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Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log

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This page last updated on or about 3-18-05

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EDITOR'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NOTE: Certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed below may be out-of-date by the time you read this.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.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Table of Contents

3-18-05: I'm in transition between the HP and a Compaq Presario S4020WM

CLICK HERE to see the new user log for that machine.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

2-24-05: Junkstorming Captain Picard's Enterprise viewscreen

As this project can drive a page of its own for a while, I spun it off. CLICK HERE to see it.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

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-- therefor 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.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

1-6-04: Windows Update seems broken on the HP; My UPS protects the HP from another power blink

It happened around 1:37 PM. All the lights in WebFLUX Central went out for less than a second, then came back on again.

Only the HP and laptops in the building were unaffected. I heard the UPS click when it happened.

We did experience a brief outage of internet access over the LAN, as the router and cable modem don't have their own UPS systems and so must reboot after such events. Reboots can take several minutes. In some cases they'll get confused and I'll have to do a manual reboot of both. There's also maybe three network switches downstream of the router which have no UPS either.

Both my HP and laptop were file-sharing during the blink, but no files were actually being transferred at the moment. So no effect has been detected there.

Unrelated to the above:

I neglected to mention it before as I didn't realize it would become a nagging problem. But my HP's Windows update seems to freeze up the computer when I try to use it now. The little icon signifying an update was ready for install appeared a few weeks back. I dutifully install any and all critical updates Microsoft deems necessary for my HP. But this time once the update screen popped up nothing else would happen for a long, long time. I'd finally have to use Control-Alt-Delete or even switch off the UPS power to get out of it. Just in case the first time or two was a fluke I tried three different times I think so far. But my Windows update now seems broken.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

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).

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

11-27-04: I've moved the HP out of my office; also Mozilla, UPS, and backups update

I'm still using the PC. But as it had to be moved from the comparatively hot office environment anyway (plus circumstances appear to be pressuring me to lose the office space itself too) I just went ahead and did it.

The move may hopefully allow me a bit less disturbance to my workflow from external factors: for my office had become quite a public forum and meeting place at WebFLUX Central. The noise level alone was sometimes astounding.

I had to add a new network cable to our LAN to accommodate the move.

Mozilla is doing great on the PC. But it seems I now have an extra step to do when clearing out my favorites/bookmarks, etc. Namely, I must clear out the download manager too. For Mozilla becomes noticeably slower if you don't.

I still haven't added plug-ins for Flash or Shockwave. It appears doing so might drastically worsen my browser stability and maybe even cause sporadic boot up problems. For since switching from IE to Mozilla and avoiding renewing the plug-ins stability and boot up quality both seem to have improved a lot.

Regarding the UPS, I've been unable to find much in the way of documentation for the unit online. So much about it remains a mystery to me. It also seems that WebFLUX Central must suffer a lot more power fluctuations than I ever suspected prior to getting the UPS: for it loudly clicks quite often, usually in conjunction with a slight flicker in office lighting.

I routinely back up newly created or updated files on the HP to the laptop over the LAN. And occasionally burn an archival CD of these files. Recently I also considered again the not-so-theoretical horrors of rebuilding my two separate web sites from scratch, in the wake of a data disaster or such.

I've actually been forced to rebuild from scratch several times already for various reasons, many of them the fault of others rather than myself. The meltdown of my original host/registrar for jrmooneyham.com being the most glaring example. Agh!

But still worse could happen. Including all my backups at WebFLUX Central being destroyed. Plus my huge backlog of as-yet unposted original content still undergoing editing-- some of it only now emerging from over a decade's worth of work. Like my novel. E-yikes!

So I explored a new avenue of my current host packages: the substantial diskspace offerings and possibility of non-public folders in which to store such stuff. And did it. Uploaded virtually all my most valuable files to those private spots.

I did it in cross-wise fashion regarding existing site content. That is, backed up the latest content of jmooneyham.com to a private folder on jrmooneyham.com and vice versa. Plus put as yet unposted material there as well. So in theory I should be able to recover from a terrible disaster without retreating further back than that backup date.

I did forget to include the C source code for Pathfinder 1.1 though-- as apparently I didn't have it handy at the time. But I'll try to rectify that soon.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

10-20-04: The UPS saves me from another power blink

It happened a bit before noon. I noticed my office lights flicker and the UPS let out a loud click. But my HP kept running. Yay!

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

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.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

10-12-04: A tentative switch from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Mozilla, out of desperation; a files backup update

I guess I just plain wore out Microsoft Internet Explorer. It's gradually declined in functionality the last year, until now it's become almost worthless for web research purposes. I can no longer view page source HTML to save it to disk (the optimal way to save web pages, unless you require the graphics too). For a week or so I resorted to plain text saves, but that will create oodles of problems for me later, as such files often get scrambled in content due to web page complexity.

I tried a few things to fix this, to no avail. So I downloaded and installed Mozilla 1.7.

Note Mozilla 1.7 is open source, which I'm definitely for. However, when I tried it before on an iMac it didn't work nearly as well as the old creaking Microsoft Explorer 5.2 or whatever available for OS X these days. At least not when you want it to use Flash and Shockwave game plug-ins for kids too.

The HP doesn't really need Shockwave and Flash though. I like having them for certain web site goodies, but can do without them. And likely will from here on out on the HP.

I may also avoid certain Internet Explorer security problems by using Mozilla. During the past year major internet authorities actually recommended dumping Explorer for alternative browsers due to horrendous security issues.

But the vast majority of folks use and will continue to use Explorer. So web authors MUST preview their pages in Explorer to make sure they display and work properly for the majority of readers.

I've so far only spent a few hours with Mozilla on the HP. It renders pages faster than Explorer, and offers a few geeky options compared to Explorer which I like. It installed wonderfully fast and easy. I made it my default browser.

I have to change my behavior and go up a bit of a learning curve here, in regards to my HTML editing and previewing. Bookmarking sites and saving their HTML to disk is a bit different from MSIE: but it's a relief just to have such capabilities again, after the worsening behavior of MSIE over past months-- and especially the past week.

Any Mozilla glitches? So far the only site that shows display problems is Businessweek. Mozilla also displays a cosmetic glitch in general page displays on occasion, seemingly related to page scrolling (scrolling up or down removes the pixel garbage on-screen). But these two items by themselves are relatively minor.

Off the bat I wanted to set Mozilla to use Outlook Express as the default email app, but couldn't see how. I may end up using Mozilla's built-in email (which might actually add to my system security). I may also use what appears to be a built-in web editor, at some point.

I don't know if Microsoft noticed my switch to Mozilla, or it's only a coincidence: but suddenly as I typed this a software update from Microsoft automatically downloaded in the background.

I hope this isn't an attack on my software preferences, as Microsoft, Apple, and Real are all prone to doing in regards to media players and other apps. I usually only install Microsoft critical updates.

Files backup update: At the moment I'm mostly editing on the HP (much less frequently on the laptop), and copying the incrementally updated files from one machine to the other over the LAN. I also perform manual backups onto other disks. When using the laptop I back up to old fashioned 1.44 MB floppies (most of my files are plain text HTML no larger than 200 k each) with a SmartDisk USB floppy drive salvaged from another user at WebFLUX Central who hadn't used the drive in years. On the HP I back up to 100 MB ZIP disks.

I also on much rarer occasion make archival CDs, from the HP and/or the laptop. However, these archives are spottier and less reliable than I'd like, for reasons described in earlier entries on this page.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

10-3-04: The aging HP can't stand the heat anymore: the UPS protects me from a power blink

Well, after a procession of cooler days here at WebFLUX Central, it's become apparent that the HP is much more sensitive to heat now than previous years, even despite my cleaning out the dust inside.

When temps reach around 84 degrees in my office/outside (they track remarkably close together, due to my office ceiling being just around eight inches below a roof facing southwest) my CPU fan has to run every time I click something on-screen. But at ten degrees less, the CPU fan never comes on. YIKES!

So it looks like the HP has at most another six months or so in my office before it must be replaced, or moved to a cooler spot at WebFLUX Central, or a room air conditioner installed specifically for the office. The floor box fans I use don't seem to help the HP as much as they do me. And much as I hate to admit it, the HP's problem will likely only worsen over time.

The lower floor seems to be consistently cooler. But once it's moved there, the HP will become almost exclusively a kids' machine, alas.

The lights flickered at WebFLUX Central again the other day. The HP, on the UPS, kept running though. I noticed the UPS emit an audible click when the lights flickered. This was perhaps the sound of the power switchover to battery for an instant.

My brother didn't give me any manual with the UPS, so when I get the chance I plan to look for one on the internet. But so far I seem to be getting along fine without one.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-29-04: Another spontaneous restart; but it doesn't seem due to overheating

My first spontaneous restart of the HP since taking it apart and blowing it out happened today, at around 5:50 PM.

But it came during or immediately upon the heels of a McAfee anti-virus update occuring while I was simultaneously using my web browser to confirm the successful upload of a web page to my site. So only a minute or so before I'd been using a FTP program for uploading. Just before that I backed up files to a ZIP disk; before that backed up files over the LAN to the laptop; before that performed lots of back and forth between my HTML editor and the web browser, working on the file to be uploaded. I'd been working on that and other files for a few hours on the HP; before that I spent a few hours compiling news articles off the web for on-going research purposes.

It was only 78 degrees in the office. Considerably cooler than some past days when no spontaneous reboot took place.

Yesterday just after 7 PM I stuck a ZIP disk into the HP to back up a file and instantly crashed. Room temperature was 78.5 degrees. I did NOT attempt to eject the ZIP disk: I was afraid ejection might harm the data on the disk under these conditions (there were previous backups present).

Windows gave an error message something like this:

MCSCAN32(01) + 0008875A Error: OE: 0028: E900875A

To me this appeared to be an error related to my McAfee anti-virus software. According to my notes I'd received an automatic McAfee update only minutes before.

The HP was hung up. CTRL-ALT-DEL did nothing. I turned off the UPS to kill the HP's power feed. Waited ten seconds. Switched the UPS and HP back on.

I had to wait through the interminable Scandisk run again, in Windows ME's version of the automatic desktop rebuilding which Mac OS 8 and 9 users had to go through every time their Macs crashed-- which was often about once to several times per work session (AGH!).

When rebooting was almost done McAfee gave me an error message saying I needed to re-install McAfee again as parts were missing or something. I went to the McAfee start bar icon and chose Updates in the pop up menu, which took me to their web site. Thankfully I did NOT have to log in again as I had not long before (see below). But for a while during the re-installation I wondered if I was locked up again.

After this the HP seemed OK again.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-25-04: The HP hasn't spontaneously rebooted again so far

So far I've not yet experienced another spontaneous reboot of the HP since blowing out its dust and reseating the RAM cards. In some ways it seems to be running perceptibly better (read: faster)-- but I could be imagining that.

One disconcerting development: now that I'm aware of the two internal fans, I'm positive I can hear the one on the power supply running constantly when the HP is operating, and the one on the CPU running briefly every time I do something on the HP which makes the CPU work harder. Like click a button or select from a menu. I hear the CPU fan run-spike around once every minute or so at this rate.

I believe what's happened is I couldn't clean the dust off and out of the CPU fan completely, as I just couldn't get at it inside the machine. So my efforts unbalanced the dirt load on the fan and/or the elements it must pull or push air through. This imbalance now makes the fan considerably louder than it was before. And apparently it's regulated to run whenever the CPU processing load goes much above idle. At least under the fairly warm conditions the HP finds itself in at the moment.

I've also been periodically tracking the temperature and time when using the HP, since blowing it out. So far the office temperature as ranged between 73 and 84 degrees during my work sessions with the machine.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-24-04: I use McAfee's quarantined files manager

I visited McAfee's quarantined files manager for the first time today, and was surprised to see quite a few more files there than I had put there personally a few days before. Apparently McAfee had itself stuck some suspect file attachments from incoming e-mail in there, without me knowing about it.

I deleted everything in there marked as email attachments or email message body, closed McAfee, and restarted.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-23-04: A bad spontaneous rebooting problem forces me to open up the computer, blow out accumulated dust, and reseat its memory cards

The spontaneous rebooting of the HP has gotten worse. Sometimes it happens immediately upon boot up. But usually it does so sometime at random during the day. So far it's usually happened when the machine was idling (i.e., I wasn't actually at the keyboard). But once it occured immediately after I'd used the ZIP drive.

As usual Scan disk ran after the reboot. As UN-usual though, a warning dialog said I'd lost part of my McAfee anti-virus app and would need to re-install it. I used McAfee's pop up menu from its icon in my Start bar to go to updates, and had to log in with my McAfee password to get a re-install (good thing I keep a list of all my passwords handy).

Not long ago I did a virus scan of the HP's drive looking for potential causes of the reboots and other problems, and McAfee flagged some programs which weren't viruses, but possibly items I wouldn't want onboard for other reasons, as they could be used against me in various ways-- but they also had some legitimate uses too. I 'quarantined' these rather than 'cleaning' or deleting them. McAfee quarantines apps by encrypting them so they can't run when called.

The quarantining didn't stop the reboots. And looks to have actually worsened another problem. Namely, I more frequently encounter problems viewing the HTML source code for a web page now than before. This is a big thing for me as I collect these pages for research purposes, so I can refer back to them later for citation info as needed. So I'll likely take at least a few of these items out of quarantine again soon.

I've sought some answers for the rebooting problem on the web before: now I did some more.

Several items were suggested. A failing power supply. Overheating due to a dead cooling fan and/or excessive dust. Slight corrosion on the memory card leads. The Windows ME OS. Blowing out the dust and reseating the RAM cards were included among possible solutions. Other possibilities listed were faulty network cards and/or related BIOS, a glitch in the web browser or various device drivers (once a reboot came immediately after using a ZIP disk).

It does get pretty warm in my office in the summer and fall. No air conditioning here. Sometimes three different computers (including a 2 CPU G4), a large printer, me, various lights, plus as many as five kids and even another grownup might be crammed into this tiny space for significant periods of time. And now I'd added a UPS too. ALL these items produce waste heat. It's 84 degrees in here as I write this, alone, only the HP and laptop, three lights, a box fan, and the UPS running. It's 83 outside in the shade, according to sensors at 5:54 PM.

I use a large box fan at times. But I believe the office usually tops out around the high eighties, low nineties.

Some years it gets worse of course. WebFLUX Central is of 100 year old construction, with many of its windows frozen shut by time and paint. Some years ago I dismantled the top part of a window in my office and rigged a shelf there to hold the near-window-sized box fan to pull hot air out of the office and hopefully cooler air from the rest of the structure. I also bought a second box fan to help the process by pulling air in through the office door.

In cold weather it's the opposite, with me sometimes needing to bundle up for the office (the main heating system barely reaches this part of the structure).

When it gets unbearable for me personally I just shut everything down and go try to do other, non-computing related chores 'til later.

Still, I was skeptical about potential overheating. Older computers I'd used here had often endured higher temperatures and more rugged running schedules than the HP.

But I had to do something. The overheating seemed the first and potentially most cost-effective priority to check out. The HP has been here since January 2001, and used almost daily but for a period of 4-5 months when I was away on a remote job stint. And WebFLUX Central isn't just a hot place: it's also a dusty one.

I describe opening the HP case in earlier log entries.

As usual, the moment it looked like I might actually begin touching internal components of the computer in any way I immediately put on my wrist grounding strap and connected it to a live ground.

There did turn out to be significant dust build up inside. And I was surprised to find the HP possessed not one but two internal fans. And neither was positioned directly to pull or push at the main vent on the rear of the machine like I was used to computers doing. No wonder the force of air out there had always seemed anemic at best. It seems one fan cools the power supply while the other cools the CPU.

Without the use of my small hand mirror from my pocket tool kit I might never have discovered the second fan.

As discussed before, this HP is not the easiest computer to work on. You can barely do maintenance on it with the way it opens up for same. Cables come unplugged without you knowing it as you pull open the side, and you might have to figure out where they were originally connected for yourself.

I used my small air compressor from my air-brushing days to blow out the case as best I could with 10 PSI (pounds per square inch). I have a special conical nozzle and long hose coil for such things. The small tankless 1/2 horsepower air compressor is a Sears Craftsman 100 PSI unit I bought back in the dinosaur ages (read: maybe early eighties).

I didn't intend to reseat the RAM, but ended up doing so anyway, when a close examination indicated one card didn't seem as firmly seated on one end as the other. The problem card of course had to be the one deepest in. So after I pulled it I couldn't re-insert it until I'd also pulled the second card. So both cards ended up re-seated. And after I'd done my best to re-install the cards, they still ended up looking exactly as they had before I'd done anything at all.

However, pulling the memory cards did reveal a nasty bit of dust buildup right along the middle of one of the places the cards were inserted. Somehow a previous use of my small air compressor had failed to dislodge this bit.

I ended up repeating my blow out efforts on the computer from different sides and angles, and even turned the pressure up to 30 PSI when some dust accumulations proved tougher to dislodge or reach than I expected.

The CPU cooling flanges hidden behind its fan blades seemed especially tough to clear of grime.

I definitely didn't want to tear the PC down all the way to its screws to do all this though.

I was tempted to try firing up the HP naked: that is, without re-installing its outer case cover-- so I could visually verify the internal fans were both working. But heck, one or both might be thermostat controlled and so NOT run all the time, normally. It was also pretty tough to see either fan at all, no matter what you did, as both faced the interior of the machine and were visually blocked almost completey from casual observations. Plus, I'd be taking significant risks running the machine naked. So I decided just to go with what I'd already done and see what happened.

As I write this it's 6:53 PM, and 84 degrees in the office. I've been using the HP steadily since I got it back together and rebooted around 3:15 PM, with the office as 81 degrees.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-11-04: The HP gets a UPS

My brother dropped off an APC 725 ES today. The HP is running through it now.

From what checking I've done so far this seems to be the exact unit my research showed would be sufficient for the HP if not the G4 (see previous items in this log). I'm unsure how old it is and how much longer it may be before its battery may need replacement, but at the moment a green light shows on it and everything just seems better, with one less worry about my primary computing platform.

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-10-04: I'm stymied in regards to buying a UPS; but maybe that's a good thing

Well, I did my research to determine exactly what I was after, then shopped around for price, and went through the whole rigamorole of buying an uninterruptible power supply for WebFLUX Central-- only to be stymied at the very last step by the merchant's flawed database.

Sadly, the vendor was one of my personal favorites, whom I've bought from fairly frequently in the past (at least frequently compared to any other vendors I bought from: I try to keep my buying to an absolute minimum).

My vendor had the very best price I'd found anywhere on an APC BR800 UPS: $99.99. Compared to as much as almost twice that at other places. With shipping included it was going to total $ 110.53. Yay!

But first I had to log in via email address and password. I'd done this before, but it'd been long enough that I had no idea what my password was and didn't want to look it up. So I figured I'd just make a new password and order the UPS. The vendor's site wouldn't let me. Insisted on the original password that went with my email address. Sigh.

I clicked the 'forgot my password' thingie and the site said it'd send me my password via email shortly. I began checking my email every few seconds. And waited. And waited some more. Keep in mind I was already set to buy, having already selected the UPS I wanted. I also had many other things I needed to do besides this.

I waited some more. Checked my email some more. Nothing.

Darn! I started rummaging around my personal effects looking for my old vendor password. In a few minutes I found it. About that time my password reminder email from the vendor showed up, telling me what I'd already discovered for myself.

Finally! I thought. I logged in. My vendor already had all my personal info from my prior orders, I just needed to type in my new credit card data. I triple-checked everything. A-OK. Clicked to perform the transaction.


My order wouldn't work. According to the vendor's site my zip code was for a different US state than the one where I reside. What the heck? I double-checked the zip code that's practically written into my DNA to make sure I hadn't done a typo or had an Alzheimer's moment, and it was correct. The same one stamped on my driver's license by my home state, and used on all the mail I get at WebFLUX Central. It wasn't me with the mental aberration: it was my vendor's database.

This was the same ZIP code to which my vendor had already shipped me merchandise in the past.

Suddenly the cost and risk of buying the UPS had gone up dramatically, in terms of the personal manhours required, and the likelihood of me actually procuring the item in question. Email tag over the next couple days with customer support, plus going through the log-in and order process again was one alternative. Another was using a telephone to follow commands pushing buttons from a robot and listening to Muzak for maybe 20-30 minutes to MAYBE get the snafu straightened out-- and maybe not.

And according to the vendor's online catalog they could be about to run out of the UPS any second. 'While supplies last' didn't sound like very long.

Harumph! I logged out from the site, left my office, and discovered my brother was in the building. I told him about the snafu and he told me he had a UPS he wasn't using and would bring it to me when he got the chance.

Hopefully his UPS will be sufficiently powerful enough to protect at least the HP desktop, if not the PowerMac G4 (I'd planned to get one strong enough for either, but switch it back and forth as necessary between the two machines).

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

9-6-04: America's collapsing power grid is forcing me to buy a UPS

The stability of the USA power grid is getting atrocious. Our power blinked again today while my HP desktop was idling, as I grabbed myself a bite to eat. I immediately shut off all power to the machine after it was killed by the outage, and didn't try booting it again for a couple hours (because sometimes these outages come in clusters).

That does it. I MUST have an uninterruptible power supply for the desktops. I did some more homework on the issue and it appears something like along the lines of an APC ES 725 Broadband (BE 725BB) would offer nominal protection for the HP, while an APC RS 800 VA (BR800) class device would be needed for the PowerMac G4 (dual CPUs and all that). In both cases the computer systems plus monitors would have at least 24 minutes of power after everything else went dead. I figure 15-20 minutes should be plenty for me to do an incremental backup of newly modified files and then an orderly shut down. Unless I'm on fire or something, anyway.

Current street prices on such units seem to run around $90 and $100+, respectively.

I hate to spend the money but I've got to do something, and becoming completely independent of the power grid at this point in history is only practical for at minimum the ''poorest rich'' classes among us-- or else folks living in ditches in Afghanistan or Bangladesh.

There's also the cost of downtime and repairs/replacements to consider here. These power outages are wreaking havoc with my productivity and business planning. As I'm currently toiling away at creating an e-commerce store on-site, pretty soon I could face the ire of customers too if things go south. At least with some additional power protection I should suffer a bit fewer computer-related problems.

I'm leaning at the moment towards getting just one UPS-- the larger one-- and mainly using it for my primary desktop at the moment, the HP PC. However, the unit would be powerful enough to use with the Mac G4 instead if needed.

When I re-booted the HP it did its scan disk thing and seemed OK once more.

Our power is blinking here nowadays around once every few weeks during waking hours, and staying completely out for 30 minutes to hours about once every few months. And this is typically during excellent weather, when there's no storms or winds to blame it on. Though a few years back we were without electricity for something like 14 hours straight after a snowstorm-- and were getting pretty darn cold by the time we finally got relief.

Compare this increasing frequency of outages the last several years with our experience much further back: when I was running a Mac IIcx. From around mid-1990 through maybe mid-1996(?) I used a Mac IIcx for just about everything. For the last two or three years of that my hard drive was flakey, threatening not to spin back up again if ever shut down. I'd seen this happen in a bunch of corporate Macs I bought around a year before the personal IIcx, so I was familiar with the problem. To get them to boot up so I could retrieve data for my engineers I'd had to 'knock them around' a bit just as I switched them on, in order to free the drive from its stickiness problem. For compact, one-piece Macs like the SEs I'd lift them off a desk an inch or two and then a bit heavily drop them back onto the table top as I switched on. For modular Macs like the IIcx I'd open up the case and tap the hard drive directly as I switched it on.

Recall everything computer-related cost a lot more in those days. Plus I've always been on a shoe-string budget. So when my personal drive started acting this way during the mid-nineties or so, to extend its life I simply kept it running 24-7. For years. Sure, I'd sometimes swtich off the monitor at night, but the CPU itself was kept running day and night. Maybe once a year or so a power outage would force me to perform drive CPR again, but I believe most of those cases involved not local power outages but the need for us to cut all power at WebFLUX Central in order to do some new electrical wiring installations (new grounds for obsolete outlets, new main circuit breaker boxes, etc.).

So from merely skimming my old logs and finding very few mentions of power problems I know the local grid was acting better then than it is now.

Note WebFLUX Central is basically an urban dwelling in a small rural town, within easy walking distance of city hall, the city's public library and a major local supermarket. Heck, in 30-40 minutes you could walk to the closest Wal-Mart Super Center. The town's population size? Roughly 7,000 I believe.

The town is located in the TVA region, which means our local power grid has lots and lots of hydroelectric dams to keep it going both cheaply and reliably. And those dams are fed by one of the highest annual rainfall rates anywhere. Add a few more decades of global warming and we might develop a rain forest here on the shoulders of the Smoky Mountains (along with malaria epidemics).

So why can't we keep the lights on?

And if we are in such a plight, think how much worse off lots of other Americans may be...

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion XE783 User's Log Contents

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