Friday, August 12, 2011

Computer Woes, Or the Near Loss and Triumphant Return of Sheng

(For those who don't know, Sheng is the name I affectionately gave my laptop when I first bought it, in honor of every teenybopper Hmong girl I knew who had that name.)

For the last many months my poor laptop has been running really low on hard drive memory.  I managed to delete things (music, mostly) in order to keep open at least 3-5 GB of her once available 170ish.  Eventually, at the recommendation of my technical support representative (more on him to follow), I decided I just had to break down and buy a new drive, and I found a really great deal for one that was 500 GB, which I thought I could surely never fill.  At first I thought I could just add a drive to use in addition to my current one, but I guess my computer doesn't have space to allow for that.  But I was informed that my drive could be cloned to the new and bigger one, so I bought it, but it kind of sat there for a few weeks... I'm kind of hesitant to make big changes like that sometimes because I'm afraid of losing everything on my computer and then where would I be??  Well, I would still probably be right here, but Sheng-less, so I just kind of toughed it out for a little while longer.  My hard drive kept reminding me that it was low on memory, and then one day, for no apparent reason, the whole thing just shut right off.


Of course that's the expected reaction when your computer inexplicably shuts off.  I waited a few minutes for it to cool down and then booted it back up.  It ran fine, but over the next few days shut off on its own once or twice more, and I noticed it was really hot where it sat on my knees (which is especially no fun when your apartment is already so roasty from the summer heat), so I decided the time had come for me to make arrangements to put it in the hands of the professionals.  "The professionals" is a phrase which here means my brother Matt, who is a master computerman and very, very awesome to always answer my questions about technology.  He's kind of like Kip in that he loves it.  So I let him know the latest developments about the shutting down (which he guessed was due to overheating and fan issues), and put Sheng and the new drive in his capable hands and left him to work his magic.

A day or two later I received an email from Matt with the prognosis, as well as the following pictures, assuring me in the email that "No laptops were harmed in the taking of these photos."
And still a work of art.
I think I started to panic a little when I glanced at this one, before I had read the actual email.
The pictures looked intense to me, and made me realize that while I might have been able to do this sort of thing myself (eventually, after hours of frustration and terror that I was going to do irreparable damange), I'm really glad that there are people with specific expertise for this very thing so I don't have to.  He told me that he could replace the hard drive, no problem, and cloning it would means it would be exactly like it was, but with much more available space.  As for the shutting down, his guess about overheating was right on--the fan was old and grungy and not working properly, so luckily Sheng was smart enough to just shut off when she overheated to avoid doing more serious damage to her innards.  Matt suggested I could either have him clean up the old fan and reinstall it to see if it works any better (unlikely), or I could just buy a new one (pretty inexpensive) and that one could be installed.  Naturally I just bought one and had it shipped to his place, and a couple weeks after I left it with him (oh my word, they do take their sweet time shipping those parts, don't they?) it was back at home and working better than ever!  And now she looks like this:
Just like the day I bought her, which is when this picture was actually taken.  Except my wallpaper now is much more attractive, because it's a picture of me and my stunning wife.
It took a couple of adjustments for her to get her bearings and remember who and where she was, and how to connect to our wireless signal, but now here I am not worrying about space every week when my podcasts download or wondering if she's going to shut down at any moment while she burns up my lap.  She's as good as new, and all of her parts are even better because all of her bolts have been tightened and all of her nooks and crannies have been swept clean.  Nothing like a happy laptop for laptopping.  The only payment Matt would accept for these particular services were fresh-baked cookies (pretty good if I say so myself) and girly giggles (see about 9:30 of the video).

As a side note, I'm kind of baffled by how hard drive space works sometimes, like how defragmenting the disk can actually leave you with less space, or how it might go down just because you open a file or move files around, and I have no idea how I could possibly have filled up 30 GB already...  But I'm not against housecleaning, doing an occasional iTunes sweep to delete songs I never listen to (or ones I didn't even know I had).  Sometimes less really is more.  Remember the days when we used to have towers and stacks of CDs?  Now I have it all right here on Sheng.  Packing my music for vacations is so much easier with an iPod than it was with a Discman and big old case of CDs, oh my word.

Thanks, Matt!  You're the best IT department/technical support ever!  To illustrate my feelings, here are a couple of relevant clips from The IT Crowd.  (And if there's a person in the reach of my blogvoice who hasn't watched The IT Crowd yet, do so forthwith.  Come on over, we have Series 1 on DVD.)  Enjoy:

Sheng returns!  And I'm one happy camper.  If your computer keeps giving you grief, Wife, we'll give her a similar facelift treatment, hmm?


  1. Good old Sheng! Good old Matt! Long may they prosper.

    "I feel trapped! Like a moth in the bath!"