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Ask not for whom the bell tolls

It tolls for this computer.

I think my desktop PC is four years old this month. (goes and checks) Nope, I think it's five years old this month. Happy birthday, PC! This means that, in PC years, it is officially older than the current age of the universe.

I've been able to live with its decrepitude for a while...at least a year, because that's about how long I've had the Alienware laptop, courtesy of my wondermous sweetie. It's getting worse, though, in a downward spiral. Recently, Internet Explorer stopped working. This was irritating, because some of my work functionality can only be accessed using IE, and we'd been having printer problems. The printer problems are resolved, partially due to the recent basement renvations allowing me to search through piles of junk to find various soft-and-hardware needed to bring it back to functionality. That's not all, though.

For the last couple of months, the system has stated that because of system limitations, it's had to increase the virtual memory on my hard drives. Now, I'll admit, I haven't upgraded the RAM in this thing in a long time (at least three years), but I don't know that it's worth the trouble to do so. Unfortunately, the frequency of this event is increasing.

I don't know what system hog is causing this problem. I know that when the computer comes back from being asleep or rebooted, it takes a long time for the memory to free up enough to allow me to click on things or type. That's pretty bad. I've tried some 'ware to search for freeloading cookies and programs, but my efforts have come to very little. If there's something hiding here and using my system for its own nefarious purposes, I can't find it to get rid of it.

Karen's Mac is also having problems. We can't go down to one computer, because (although spiffy) the Alienware does not have all the range of functionality we need. So, we're kind of between a rock and a hard place. If the Brain Trust has any ideas, I'm open to hearing about them.

Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)
What 'ware are you using to search with? Done any manual browsing through the registry?
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
I most recently loaded CheckIt Diagnostics. It only found a few cookies and no spyware. I don't take manual browsing through the registry because I'm aware of how much damage I can do. Since I've never done that, I imagine it's a bloated useless thing.
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 10:37 am (UTC)
I'm a big fan of both AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy. As for registry checking; yes, you can cause damage if you fiddle in the wrong places, but I usually only check a few standard locations (unless there's something I'm specifically scanning the whole thing for). We could try to schedule a house call if you'd like.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
I have had each of those as well...I tried CheckIt because they weren't turning anything up. I'm not at work (officially) for today and tomorrow, so either of these days are good days to try to swing by. I'd been meaning to call you, to find out if you and Richard were interested in a playdate or a trip to the greater boy-corral of Columbia. Yesterday being what it was, there wasn't exactly time. Give me a call when you get this, or I'll give you one after I've hunted the wily breakfast.
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
If I do see you later today, or whenever, remind me to bring the "Order of the Stick" prequel.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC)
Sorry I didn't call back immediately - I went to take care of another computer issue (this time with Karen's Mac) and then came back and had lunch. Karen and I have been wrangling Julian down for his nap, and we're trying to figure out the rest of the day. Meantime, you and your family are in Annapolis. Give me a holler when you return, or I'll call back later this evening if I don't hear from you.
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
We're back, but we're also pretty beat. Way too late for a Columbia play date. Maybe next weekend.
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
No worries. With Julian's nap schedule, play dates have to be in the morning to early afternoon. He naps midafternoon, or he turns into a beast.

I don't know what Q is up to tomorrow with or without him, but I'm still available to have Julian join-for-fun. No worries either way - I made it to work today for a few hours, so I got some stuff out of the way that needed to be done before Tuesday, so I now have the rest of my tomorrow available.
gingy
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
Four years? Hell, this one was built for me in 2000. We're getting a laptop for me or a new desktop soon.
gingy
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)
Five, sorry. I can't brain today.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC)
It's been a long time since I had the skills to turn these things around. It's savable, I know...but not by me. This is why I asked for opinions. I want to know if there's something effective that can be done that's also cost-effective. Yeah, I can buy a newer machine for a few hundred bucks...but then I'll spend a lot of time transferring data around. I don't necessarily want to do that, yet. *shrugs* It may still, however, be the best choice.
estherchaya
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
Part of your problem was you transferred a lot of data files you absolutely don't need to have accessible. You transferred everything from your ailing computer to the new one five years ago, and almost immediately filled up the hard drive, leaving absolutely no disk space.

What percentage of your hard drive is still available?

You may want to consider going through with a fine tooth comb and determining whether you really still need most of the data sitting on your hard drives. If you don't need it to be immediately accessible, consider moving it to some removable media.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think so
I have 65GB of drives, with almost 50GB free. I don't doubt that data needs to be rearranged, but I doubt this is the only cause of the problems I'm having.
estherchaya
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
which would be why I said "part of your problem." I certainly made no claim that it was the only cause. At any rate, I thought you had less disk space than that available because several months after you got the computer, you told me you'd filled it all up. Perhaps you've already fixed that part of the problem and I didn't realize.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
I did fix some of the space issues. There may still be other space issues - I'll describe as such to Arthur below.
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
It might be a good idea to backup some of that data to CD (or DVD) now, just in case - so you won't have to worry about saving/transferring it later if you do end up replacing or doing major upgrade work on your computer.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
This is what I think needs to happen: I need to back up little-used data to a format as described above. I need to empty that computer as best as possible, and I think I need to reformat the largest hard drive once that's done, so that the number of partitions are minimized. I don't happen to have the XP software to reinstall (the machine came loaded with it) but it would be best to load XP on the largest (and presumably newest) hard drive if it is not already so loaded, and then use that drive as the boot drive. The current main drive can be the subsidary drive, and I should be able to reload the software I most commonly use on that machine.

It's not a power-user machine, and never has been. It's used for word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, web browsing and email. If it can be brought back to minimally-annoying functionality for those functions, then gret. If not, then I need to figure out what has to happen next.

If you can help me with a course of action to make these things happen, wonderful. I'm sure we'll chat more soon.
allah_sulu
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
I'm sure we'll chat more soon.

Yep. And like I said above, maybe I could make a house call sometime. I'm wondering how many memory-resident things are being loaded when you boot, thus (a) using up memory and processor cycles, and (b) causing the boot process to take so long.
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
It's not so much what's loaded when it boots...it's when it comes back from not being touched for a few minutes that there's a tremendous lag.

I know you generally go in to work early and leave early. Would you have interest in making the house call after work, or would you prefer it to be a weekend thing? I have a fair bit of flexability, although planning ahead is better than trying to make it all fit immediately...as witnessed by today.
allah_sulu
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:54 am (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
It's not so much what's loaded when it boots...it's when it comes back from not being touched for a few minutes that there's a tremendous lag.

Do you have a screensaver or some other program (SETI@home, defrag) that runs when your computer is inactive?

Would you have interest in making the house call after work,

If I did, I would probably have Richard with me. Would that work?
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
I used to have SETI@Home, but they changed software, and I removed it rather than going on...it was causing the same kind of lag. I don't believe there's anything else that runs during offtime.

Richard is of course welcome. Our house is strangely equipped for the presence of small boys and their toys. You don't even need to bring toys - Julian has an excess thereof.
allah_sulu
Jan. 15th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
I'll give you a call when I get home from work. Beltway traffic should be a bit better than usual, since it's a federal holiday.
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Sounds great. Good luck with traffic.
allah_sulu
Jan. 15th, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I still haven't been to your current place before, right? I'll have to trust Mapquest (which screwed up yesterday).
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Mapquest isn't bad for use to get to us, but getting to us is pretty simple.

495 to Georgia Ave, South. Pass 16th Street, and take a right on Noyes, which is a few blocks past 16th St. Pass First (there's no stop sign) and take a left on Second. We're the 2nd house on the left, #8819.
allah_sulu
Jan. 15th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Park on the street?
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Hrm...you'll probably get here while they're still ticketing for nonresidents. The driveway's a better choice.
allah_sulu
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Driveway it is.

And I've got the Order of the Stick book in the car.
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Awesome. Give me a call when you know the plan.
cellio
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
If you can't remember the last time you defragged the disk, now would be a good time.

I use an external hard drive for my seldom-needed-but-don't-want-to-lose data, so I can keep it without impeding the primary operations of my disk. Dunno how much of a difference it makes, but it does make migrating machines a little easier. (That's still a PITA, of course.)

If you get to the point where you're going to just punt and buy a new machine, you wouldn't have much to lose by copying the disk and then wiping it clean and reinstalling the OS. That's the Howitzer-grade solution; I don't reinstall the OS lightly. But if you are ready to buy a new machine (which means reinstalling all your apps and migrating your data) anyway, it might be worth a shot. If your problem is corrupted drivers/registry, hard-to-find malware, etc, that'd certainly get rid of it.

On the other hand, you might reasonably decide that your time is worth more than the cost of the new machine. That's the way I might call it, but I don't have quite as many demands on my finances as you do.
sethcohen
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Norton Utilities defrags the disk for me on a weekly basis, so that's not it. Using the machine takes more time than it's worth these days - that's why it's time to take the time investment and determine if it's sick and healable, or sick and dying. My time has been worth more than I've been getting out of it lately, which is why I need help. I don't want to tie someone up, so having someone help me to determine the best course of action that *I* can take would be optimal.

Oh, yeah, we can just move the data that I need from the desktop to the Alienware and then sit the Alienware in its place, but that lowers the total number of accessable computers in the house, which may not be wise, considering that Karen's isn't too healthy. That does, however, take care of the problem that we have a dying monitor. The monitor I bought from you isn't displaying red phosphors any longer, which isn't all that great. If the computer is resurrected, we'll need to invest in a new monitor.
cellio
Jan. 14th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
Defrag: yup, that's not it, then. (Weekly? You're good. :-) )

It sounds like allah_sulu has some good ideas and is local to you, so I hope that works out. I fear I don't know as much about system-level operations as I'd like; I'm just systematic. :-)

I'm sorry to hear about the monitor problem. Usually monitors are practically forever except for upgrades (which is how I came to not need that one). I assume you've checked that the connections are tight? I once had a jaundiced monitor that turned out to be a bad cable connection; a little brute force fixed it. (If it's inside the monitor it might still be fixable by someone, but I'm not your guy for that.)

Last time I bought a new machine, by the way, it turned out (due to sales and stuff) to get one with a monitor than without -- the first was a pre-assembled package but the second would have been a custom order, even though "custom" just meant picking a box from column A and not also one from column B. Pricing is funny sometimes. (I can't remember now if I've still got that monitor or if I've given it away by now. I'd be happy to give it to you if I still have it, but for the shipping hassle. Planning to be up our way any time soon?)
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
As much as I'd like to be your way sometime soon, it's unlikely to happen. The boy limits our mobility without significant planning. Had we thought ahead re: this collection of three-day weekends this month, it might have happened.

I'm not too concerned about the monitor problem. Replacing it was already on our minds...just not our budgets. I'll check the connections, but I don't think anything's changed recently.

Yep, I'm hoping Arthur can help. I need to check the rest of my mail, and then I'll call him back.
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
Re: I don't think so
(Weekly? You're good. :-) )

It takes a long time, but I don't care. NU runs it on Shabbos (specifically, midnight Friday night) so I'm not using the machine.
(Deleted comment)
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
Re: Monitor --
Thanks! I'll get back to you about that after the other problems are diagnosed and/or fixed.
(Deleted comment)
sethcohen
Jan. 15th, 2007 02:02 am (UTC)
Yeah...I used to be cool enough to replace RAM. Then I forgot how long it had been since I'd done so, and bought more for an upgrade. Me and my ham hands broke the memory slot. This is why I try to leave the expert work to the experts, much to my father's dismay. He always wanted me to be able to fix my own car and all that crap. Guess what: cars are expensive and breakable - I'll let my mechanic handle it, and I'll let folks who know things better than me help me fix broken things of mine.

The upward spiral of the machine more and more frequently claiming to need virtual memory is what makes me think Arthur is right - there's something cancerous in the registry. I'm not stupid enough to hack the registry myself - I can totally deactivate the machine that way. Arthur, who does this stuff regularly, knows what he's doing. Now, I just need to remember whether or not I've ticked him off recently...
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )