Friday, July 21, 2006

Shitting a Gold Brick.

Let me tell you what just happened to me.

For my fellow technophiles, the following is a tale of gut-wrenching, pant wetting, grandma-slapping terror.

The rest of you will probably go: “Huh.”

So it was getting to that time when it stops being late, and starts being early. Sunny is at work, I’m alone in the house, and I’ve just got through a two hour session of playing ‘X-Men: Legends 2’.

It’s coming up to 6am. Namely my bedtime. I’m just getting ready to turn off the PC and head to beddy-byes, when the game locks up. No response, I can’t quit out of it, can’t shut it down, can’t even alt-tab to safety.

So I do the one thing I absolutely despise doing. I turn off the computer without shutting it down.

(At this point, imaging that there’s a sudden flash of thunder and lightning, and a church organ flourish).

Then, I realize I wanted to check my email before bed, so I turn the computer back on. I get my startup screen, then…

Nothing. A lonely cursor blinks in the corner of the screen. It just sits there, winking at me.

“Hello! (Blink, blink) Nice day, isn’t it? (Blink, blink) Oh, Guess what? (Blink, blink) Your computer’s fucked! (Blink, blink)”

This isn’t right. I think. I Ctrl-alt-del my way back to safety, sanity and what little normalcy is left in my so-called life.

The same thing happens.

Not a problem. I think. This has happened before. The BIOS has glitched and taken my hard-drive out of the boot list. I’ll restart, fix the BIOS settings, and away I’ll go!

So I restart, check my BIOS settings, and discover that my hard-drive has indeed vanished from the boot list. I put it back in there. Problem all fixed!

So, I restart yet again. This time, things have gotten much, much, much worse. This time, I get my startup screen, and it just sits there. I press F2 to get into my BIOS settings…and get precisely no reaction. I press F10 to get into the boot menu. Nothing!!!

I start to panic a little. You see, not only is the computer the very Nexus of nearly all my leisure activities, it is also an essential tool in my job search, my one conduit of contact with my parents back in old blighty, and my gateway to pictures of naked ladies on the internet!

(Just kidding about the naked ladies, Sunny, Mum.)

You see, our phone doesn’t have long distance or international service. I can’t even call my parents to let them know I might be out of contact for a while. I know that I’m a big boy, and all brown up, but you don’t know my Mother. If I suddenly dropped of the face of the earth with no explanation, after about a week, she’d turn up at my front door to check I was alright. (I love my Mum, I do.)

So, at this point, I’m not quite at panic stage yet. I figure that as well as the BIOS glitching and taking my HD out of the boot list, it’s also not recognizing my keyboard. I have a spare PS/2 keyboard that I can plug in…and problem solved!

Then I remember that I used the keyboard to Ctrl-Alt-Del a minute ago. The keyboard is fine!

Why am I locked out of the BIOS settings? I think. Why isn’t it letting me in?

My expensive computer has turned into a machine that’s sole purpose is the show me a big ‘E’, and the lines “F2 : Bios Settings” and “F10 Boot Menu”. I press F2 and F10…nothing happens. Nothing at all…

At that point, the diagnostic tree in my mind starts to grow branches. Everything that could be wrong starts to blossom and grow. I take out my mental shears and start pruning.

My first possible solution is to simply turn the thing off, unplug the power cord, leave it for 5 minutes, and try again. This almost never works, but I always try it first because sometimes it does and going and getting a cup of coffee is the nicest way of repairing a computer possible.

I return to the PC, reconnect the power cord and turn it on. Now I start to get a little worried. Even Blinky, my sarcastic cursor pal isn’t showing up. Just that same accursed big ‘E’, and the instructions that mock me. It’s like jumping into an escape pod on a crashing spaceship, then seeing that the launch button is just a red sticker that does nothing.

Now I’m getting worried

You see, I’m good with computer software, operating systems etc, but my knowledge of the hardware is average at best. I mean I can build a computer with my eyes closed, because building a computer is essentially an exercise in putting the square plug in the square socket and matching up colors…but actually trying to work out what widget is out of whack is a hit-or-miss affair for me..

So I do what any partially skilled person would do.

I opened up the computer, disconnected the power to the Hard Drive, disconnected the IDE cable, and also left the case open to cool down a little. My theory was that by disconnecting these things, when I reconnected them and powered back up, the BIOS might recognize it again.

Again, I’m faced with the big ‘E’ and the painted on instructions.

Now I really started to panic. This was serious brown trousers time. Everything pointed to the BIOS chip (For the non-techies out there, who haven’t begun to drool and whose eyes haven’t glazed over yet, the BIOS chip is the Basic Input/Output System chip. In simplest possible terms it’s the bit of your computer that tells each bit of hardware where it is, and how to talk with the other bits of hardware. In a room filled with 50 people of different nationalities, it’s the translator).

Without a Bios chip, a computer is just a big expensive paperweight. It’s like buying a car with a padlocked hood, and then being told that nothing under that hood is actually connected up.

In other words, if this chip had fried and was no good, it would have to be replaced, which meant professional help. Professional help equals lots of dollar signs, which is something I just don’t have.

Then, an echo began to stir in the deep dark recesses of my mind. Somewhere one the motherboard is a battery with a jumper next to it. If I can find that, I can completely reset the Bios chip to factory…assuming the chip is still working.

At this point, let me just curse eMachines, and demand that their internal souls rot in hell for eternity. You see, eMachines think their users are far too stupid to work on their own computer, so they don’t bother including the Motherboard manual, showing the locations of the jumper switches and what position they need to be in for what purpose. In fact, other than a small bit of paper that says stuff like “Put the red plug into the red socket!”, you get no manuals at all. Also, computer hardware is the one thing you almost always have to read the manual for. Without one, it’s like being dropped in the center of a foreign city without a roadmap.

In other words, you might know every component on a motherboard and what they do. However, if you don’t know where each thing is located on that particular motherboard…it’s the equivalent of trying to turn on your living room lights and finding some bastard has installed about 30 other switches. Oh, and if you press the wrong one, your house might possibly explode.

So I open the case again and manage to locate the battery. Next to it is a two position jumper switch.

(Again for the non-techies, a jumper switch is simply pins wires pointing upwards, with a TINY plastic thingy slid over the top. Depending one what two pins the plastic thingy covers, dictates what position the switch is in).

Then, I have a brainwave. My mate Jim back in England knows about a 100 times more than me about motherboards…I’ll just drop him a quick email and…


I pull off the jumper switch. Then I realize I really should have checked what position it was in before I removed it. (I should also mention I have large hands, I’m attempting to remove a piece of copper filled plastic which is less than a 12th of an inch square. I also have roughly two square inches of space in which to do this…it’s a miracle I got it off at all.)

Gingerly, I put it back in, hoping I’ve changed the position of it.

This is particularly nerve wracking as those pins are very delicate. You bend one, trying to bend it back could easily snap it off. I can’t stress how tiny those things are. Think about the lead in a mechanical pencil…then you’re getting close to the size of these things.

I put it back on. I turn the computer back on.

I get the same screen, I press F2…


I do, what is known in the Tech-community, as the “pure-relief fueled, jubilant lap of honor around the room.”

It lets me into the BIOS. I run through everything and make sure it’s set up right. Now all that’s left is to restart and hope it comes back to life.

IT DID!!! Whooo HOOOO!!!

I managed to get the computer up and running again. I never thought I’d be so happy to see the Windows logo in all my life.

…and of course, showing my true geek nature, as soon as it was fixed, my first thought was…

“I sooooo have to blog this!”


OzzyC said...

Gold's getting a pretty good price right now.

mistyforeverlost said...

Huh....I wish I paid more attention in class so I knew what the hell you were talking about. I'm guessing your computer was down for a bit and you fixed it?