The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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Pop goes the hard drive

This morning I've been working in the Inner Drive Technology Comprehensive Testing Facility, trying to read an ancient hard drive I discovered a while ago. I've tried many methods to read this old 130 MB disk. It has two files on it, a "readme" file dated 23 February 1995, and a Doublespace volume with the same date. In other words, this hard drive is a snapshot of what I was doing 11 years ago.

In order to read a Doublespace volume, you need MS DOS 6.22, Windows 95, or Windows 98. I haven't had a Windows 98 computer in years, but Inner Drive does have MSDN Universal—and the IDTCTF. So last week I built a Windows 98 installation out of a computer that was, in 1997, my Web server, but has since 2001 collected dust somewhere. Too much dust, apparently.

It turns out that this computer has a bad disk controller. So, Plan B, I plugged the Windows 98 hard drive and the ancient Doublespace drive into a different computer, reconnected the power cord, and got a spark, a pop, and a wisp of smoke from the 11-year-old drive.

There are very few things less common or more totally destructive inside a computer than an electrical arc followed by smoke. (Fortunately the disk cage was outside the box at the time, and the two drives were more than 5 cm (2 in) apart, so the damage was localized.) I can therefore report, with unusual certainty, that the oldest hard disk in my possession is now a large paperweight. (I'll have a memorial photo up tonight or tomorrow.)

Goodbye, "WinSwap." I hardly new ye.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to another year of the Blog.

Anne and I wound up at the Majestic Hotel right in the middle of our old neighborhood, and then we rang in the New Year at a (relatively) new bar on Clark Street, whose name escapes me. Lots of fun. Forgot the Champagne, though.

New Year's Resolution: 1024 x 768 (I'm using my laptop).

Complaints about the weather: None from me. It's 4°C (40°F) right now, which for a Chicago New Year's Day is delightfully warm. However, this guy that I saw on the way home from the El this morning would probably disagree:

Silliest news story of the day: Yesterday, a pack of chihuahuas attacked a cop in Fremont, Calif. The police officer received bite wounds to the ankle. No word on how far the chihuahuas got punted.

Don't forget, the holidays aren't over yet. Tonight is the last night of Chanukkah. Sunset in Chicago tonight is at 4:31pm; you can use the Weather Now calculator to find your city's sunset time. Check back later for a photo of the world's ugliest menorah in full bloom.

Another good article from the Tribune: Barbara Botman writes about New Orleans at New Year's. I recommend it.

Inner Drive Technology Comprehensive Testing Facility

For my last post of the year, I'd like to announce that the Inner Drive Technology Comprehensive Testing Facility is now complete, except for the Lab Cam, which should arrive from Logitech in about two weeks. (The dead one is visible in the upper-left corner of the photo below.)

Inner Drive's World Headquarters is now ready to face whatever challenges we may in 2006. Happy new year, everyone!

Runs in the family, apparently

I'm not the only one suffering techno-poltergeists this week. Anne just got this message from Google:

Lockdown in sector 4!
Our system indicates unusual usage of your account. In order to protect Gmail users from potentially harmful use of Gmail, this account has been disabled for up to 24 hours.

Jerome Leitner, my Wills professorGoogleing the email found that Google's own tools can trigger this lockout.

Did anyone notice the theme of all the technical issues we've had lately? An SBC router crashed, a Webcam fried, a voice-mail account deleted? They all have something in common, something my Wills professor would call "the Omnibus Explanation:" "The Omnibus Explanation, the thing that explains what logic and rational thought cannot, is stupidity."

Technological purgatory for a day

From 5pm Thursday until 9pm Friday, machines hated me. I do not know why.

Thursday afternoon, I added my dear mother to my mobile phone plan. This is her first mobile phone. I suppose she was waiting until they perfected the technology. Clearly they haven't; but my carrier, T-Mobile, uses GSM technology, which is the most advanced available commercially at this time.

Clearly, however, giving my mother a mobile phone caused the Anti-Technology Gods to frown upon me.

First, T-Mobile deleted my voicemail account. I've been so busy, and as far as I could see no one left me any messages (because, you see...well, yes, you do see...), so I just discovered this now. So if you've called recently, and weren't able to leave a message, it's T-Mobile's fault.

Then there was the fritzy Webcam.

And to cap Erev New Year's Eve for me, SBC Global (now, apparently, part of AT&T again) dropped Inner Drive's DSL for five hours (to the minute, which is suspicious). They don't know why. Nor did the first two support techs believe me when I told them exactly which router was down. (I've been here before.)

Now, everything seems to be working. And the year is almost over. So, happy new year, and I hope the Anti-Technology Gods are appeased.

Two quick hits before sleeping

First, from the Strange Editorial Priorities department: these were the headlines on MSNBC's top headlines today:

WP: CIA program withstands furor
The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War.
West Coast gets more rain
The West Coast was expected to end 2005 with a bang of winter weather: two storm fronts that could bring as much as 10 inches of rain in Northern California and snowfall of up to six feet in some mountain areas.
N. Korea cuts off U.N. food aid
As Pyongyang's Stalinist government moves to reassert control over the food supply, some experts fear that it could lead the isolated country into another famine. By Kari Huus.

Now, I like weather, but come on. Maybe these stories could have been re-ordered?

Second, for those of you who missed me, SBC, which has now apparently merged with AT&T (didn't they break up in 1984?), dropped my DSL from 4:09 CT/22:09 UTC until a few minutes ago. Gotta love 'em.

Logitech Orbit MP doesn't work at IDT (corrected)

Correction, 25 January 2006 12:00 CST/18:00 UTC: The problem described below turned out to be a bad individual camera. Logitech was great, replacing the bad camera with a new one, no questions asked. The new camera has been running without interruption for several weeks now.

The original blog entry follows:

I can't believe how much time is being sucked away from me by this broken Webcam problem. I am now on hold with Logitech, and though my call is very important to them, they are experiencing higher-than-normal call volumes, so they'll take my call in the order it was received.

I got a Logitech Orbit MP that should have been a tremendous improvement over the Intel Cam III I've been using for two years. The poor Intel camera is unstable, half-burned-out, slow, and basically showing its age. The new Logitech camera should be none of these things, and should have the added benefit of being able to tilt and pan so that it's never looking directly at the sun, as my poor Intel camera has on occasion done.

The Logitech camera worked beautifully on my laptop. Then it worked really well right away when I connected it to the old server. Then I logged into the server remotely, and the image froze. Then I couldn't get the server to recognize the camera. After six reboots, I thought the problem was the Belkin USB extension cord. So I moved the camera to another computer, closer to the window, for the time being.

Now the camera doesn't work at all. Nothing I can do will get the computer to recognize it. In fact, it's acting dead. Thus my call to Tech Support, which is a prerequisite to sending it back for replacement.

Let's count the damage so far: Three hours of time that I should have spent installing a server for a client (they're out of the office until Tuesday so there's at least no rush there), a parking ticket (my fault, I know), and probably an aneurism.

Final update before heading to client, 18:56 UTC: After 21 minutes of holding and a 6-minute conversation, Logitech is replacing the camera. So look in about two weeks for the second attempt.