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Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log

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This page last updated on or about 12-12-09
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed below may be out-of-date by the time you read this. This is real world usage rather than a syrupy evangelistic exercise, so you'll find both good and bad things about PCs here. END NOTE

12-12-09: I've managed to speed up my Windows XP Compaq considerably

One thing that helped was the slight memory boost I got from replacing a 128 MB card in my PC with a 256 MB left over from a boost to my second Compaq, as recounted in a previous entry.

Here's some other things that helped me:

Turning off XP's search function's drive indexing. I really wish I had the power to spare for this, so I could find stuff better and easier on my drive-- but I don't.

Trying to avoid having more than one application open at a time.

Turning off XP's visual desktop effects. I'd always previously kept them switched off, but after the disk format XP switched them back on again, and it didn't occur to me to turn them off once more until I ran across a PC magazine or PC World article about it.

Replaced my free AVAST anti-virus app with the new free Panda Cloud, which seems to have a smaller footprint in memory and processing demands. I was petty sure my system had no malware on it, and so I was free to make this change. Now I have no remedial anti-malware on my system at all (stuff that'll scan and remove bad stuff from an already infected disk). But I DO have at least four different preventive measures in place against any invasion: Panda Cloud and Threatfire in general, and the noscript add-on for my browser-- and that browser being Firefox.

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12-9-09: Ubuntu on a full Gigabyte of RAM

Another 512 MB RAM for the Ubuntu Compaq arrived today, and I installed it. I came close to having to remove the graphics card to get it in (which would have added a lot to the labor and time involved). This boosted it up to its maximum possible of 1 GB.

I immediately booted up and tested the most power-hungry items I could think of on the machine: online video and flash gaming (this machine is primarily for use by kids).

Both did very nicely, and perceptibly faster and smoother than before the upgrade. Then I took the test one step further, with full-screen video from Youtube. Eureka! It worked great!

Note that my experience seems to indicate that-- although it technically works in 512 MB as claimed, with only occasional, small problems, and some sluggishness in spots-- Ubuntu performs considerably better with at least a full Gigabyte of memory.

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12-4-09: The great Ubuntu challenge: Is it finally good enough to allow me an escape from Windows?

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11-15-09: Big troubles with my Windows XP Compaq

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7-3-09: A blank blue screen after log in, requiring a power down and reboot to get past

The good news is the keyboard glitch hasn't gotten any worse. Occasionally it pops up, and I have to boot a second time to get past it: but that's it.

The bad news (which hopefully has now been taken care of) is I began getting a blank blue screen after log-in to Windows XP, every time I booted up.

This latest problem seemed to start after I inadvertently did something unusual one night during shut down. That is, I was in a hurry, and think I activated something other than the normal 'Turn Off Computer' menu item-- like maybe the 'Log Off' instead? And then when a strange dialog box popped up I didn't recognize, I clicked something there without paying much attention. Like I say, I was in a hurry (children were involved).

Some new strange message appeared briefly after that, then disappeared before I could read it, and my PC seemed to shut down.

I always jot down stuff like this when I do it, just in case it leads to something bad. And in this case, it seems it did.

Everytime I tried to boot up again after that, I'd run into the blank blue screen, and have to hold down the power button on my PC to get it to turn off, so I could wait 10 seconds for it to clear its memory, and turn it on again.

On the second boot, things would work more normally.

After this happened 2-3 days in a row, I figured I better do something about it.

I did a Google search for the symptoms, but found nothing which seemed particularly helpful. The effort did remind me however of XP's capability of rolling back to a previous system condition. I'd sort of forgotten about it, since I've so rarely had to use it.

So I did that. I suspected my shut down snafu had started the whole thing somehow, due to the timing of it all. I had that marked on my calender. As an added precaution, I rolled back my system to its state as of a few days before my wrong way shut down.

The software instructed me to restart, and I did. And since then the problem has not recurred (it's been a couple days now).

I saw references online to somewhat similar problems seemingly related to the original SP2 update of XP, many years ago. Those didn't seem fixed by such system status rollbacks, according to the online forums, and so required much more strenuous efforts to repair.

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2-19-09: A malfunctioning keyboard

The XP updates from Microsoft the past 12 months seemed to have introduced new bugs into my system. One interferes with old x86 legacy ports from pre-USB PCs such as my Compaq possesses for mouse and keyboard (maybe they're called PS/2 ports?). While the other almost completely kills the capacity of Windows to show me the date when I hover my pointer over the time in the task bar.

Now, when I hover there, either the date never shows at all, or you can see it's trying to show, only it's coming up behind the task bar itself visually: leaving only the useless top border of its little text box showing.

I really miss the hover date display. It was very handy to me when it still worked. Now I must refer to hard copy calendars again, like pre-computer days.

The legacy port bug is something which starts out intermittant, but soon becomes a total failure of the components involved. It first happened with my mouse. Now it's happening to my keyboard, with the failure rate getting ever higher, fast. When it occurs, I can't type my password to get past the log in screen, and must restart again to regain the function. I having to do this more and more often now.

I keep hoping Microsoft will correct this newly introduced flaw in XP. But update after update, they have so far failed to do so.

But at least XP is still lightyears ahead of Mac OS X in debugging. We've got an awfully new iMac here right now that lost its hard drive icon off its desktop, and we can't get it back no matter what. This makes it lots more difficult to check for remaining space on the drive, plus loses your most direct method for accessing your directory, among other things.

It looks like I'll have to either get a USB keyboard, or some sort of USB adapter for my PC keyboard connector very soon. Damn it!

UPDATE: I did a search for folks with similar problems (in case they also had a solution) and found I'm not alone. Unfortunately, attempted fixes were all over the map, with no clear and easy to do solution. At least one guy said his problem seemed to track to some leftover garbage in his registry after spyware removal-- and I did have to remove some spyware sometime before noticing the problem.

But going in and messing with your XP registry is as risky as messing with your BIOS. I try to avoid both like the plague, as I'm in no hurry to have to buy a whole new PC if those processes go awry (well, maybe an error in the registry would only force a hard disk format and re-installation of the OS and all your apps at worst. OW!)

On the other hand, there's indications I might be able to plug in an old Mac USB keyboard replacement in a pinch (I have no USB PC keyboard lying about). But I'm unsure how useful that option would be, since Mac keyboards have sucked like the vacuum of outer space for years now. And I'm unsure if the essential Ctrl-Alt-Del key combo would be available with such dead Mac gear, too.

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8-5-08: This Windows XP Compaq Presario S4020WM gets a security overhaul

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7-5-08: Many blind mice, due to the latest XP update? (Mouse pointer freezing up at boot up)

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1-24-08: Do-it-yourself security tips for PCs on broadband connections

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2-14-07: Computer Associates acts like a virus/spyware hacker themselves, pisses me off, convincing me to quit the company

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1-21-07: SpySweeper and Microsoft Windows XP broken updates

My Compaq has run pretty well for the most part since the last update. But the annoyance factor of Spysweeper has gone up, as it tries to nag me into buying something. It's apparently still protecting my PC from some things, as it announces it every time it does with a little indicator in the lower right hand corner of the screen. But mostly it just seems to be blocking cookies from certain sites, and maybe pop up windows.

As I don't frequent many questionable sites, Spysweeper only alerts me it's doing something like that maybe once a week or so. Mostly though its alerts these days have nothing to do with anti-spyware duties, but are merely 'in-my-face' reminders I haven't bought anything from them yet. And when I say 'in-my-face' I mean just that. Spysweeper apparently tries to make it especially irksome by taking over the entire center 75% of the screen when it detects you're most busiest working on something.

Folks, there's likely better free anti-spyware available than this nagware from Spysweeper. I mainly haven't looked for any yet because I'm somewhat protected by Spysweeper already, and not really very vulnerable to spyware anyway, from what Spysweeper itself told me upon its initial installation and scans. I guess I don't suffer the same risk factors as many surfers.

Well, it eventually happened on my old Windows ME PC, and now it's happening to my XP.

Namely, Microsoft is no longer able to update my Windows XP automatically for some reason. I give it the go ahead to do so, wait a really long time while something is apparently happening, and then just get a message that the update failed. This has happened at least twice already. And after you go through all that, the stupid Microsoft update reminder in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen will pop up again, trying to fool you into going through all that crap again for no reason.

The failed update appears to have something to do with Microsoft trying to put Internet Explorer 7 on my PC. Maybe the failure comes because IE is NOT my default browser? I use Mozilla instead. I switched to Mozilla years ago because IE was freezing or crashing on me way too often. No way I'm going to switch back. But I never removed the old IE off my system. I can still call it up to check a web page for formatting issues or whatever. So if Microsoft is peeved at me over IE, it has to be the default setting favoring Mozilla (I may have abbreviated some of the error message text below).

"Updates were unable to be successfully installed. The following updates were not installed:

I.E. 7.0 for XP
Security update for Windows Media Player 6.4 (KB925398)
Security update for Windows XP (KB929969)
Cumulative security update for IE XP (KB925454)"

Of course, it could be Microsoft's Windows authentication system stumbled over the fact I had to restore my PC back to its original Windows software once (I think it's only been once on this PC). But all that is as legal and legitimate as I know how to do it. I ordered the recovery disks for this model from HP/Compaq as I don't think any accompanied this machine from my brother. But I guess MS just declares anyone a pirate it wants to these days, just like Bush declares anyone he wants to be a terrorist (but if you disagree with Bush you only rank as "terrorist aide" so far; so on the issue of escalation in Iraq in early 2007, some 70% of Americans are aiding the terrorists, according to recent polls, and past Bush/Cheney comments regarding dissent).

A web search turned up some awfully geeky stuff I might try to do Microsoft's work for them in regards to getting the updates to function. But hey: one of the three biggest reasons I'm using Windows this very moment is to avoid the hassle of troubleshooting OS X or Linux problems. Force me to do too much troubleshooting for Windows and the whole case for using Windows at all gets a lot shakier...

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7-24-06: Update on using the free version of Spysweeper

I've lived with the free version of Spysweeper for a while now. Like I said before, it apparently lists any bad stuff it finds on disk for you, but won't remove it without a paid subscription.

Of course, if all you have is spyware cookies in your browser, you can delete those yourself within the browser app.

However, Spysweeper seemed to block the setting of some new suspect browser cookies in my browser the other day, as I was surfing. At least Spysweeper seemed to notify me it was doing that. So maybe it stops any new spyware from settling onto your machine?

The annoyance factor with the free Spysweeper is significant. But so far largely tolerable.

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7-6-06: I scan my own Compaq for spyware for free

It turned out to be the ten year old rather than the fifteen year old who surfed somewhere on the net to get Pest Trap infecting the other Compaq. I know because he got it infected a second time (when the older kid had no chance), forcing a second restoration of the machine.

I told him to avoid going to the place he picked up the spyware from now on, and so far he seems to be successfully dodging a third infection.

Yesterday I noticed unexplained hard disk activity on my own Compaq (the drive light flickering just enough to be noticed, during idle).

These days unless you get in-your-face pop ups or major and continuous slow-downs on your Windows PC, you may not be able to detect spyware invasions without specialized utilities. Not all malware is as obvious and clumsy as Pest Trap. And disk activity during idle could be related to several legitimate processes, from Windows establishing a new software restore point, to your anti-virus software updating itself. Or a Windows update rolling in, in the background. Etc.

I DO have an active anti-virus package on this machine. Keep XP updated with security patches. Get my main email through the relatively well-protected Yahoo service. Use Mozilla rather than IE. And don't use any sort of chat or IM. Or often travel to or download from ill-advised sites.

But I truly don't know how well my personal habits and experience along with an anti-virus app, etc., protect me from spyware. So as my drive light continued to flicker, I decided to look for a free spyware scan online. One that wasn't a scam, I mean. I did this by searching the archives of PCWorld.com and PCmagazine.com. I quickly settled on Webroot SpySweeper as a credible candidate, although the info was vague on its price status. Both on their own site and in the reviews.

I went to their main site, downloaded and installed it, then began a local scan. All that the app required was my email address.

The scan found nothing but eight spyware 'cookies' in my browser's cookie folder. Then the app informed me that to rid me of those would require paying for a subscription.

Of course I also knew I could just delete my cookies in my browser. So that's what I did instead.

Spysweeper claims it'll help protect from spyware on the fly somehow (maybe it'll alert me when it sees some coming, but not stop it unless I pay?), so I'm letting it stay for now. However, the next morning at boot up Spysweeper popped up in my face to remind me I hadn't subscribed, which is annoying. So it might not be long for this desktop after all.

But at least I know my PC is clean of spyware as of early July 2006. Maybe my usual precautions are shielding me well enough for now.

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6-29-06: Pest Trap spyware

The net is overflowing with scams these days-- only one of which is spyware pretending to be anti-spyware, which in some cases will annoy the hell out of you with in-your-face pop up messages trying to extort money from you for an 'upgrade' or whatever, while warning you your system is 'infected' to the gills with spyware.

Recall I have TWO s4020wm machines here. My personal station, and one used exclusively by the kids, ages six through 18.

I recently bought into EZ Antivirus for my own Compaq, but am simply letting the kids' machine coast on regular Windows updates and an aging, non-renewed EZ Antivirus for defensive measures. Why? Cost concerns. Plus, the kids mainly just play games or fiddle around with various things like 3D rendering for fun and experimentation, anyway. So there's no important data files to worry about there.

Today I discovered something called Pest Trap on the kids' Compaq, which utilized various pop ups so much as to make the machine unusable even for kids.

I put the Compaq's obsolete EZ Antivirus to work scanning the drives for viruses (it should still kill any older viruses with signatures in its non-updated database), and while I waited for that did some Googling on my other Compaq and found indications Pest Trap was spyware itself, plus various means of ridding myself of it.

Pest Trap also impersonates Microsoft in the bottom right corner of your XP desktop with an angry-looking red sphere with a white X which resembles Microsoft's own suspect icons of late, and (if clicked on) simply brings Pest Trap itself back up onscreen again (as if Microsoft is endorsing them).

Turned out it was easy to rid myself of Pest Trap: just restore Windows to its state of a couple weeks back. I had a couple more recent restore points I could have used, but decided to go two weeks back for added safety. After restart, Pest Trap was gone.

There's been many times I wish Mac OS X had system restore points, too.

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2-14-06: PC anti-virus considerations

The free Computer Associates EZ Antivirus anti-virus program subscription I got from somewhere along the line when I re-installed Windows XP on the two Compaqs this log covers was expiring, so I had to make a choice: stick with this EZ Antivirus on the 4020, or apply my previous McAfee to the machine (it's up for renewal soon too).

EZ Antivirus has seemed to run reasonably well and unobtrusively on the 4020 over past months-- at least until expiration date neared. Then it began all on its own cranking up my web browser with a billboard-sized warning once every few hours.

The billboard really annoyed me when it kicked in during my major backup/archival session the other day. I was worried it might interfere with my CD burns. But I don't think it hurt anything.

But even including the billboard thing, EZ Antivirus seems much less obstrusive than McAfee. And McAfee actually seemed to cause me startup and possibly other problems on my older HP desktop. More than once there were indications McAfee was causing my machine to crash or not boot up correctly. I've also had lots of problems on my laptop too, which uses McAfee: just the other day having to perform near-death PC CPR to the thing.

EZ Antivirus may be cheaper than McAfee too. So I decided to try it. And renewed it for $20.00 on my 4020. I'll be making a decision on the laptop soon too, I think.

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2-12-06: Archival days

A couple days back I spent a whole day doing nothing but burning backups and archival CDs of my data. I began with a long put off chore of having Windows XP create a set of recovery CDs for this machine. I was surprised to find it'll only allow you a single attempt! Yikes! That seems really in-your-face abuse of the customer.

Recall I'd had to order a set of these same disks from the factory to refurb the two Compaqs my brother gave me, months back. I still have that set, but knew I'd better make a second for backup purposes. I'd just been lazy and not done it until now. I also had to wait until I had plenty of blank CDs to use (you need six for a recovery set-- and every defective CD you encounter ratchets the number up by one).

After making the recovery set, I made three CDs each of all my research files and site editing files to date, ranging from as far back to around 2000. You must make at least three copies because on average a personally made CD probably will only last 2-3 years-- unless perhaps you bought the most expensive major name brand you could find. In which case they might last 4-5 years. I personally don't know what the best brand at the moment might be. I happened to use Imation in this instance.

I think factory-burned CDs are currently expected to last maybe 5 years or so (again, this is an average: so your own mileage may vary).

Yep. There's an awful lot of CDs going bad out there, even as I type this. Millions. Maybe hundreds of millions. With no warning at all to their owners. They might not suspect a thing until the next time they need something off an old disk...

I only ended up with one unusable CD disk coaster after all this, according to my PC.

Several things spurred me to perform this archival at this time. One, I recently had a near-death experience with my backup machine-- the laptop. Had to give it a completely new Windows OS, as its original signed off permanently, and I had no recovery disks for it. Two, the desktop Compaq this log is about on occasion makes odd noises, the source for which I'm very uncertain about. It may or may not indicate imminent problems. Three, I was way behind any reasonably prudent schedule on archive creation. I rarely wait as long as I did this time to make a new batch. I suppose I'm now only doing this on roughly an annual basis(?)

Keep in mind I still do manual, incremental backups of my data files every 15 minutes to couple of hours, at minimum. But the recent problems with the laptop have made it much more inconvenient than before to backup to it over the LAN. Microsoft makes it way too hard to configure your PCs for such file transfers. Of course, Apple makes it harder still for Mac OS X. Agh!

Amazingly enough, my easiest and most straighforward file backups remain today 100 MB ZIP disks I've been using since maybe the days I was on a Mac IIcx(!) The Iomega USB ZIP drive I'm using was for a while connected to an iMac I used, way back years ago (and still have close by today).

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12-3-05: Power blinks and outages

Today we had another power outage without warning, this one around 30-40 minutes.

Fortunately the Compaq and all its externals like display and ZIP drive were on the uninterruptible power supply, and the laptop I back up my files to has its own built-in UPS in the form of its own battery.

Of course I don't push my luck in these instances, but instead immediately perform an orderly shut down of all systems. For in truth those two batteries likely won't last long at all in a crisis. I basically want the power protection to reduce file and OS corruption problems stemming from outages. That's it.

Corruption problems from power blinks and outages may be roughly equivalent to virus infections in terms of the overall risk they pose to computer users.

As I typically do incremental file backups roughly every 20-30 minutes, there's usually no need to perform a backup during sudden outages like this one.

Prior to this we had a complete power blink outage on 10-17-05. Before that, I have no documentation of outages occuring during my normal work hours for several months.

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10-15-05: The new Microsoft wheel mouse optical gets installed

I usually date my log entries by when I write them: not necessarily the time certain events documented took place. For instance, I wrote the previous entry on 10-14-05, but ordered the mouse 10-13-05.

The mouse was ordered on a Thursday, and arrived that Saturday, by way of the slowest shipping arrangements offered by Amazon at purchase (which still cost me $5.00 though).

I ordered a Microsoft wheel mouse optical, basically because I already have one on my laptop and like it.

Although the instructions were ambiguous on a few points (and I always fret about getting caught with no working mouse at all at some moment during the process), installation seemed to go well, and I've already used it to edit a dozen files.

The longer you've struggled with a sticking mechanical mouse, the greater a relief you'll feel using a decent optical version.

One other note: Using the mouse install CD with this PC reminded me of how noisy the PC's CD drive is. I rarely burn CDs or install things, so it almost never runs. But when it does, it sounds like you're flying a plane, it's so loud.

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10-14-05: I order an optical mouse to replace my awful mechanical one; Preview and multiple file opening problems with HTML-Kit

It seems my work backlog just keeps getting bigger no matter how many hours I put into dealing with it.

So in desperation I looked into finding some software to possibly boost my productivity in critical areas. The current cream of the crop of low cost CMS (content management systems) applications. and Still stuck in the Stone Age of Computing offer more details on the matter.

Once the awful truth about that dawned on me, I realized the biggest productivity booster I could truly make would be replacing my current old fashioned rolling ball mechanical mouse with an optical. For at the moment I'm using the mouse originally bundled with this PC from the factory. To cut costs these days manufacturers often bundle mice of such cheap parts that once they get dirty inside the first time, you can never truly get them clean again, no matter what you do. So basically they're throwaways, with you the customer expected to buy a better mouse by the time they get fouled up the first time or two.

Today's mice are certainly worse about this than those of the old days-- because the original mice used higher quality parts which didn't get dirty nearly so fast and when they did it was easier to give them a decent cleaning which would last six months to a year.

Now you might as well throw away that bundled mechanical mouse accompanying new low end PCs the first time it gets so gunked up it won't work properly, and replace it with an optical.

Of course money's always in short supply here-- plus I hoped to save the time needed for mail order delivery-- so I first dug up a used Logitech wireless optical mouse which may originally have been attached to the Mac G4 or a Powerbook a couple years back.

I definitely don't like the wireless aspect, as they chew up even the most powerful batteries at an incredible rate, sometimes take forever to synch up with the computer to actually start working during a session, and can be amazingly difficult to install batteries into at times (we have a wireless Apple mouse here that's plain horrible on all those counts).

But the Logitech was an optical too. So I figured I'd at least try to save the $20 or so a new purchase would require.

Any install CD or instructions for the thing was long gone, but it was a USB for the transceiver, and I downloaded its software and info from the Logitech site online.

The mouse lit up once supplied with batteries, and the installed software acted like it was doing its thing. But it seemed I could get no signal established with the device to save my life. Maybe my desktop was too cramped and causing interference from my PC or display or something. I finally gave up and uninstalled the Logitech software, and went to Newegg.com online to order a Microsoft optical mouse like I have on my laptop.

Newegg gave me some sort of run-around about having to buy extra hardware to get the mouse, BUT they'd give me some useless wire connector for FREE to meet that requirement. Sounded OK to me, but then they appeared they were going to charge me $5.00 for the useless wire connector, despite what they said on-site. So I left Newegg and turned to Amazon.

Of course at Amazon I was forced to dig up my password I last used with them maybe a year or two ago (ordering online seems much more annoying than it has to be). But then the order finally seemed to get placed. With me paying $5.00 for shipping they said would take a week or longer (I ordered it around noon on a Thursday).

Of course shipping typically seem to move faster than the sites claim these days.

File glitches

At some point in Windows ME on my previous HP PC I lost the capacity to open multiple files in HTML-Kit, and that limitation carried over to Windows XP. This is very annoying. Today I made the mistake of telling Windows to always open HTML files with HTML-Kit, thinking that might fix the problem. But all it did was stop me from being able to preview the files in my default browser. Agh! I tried several things to fix that, but the only one which worked was to tell Windows to forget about what I ordered it to do before.

So maybe opening only one file at a time is a HTML-Kit quirk? I mean, I can have lots of them open at the same time-- it's just that when initially opening them I must do so individually.

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8-26-05: Good thing I didn't un-install that Sonic gizmo!

Well, that "Powered by Sonic" update reminder box I've complained about before here began showing up with increasing frequency lately, so I decided to get rid of it.

You see, I thought this had something to do with the games bundle which accompanied this PC when new-- and I have no use for games.

However, when I went into Windows Set Program Access and Defaults and selected Sonic for removal, I did the cautious thing and clicked on a button to get more information about it first.

Good thing I did! Because apparently it's something to do with my CD drive and/or burner! Yikes! So I left it alone! And the next time the little update reminder popped up I clicked OK for it to update itself from the mothership online.

The true source of this page is

However, there does remain some annoying game-related stuff on the PC which apparently I can disable for maybe 60 days at a time, but after that it 'wakes up' again to plague me once more. I've not yet un-installed that either. But I did disable it for another 60 days recently, when it reappeared in the lower right corner of my display.

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8-17-05: Fixing a glitch between Mozilla and HTML kit, and a Samsung 213T LCD update

I started having trouble with my web authoring combination of Mozilla 1.7.5 and HTML kit build 292 the other day. Namely, I'd click the button in HTML kit to see my HTML page displayed in Mozilla, and it wouldn't work.

At first I figured it was because my main folder I edit files from was overloaded, with somewhere between 4000 and 5000 files there. I'd noticed things would slow down a lot as I built up ever more files in there. Periodically I weed out the older ones-- but due to the nuisance factor maybe just once or twice a year.

So I did some weeding there, transferring older files to a different folder.

I also quit all my apps and restarted. But this only helped very briefly, with the problem soon showing up again.

I'd also on occasion been getting errors at shut down or restart about some application failing to close then-- even when I had none open that I knew of.

So I disabled Mozilla Quick-Start. An icon I allowed the installer to place in the bottom right corner of my desktop when I first put Mozilla on this machine.

The Quick-Start icon supposedly helps you to reduce the time it takes to boot up Mozilla by keeping some of the app in memory at all times. But now that I've removed it the opening time seems no different. But I seem to have fixed the problem between my HTML editor and Mozilla. At least for now. And I haven't seen that app failing to close error again, either. But of course it's only been a day or so since I did all this. So we'll see.

My 21.3 inch Samsung 213T LCD has made a huge difference for me in eye-strain. Big enough to help me spend more time on the PC working, as well as get better eye readings from my doctor, apparently. And Samsung sent me my $100 rebate too. Although they mispelled my name on the check, my bank still cashed it. Hooray!

The main Compaq desktop PC of this log has been having to deal with a pretty hot office environment this summer, with it getting up to around 85 degrees in here on a regular basis. Of course switching the to the big LCD from the previous CRT surely helped some, plus I'm using all flourescent lighting with no incandescents. But I usually also have my laptop running beside the PC too, for various purposes.

The second PC of this same make and model still resides in my old office now, which seems to get even hotter than this one (Yikes! Does that mean it's hitting 90 degrees in there? I haven't been monitoring its temp this summer, but it's possible). Mostly it's used by teenagers and an eight year old, off and on. It's the only PC usually running in there, and we have a large box fan blowing on it and the user when in operation. It's using a CRT display, so that adds to the heat. But usually only a fluorescent light is on in the room.

I blew out the dust inside the second PC's case when I added the additional memory. So that should help it cooling efficiency-wise.

WebFLUX Central does possess central heat and air conditioning-- but basically the centralized system was designed to care for only the first floor, not the second, so anyone up here broils in summer. So we've started adding window air conditioners to particular rooms to take the edge off. There's one in the room across the hall from my present office, and I have one in a box under my desk to put into my own window. But I haven't had time to install it. Plus at the moment I'm nursing an arm injury and had best avoid man handling heavy objects such as in an air conditional install. Tsk, tsk. I also don't look forward to the extra charge on the monthly electric bill the conditioner will likely add once in operation.

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5-28-05: Another memory upgrade; hibernation problems; pop up ads from a new PC software bundle

I added 256 MB RAM to the second S4020WM here a week ago. That PC will be primarily used by kids, from teenagers to toddlers. I did this upgrade in kind of a hurry due to being pressed for time. However, I still made sure to use my air compressor to blow the dust out of the machine too along the way.

The true source of this page is

Like my own S4020WM this one was fully restored from CDs bought from Compaq/HP. With the 256MB upgrade added to the 128 MB already there, the Compaq now sports 384 MB RAM-- minus 32 MB for the onboard graphics, that is. So actual system RAM is really 352 MB now I believe.

Once again, I bought the RAM from Crucial.com.

My teen nephew complained the 352 MB Compaq still didn't seem to be rendering via the 3D program Blender as fast as the 1024 MB Mac G4, so I went into the control panels and turned off the desktop special effects of window resize animations, etc., which seemed to help considerably.

Of course, my nephew will probably still prefer the air conditioned environment and flat screen LCD display of the G4 Mac over the hot room and CRT of the Compaq.

Unfortunately, it may be I turned on some idle-related items in the Compaq around this time as well, as the kids tend to leave the computers around here running for hours on end at times with no users on them. I guess I figured after some 15 years or so PCs and Macs had finally ironed out all the various idling option problems they used to plague us with. But I was wrong.

I think what happened was the PC went into hibernation after idling a while, and when I found it I thought it already shut down since moving the mouse or pressing a key didn't revive it. So I just switched off the monitor. Then maybe a day or two later storms in the area made me pull the power plugs on all the machines.

Ever since then the PC has had start up problems, as it seems to maybe be trying to revive from a hibernation state but can't, and then I have to push the power button in and hold it to switch it off, then switch it back on again to get the proper bootup to happen. Sheesh!

I've since went in and tried to turn off all that hibernation crap and other idle problem software. As apparently it still has the same problems it did a decade ago. Wow. I guess progress would indeed be grand-- if we had any.

On BOTH the Compaqs now a "Powered by Sonic" box pops up at random once in a while trying to get you to check for updates. This has something to do with the original software bundle apparently. I haven't yet had the spare time to look for a way to kill that nuisance...

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4-23-05: Updates on both the Samsung LCD and Compaq desktop

So far despite the LCD entering several different types of modes regarding a significant period of idleness, I've never yet encountered a lengthy delay in it becoming available again for use, as complained about in several reviews I read before buying it.

Maybe my various idle settings just aren't configured the same as the reviewers. Or maybe my system just hasn't lain fallow long enough yet for the problem mode to engage. I don't know. But no problem so far!

I removed the main mirror from directly in front of me on the desk and moved the LCD there, maybe a couple weeks back.

It does seem I can get by without the mirrors now. So far anyway.

I was a bit alarmed lately by loud pops and cracks emanating from behind the display, until I realized they weren't coming from the display but the wall behind it. Keep in mind I moved my main computing activities into a wholly different room at WebFLUX Central months back due to an overheating HP PC (the immediate predecessor of this Compaq). It's been many years since I computed in this room, and so been in it during normal work hours. Ergo, I'm not familiar with the normal sounds of the building here when the seasons are changing from cold to warm. Apparently that's what was causing the pops and cracks. I've since heard them even when the PC and LCD themselves weren't on, and hadn't been for hours.

I keep both the LCD and PC plugged into battery backed up outlets on my UPS, and after shutting down for the day switch off the UPS too-- primarily to make sure the LCD doesn't run when I think it's switched off. It can be hard to tell it's on when all the pixels are simply black colored!

I keep the main power switch on the back of the LCD on now, and use the small right-most button on the front to turn the LCD on and off.

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I don't want to waste any more running hours for the internal fluorescents than absolutely necessary!

I mailed in my rebate form, printed email invoice from newegg.com, and UPC sticker off the shipping box to Samsung for hopefully a hundred dollars back (this would cover my $70 Tennessee sales tax and $1 shipping with $29 left over to apply to the monitor itself). Samsung's rebate hoops seemed much easier to jump through than the Sony rebate hoops I last wrestled with.

The power supplies for my ZIP external drive and stereo speakers are plugged into a power tap bar, itself plugged into an outlet on the UPS that's only surge-protected, not battery-backup.

As for the PC itself there's some sort of "Powered by Sonic" update check box which pops up regularly now, to my substantial annoyance. I'm pretty sure this is something related to the original software bundle for the Compaq. I've looked around a little for ways to disable it, but so far not found one.

I've been surprised to find I can only open one HTML file at a time on the Compaq too, just as happened on the HP after a certain point. It may be something to do with default application assignments to file types. If so, that's something I can correct when I get around to it.

The USB 1.0 ZIP drive is exactly as slow on the Compaq as it was on the HP. I haven't burned a CD on the Compaq yet, but there's a chance the process might actually be faster than using the ZIP drive now, compared to my previous desktops.

I backup files to the Compaq laptop over the LAN, and to the ZIP drive manually.

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4-4-05: Holy crap DVI-man!

Wow! And I thought the DVI stuff was confusing before!

Today I started rummaging around to see about getting an adapter to get my Syncmaster's DVI cable to plug into my graphics card's DVI port. The two connectors appear considerably different.

But at the moment I'm thinking they might actually match up after all, based on what I've seen on the web. But the uncertainty's still substantial here. And I'm sure as heck NOT going to try it with an $800+ flat panel with the little knowledge I presently possess on the topic. Yikes!

The graphics card's own desktop help so far has been no help at all in determining what precise sort of DVI animal it is. Apparently I'm going to have to dig around in the hard copy stuff accompanying both card and monitor, as well as maybe the monitor's CD. But I expect useful info will be sparse in those spots as well. Even the web is awfully vague here.

Heck, maybe these things will just plug together no muss no fuss. But they sure look very different. And in this Old Computer Geezer's experience you definitely don't put together two so different looking connectors unless you're pretty sure it's OK. Agh!

A couple hours pass...

Well, I dug around in the bundled hard copy for both card and LCD and found nothing helpful. But the site Compact DVI Help Guide seemed to confirm my LCD's DVI cable should plug into my card's DVI port, despite the substantially different pin configurations.

Turns out my graphics card sports a female port for dual link DVI-I that's compatible with BOTH DVI-D and DVI-A as it carries both digital and analog signals.

The DVI cable bundled with the Samsung offers up a male connector for single link DVI-D which is one of several subsets of the DVI-I connector-- and so DOES work in the graphics card port without an adapter after all(!)

I shut everything down, removed the VGA cable and plugged in the LCD's DVI cable. The cable felt like it fit. Rebooted. All I saw on the LCD screen was the message "check signal cable".

I was blind and so forced to flip off the UPS power switch to turn off my PC. Agh!

I knew I'd dutifully insured a good connection at the PC end so I checked the connection at the monitor end (which had been done at the factory). Seemed fine.

I tried plugging in both video cables at the same time but it seemed inadvisable due to the really really tight fit on the card of the cable connectors. So I left the DVI loose and went back to plain VGA again.

I hoped maybe the LCD's user manual or driver on the CD might help, so I stuck it in and got the driver installation screen. It was a quick process, consisting of basically a scary warning of what would happen if you didn't choose the precisely correct monitor on the list (the warning came AFTER you'd made your selection), and then after I clicked install I got...nothing.

Nothing but a boing noise, that is. The screen was unchanged. No indication of status whatsoever.

I clicked on the install program's box in XP's task bar and suddenly saw a 'successfully installed' box on-screen.

OK, so it seemed I had the driver. Now for the manual. I was forced to open the CD from My Computer to see a files list (as the automatic install program offered no apparent way to it), and there was no obvious way to access the PDF file of the user manual in one gulp for a copy to my hard disk. Instead, there were dozens of arcanely named files and folders accompanying the Acrobat reader.

So I checked out my PC's display related control panel and saw indications that at least the Compaq, the graphics card, and the LCD had all been formally introduced to one another now.

I restarted the PC. Installing the LCD's driver seemed to have slowed the Compaq back down to its pre-LCD speed again. Darn it.

I went through all the updated display control panels on the PC to see if there was some way to activate the DVI signal there, but found nothing I was willing to experiment with. Darn it again.

I decided to bypass the CD and go to the source: samsung.com. There I found the user manual pdf in a single file and opened it. I also saved it to my local disk.

There were some confusing points in the manual. But I managed to determine that I might need to use the 'Exit/Source' button on the LCD to switch between VGA and DVI modes. There were also hints that you could have both VGA and DVI cables plugged in to your PC simultaneously-- although with some graphics cards this might cause you to have to jump through additional hoops.

Here's you a helpful tip for the user manual here: "OSD" stands for "on-screen-display" (You can thank me later).

I shut everything down again. This time I DID connect BOTH the display's cables (DVI and VGA) to the graphics card simultaneously. It was an uncomfortably tight fit, but seemed to work.

Rebooted. Saw the VGA screen with the LCD saying "analog" in the corner to confirm it. After it finished booting I hit the Exit/Source button and the screen blanked and I briefly got a 'digital signal' message on-screen (or something like that, different from the 'analog' message-- it was gone fast). And my Windows desktop was back again.

Bottomline after all this? I can't tell a lick of difference between the LCD on VGA or DVI signals! So why the heck do all the PC magazines and other sites act like such a difference exists? Beats me. Of course it may be with all my settings configured for vision impairment it's just a lot tougher to see such differences in the display. Or maybe if I played a DVD on the PC or a game I'd see a difference. Don't know. But I'm just a wee bit disappointed here (since I expected a tangible quality difference from everything I'd read).

There's some new options in the Windows display control panels now that I've successfully switched over to DVI mode. But I'm afraid to fiddle with them at the moment.

As for dead pixels I thought I found some once or twice, but turned out they were just itsy bitsy specks of dust on the screen that flew away when I breathed on them. I don't seem to have any continuously lit pixels either, so far as I can tell.

At this point I believe it's a good thing I bit the bullet and bought a 21.3 inch LCD rather than a smaller 19 incher. I really did need the biggest one I could get without going to debtor's prison. Basically it feels like I couldn't have managed with one even one inch smaller. YIKES! That was a close one!

I just hope the eyestrain relief is sustained for years to come...or at least until I can afford a much bigger monitor or a projector. If I start hurting again just a few months from now....agh!

One major downside to having a 21.3 inch monitor is your eyes get accustomed to it in maybe less than a single day's use, and forever after see all smaller monitors as keyholes. Doh! This could be bad for someone like a network admin who must routinely stare at the differently sized displays of countless co-workers during the day.

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4-1-05: The big LCD and me

As I type this I'm using the new big Samsung LCD.

Everything seems to be working OK. It may be that there's so many pixels on this thing that detecting a small handful of bad ones could be tough unless they're mid-screen or something. Especially at the low resolution I need for my vision impairment. I haven't changed the screen resolution from what it was previously with the CRT: 800x600. I've also got the font size settings in my web browser, HTML editor, and word processor set fairly large.

These settings were badly squeezed on the 17 inch CRT so that a third of more of many web pages required horizontal scrolling for me to see, and editing documents was harder than it was a couple years back. But the bigger display seems to be giving me back some of that space now. Even without changing resolution.

When I first opened the box I checked for instructions etc. There were very very few. Basically because few are needed. You lift the entire assembly up out of the box and sit it on the desk. You plug one end of the AC cord into the LCD, the other into your power outlet. You connect a video cable to your PC. Flip on the power switches and go (the LCD's main switch is on the back). At least if you use a VGA port.

I'm running the LCD off the VGA port of the new graphics card because the DVI cable connector that came with the display doesn't match the DVI port on my card. Apparently some sort of adapter will be required.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I should have done more to address this point ahead of time. But it was tougher than usual to do that. Because different LCDs often use different DVI connectors these days (if they offer a DVI port at all-- some may be only VGA. The only bad thing about that is that LCDs can only present their best images with DVI). There's at least two or three different DVI standards now, and they seem to be reproducing. Plus as many or most LCD panels don't bundle a DVI cable anyway there was a good chance I'd have to buy something extra no matter what I did. Lastly, I honestly did not know what LCD I'd end up buying brand, size, and model-wise until the last possible moment. I've been watching the latest reviews at PCWorld and PCmagazine and other spots on the web for months now, hoping for newer, better, less costly LCD or projector options to come along before I was forced to make a purchase. Then there's my own loathing about ordering anything-- especially anything expensive!-- to get over. If I'd delayed ordering just a bit longer to try to make certain of the DVI thing there's no telling how long that final delay would have stretched. And I absolutely positively had to have some eyestrain relief ASAP.

The display came with both a VGA and DVI cable. Each cable may be three or four feet long. Surprisingly the AC power cord seems to be shorter than the video cables.

I initially looked for adjustment instructions but found only a small note mostly telling how to adjust the height. Turned out screen swiveling and angling just consists of doing it.

There's several buttons on the front of the display but I haven't touched them yet.

In various reviews of the monitor some people said they had to immediately turn up the brightness when they got it. At the moment it seems pretty bright to me already. But maybe reviewers' biggest consistent complaint was with the monitor coming back to life after sleeping-- the PC sleeping thing I mean. They said it took a bit too long. I'll let you know how that goes.

Although I know of no technical reason for it to be so, the Compaq itself seems to be running slightly faster now. Maybe it's some sort of placebo effect from the bigger screen. I don't know.

I've parked the LCD where my CRT previously was, only turned towards me, with the number one reflecting mirror removed at the moment. I'm not using the second mirror either, but haven't yet moved it from its location as I'll need time to see if the mirrors really are redundant now.

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3-29-05: I order a big LCD

At around 7:20 PM 3-29-05 I finally bit the bullet and ordered a big LCD display. I've prided myself for years in making do with 'left-over' computer wares for the most part, while trying to give the priority for such things to the children in the family. The last brand new computer I bought for myself was an Apple Mac IIcx in 1990. Around Xmas 2001 I did splurge a little and get myself a 17 inch CRT monitor at the same time I bought new Sony VAIO desktops for all the kids in the family (two separate household PCs).

For one thing I figured being the Old Computer Geezer of the family I could get by better with older, slower, more problem-prone computers than anyone else.

But as the 17 inch monitor buy in 2001 shows, my eye strain has been increasing. Alarmingly so, for someone who does as much computer work as I.

I did tons of research and a substantial amount of experimentation in search of some practical way to avoid this purchase-- but to no avail. I just hope this new hardware brings me some relief, and the remedy lasts for as long as possible.

I ended up trying to err on the side of overkill rather than underkill, as I think I mentioned somewhere before seemed advisable in my situation.

So I've ordered a Samsung Syncmaster 213T 21.3 inch LCD display. YIKES! For a total price of $831.28 which includes a 99 cent shipping fee and $70 in sales tax. Can you hear my wallet screaming where you are?

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3-24-05: I remove some factory spyware and add a DVI card

I've deactivated the "Compaq Connections" spyware and general annoyance utility on both Compaqs now. Or at least I hope I did. It's not clear, due to a strange looking illegible screen and program run request that appears when you indicate you want to kill the thing. Yes, I'm sure this was a Compaq/HP thing and not a third party. Recall these two Compaqs are freshly restored from complete hard disk wipes to factory software, with anti-virus software immediately installed, mine with barely any web mileage on it yet and the other a complete web virgin at the moment. I also removed something from my old HP a year or two ago called 'Backweb' because my anti-virus software said it was suspect. Backweb was actually the HP version of this Compaq Connections thing.

I believe when I upgraded to XP SP2 on my Compaq during the major revamp Microsoft's own spyware thingie noted a 'Backweb' gizmo on the Compaq too, and removed it as possible malware. Yuck!

The AGP card arrived yesterday. I looked at some installation tips on the web. They were somewhat different from the instructions accompanying the card, in that the web sites recommended uninstalling your previous graphics drivers prior to shutting down for installing the new hardware.

I decided to go by the card's own instructions instead. Partly because I was worried about possibly ending up with no video at all if something bad happened.

The instructions were brief and straightforward. But there were several important items ignored in them, to the possible dismay of an installer. The same can be said of the pdf user manual for the Compaq I'd previously downloaded.

Naturally I unplugged everything from the Compaq, laid it on its side with the rear panel thumbscrew on the rear panel's top edge. I connected my wrist ground strap to a power cord plugged into a live plug-in for grounding purposes. I'd previously collected up all the tools and lights I expected I'd need and placed them accordingly.

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This was the first time ever for me installing a graphics card of any sort. But the second time in only a couple weeks of opening up the Compaq for hardware additions. Cover removal went much more smoothly this time.

Having the AGP slot be a standout brown against the lighter colors of the PCI slots on the motherboard is nice. But the sliding lock down bracket in the slot base was wholly unexpected by me. I saw no mention of this in the card instructions or the user manual pdf or even on the web.

Keep in mind I can no longer see small things very well unless I can get my eyes within just a couple inches of them. My bifocals force me to remove my glasses entirely for close work, and yet without my glasses everything more than a foot away gets very blurry very fast.

The problem is compounded when the work area is a motherboard set at the bottom of a fairly deep computer case.

A single Phillips head screw held a retention plate in place over all the expansion card knockouts in the rear panel of the Compaq. I removed the screw and plate. Note the plate was also held in place by a slot and tab arrangement with the rear panel of the PC. Once the screw is removed you slide the plate itself up and out of its position.

I eyeballed the identity of the knockout for the AGP slot and manuevered it out of its slot. Once the afore-mentioned retaining plate is out of the way, the knockouts are basically held in place by a bottom tab in a slot and a top bracket on a metal guide. The bottom of the knockout will just lift up out of its slot once you get the top bracket worked loose from the guide. A flat edged screwdriver might help here.

Note that knockouts are narrow metal plates in the computer's rear wall which must be removed when an expansion card is added, in order that that card's ports will then show in the back of the computer for you to use. So why have knockouts at all if you must remove them? For cooling and dust accumulation purposes. The knockouts close up spots where dust could enter the machine. They also help the PC cooling system operate as it was designed to do. When you remove a knockout to install a card, the card itself will have a plate which closes the hole back again, thus restoring the knockout's original function-- except the card's plate will also have some I/O ports sticking through it for added functionality.

At this point I thought I was ready to insert the card. But something wasn't right. I noticed the motherboard emplacement had a slot in it on the same end the graphics card had a hook, suggesting that you'd hook the inside end of the card there first, then try inserting the rest of it. But that made no sense based on the other features of the interior and card. I moved in for a closer examination and finally made out some tiny words stamped into the plastic of the AGP slot. Tiny words the same color as the item they were a part of.

That's when I realized the AGP slot had a sliding bracket arrangement at its base, which you were supposed to slide open for card insertion, then slide closed again to lock the card down. Yikes! This had been mentioned nowhere in all three literature sources I'd perused prior to install.

The hardware install went pretty smooth from that point on. I re-assembled everything, re-connected and moved on.

I followed the card company's instructions on using their install CD and soon had the card apparently installed and working, with my monitor now attached to the card's VGA port rather than the Compaq's built-in port. System information now reports my video is no longer using 32 MB of motherboard memory (using the 64 MB on the card instead).

I've not had time to play around with the settings yet, but screen rotation appears to be an option here.

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3-21-05: I restore the second Compaq; mediocre power supply; ordering a DVI card; projector project suspension; added an external USB ZIP drive

I used the recovery CDs from HP/Compaq to fully restore the second Compaq too (after getting permission from my brother for the machine). The CDs say they're licensed to restore any PC of this model, so this is apparently legal to do. Plus I believe Microsoft can track their XP installs across the net. So I'm sure someone will let me know if this is a no-no.

I'd already begun the restore process when I realized I hadn't put the second Compaq on the UPS for the procedure. Yikes! It literally took hours to do the complete restore. Had we suffered a power blink during that time there's no telling how hard the next restore attempt might have been.

I learned something disturbing about the model during my video upgrade research. The S4020WM may have been designed with a barely adequate power supply-- so I may be forced to upgrade it to account for these recent new hardware installs, plus those to come. Agh!

Circumstances have forced me to suspend my projector project for now, and simply try to get by with a 19 inch LCD and a AGP DVI card to drive it.

I already ordered a cheap DVI card: the connect3d ATI Radeon 7000 64MB for $35.31 including taxes and shipping from newegg.com.

This will be my first experience ever with installing a graphics card I believe.

Until now I never realized the dearth of reviews for low end video cards on the net. It's almost impossible to find objective info on cheap graphics cards out there. Everything you can find is usually for cards costing $200 to $thousands. Yikes!

I guess I'll wait until I have the card successfully installed before ordering the LCD-- which at the moment I expect to be a Planar PL1910M 19 incher.

I downloaded and installed drivers for my external USB ZIP drive. Also attached the old speakers from my Compaq 5151 to this much newer one.

I've moved the HP to sit next to the second Compaq so I can easily switch the monitor between the two if necessary. The second Compaq is using the HP's speakers too.

The second Compaq looks like it could really use a dust blow out with the air compressor. As I'm considering ordering a 256 MB memory upgrade for it so it'll work better for the kids, I may blow it out then.

Some other items I'd like to have for my own Compaq desktop would be an optical mouse and a scanner. But those will have to wait.

It's nice to have a much faster booting PC now. Plus I hopefully won't be suffering the frequent crashes at bootup that I was with the HP. Sometimes web pages appear so fast in the browser window I don't even realize I've arrived at the new page. I blink or something and miss the transition. Yay!

If I could upgrade the RAM in the second Compaq it'd make a killer online game machine for the kids. Plus these models seem to have come bundled with some kid games originally installed on the hard drive too.

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3-18-05: The aftermath of a marathon computer revamp

Today I used Microsoft's Accessibility Wizard to compensate for my vision impairment. I was surprised to find that XP doesn't seem to allow the user to set the screen resolution as low as ME did. So in that one way at least XP is worse than ME for me.

Today I'm spending considerable time setting preferences in my regularly used apps to match those I had on the HP.

The Compaq is much snappier performance-wise than my HP or laptop. And quieter too for the most part. I believe I've brought over virtually all the data files required now, leaving me with near 20 GB of free hard disk space.

I'm hoping I'll encounter far fewer crashes and slowdowns on the Compaq than I did on the HP. And be able to have more apps and windows open at once too.

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3-17-05: Transferring Gigabytes of personal data files and configuring apps

Today the anti-virus program was no longer complaining, but the XP updates still weren't succeeding in installs. The updates turned out to be related to the Lucent WinModem, S3 Graphics, and Realtek AC '97 audio.

Note I previously updated my S3 graphics driver to the very latest. So if that change somehow affected the BIOS on the machine (or some other hidden info store) then that might be the source of the update problem there. At the moment I'm not too worried about that.

I set up Outlook Express for my ISP email.

I now began downloading and installing third-party software I knew I wanted. Like the Mozilla suite. Irfanview. HTML Edit. Core FTP Lite. Paint.net. Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0.

After all that seemed well in hand, I began copying essential data files enmass from the laptop backups and archives. This took quite a while. One of the last transfers from the laptop was the user manual PDF for the Compaq I'd previously downloaded from HP for the memory install.

After some hours I was ready for the next stage: swapping out my aged HP with the newer Compaq on my own desk.

I only moved the PCs, mice, keyboards, and speakers, not the monitors. But still it took a while.

Windows ME on the HP took its own sweet time adapting to the different 17 inch monitor it found itself hooked to now.

Once both desktops were up and running, I went into WS_FTP on the HP and retrieved the settings for uploading to my two web hosts. WS_FTP is great, but no longer allows a free download version, which is why I'm switching to Core FTP.

You might recall how the new Ethernet connectors I installed in my new office location didn't seem to latch like they should inside my HP. Well, they latched fine in the Compaq!

Now came the hard part: copying files from Windows ME on the HP to XP on the Compaq. I've encountered lots of problems in such transfers in the past. Random glitches and ME flaws basically force you into lots of manual labor here, and piece meal operations. It didn't help matters that I had Gigabytes of data to move between the laptop and HP to the Compaq. Gigabytes made up of hundreds of thousands of small text files, mostly. Some of these files get irretrievably lost every time I have to change computers. 95% of these files are research items.

Other problem between XP and ME is that sometimes it seems you must come up with a long lost password and/or computer name to get one to open up to the other over the LAN. Thankfully this time I was able to locate a "Public" folder on the HP I could use for file transfers between the machines.

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3-16-05: I restore the Compaq to like-new software status with a recovery kit from HP

Recall I mentioned earlier the lack of a restore disk for this machine? And that it had the wrong OS on it? It also gives off weird error messages.

If this thing is going to replace my overheating HP workhorse for several years to come, it needs a fresh start OS-wise. But this must be done on a shoe-string budget. Luckily, as this model isn't yet too old-- and/or HP/Compaq offer extended tech support for their products compared to some other PC makers-- I was able to get the necessary restore disks from HP (HP bought out Compaq a while back). I ordered what the HP/Compaq site called a "Recovery Kit" for this Compaq model around 3-8-05 for $24.12 including taxes and 3-4 business day shipping. It arrived 3-15-05.

There were seven CDs in the box, along with a brochure-like set of hard copy instructions.

Before beginning I placed the Compaq on my UPS. I sure didn't want anything going wrong with the restore process. I also disconnected the internet (per instructions nothing but the monitor, keyboard, and mouse should be connected for recovery).

I went for the full disk wipe restoration, also recreating the restore partition on the hard drive, to basically put the Compaq back to what it was when new, including all the bundled software like MS Works. Yay!

This Compaq seems a lot quieter than my old HP. Except for when the CD's running. Then it's pretty noisy it turns out.

I began the process around 5:40 PM. It went well, though I had to basically kill time while hanging around to swap out disks. Once it was basically finished I had to enter some info for initial set up. During a shutdown around then I re-connected the Ethernet cable to the internet. By around 7 PM it was completely up and running and downloading successive Windows XP updates off the net for me to periodically install.

By 7:50 PM we'd reached the SP2 update install. By 8:14 PM we were re-booting after installation.

Thankfully I got a second shot at downloading and installing the free 12 month Computer Associates anti-virus program here (see a previous entry). I'd been concerned I might not get that chance. However, I did have to enter the order number I'd been previously given by the site to do so. Being an Old Computer Geezer I'd dutifully recorded that data in my notes of the time.

I almost always save a program download to disk first, then install it later. Among other things this makes it easier for me to make sure no other apps are open during the install process.

When I went to install the anti-virus program the installer warned me I needed to un-install the Norton anti-virus demo first, so I backed out of the installer and went to Windows XP Control Panels for adding and removing software to do the job.

Then I installed the Computer Associates anti-virus app. To get it to run I had to enter the license key given me the first time I'd downloaded and installed it. Which of course was also in my Old Computer Geezer notes. Heh, heh, heh. The program immediately scanned the PC for viruses as soon as it was up and running. No infection was found.

After this I manually hid some desktop icons I didn't want into a cleanup folder, and accidentally used the browser to go to Windows Update, then closed it again.

Immediately after that my new anti-virus program complained about being unable to update itself and my Windows update reported the latest updates downloaded in the last few minutes failed in installation.

I moved the anti-virus installer icon back out of its cleanup folder to the desktop to see if that would help, and restarted the computer.

I re-tried the stalled XP updates, but they still failed.

I adjusted some settings like the screen saver and XP auto updating more to my liking, and quit for the day.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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3-12-05: I add 512 MB of memory to the Compaq

To be at all useful the Presario absolutely had to have more memory. But how much? As much as possible has always been the usual recommendation, but I found out the hard way extra RAM beyond a certain point on a Windows ME PC was simply a waste of money.

But XP is supposed to be different. Plus many XP PCs come stock from the factory with 512 MB these days. I'm also hoping this machine will serve me well for many years to come. So I felt my decision should fall over on the more rather than less side. Therefore I went with 512 MB. For $75.72 (including shipping and sales tax) from Crucial.com. It may be I could have gotten it a little cheaper elsewhere, but I would also have suffered more uncertainities about whether I was getting the correct memory for my machine.

Yesterday I installed the extra 512 MB of memory into the S4020WM.

I ordered it on a Wednesday from Crucial.com. With 3-5 business day delivery. It arrived that Friday.

I already had the machine situated near to my main upgrade tools. I positioned a nice clamp-on worklight overhead (this is a dirt cheap bulb socket embedded in an aluminum bowl reflector with simple spring-loaded clamp base and switched line cord plug-in I've had since my Shadow days), plus turned on several other room lights, and rounded up a flashlight, Phillips and flat screwdrivers, needle-nose pliers, and grounding strap.

The computer had been shut down properly the previous night, with no floppy or CD in any drive. So now I just unhooked it from everything, and plugged my grounding strap to the PC end of its power cord (the power cord's other end still being plugged into a switched-on surge protector).

The grounding strap has a metallic cloth wrist strap which grounds me to the Earth through the house grid for jobs like this, in order to protect sensitive parts from static electricity.

Note that you should not only be wearing the grounding strap during the operation, but repeatedly touching or stroking the metal parts of your PC too in order to keep voltage levels the same between you.

I'd previously skimmed some disassembly instructions for this model on the web, plus opened up plenty of different computers in my time, and had all my tools collected within three feet of the machine: so I thought I was ready to go. I was wrong.

I did recall I needed to lay the computer down on its side with the thumbscrew jutting out from the top edge of the rear panel. My brother had apparently removed any other screws which held that panel in place, and never re-inserted them.

I undid the thumbscrew and began trying to nudge or slide or pry the panel open, with no luck. I was unwilling to possibly do damage trying to open it, so figured I'd better retreat to the compaq.com web site (now a part of HP) for help.

I'd previously found disassembly info on the site somewhere, but this time all I could find was the user manual in pdf form. And neither my XP laptop or ME desktop seemed to possess an Adobe reader new enough to read the darn thing. So I had to go to Adobe.com and try to figure out which reader I could get to work on my computers. All Adobe's specs said a Pentium CPU was required, which threw me off until I realized they must mean a Pentium-class CPU of the original generation. I've never had a name brand Pentium in my life, plus haven't fooled with this aspect of things for a while, so Adobe confused me there for a moment.

Keep in mind virtually every PC built in the last ten years probably possesses a CPU equivalent to or better than the original Pentium generation.

After wasting maybe 30 minutes with the Adobe reader mess (I'd also attempted to download the pdf file for later reference use and gotten only garbage) I finally was able to open the user manual plus stash a copy on my laptop. There was even an odd problem with the Acrobat reader 7.0 that I couldn't click to accept or refuse the license agreement until after I'd minimized the MSIE window onscreen(?) But I had to guess my way out of that one. I almost used Control-Alt-Delete to get out of that because I thought I'd crashed.

I finally got to the info I needed, which was to pull the panel towards the front of the PC about an inch or so, and then lift off. Easier said than done. I had to exert so much force to get the panel to even begin sliding that when it finally did move things were very sudden and violent. But still OK, as I caught myself before things went too bad out of control. Note there's absolutely nothing to get hold of on the panel for this manuever: it's basically like sliding open one of those little battery access panels on a TV remote, only this panel is 20-30 times bigger and has no molded edges or anything to give you a grip in the necessary direction.

3-18-05 UPDATE: Turns out I was wrong on there being no provision on the panel for gripping it. There's actually a pretty sizable indentation near the rear of the panel that should help with opening it. I can't understand how I missed it. I guess the way I had the light pointed onto the case made it less obvious shadow-wise, plus my bad vision also contributed to the oversight. END UPDATE.

The insides looked pretty good. Except for a sizable cobweb and dust bunny collection. I used my old airbrushing air compressor at 30 PSI to thoroughly blow out the machine. This took several minutes as the case is pretty deep and some bunnies just blew around and around inside for quite a while. The cooling fan had a dust buildup too which I tried to take care of. The S4020WM case is much larger and more spacious than that of my HP XE783. So getting at the fan was much easier.

The Crucial memory card had its main chip-equipped side nearly covered by thick paper labels. No way I was going to install the memory like that, because of possible overheating problems I thought. But as I prepared to remove the labels by more closely examining them, I found the statement that removal would void the warranty. Yikes! How crazy is that? So I left the card wrapped in its TWO DIFFERENT massive paper labels for install. Though I sure didn't like it.

This Presario model has two memory slots, one filled at the factory with a 128 MB card. The other was empty so all I had to do was insert it and lock it down. But memory installation is rarely that cut and dried.

I opened up the latches for the empty slot.

Memory cards usually only go in one way. Unfortunately that way is not always obvious or spelled out for you. And the seating pressures you often have to apply even when everything's properly aligned can be scary. If things aren't lined up correctly such pressures could ruin your memory card and/or your motherboard. Not to mention the possible physical injuries to yourself.

So at this point I closely examined the open slot and the memory card itself for clues to proper insertion.

Aha! The tiny gold connectors in the slot stopped much shorter from the roughly central notch on one side than they did the other. So I turned the memory card to match it, and moved it into the slot.

Though the Compaq's innards are pretty spacious in many spots, immediately above the open memory slot they were considerably less so. Sometimes you might have to disconnect some cables or at least move a wire bundle to the side and tie it off there to get workspace. But only do those things on a have-to basis, as it's easy to forget to put things back later, or forget how to do so.

Here I was able to simply nudge past wires as I worked. But it was difficult to make certain I had the card properly started into the slot. You simply can't see things in some cases. And the cards have an annoying habit of one end going in further than the other, which makes it almost impossible to make the whole thing seat properly-- sort of like a balky drawer in a cheap dresser, where it jams open because one side goes in easier than the other.

Proper alignment is crucial. You have to check it again and again every different way you can think of along the way. Because once it's lined up, you've got to put almost enough pressure on it to crack your motherboard, in many cases. Or at least it feels that way.

As usual, the card didn't want to go in deep enough for the latches to close back again. I finally got it though. And was surprised when done to find that the top edges of the new card after installation were actually lower in height than the old card beside it! And the old card had much less RAM on it!

So far as I could tell everything was as it should be with the memory card. So I turned my attention to clean up. Did I accidentally pull loose a connector anywhere inside? Or move a wire bundle to where it shouldn't be? I tried to make sure everything else in the case was put back the way it was when I entered.

I maneuvered the Presario's side panel to where its tabs would fall back into their case slots again, so I could slide it back on, in a more sedate reversal of the removal process.

I tightened the thumb-screw and plugged all the various connecting cables back in. Switched on.

It booted up. System specs said it now had 608 MB of RAM (32 are used for video). I tweaked the system preferences a little to adapt to the new resources. Turned the management of virtual memory size back over to automatic by XP, because previously I'd manually set it much larger in an effort to overcome inadequate memory for certain jobs.

The computer was much much faster now. Except for one thing. Whenever you first opened Internet Explorer there'd be a huge delay in actually web surfing, while at the bottom of the browser you'd see the words "Detecting proxy settings..."

This delay doesn't normally happen on any other computers here. It only just began happening on the Compaq relatively recently. Or at least I only noticed it recently.

I browsed around in the Compaq's XP internet settings looking for what may be causing this, but failed to find it. Then I checked out Internet Explorer's own preference settings, and there it was in the Connections settings. I did some trial and error changes there but they didn't correct the problem. So I slid over to the laptop to see what its IE settings were in that panel. No checkboxes checked there at all. So I changed the Presario's to match, and that fixed it.

The Compaq is now the fastest web surfer at WebFLUX Central. And maybe fastest in lots of other matters too-- time will tell.

I now let the computer just idle for a while. The memory needs to burn in. If a new chip failure's going to happen, it should do so in the first 24 hours or so of operation. Hence, the burn-in process. If you're going to have to replace the card, better to do it sooner rather than later.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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3-10-05: Further refinement of local possibilities nudge me into a revamp of a Compaq Presario S4020WM desktop

There's actually been two of these sitting here at WebFLUX Central for a while now. But they belonged to my programming brother, who ostensibly brought them around Christmas I believe in order to show off a networked game he'd made to a large gathering of family members.

He ended up leaving the two Presarios here-- but with a monitor for only one. I think it had something to do with him having a few too many PCs at home (he'd bought maybe half a dozen or more to emulate a company network he was employed to expand maybe two or three years ago, but that job ended a while back).

Not long after that he retrieved the lone monitor, leaving them both headless. Plus one of them he'd asked me to purposely keep NON-running because of important files he had on it. So one Presario was running here for a while, mostly used by my teenage nephew when he visited, or by my brother to show us new software he was working on.

As I had an extra 17 inch monitor from the old Compaq 5151, I replaced the running Presario's now missing monitor with that.

My brother and my nephew installed some 3D software on the Presario-- Blender and Anim8tor I believe.

After my brother heard I was considering trying to cobble together basically a big screen desktop from the laptop he gave me a year or so ago, he told me I could have the Presario desktop too.

My need for a newer desktop HAS been growing almost daily for a while now. But I'm also on a shoe-string budget, and vision-impaired to boot. Agh! So I had to take a hard look at the Presario's specs here before deciding which way I'd go.

If their specs basically look the same, a desktop will usually beat a laptop hands-down in the speed department. Why? Different types of hard drives mostly, I believe. That makes my ancient 700 MHz HP run circles around my 2 GHz Compaq Presario 2170 laptop in most daily chores. But desktops usually pose lots of other advantages over laptops too, like easier and cheaper expandability, better keyboards, and oodles more display options. So in general I've always preferred a desktop over a laptop.

But in the case between the S4020WM and the 2170, the specs were definitely not the same. The laptop possesses 256 MB RAM while the desktop had only 128. Yikes! This paucity of RAM made the desktop the slowest computer in the house, despite its 2 GHz CPU speed. It was painfully slow to use.

But there was possibly a worse caveat than this. Namely, I think my brother had completely formatted the hard disk (erased Windows XP, including its restore partition) to install Windows NT and Oracle, when the Preario had been in his corporate network emulation herd. Yikes! After that job was done he needed to remove his former employer's software and info, which he did with another disk wipe, after which he naturally wanted to revert the Presario back to its original XP OS for family use. But then discovered there'd apparently been no separate XP recovery CD bundled with the Presario when purchased new (buyers were supposed to manually make one based on the restore software on the hard drive according to the info he found at that point; Doh!). So I think he maybe used a recovery CD for a Windows XP laptop he also possessed to get the Presario back into XP mode again. Which may explain why I see the power management icons on the desktop, the sound drivers don't work, and I get other odd XP error messages on the PC from time to time.

So the Presario desktop's Windows OS is either incomplete or damaged or wrong (or all three), and there's no immediate way to restore it. I tried the computer's restore based on its hard disk and it said it needed a recovery CD.

My brother also gave me a full Windows XP installation CD though. So in a pinch I could try refreshing the Presario with that. But note this is a standalone XP CD, not related to the Presario in any way. So it would not include any of the bundled software which originally came with the Presario. Using it means I could end up with not even the basic functionality of MSWorks on the machine. Plus, as even my brother seems unsure about many of the details of what was and was not done with the Presario and the XP install disk and many of the other PCs in his lab at the time, I hope to avoid using the standalone XP install for the Presario due to the possibility of problems with the Windows mothership system for tracking XP usage worldwide. For I absolutely must have the Presario on the internet for it to be of value.

There's also no user manual with the machine, of course. Other considerations were that there was no active anti-virus protection on the PC when my brother dropped it off, and so another potential expense to begin using it (I managed to fix this for free though (see a previous entry for details)).

On the brighter side, the S4020WM is far and away the most modern PC platform on the premises. Here's the apparent specs:

2 GHz Athlon XP
128MB, expandable to 1 GB
40GB hard drive
All legacy PC ports
Several USB 2.0 ports (hey! I think this is the USB version that's comparable to Firewire in speed and bandwidth!)
4x AGP slot (for graphics cards upgrades; this may be the first PC I ever had with a real AGP slot)
Two empty PCI slots
Two empty (available) external drive bays, one 3.5 inch, one 5.25 inch
200 watt power supply

Note that my model may actually be S4020WM-B rather than plain S4020WM. The difference? No Firewire. And maybe some differences in bundled software at purchase too. But the details are hard to determine at this late date. The -B model may have been stripped of Firewire, etc., to sell a bit cheaper through outlets like CompUSA or something.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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2-24-05: I get 12 months of FREE anti-virus software for the Compaq after I download and install the XP SP2 update

The offer was from Computer Associates, and related to an overdue Windows XP SP2 update to the Compaq OS also performed on this day. I un-installed the horrible non-functioning Norton Anti-virus demo which would jump into your face every time you booted the machine. I used the new anti-viral software to do a complete scan of the machine. Nothing was found.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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2-24-05: I may try to build Picard's Enterprise viewscreen to get around vision impairment

CLICK HERE to follow the progress (or lack thereof).

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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1-6-04: Overheating HP-to-other-platform plans and acquiring a bigger display

To my personal anguish it appears most wise to act completely the opposite of what I usually do, and seek to err on the side of spending too much money rather than too little, in this matter of a new monitor.

According to late-breaking scientific reports computer use actually increases the risk of eye problems like I've been diagnosed with. Plus I can feel the strain in ways I never felt so strongly before. A better display might relieve such strain and help me stay off my expensive medicine-- therefore paying for itself after a while.

Too, if I cannot find a solution for this I'd simply have to abandon computing and the web: it's that serious. And banning computers and the web from my life would be like facing a nuclear winter for me personally. If I was rich maybe I could replace those elements more easily. But as it is, I can't imagine such a life.

So I went over all my research again-- plus did more-- and decided to go with a 20 inch LCD rather than a 19. I just hope that's big enough to get me by until other options come within my reach. I'll probably still have to use the mirrors even with the new display.

It looks like I'm now after a Viewsonic VX2000 20 incher, and the vendor chosen may be monitoroutlet.com.

The price was around $760 with free shipping at last check. Among the best prices available on the web for this display. And this vendor gets pretty high marks from the sources I've checked.

I've also figured out my transition strategy off the overheating HP over the coming months:

First connect the new display via VGA to the HP.

As needed or desired, replace the HP with the laptop, while adding a desktop keyboard (it already has a desktop optical mouse). This may allow me to utilize both the laptop LCD display and 20 inch display simultaneously. I also have a USB ZIP drive I can add to the laptop. This would put me into Windows XP on my primary machine. The laptop's already protected by anti-virus ware too. Boosting the laptop's RAM to 512 MB might speed it up, while finding a low cost PCMCIA DVI card would improve my display still further.

Further down the road possibly replace the laptop with a true desktop machine possessing a DVI connector, Windows XP, and a minimum of 512 MB RAM. By that time it might be sufficiently economical to add some TV viewing and PVR functionality to the mix too. Such stuff would come in handy to boost my personal productivity and recreational options in various ways. For instance, I could set it and forget it for recording the terribly rare TV shows I like to watch on my own schedule, while ridding myself of most of the commercials.

Another long term possibility would be actually constructing my own display projector. Preferably one which could be folded up to the ceiling when not in use. And maybe made use of much less costly bulb arrangements too. For instance, it seems to me a do-it-yourselfer could make use of various old-fashioned laser arrangements to get the light intensity required using much longer-lived and less costly bulbs than current projectors do. And maybe produce less heat too. Keep in mind commercial projectors are made for portability and general compactness. Throw those two priorities out the window for a home or office projector and lots of new possibilities spring forth. Old lasers used a long tube with elliptical ends, with a powerful light source being reflected perfectly into a collection mechanism which then expelled it out one end. It strikes me a similar arrangement could be concocted for a display. And today we have stuff like fiber optics the old guys didn't, for even more flexibility here.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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12-27-04: Smoke and mirrors for the vision impaired; the best deals in big displays; Mozilla update

Recall I had to move my HP from the office because of overheating problems.

Now it's my eyes that simply can't take it anymore. My 17 inch CRT monitor is no longer cutting it, especially in my newer HP quarters, where the deskspace is much more cramped than the one I had before.

After flailing about over a few weeks I came up with a stop gap measure: reducing the display res to 720x576, web browser text size to 150%, and viewing the display through two different mirrors rather than directly. The mirrors allow me to multiply the effective distance between my screen and my eyes-- a parameter which badly needed adjusting due to its contribution to eye strain. Two mirrors are required because of the reversal effect only one would have. The reduced display resolution makes the text larger and helps compensate for the mirror's effect of making the display overall look smaller (due to the total distance to the original image).

My present mirror set up is very crude, using junk available from the bowels of WebFLUX Central (basically a proof of concept trial). An old small bathroom medicine cabinet serves as one, while a larger naked mirror glass serves as the other. The cabinet sits atop a couple thick college workbooks, with a few paperback novels adjusting its vertical standing angle from the front. The larger unframed mirror is held in place by four fire bricks from our unused furnace. Both mirrors are angled at roughly 60 degrees from the wall behind my desk. I look directly into the largest one, while the cabinet mirror sets immediately to my left, with the CRT sitting in front of it. The CRT itself is facing the same direction it would if it was sitting before me-- only the cabinet mirror is facing it rather than I.

This arrangement sets my effective visual distance from my display screen at around four or five feet(!).

Note that the intervening distance and light loss in the mirrors also dims the final image some. I compensated for that by adding some 80 additional watts of fluorescent lighting to the HP's new location.

Yes, this is far from perfect. But in those cases where the print remains too small (like save file windows) I can always glance to my left for a direct distance of maybe 2.5 feet to see it better-- and this occasional distance change helps my eyes too.

This new set up is actually working pretty well at the moment. But I'm uncertain how it'll do in long drawn out work sessions (over the holidays family duties prevent such things). Plus it consumes tons of deskspace real estate I can ill afford-- not to mention limiting my virtual desktop size too. There's also the added maintenance requirements of keeping the mirrors clean, etc.

Of course, the ideal solution for someone like me would likely be a display projector of some sort where I could have an entire wall be my display maybe twelve feet away. I looked into it.

The bottomline on projectors? Super-expensive to buy and maintain. Easily thousands upfront, and having to replace bulbs every few months at $hundreds a pop(!) And besides all this projector placement would be highly inconvenient for most folks' office-space. Hence, the reason such projectors are still used mainly for corporate presentations in large conference rooms or even auditoriums.

Of course there's ways to junkstorm your way to such projector power, as outlined in Tom's Hardware Guide PCs & HowTo Supersize Your TV for $300 Build Your Own XGA Projector - Giant Wall Display. But it'd be easy for a simple mistake or bad part to make the project's 'cash money' cost zoom to several times the $300 budget suggested in the how-to. And you'd have a possibly even bigger projector placement problem with the junkstormed unit than the store-bought one (basically a means to fold the whole thing up to the ceiling when not in use would be handy: but that's a whole project in itself).

Building the thing might be fun, if you had the time to spare. And could afford risking a total loss of your $300 minimal budget if things didn't work out. But I have neither to spare. So my research turned to a different direction.

Big CRTs are the cheapest they've ever been in history. Unfortunately CRT images can pose many Gotchas for eye problem sufferers like me. By comparison LCDs are supposed to be much better for the eyes. But they cost much more per display inch too. And having eye problems means you need every display inch you can get. LCDs are flat panels too, which means they take up a fraction the deskspace of a comparable CRT.

As I write this 17 inch LCDs are the sweet spot in cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately I need at least a 19 incher. I base this on the present 17 inch Apple LCD attached to the G4, plus what's happening with my 17 inch CRT and the mirrors.

Mac users might ask why don't I just switch to the G4 from the HP. I wish I could! But the truth of the matter is I'd lose functionality and capability in almost every aspect of my life by doing so. I tried my darnedest to make do with a late model Mac via my iMac when I had it, and simply couldn't. Things that are free and commonly available for Windows are not for Macs. Plus Apple horribly screwed up the interface for OS X. And OS X is buggy as can be (as you'd expect of an infant GUI like X). Today anyone who prefers the original Mac interface but wants maximum modern power and functionality too must use Windows. Recall that Windows is basically a clone of the original Mac GUI-- while OS X is *%#@!$^&& (the gibberish represents wild cursing).

Plus even where a modern Mac can do something, you must pay dearly for it in cash. Significant sums over and above what the same thing would cost for a PC. So I'm personally way too poor (and ambitious) to use a Mac as my main or only computer. Even if I wanted to use that *%#@!$^&& OS X.

And Apple hardware quality seems to have gone down as their prices went up. Our G4 flat panel has a burned out backlight at this very moment, which makes the bottom half of the screen dimmer and harder to see.

So Macs simply are not an option here.

I even examined the possibility of using a combo HDTV-monitor for a replacement, in order to kill 1+ birds with one stone. But it turned out that option had even more caveats than the projectors at the moment. I also considered using two 17 inch LCDs simultaneously rather than one 19 incher (this would require adding a card too). But that didn't appear very cost-effective, despite what some PC magazines expressed to the contrary.

So it appears a 19 inch LCD is in my future. According to the latest reviews I've been able to sample, the best choice would be a $600-$700 Viewsonic VP912b, with the second best perhaps a $600+ Dell Ultrasharp 1905fp. And third best $400 Planar PL 1910M-bk. The main differences between all these are the number of positioning adjustment options and USB ports available onboard. Note adjustments could be pretty important vision-wise.

Of course to get absolutely the best display possible on LCDs you need to use a DVI connection. And DVIs are basically available at the end of 2004 only on the more expensive PCs-- usually ultra expensive Windows XP Media Center Editions.

Of course my over-heating HP may not be long for this world anyway, so a new PC may be unavoidable too. But after perusing my choices (and seeing the Media Centers still hold significant Gotchas! even if their price doesn't matter) I've concluded I'll get just a display sporting both DVI and VGA connectors soon, and a DVI equipped PC sometime later (when I have maybe no choice in the matter due to a dead HP).

As usual, the displays rated best buys are almost impossible to find at the normal outlets-- and so much tougher to locate bargain deals in as well. But I'm on the prowl...

Some other bookmarks I made along the way here include PC Magazine's Displays: The Essential Buying Guide and PC Magazine's Buying Guide: HDTVs.

I wish Mozilla would remember your text display size preferences like IE does. But at least I did find a keyword shortcut for on-the-fly adjustments (Control-plus or Control-minus).

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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10-19-04: Mozilla and overheating updates

Mozilla is doing great. Just yesterday I passed another milestone with it: saving a bookmarks/favorites file and emptying the browser's collection to start on a fresh batch. I expected to have to do the same in MSI Explorer too (since I didn't empty Explorer when I switched browsers a week or so back), but it turned out Mozilla had imported Explorer's favorites, so everything was in the one file upon export. Yay!

No more spontaneous restarts since the last reported, either-- although when the office temp gets up to around 80 I can hear the CPU fan start kicking in a lot; so the HP's pretty temp sensitive now.

Though I can ill afford to spend the money on a new PC, I sort of look forward to it too. Why? The HP's getting a bit slow for all the crap being thrown at web clients on the net these days. The ads blitz, animation, video, etc. Plus Windows ME simply doesn't work all that well. I gave this machine a ton of extra RAM and it didn't seem to help much. ME's not good at memory management. Maybe XP will be better.

The laptop is simply too slow to be used as a primary machine, plus its display is smallish too. If not for the ultra slow hard drive all portables are afflicted with, I could just add a giant monitor to it, right? Wrong. The keyboard stinks too. Don't get me wrong: it's great to have a backup machine which can work completely off the grid if needed, and is slightly portable too. But regular work requires a decent keyboard, display, and performance.

I'm starting to think American (and third world) citizens should always consider buying a UPS too for any new PC they buy.

It may be part of the HP's problems over the past year were due to me not emptying the recycle bin as frequently as I should have. I do TONS of file management, and incompletely done file deletions seem to weigh heavily upon Windows ME in overhead.

The HP does at times act more sluggish than it should about copying files over the LAN or to a ZIP disk. Even fresh after a restart. I'm unsure why.

Compaq Presario S4020WM User's Log Contents
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Copyright © 2004-2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.