05 December 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Post from December 2009, removed (you'll soon see why), but then re-posted for certain reasons having to do with Blondie's having seen it during its brief existence while Mlemelymen did not. Look fast. (Not exactly possible.) It will disappear again soon.

Where have I been you ask? Read on, and you shall have your answer.

The moral of the following story—which it is important to state here, because no doubt this will be a long story, and I know everybody is particularly busy at this time of year and will want to know the moral even if having no time for the story—is that thanks to the Internet, ANYBODY can do ANYTHING. (So good news, Al. If that climate-change thing doesn’t work out, you always have this to fall back on.)

I know this from experience, and you can’t argue with experience. Yesterday, for reasons I won’t detail here because already this story is too long, I decided that the person who advised it was right and I HAD to have a second computer monitor so that I could get my work done more easily. I’m working 12-16 hours a day, six days a week, so you know that this was a crisis, a necessity, or I just wouldn’t have taken the time (I guessed it would take half an hour or so) to deal with it.

Step 1. Find an extra monitor around the house. (Which, according to the first online instructions I consult, is “easy,” because everybody has a couple extra monitors kicking around.) I find a good one left behind by my computer genius son-in-law … or wait, no … it was the one I got to set myself up away from the chaos in the study so that I could write my novels on my laptop (MacBook, also another story) that I got all hooked up with a full-sized remote keyboard and mouse and a printer thanks to a USB hub with a pretty blue light …. Rats. I forgot that THAT was the one I took. I’ll NEVER write that novel now! Stuvey’s monitor is hooked up to the e-Machine I reformatted and gave to Doug when I bought this piece-of-junk Systemax from Tiger Direct ….

Step 2. Unplug the monitor from all the stuff it’s hooked up to and bring it down to the study. For good measure, bring down the lighted USB hub and that weird-looking random cable with the plastic dealy still on one end. (Where did that come from? Did Stuvey leave it?)

Step 2b. Put the monitor on the floor in the study.

Step 2a. First make room on the floor with your right foot, so you can put the monitor down while you make room on the desk. Just throw stuff into one of the “to-be-filed” laundry baskets that form the structure of the study floor. Try to get most of the important work-related stuff into one conspicuous pile.

Step 2c. Position the two monitors on the desk in an attractive fashion, hiding as much of the junk behind them as possible.

Step 3. Go back to work on your single screen for awhile—check a couple European Court case topics, load a couple OSCE documents, check all four e-mail accounts, look at Facebook for a secbecause accessing the back of the PC is something you just can’t face at the moment.

Step 4. Go get something to eat. (This is not reverting. Approaching the back of the PC tower is very, very stressful.)

Step 5. Close all of your documents and turn off the computer.

Step 6. Take a deep breath. Unplug the Monster Cable from the Deskjet 6122 (still using a parallel port because there are never enough USB ports), because you know it’s too short to permit pulling the PC out of the compartment on the desk while it’s still attached.

Step 7. Get down on the floor and pull out the stupid tower, ripping all of the cords out of the back, power cord first.

Step 8. Notice that there doesn’t appear to be a place to plug in an extra monitor. There is an out thing next to the in thing where the monitor was plugged. Is this promising?

Step 9. Go find your laptop and look up “add second monitor” and “install additional monitor” and stuff like that.

Step 10. Discover that your piece-of-junk Systemax has onboard VGA. Learn what that means. Look at diagrams and photos of motherboards that you will later discover do not resemble your own.

Step 21. (intermediate steps deleted) Open the case and look in. No, not that side, stupid. That’s the back of the motherboard. The OTHER side. Find the can of air and blow out all the dust. Accidentally come across the container of screen wipes. Clean all the screens you can find.

Step 22. Locate the potential PCI-16 slot. It’s not orange, like the one in the picture (or like the extra memory slot you notice up there in the other corner), nor is it any of the other colors predicted. It’s just cream-colored, but it looks to be the right size.

Step 23. Give a sigh, because all of your favorite computer-repair places have closed down (things are so cheap now; everybody just replaces), and haul the PC out to the car, and head for town.

Step 24. While waiting in the traffic jam alongside the mall, ponder the options. Can’t bear the thought of Best Buy. What was that place by Outback Steak House where Alex Hall used to work? Gone, alas. And Circuit City is gone. That leaves Office Depot and Office Max. Depot. Then you can pick up the mauve, pink, and green yarn LaRue wants from JoAnn while you’re at it. More traffic, more traffic, more traffic. Ah! …. Oh! Office Depot is gone!!! [Find out later it has just moved over there by Best Buy.] Okay. Forget the yarn. Just get to Office Max. Nobody is ever in there. Might cost too much, but should be a snap.

Step 25. Get almost run down by a chick in a brand-new purple-gray Accord who doesn’t believe stopsigns are for rich people. Take the PC into Office Max.

Step 26. Locate a bright-looking sales person (male) because the only other sales person in sight is waiting on the only other customers in the store, a middle-aged couple trying to decide on the proper printer. Snort. If only MY problem were so simple …..

Step 27. Open the case to show the sales guy what you need, and discover that he knows absolutely nothing but helpfully says that you can bring anything back within 14 days even if you have opened it. Okay, so since there are only two video cards on the shelf, take the less expensive one. I know, Stuvey, I know. I wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place if I’d learn to consult you first instead of just buying the cheapest, handiest thing that might do. But I’m in a hurry, and I don’t want to bother you. (That will come later when I’m REALLY in a mess.)

Step 28. While you’re at it, pick up the extra RAM (which you figure out by yourself, because the sales guy doesn’t even know where to look to see what you need and apparently has never heard of matching SIMS or DDR or .....). {Take a moment to reflect upon the good old days when you were learning the difference between RAM and ROM, when the DOS Prompt was a wonder to behold, when a kilobyte was GINORMOUS, and when you wrestled for hours with trying to get Prince of Persia and Tetris to work on Christmas morning before, again, ruining Christmas for Brother Burt by phoning for help.} (This was before Stuvey had any idea our family existed. And long long before I could possibly have imagined that Em would bring a computer genius into the family.)

Step 29. While you’re at it, get a DVI-A-to-SVGA Adapter, because you just might need it.

Step 30. Pick up two Snickers bars, the first time you have bought candy since successfully losing 50 pounds. (Oh, did I fail to mention that? Another subject for another blog.)

Skip, skip, skip. Abandon the second person and the separate listing of steps (up to about Step 99 by now). We’re in “cloud” mode.

Card installed, extra hole in the back of the computer tower taped shut because wrong one pried open first. Find a screw that works to hold card in place located in the 7th place I look. (Find a phillips-head screw driver, as ubiquitous as fingernail clippers in this house and as impossible to find when you need them.) Carefully reassemble the GeForce 8400 GS Arcade fx PCI Express (256 MB) Graphics Accelerator Card box, just in case. (Incidentally, this model does not appear at www.arcadefxusa.com, as I will discover later.)

Memory SIM in, click. Close computer. Rip open the DVI Adapter (glad I picked that up) and attach it securely to the DVI port on the video card. Ignore the onboard VGA port and just attach both monitors with their VGA plugs to the video card, one into the VGA port and one into the Adapter. Reattach all the cords, including those external speakers that have been sitting on the desk plugged in place of the cord for original monitor's too-quiet-speaker. Push it all back into the compartment on the desk. Power up. Blink blink.

ONE monitor comes on.

Oh, I probably just need to install the drivers now. BUT my wireless mouse and keyboard are not responding! I know from experience that this is either a synching problem or a battery problem. I do all the synching maneuvers I can possibly figure out. Nothing. The batteries in the mouse are new. I look it up on my laptop and discover that I might have to choose a different USB port for the receiver, but I will NOT pull the PC out again! I try the other suggestions, moving thing around. I do a force re-boot. Nothing. Desperate, I change the batteries in the mouse, putting back in the ones I took out last time this happened. It works!! After a while the keyboard also works, and when later it stops, I just change the batteries. Apparently it isn’t new batteries these devices need, it’s just a change.

So now I can install the graphics card drivers. NVIDIA somethings or other. The instruction manual doesn’t match what happens on the screen, but close enough. Nothing changes, but now I have a couple more icons on the desktop. AND, I have no sound, though the speakers are on. (Did you know this? Internal Boards my contain "Lead" which may cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. Please wash your hands thoroughly after handling these products. I can't believe I forgot to do this .....)

I look at the backs of the monitors for sound cords, and I see that BOTH monitors have both DVI and VGA plug thingies. Only one has sound. I notice that the aforementioned mysterious cable is a DVI cable. So I take courage and pull the PC out of its cubicle again. Disconnect speakers, put the monitor’s speaker cable into the jack. Rearrange monitor cables. Nothing. Try again, with a different configuration. With adapter, without adapter. Both monitors in video card. One in card, other in onboard VGA. Vice versa. I finally learn just to leave the Monster Cable unhooked from the 6122 and permanently plugged into the parallel port. In all these maneuvers nothing changes except that sometimes one monitor comes on, sometimes the other.

Look it up again. Lots of discussion threads, conducted using English words interspersed with collections of capital letters among people who apparently understand (and enjoying insulting) one another. Something like this:

"Try TSFTX with UXOTSK only. Me with fine only not RFxUTP."

"This work only UXCTPSZ, dumb man. But you have problem if trying with DNSC>NBT+ or upsidedown read instruction."

Ah, I see.

Gameman42xg was helpful: “I had this problem and I just unplugged all the cables from both the monitors and the PC, waited 10 minutes, plugged everything in, and wham. Worked fine. I couldn’t believe it was that simple.”

It wasn’t. Eat the other Snickers Bar. Back to the discussion threads. I recognize one group of letters, NVIDIA. I have that! It needs to be uninstalled and reinstalled. That will fix it for sure. I do this. Nothing happens. I’m recalling that the earliest instruction I read ... 4.5 hours ago now ... about installing two monitors mentioned something about the potential need to disable the onboard VGA.

For this, I will need Stu. I phone. He says yes, that could be it, mentions BIOS, and my heart stops. You can do it, he says. He wonders about the make/model of my PC. I KNEW it.

“It says Systemax on the front.”

“So, you got the instruction manual?”

“Oh, probably. Maybe. Yeah. It’s probably in one of these laundry baskets here .... Shall I look for it?” (Please, please say no!)

“Yeah, that would be good. Meantime, I’ll see what I can find.”

I mention NVIDIA. “That could be it,” he says.

In the largest basket I find a bunch of computer stuff in a plastic bag. This is it! No. It’s from the e-Machine I gave to Doug. Defiantly I FILE the contents of the plastic bag, in the empty file labeled Computer in the desk drawer. (The desk I’m using now used to be upstairs in the bedroom where Doug works, but he didn’t like it, so I brought it down one day. It’s six feet wide, three feet deep, soft as a downy chick …. Sorry. I'm losing my mind.)

Somewhere else I have six or seven files named Computer that have stuff in them … like instructions for Prince of Persia … but who knows where they are. After a few minutes of pouring papers back and forth between laundry baskets, spreading a few on the floor, I give up and go online. (MacBook good for something after all!)

My TigerDirect order history shows everything back to the Year 2000, but not this PC. It CAN’T BE! I know it's there! Finally I figure out that the items are shown individually and that what looks like a whole order isn’t. This involves scrolling. I can do that. I find the Systemax, find the description online, and shoot the link to Stuvey, who’s ahead of me but needs the serial number. Even better, I have already scrolled down and found the instruction manual. I shoot the link for the manual back to Stu and start examining it.

I find the following info in an important-looking gray box: “Note: System default is to disable the onboard VGA when you insert a PCI-e graph card, in order to optimize the system performance.” Then it tells you what to do to override this. So the problem could be the reverse of what I thought. I need to enable, not disable. I'm good at this. I try to call Stu, but he has apparently decided to take Em out for a sans-bun Carl’s Jr. or something.

I decide to try it on my own.

But first I need to print these instructions. Some of the pages have blue BIOS screens with red stuff I might need, so I decide to print in color. Nothing. Oh wait! The Monster Cable! Plug it, print.

The first instruction says to remember to disconnect the power cable before installing the PCI card and gives a series of tips for finding the slot. I take care not to scream in frustration.

After checking Facebook for a few minutes for diversion, I re-boot and hit the DEL key. I enter the BIOS, with fear and trembling. It's a weird world behind the Window. A world where I don't belong. Moreover, the instructions from the manual don’t match what’s on the screen. I take a deep breath. It will have to be close enough. I go for it, enabling the onboard VGA. There is then some question about sharing and bridges. The instructions do not mention this, but I think, why not? Sharing and bridges are both good things. Save. Exit. Power down.

Pull out the PC (unplug the Monster Cable). Make sure one monitor is attached to the onboard VGA, the other to the DVI port of the graphics card. The adapter is useless. I try to find the packaging, but it’s ripped to bits. I locate most of the bits and reassemble them. No use. Twenty bucks down the drain. For that I could’ve bought the better graphics card. Move on.

Power on. Progress! One monitor goes on. And the other one flashes “Out of Range” before blinking off! This is hopeful. Monitor 2 is ALIVE! I look up "Out of Range" and find a promising set of instructions and print them out. (Not in color.)

Energized, I’m poised to follow the instructions, but things are once again not quite as the instructions say they should be. I do my best approximation. The tabs I need aren’t there, but I eventually come to a screen that mentions PCI and conflicts and interrupts. I know about conflicts from the old SCUSI-chain days. (I used to move pins and rearrange cables, stuff I only figured out for a minute and then forgot.) This could be it. “Bridge” is in there, too. Maybe that sharing thing wasn’t such a good idea. I just wish these instructions were more ….. for WINDOWS ME????!!!!! Who the heck uses Windows ME? Did Windows ME ever really exist??? I notice a pale gray link under the title of the document I’m consulting: “Visit the Windows XP Solution Center.”

Back to the Internet, because I am smart enough to have bought a computer with an XP downgrade (Vista is lurking here somewhere, but nowhere I’m looking), which is why I have the lousy Systemax in the first place. Find the web page, click on the XP link …. But apparently the only XP users who have experienced this problem are gamers who communicate in those collections of capital letters (consonants only) interspersed with insults, and nothing seems to apply to my situation at all.

Gamers? Wait. I recall a little message that pops up every time I start my computer about gaming mode being disabled. Maybe that’s it! I look up gaming mode and what it does and cannot understand it. I reconfigure my network (guessing as I go). I tinker with the Windows firewall and the AVG firewall. I turn on gaming mode. I do a bunch more stuff, like uninstalling and re-installing NVIDIA (the older overwriting the newer, what the heck). I sit and stare. I wait. I tell Doug to go to the reception and tell them I’m sick, because I AM!!! He comes back and says the reception is tomorrow night.

During the course of all this I try Stu from time to time, but no answer. It IS Friday night. And, unlike me, my Stuvey has a life.

One last time (before I decide to slit my throat) I do a reboot. I can not tell you for sure what's hooked up back there. The DVI cable from one monitor (into the graphics card), and the VGA cable from the other into either the graphics card or the onboard VGA, and I'm not going to pull the thing out again to look, and no, I didn't take careful notes. I don't care if my experience could possibly benefit others. In fact, I'm sure it could NOT, in any specific way, and anyway I don't speak "thread-talk."

BUT ... suddenly, I can’t possibly say why, both monitors are on! From how far away could my shouts of joy be heard?? (I REJECT your suggestion that my non-life is pathetic.)

It’s wonderful. I can put the documents and the lists on one screen, and the websites to which I must load them (and from which I must find them) on the other. In celebration I work long into the night, accomplishing much. The only problem is that I have to move around a lot more, because I work without my glasses, one monitor being just the right distance. But two monitors is like the organ or piano bench—I’m moving all around trying to see (which is better than trying to aim my progressive lenses) … but never mind. I have a rolling desk chair and a somewhat flexible back.

Six-point-five hours after I began, I report the matter to Stu, who is now back from wherever wonderful and distracting place he has been, and he congratulates me. “I was stumped,” he types. My heart swells with pride. Never mind that had he been here, the thing would have been accomplished in a trice. (What is a trice? I just typed that without thinking. Must look it up. ) Never mind that had I consulted him in the first place I never would have purchased the @#!*& Systemax. Never mind that what has stumped him is basically my stupidity. What matters at the moment is the second, deep moral of this story: What genius can not conquer, bumbling determination sometimes can. (Never mind the logical fallacies lacing that comment.)

Third moral of the story: In all you do, be patient. Because machines are people, too. …. Wait. No. Sorry. I mean ….

Hm. Now just who is going to get an unpackaged DVI-A-to-SVGA Adapter in his stocking for Christmas, I wonder.

1 comment:

  1. Technology makes our lives so much easier, doesn't it?