows laptop that sat next to it. Somewhere around OS X, Macs became much less intuitive in their organiation, and much more prone to needing security authorizations and arcane settings. Or was that mainly so the Mac and the laptop would talk to each other? They never really did so properly. And the iMac, which wasn't broken or anything, left my desk years ago.

Your turn! I know at least one of you bought a computer recently, and Julie always seems to be battling some bit of software or hardware or some bit of the web. Tell us your travails in your blig, and be sure to include a link back here in your entry. Then come back here and leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with the results. Meanwhile...

For Weekend Assignment #264: Environmental Awareness , I asked you to assess your personal environmental efforts. It appears we mostly agree we can do better:

Julie said...

So, yes. We dropped a truckload of money (that we're still paying, but that's another rant) on a more energy efficient A/C and heating system. We have the curly bulbs. We practically burst our curbside recycle bin every two weeks. We don't compost (it's something I have trouble keeping up with), but we make sure our tree and lawn clippings get properly gift wrapped for the city compost. I have allergies, so I'm big on natural cleaning and laundry products.

Florinda said...

I actually like small, fuel-efficient cars, and I may be lucky that my size means that I'm comfortable in them. But that car is nine years old now, and although I try to keep up with the maintenance, age does take its toll on everything, so it's less efficient than it once was - and I drive that car eighty miles every weekday, round-trip, by myself, on some of the most congested highways in this country.

Mike said...

I mean, we have a recycling bin that we put all our paper products in, but we are not so good at putting cans or bottles in there. It is easy for us to stack the papers on a table and bring them all out at once. If we did that with cans or bottles, it would get too messy. What I should do, is find a way to put a bin next to the garbage can under the sink. Then maybe my laziness won't destroy the environment as much as it does now.

I'm still dangerously low on "guest professor" suggestions for these Weekend Assignments, so I ask again: please, please, please, PLEASE PLEASE email me some new ones. I warn you, I will continue adding another please to the previous sentence each week until someone suggests something. Save us from the invasion of the pleases!

And oh, good, here comes another computer slowdown as I plug in the camera.

Round Robin entry to follow in a few hours.



Astaryth said...

That software that comes with your camera (especially point and shoot ones) is hardly ever either good or a necessity. In the 'old days' when you had to plug the camera in... maybe, but now days everything goes on a card which can be removed, stuck in a reader and moved like any other file onto a folder on your computer. ;p It's probably that stuff causing your problem. Good luck getting it all going.

Worst case... you -could- just reformat the whole computer...

barrettmanor said...

Sorry to hear about your problems. Feel free to drop me an e-mail if I can help.

Here's my entry:

Florinda said...

Here's my contribution - composed on my MacBook, if that tells you anything :-).

Mike said...

You know, I installed all that stuff on our old computer, and never used it. If you have photoshop, or anything like that, you can get away with just using that. I never installed it on our new computer.

Anyway, my post is up now too.