Monday, October 22, 2007

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Oh wait: Yes it does.

The weekend got off to a bang on Friday evening. Mrs Stevie had called Bil the Elder and asked him to come round so he could return the keyboard and mouse to his Mac and I could continue trying to bring it back to life. Yes, that's right, at some point in the week, Bil the Elder had come round and removed the keyboard and mouse I had been turning the house upside down for. Why? Another of his "friends"1 had an old iMac he was thinking of donating to the cause, but it didn't have a mouse or keyboard. Bil the Elder claimed that the G4 mouse and keyboard didn't work with the iMac, something I would have scoffed at out-of-hand a week ago but since having done battle with the G4 could now credit fully.

Bil the Elder arrived clutching the keyboard and mouse (having wrapped the mouse cord around the keyboard to keep everything together, a choice that would end up costing2 dearly). He also brought the old, non functioning power supply3.

He looked at the G4 sitting on the old dining table I use as a workbench, and said "It's the wrong power supply".

"That's right" I answered. "I couldn't get an exact match. This was the nearest I could find."

"Well there's a plug missing" he noted, although in all fairness I had told him that before we came down into the basement.

"It's only used for a monitor. You don't need it. Your monitor gets its power through the same cord it gets its video signal." I said.

"But I need an extra plug. For the internet" keened Bil the Elder.

"You don't need an extra plug for the internet" I replied, somewhat testily I admit.

"Yes I do. I need an extra plug" he insisted.

"You don't need an extra plug for the internet" I said, becoming more exasperated by the nanosecond.

"They told me at the repair place4 that I needed an extra plug for power for my internet" he said, with an increased tone of firmness.

I had a sudden thought. "Show me this extra plug, on the dead power supply you have in your hand. Before you start, be aware that the power supply now residing in your formerly broken G4 has more plugs on it than the one you are holding up."

"This one" He said, pointing to the 22-pin motherboard power plug.

"So what you are trying to say is that your computer needs a 22-pin motherboard power plug rather than the 20-pin type? I asked.

"Yes" he answered, though to be honest I think he was guessing.

"Well, if you come and look you'll see that there are no spare pins on the motherboard socket. This power supply appears to be working fine, although there would seem to be some differences in supply voltages to various sub-components."

Bil the Elder's mouth opened to voice protest, and I hurriedly forestalled him.

"This power supply puts out a couple of volts less than the one in your hands used to, before it stopped putting out any volts whatsoever. I'm told this will prevent the computer booting. You can see it does boot, so there you go." I could see he still wasn't happy. I could not have cared less.

"Look" I snarled, "You've had eight weeks to buy yourself the correct power supply for this bloody thing. Eight weeks in which you've done absolutely nothing. It's not like it's costing you anything either. You need to shut up and give me the keyboard now." I admit to a slight lessening of patience with Bil the Elder. I'm not proud of that, but in my defense I would like to say I didn't go with my first instinct and simply throw the G4 at him5.

We connected the keyboard, which worked fine, and the mouse, which didn't.

The mouse seemed to work at first but then just stopped responding. Hmm, could the voltage difference be great enough to stop the USB mouse for working properly? I gave the mouse, a smoke-grey translucent affair, the once over. There was some sort of rotary switch on the base.

"What does this do?" I asked.


Alright, well, all I needed to do was to close down the system gracefully, shoo away Bil the Elder and I could diagnose it later in peace.

"How do the shortcut keys work?" I asked. "How do I get into this menu using the keyboard?"

"Dunno. I always use the mouse."

"Hmm, well, if this were a PC I would have a standard set of keyboard shortcuts that would let me work without a mouse. You don't have the same thing with a G4?"

"Dunno. I always use the mouse."

"Yes, and if it were a normal fbleeping computer I have half a dozen mouse pointing devices sitting within arm's reach that I could simply swap in and do the job, but you had to buy a "better" Mac. Oh well" and with that I simply punched the power button.

I told Bil the Elder he should leave it with me and I'd look into it, and that once I was done he should take his G4 home and never mention it to me again and that he needed to leave now. He finally condescended to say "thanks" when he was almost out of the door.

Further examination proved that the cord to the mouse had been trapped under something and mashed quite effectively. It had also been used to lash the mouse to the keyboard, as I said before. Under such circumstances it was no surprise that some of the wires had separated and were making only intermittent contact.

I signed onto eBay and bid on a replacement mouse, and out of curiosity I searched on the serial number of the dead power supply once again. This time6 I found two. One dead, being sold for "parts"7 and one "guaranteed working". I decided to bid and, assuming the unit worked properly, resell the one currently in the machine. It would be worth it just to get some peace and quiet from the braying masses. That was enough Mac-related aggravation for one weekend.

I wandered outside to check out the swimming pool, which I wanted to put to bed for the winter this weekend. The torrential rainstorm that had been lashing Long Island for most of the day had washed a ton of leaves into the water, which was now bright green with filth again. I fired up the filter and poured in some shock and went to bed around 1 am (again).

On Saturday I spent most of the day dredging out the crap from the pool, vacuuming the floor and cleaning the filter over and over again. It made doing income tax look interesting. That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday began with me getting the last of the crap out of the pool and setting the Pool Robot of Extreme Uselessness on the job of cleaning the floor. I had put the original filter cartridge in a bucket of "filter cleanser" for eight hours during the week and surprisingly it was very effective at bringing that formerly clogged and crocked item back to life, so I put the new filter in the Magic Bucket of Filter Decrappination for a soak before putting it up for winter.

I could not find the nice, high-quality air pillow I used last year and was so pleased to see was still in working order at the end of the season, so it was off to the store to buy a new one. I looked and looked but they didn't have the nice round 4 foot diameter pillows like the one I just lost, just square ones. They also had 4 x 8 foot oblong pillows intended for oval pools somewhat bigger than mine. Mr Brain began to clank and whir, and I visualised this mighty pillow of cover-holding-uppiness making my life much easier by reducing the amount of pool cover in the water which would make siphoning off the foul sumac leaf tea that much easier during the winter. Sold!

Upon arriving home I was disconcerted to see that my front fence had fallen down, mostly.

At the top of my drive there is a run of about 18 feet of cedar fence that then takes a right angle turn for another 8 feet before resuming its original course to the garage by means of gates. It used to look dead good. Unfortunately, I was unaware at the time of building it that planting a cedar fence post in concrete is a bad idea, even with lots of gravel for drainage. The post will rot out in about five to seven years at the ground line. I've replaced almost all the posts I concreted in with the exception of the corner posts, which are difficult to get out and are held up nicely by the fact they are corners and therefore braced on two sides and in two dimensions by fencing. That includes the post that I was looking at now, flapping in the wind and threatening to tear down the "good" fence panel. The other panel, the one at the front of the house, had suffered some sort of failure.

Action was called for.

It transpired that all three rails had rotted out on account of them being made from untreated non-cedar somethingwood. I looked around and spotted the timbers pulled out of the garage during the great garage clean out fiasco, originally a swing built in in the mid 90s for the Stevieling8. Hooray! I needed 2 x 4s and there were a bunch of them sitting round doing nothing. Bonus!

Since the joint between the fence rail and the corner post would be a butt joint, it would require me getting above it in order to drive the screws. My Workmate was near to hand, so it was pressed into service as a stepladder, a job it has done many times before. Unfortunately, one of the small rubber feet was lost last year so I couldn't deploy it in its compact configuration but had to extend the legs, which raised it up another 6 inches or so, thereby sowing the seeds of fiasco.

I drove the screws in question9 and was just stepping back down from the top of the Workmate to the metal step when the Stevieling sprang into theater and said "Daddy, what's a Stratocaster?"

Mr Brain, sensing the need for a light comedic break, guided my foot past the step to the ground, a distance that exceeded the length of my other leg by about six inches.

For the second time in as many months I experienced the sensation of free-fall as the world span crazily around me. This, of course, was an illusion, for it was not the world spinning but my body as it tumbled towards the driveway. Once again I prepared to meet the hard ground with nature's airbag: the human back. I did this by screaming out some of the most vile words of power in my lexicon, with a healthy disregard for the shell-like ears of my daughter.

It could have been very nasty, but for the fact that several weeks ago I had the forethought to dump an old pool liner at that very spot on the driveway10.


The liner had air trapped in it that nicely cushioned my fall, reducing it from bone-breaking to merely bone-bruising force. I might easily have passed out from this terrible fall if several inches of Friday's storm hadn't sequestered themselves in the various pockets and folds in the liner. Refreshing courses of near-freezing rainwater, nice and green with various growths, sluiced all over me, eliciting a scream of joy from my lips just as the Workmate, which I had apparently upended by clenching it with the toes of my right foot11, fell on me. The Stevieling, with timing that can only be said to be perfect, then said "Are you all right?"

Now the business with Bil the Elder's computer, the pool cleaning, the loss of the air pillow and the discovery of the fence fixing job had made me a might testy, and it was with a light snarl in my voice that I answered:

"Of course I'm not all right! Don't just stand there like idiots, get this thing off me!"

For some unfathomable reason, the child was reluctant to come near me and her mother was too busy laughing, so I hurled the treacherous Workmate away from me and leaped to my hands and knees, uttering my standard wargroan. I was able, after only 5 minutes or so, to jump to my feet and resume work on the fence, using "Finesse", my claw hammer, and by the time the light was failing I had the thing more or less repaired.

Which only left all the stuff I had to pack back in the shed in pitch darkness.

  1. Not the one who persuaded him to buy the iBrik, but another Mac-obsessed one
  2. Me
  3. I asked him to do that so I could double check the voltage ratings between it and the one I fitted
  4. The same repair place he took the power supply to to get confirmation of what I had already told him: That his power supply was dead.
  5. I finally gleaned an understanding of why they come with handles though
  6. When I searched eBay last time there were precisely none of the right kind of power supply being sold. Bil the Elder has managed to buy a computer containing not only the most expensive power supply on the planet, but the rarest in the world too. Typical
  7. Not sure what the seller thought would be salvageable inside this white elephant
  8. Another ingrate: she ordered the swing on the very eve of her fourth birthday, watched me build it then demanded to know where the "other swings" were. Apparently she was expecting a three-swing swingset
  9. Actually, owing to me not remembering how to align the front of the fence panel to match the rest of the fence, I had to do the job over. Twice
  10. How the neighbours must hate me. How I return their hatred a hundredfold
  11. Shod, I might add

No comments: