Tech Problems, Health Problems, and Writing

First came the technology problems…

THOSE began when the fan on my laptop—which was already making groaning noises from time to time—decided to start groaning constantly. Now, I don’t have a problem taking computers to bits. It’s part of my job, really. But taking a laptop apart is not the same as dismantling a desktop system, and not something I’d do lightly. In this case, though, I didn’t have a lot of choice. Anyway, the thing’s way past warranty. So I made sure everything important was backed up (thank you, Google Drive) then grabbed tools and bit the bullet.

One thing I learned: there is a federal law requiring that at least half of the mass of all laptops must be accounted for by screws. I swear, I’ve never seen so many screws come out of a single device. Keeping them all organised so you know where to put them back is a job in itself.

There’s another law that says getting to the fan—one of the few moving parts in any laptop, and therefore one of the most likely to require cleaning and eventual replacement—must entail dismantling the entire laptop. Sure enough, to get to the fan on my laptop, you have to remove the bottom cover, then the case, and take out the hard disk drive and the DVD drive on the way. Then you turn it over and take the keyboard off. Then you unscrew the plate under that, and carefully remove three tiny, self-destructing connectors (seriously—the one that holds the ribbon cable from the keyboard sprang apart and it was pure luck I found the important bit of it where it landed on the corner of my desk). Then you can lift that plate away. Et voila, you can get to the fan. Easy. (In case you think I’m kidding, you can see the video I used for reference here.)

Using a pair of tweezers and a can of compressed air spray I removed a huge wad of fluff and hair from the fan (Questions: How did that much muck get past the filter? I think the truth is, the filter’s there to stop that crap escaping). Then I put it all back together again, crossed my fingers and switched it on. And found that the fan was now making a much cleaner sounding groaning noise. So I guess that’s an improvement, right?

Sigh… I guess the fan itself is just plum tuckered out, so now I’ve ordered what I hope is the right replacement fan, and when that gets here I’ll take the laptop apart again to put that in. Here’s hoping I can manage that without destroying the thing. It’s still a damned good laptop and I’d be sorry to see its end.

In the meantime, since I HAVE TO WRITE and I can’t do that with a fan that (1) sounds like a coffee grinder powered by an electric drill and (2) could go tits-up at any moment, causing the CPU to turn into a white-hot blob of useless, I bit the bullet and bought a cheap laptop just to write on. It’s brand new and my old laptop outperforms it. Sad. Also, Windows 8.1 Update sure looks a lot like Windows 7, apart from the Start menu. I haven’t figured out what’s supposed to be different about it. Maybe that’s just me.

[UPDATE: The new fan arrived yesterday (Saturday) and so I took the laptop to bits again. And it turned out the new fan wasn’t the right one, and there was a great wailing and the gnashing of teeth. However, number-two-son came by the house yesterday evening, listened to the tale of woe, and promptly grabbed the laptop and the tools. He then proceeded to fix the old fan by tearing its skin off and ripping its guts out, giving them a quick clean and lube, and putting it all back together again—something I would have been very nervous about trying myself. The laptop is now back up and running, and the fan is like it was the day I bought the laptop three years ago. As for that brand new laptop, it’s going back to the store. Not because I don’t need it any more (I can always use a second laptop), but because it’s so loaded up with OEM junk software that it’s just crippled—HP’s unnecessary extra update software, and the worst possible choice of bloated, inefficient, intrusive antivirus they could have made, and goodness knows what else. I’d be typing along, then suddenly notice the last couple of words I typed hadn’t appeared on the screen and the mouse had stopped working. Then a couple of seconds later it would free up and carry on as if nothing was up. For a machine with a quad-core processor clocked at around 2.5GHz, that’s just wrong. Anyway, the point of this update is everything is back to normal and all is right with the world.]

Second technology problem: our DVD player went TU on us the same day. It was a five-disk changer, which is really, really nice because you’re not having to get up all the time to switch disks. So of course, when I went to the store to see about a replacement, I found that Sony doesn’t make multi-disk units any more. No-one does, apparently. Not only that, but the plugs on the “older” (i.e. more than six weeks old) speakers won’t fit any “modern” DVD player. (Standardization, anyone?) So I had to buy a one-disk player with a whole new set of speakers, even though there’s nothing wrong with the old speakers. Sony, you wacky bunch of fun guys… please look up the words “standards” and “obsolescence”, and maybe “wasteful” when designing your gear.

Then came the health problems…

SINUS infection, fever, sore throat, headache. Whatever it is, it’s knocked me flat on my back pretty much all week. Tuesday, I was going to take the afternoon off sick. It didn’t happen because of an important system deployment happening Tuesday night. That ended up being a twelve-hour day. Wednesday, I decided to take the whole day off sick. That didn’t happen, either, because of problems that came up stemming from the previous night’s deployment. Thursday, at least, I was able to take the afternoon off. Today (Friday) I’ve been feeling somewhat better—the fever appears to be gone, the sore throat is now just hoarse, and I seem to have a little bit more energy. I think I’m on the mend.

…But I’ve been able to write, at least

I’VE been working on Smoke & Mirrors, editing what was written already. And just a little while ago I hit a milestone: I finished editing the last of those written scenes. Starting very soon—probably tomorrow—I begin writing actual new content. Here’s a few stats:

Scenes written and edited: 89

Scenes total: 130

Words written so far: about 60,000

Estimated final word count: about 90,000

I’ll see about providing regular updates with progress, right here, every week if I can manage it.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .