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August 31, 2007


Brad Haas

Have you checked your RAM? You can use the free tool Memtest86 to test it ( http://www.memtest.org/ ). You can create a bootable floppy or CD and use it as your computer's boot disk, and if the screen fills with errors, then your RAM is probably the problem. That's as likely as a failing HD to cause random crashes.

Randolph Carter (and *not* HAL 9000)


*ahem* But seriously, Mr. Akin; I'm sorry to hear about your computer. I recently had some computer problems, and thought that the hard drive had died; but the real problem turned out to be one of the tiny fans inside the computer -- you know, the ones that keep the computer's innards from overheating and destroying themselves. So be sure to exhaust all other possibilities before you chuck your old hard drive and lay down cash to buy a new one.

Tim J.

Look Jimmy, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

Scott W.

Look Jimmy, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

Take the red pill!


"Soma! Soma! Soma!"


Get an Apple and you won't have these sort of problems!


FaciamusFanboy is right, Apple computers are perfect in every way and NEVER fail and even if they do fail, the software manages to continue despite the hardware being completely shut down. It's a amazing!

Seriously though, the memtest is the best advice. RAM fails more often than you would think.

In fact, RAM is always failing because it's never perfect. When they create the RAM chips, they don't know how well they'll perform, so they run them through tests and whatever level they perform reliably at (i.e. 99.99% of the time) is the level that the RAM chip is rated at. So basically every RAM chip is an unknown and has been tested to work reliably at a certain level.

It's the same thing with CPU's. They don't make 2.6ghz CPUs, they make 3.0ghz CPU's and then test them to see where they fail. If this CPU fails at 2.8ghz, then they sell it as a 2.6ghz CPU.

That should make you feel better about things :)



Get a Mac. Please. I have worked in the PC arena for the last 14 years (started on DOS 4.0) and made the switch to Mac 3 years ago. I got tired of crashes/failures/missing drivers/spyware/OS deterioration/etc. and was looking for a stable Unix or Linux platform. Mac OS X is unix, but with the added benefit of nearly complete compatibility with the Windows world. Hardware does fail regardless of OS, but I don't have to put up with the annoying OS failures that can be as detrimental to your data as a hard drive crash. Just my $.02


I'll throw my hat into the ring for a Mac as well. I bought a new 24" iMac on August 10th and love it. I transferred all of my documents with no problem, and even have Win XP running in VMWare Fusion (my wife has some Windows only software she wants to keep using). Windows runs better on the iMac than it did on our HP laptop!!

There is NO REASON not to get a Mac anymore. Don't let anyone tell you they cost too much, because they don't.

P.S. Check this out for cataloging your books, music, DVDs, etc...


You hold the bar code of the item in front of the built-in iSight camera and it scans the code and loads the information. Very cool. (I assume you have a huge book/media library)

Anyway, I hope your problems are resolved quickly.


Didn't you just buy a new computer last year? At least, it seems somewhat recently that you said you bought a new one.


Getting an Apple seems rather indulgent. Perhaps you should switch to Linux and offer up your daily suffering :) Or for extra mental mortification purposes, use BSD!


If your hard drive is crashing then confirm it with Scan/Check Disk (after your HDD backup).

If you have XP goto My Computer. Right click over your C drive and select "Properties". Goto the Tools tab and click the button "Error Checking."

If you have a previous version of Windows goto Start -> Programs -> Acessories -> System Tools -> Scan Disk.

When you do the scan, opt for automatically fix errors and a surface/deep scan. This will take a couple of hours. When complete do another deep scan. If you get more errors on the second time then your HDD is failing, and it's time to buy a new one. The cheapest source for hardware at any given time is pricewatch.com


Tonight I'm initiating a full-HD backup

You're doing a High Definition backup? And at 1080p, no less...


clever of you to back things up BEFORE the hard drive crashes! I tried it the other way with no luck...

Our computer overheats (a laptop) so I have it propped up with blocks borrowed from our train table and when using it for extended periods we put ice packs underneath. It reminds me of that old Dodge Dart my father drove for years. In the winter sometimes we had to light the hibachi underneath it to warm it up enough to get it started.


The Windows vs Mac vs Linux religious wars spill over to this blog too . . .


Monica, my husband had the same problems with his laptop and they sell these neat "pads" that have fans in it to keep the computer cooler. It does work to some degree. I believe he paid less than $20 for it too.

Jimmy, we pray all is resolved soon. I can not suggest MAC or another brand because my hubby being an ET pieces and plugs his own together.

Brian Day
The Windows vs Mac vs Linux religious wars spill over to this blog too . . .
At least it is not vi vs emacs war!

Jimmy, if it is your hard drive, I have just one word for you:


Seriously, if it doesn't completely fix the drive, it will make all your data recoverable, promise! It's also a great maintenance utility.


Annony, your husband is an extra terrestrial? Does the government know about this? Are black helicopters circling your house? Can your husband make a Speak and Spell go haywire?


I recently built a new system and went with Vista 64 bit. That was a mistake of unimaginable proportions. I should have bought a Mac and been done with it.


Ever notice how its ALWAYS the Mac users who start the "Mac/PC" debates?

Did Jimmy even solicit advice regarding what hardware he should replace it with?

Smoky Mountain Non-Sequitir

Ever notice how its ALWAYS the users with a number in their name who drink orange juice from a golf carton?

Smoky Mountain Wheeze, Pitter, Spat, and Crash

Oops. My mental hard drive crashed. Or maybe it was my RAM.

Martin Tohill

I know nothing about computers but I do own a ball peen hammer and a screw driver and have a willingness to learn.

Where does Jimmy live anyway?


I don't know why some people are assuming Jimmy uses Windows - it's not obvious from this page - maybe he disclosed this elsewhere.

Spinrite is probably the best testing utility of this type I have come across, but it takes a lonnnnnnggg time to do a thorough test. Unfortunately I was not as fortunate as Magdelaine.

Michael Martin

I was hoping to save this for April 1, but since the topic got started anyway...

Some good scriptural reasons not to use Windows:

Jer. 9:20 Death has come up through our **Windows**, has entered our palaces; It cuts down the children in the street, young people in the squares.

Jer. 9:21 The corpses of the slain lie like dung on a field, Like sheaves behind the harvester, with no one to gather them.

Matthew 16:18, "...and upon this rock I will build my church; and the _Gates of hell_ shall not prevail against it."

Some good scriptural reasons to use a Mac:

Proverbs 7:2 we see "Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the Apple of thine eye."

Matt 19:12 "... Unix for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." (from a recent translation, it is clear that the original Greek has been corrupted with a spelling error. The Mac is Unix based, for all those that didn't know.)

Jimi Hahn

yes, apple.com will solve all your problems.


Oh, praise the Lord. I was wondering why you were blogging less frequently, Jimmy. It's well to know you will be more frequent soon.


Annonymouse, Thanks! I kiss the hem of your garments. I will get one. It's hard to type with the computer balanced on little blocks from the kids train set. My husband can design a satelite but can't do computer stuff. :)

My husband can design a satelite but can't do computer stuff.

Is the satellite controlled via hamster wheels?

Smoky Mountain Hamster

That was-a me.


ET phone home....joking. ET=electronics technician. If anything dealing with computers or cameras, etc goes wrong on the rig, he is the one to fix it. He also changes the light bulbs too;guess someone has to do it :0)

You are very welcome Monica. I will ask hubby name brand when I speak with him. I am with you about the computer stuff, I only know when it is NOT working...that is about it! You need to take a picture of your "invention"..very clever and funny!!


Fedora 7 linux is what I have used for years. I have to dual boot WindowsXP for my wife. I usually back up all her things by importing into linux. I just get more options for backup this way.

Also,in the event your hard drive becomes unbootable, it may be good to have a Knoppix disk on hand. Knoppix is an operating system that boots linux, runs all programs from the CD, and only utilizes the the RAM from your PC. It adds nothing to your hard disk and contains GUI backup and DVD burning interfaces. This will make it possible to extract data from your hard disk; windows or linux.

I wouldn't want to find out that we could be missing out on one of your wonderfully insightful books because you couldn't access your valuable data.



They are called Chill Pads by Targus and they sell them at WalMart for about $25.
They work if you are in an enviornment that is about 70-72 degrees...any hotter and you would need to put a small fan on it too. I only know this because we are in the deep south and I have been cranking up the AC in order to NOT have another $400 electric bill..soo I didn't realize it was causing him problems too.

He also suggested getting maybe a bakers rack, proping it up with two books or novels, one at each edge and putting the computer on it and having a small fan blowing underneath it. He said a little clip on fan should supply enough air circulation to keep it cool and that would allow you to type on something more stable.

Hope it helps.


One correction, the chill pad should work in normal conditions; when hubby had to turn on fan also it was well over 80 degrees!+


I have a little metal grid rack on legs that I put my laptop on. You can also put the adapter on it, when that's running. (I have this paranoia that adapters will set the carpet on fire some day.)

Anyway, my little metal rack on legs can fit over my lap, or sit on the floor. And it was really cheap, 'cause it's really intended as a container for letters. :)


It's obvious that it is time to invest in a Mac. I'd suggest a Macbook Pro, with 2.3 GB of Ram and 160 GB of Hard Disk. That's what I call security. I've had a Mac for years, and I always enjoy using it. It really is like being in a religion; you want everyone to join because you've found the truth...

Tim J.

Okay, I'll weigh in.

I had Macs for years, but when my old G3 gave out, I replaced it with a Dell laptop.

I'm going back to Mac as soon as I get the chance.

My current 'puter wants to update some program every twenty minutes, has viruses constantly and is just clunkier to navigate. I have a Mac at work (I do graphic art & illustration) and it runs "just like buttah".

I repent.


Sharing the Mac love! I've been a Mac user for 17 years; I'm writing this from my 24" iMac. Alas, I have to use an IBM at work. :-(

Meg Q

Regardless of the computer you use, anyone who uses a computer more than, say, once a month should have an external HD and back it up at least once a WEEK. If you do this, you'll never be sorry - but if you don't, you will definitely live to regret it. If you can afford to get a computer, you can afford $150-300 for a HD big enough to back up your computer (probably even less on eBay), and the software to execute the backup. Basically, it's insurance for your computer.

I got a Mac mini 2 1/2 yrs ago and I'm never going back. Macs aren't perfect, but I spend very little time maintaining my machine, and almost all of my time actually computing. We just got a new HP for my husband this spring (he just haaaas to have a PC) - we got one of the last ones with XP (thank the Lord) and I cleaned all the "junk" off of it (there are several good programs for this - look up "pc uninstall" on a search engine for info). I don't let Microsoft - or anyone else - auto-download *anything* into that computer, but I do keep current with MS and virus updates (I use McAfee). And it networks to the Internet thru the Mac, which I'm sure helps. So far, so good.

So, my two rules for any system: ALWAYS keep current on backups and NEVER let anyone or anything auto-update onto your system.


thanks for the tips everyone! I'll modify my arrangement to include Maureen's metal grid and Annonymouse's fan and the pad. I might have to continue using the ice packs though till we get below the 90'S since we don't have AC. Next computer just might be a mac.

Smokey Mountain Hamster - No, he controls them with his MIND!


i hate laptops in general. I went through 3 HP laptops. The first one wouldn't boot out of the box. The 2nd and 3rd ones both made an annoying high pitched whine, that is apparently a common problem. After the third time, I just asked for my money back.


Backup....there's a company called Carbonite that will backup your computer over the web continiously. The first backup takes days but then it just updates.

I have never had to test the system though to see how well it reloads. But it is easy and requires no intervention after setting up.

I have 7 dusty backup tapes at work for my main comptuer. Never remember to plug them in, backup and take home the way you should.


Jimmy, what about that iPhone you were crowing about a while back? I thought you could blog from anywhere.

Okay, I'll weigh in.

I had Macs for years, but when my old G3 gave out, I replaced it with a Dell laptop.

I'm going back to Mac as soon as I get the chance.

My current 'puter wants to update some program every twenty minutes, has viruses constantly and is just clunkier to navigate. I have a Mac at work (I do graphic art & illustration) and it runs "just like buttah".

I repent.

So you WANT to spend twice as much for the same equipment? I've never understood Mac user economics. Especially now that Macs use the same processors and hardware as Windows machines. I mean, why not just Google around for how to stick Mac OS X on the Dell?

You Know Who You Are

I know how to type on it. I'll say a prayer for you. (and me while I'm at it.)


I'll second the Carbonite recommendation. If I had to remember to back up, my back up would be toast (or at least outdated).

Oh, and I'll get a Mac someday when I can afford one. But where can I get a MacBook for $750?? My brand-new Acer is as fast and does everthing a MacBook can do except it'a a (ahem) PC. With more time on my hands than money I guess I will just keep using my hard won PC skills to get the bad bug-a-boos at bay.

I mean, you got to love an OS that needs to be completely re-installed at least yearly if not more often. :)


There are two grades of hard-drives: consumer and server. The former has an MTBF around 1000h (no wonder they go belly up after 1 or 2 years) and the latter, around 10000h. Most drives are available in both grades, while some model lines are available only in either grade.

The price difference can be minimal (typically about $20), but well worth it. Considering that many consumer-grade drives are not even rated for continuous operation, it's wise to verify on the manufacturers web site which grade a specific model belongs to.

However, it's practically impossible to procure a server-grade drive in retail stores. Online retailers however offer both grades (e.g., CDW).

Short of using RAID arrays, it's the best one can do.


PS: is there a patron saint of IT? :-)

Meg Q

BTW - for a parody on "Mac-ism" (by Mac fans, no less!), go here -
Macintosh's Witnesses
Thought it was uniquely appropriate to this post, on this site. :^)


I have a Mac and a PC running Linux. The Mac broke and diagnostic tools for it did not tell me anything. I also did not have the option of opening it up and trying to replace RAM or a hard drive on my own to rule out this or that piece of hardware. I had to fork out more than I would for a PC to leave it in the shop, be without it for three or four weeks, and have them diagnose it and give it a new hard drive. Bleh. I don't like handing over that kind of control or depending on specialty repair shops.

Software-wise, I prefer Macs for making DVDs, but that's really about it. iDVD makes nice DVDs. Other than that, I need a Mac to use with iTunes and my iPod. I have yet another Mac G3 that I'm not using, and I'm considering installing a Linux distro onto it.

My favorite computer is still my PC running SUSE Linux. I buy quality hardware to build my own PCs. I like the SUSE Linux OS best, though I know it's not for everyone. I do think the learning curve for Linux is very much exaggerated these days. Many novices are switching to Ubuntu Linux and loving it. You'll spend just as much time learning if you switch to OS X--I know this because I've been there, and I'm quite good with computers. I strongly prefer Mac OS X and Linux to Windows--I'm not a snob about it, but I really just don't like Windows. Mac programs often still have ways of annoying me by not giving me the options I'm used to having in Linux, but some people prefer that kind of lack of options simplicity, I guess. iPhoto is so lacking in options, it's bizarre that it even exists. And there's not a really easy way to mount a network drive upon booting without using Automator or some other complicated way--really, there should be an easier way for an OS that boasts ease. Even Windows and Linux make that easier.

OS-wise it just comes down to what you prefer, what you want to do, and what you don't want to do (e.g. in my case, one thing I don't want to worry about is running antivirus apps and such.) But I have a Mac, and while I don't hate it, I'm not going to pretend that there's everything to love about it and no drawbacks.

Hardware-wise, Macs do break, their components break no less often than PC components break, and people do run into serious problems. I can see why people like their Macs for various reasons, but I think the whole, "Just get a Mac, it just works and you'll never have problems again" campaign is disingenuous. If I could only take screenshots of it "Just Working®" sometimes when I have to Force Quit this or that, or when an application like iMovie has to take ages "importing" a movie that it made itself. To be frank but fair, Apple hardware quality also isn't what it used to be. Apple can be slow to respond when users report a faulty line of products, or slow to admit there is actually a problem, and then they'll try to sugarcoat it when they have to admit it. The overheating Macbooks are a good example. Just read Slashdot.


To be frank but fair, Apple hardware quality also isn't what it used to be. Apple can be slow to respond when users report a faulty line of products, or slow to admit there is actually a problem, and then they'll try to sugarcoat it when they have to admit it

You mean their hardware is grossly overpriced and it isn't even superb quality?

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