Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just Call Me "Adrian Monk"

Last night I got three more techy computer books1 in the mail from Amazon, including a "new" copy of Maurice Bach's The Design of the Unix Operating System.

That has two pages with highlighting on them.

I only paid half price for it, but I absolutely hate, loathe and detest the wuckfit habit of using a highlighter on a book in the hope it will mean you don't have to take notes. I bought this particular book because it was punted as new and not unreasonably priced2. I have been trying off and on to get my hands on a copy of this since about 1990, when I first saw it, and was quite pleasantly surprised to see it back in print and widely available, but this has quite ruined the fun for me. I will have less cringe-factor when I read the very used "Building Storage Networks" which, while battered, only has the previous owner's name discretely written inside the cover. I was going to leave some negative feedback for the seller (I always try and give feedback, however useless it may become) when I noticed that the seller urged anyone with a problem to contact him before doing that, so I sent him a pointed but polite e-mail around 11 pm. The vendor replied about ten minutes later apologising for the problem, and he offered to either have m e return the book for a refund or keep it with an additional 10% discount. This entirely businesslike offer took the wind right out of my sails and I gratefully accepted it, since returning the book would leave me out of pocket. If only the LIRR could deal with customer relations in this way. "Commute buggered to hell and gone sir? how about we credit your visa with 50% of the day's commute cost?"

On the plus side, the new(ish) mouse for BiL the Elder's iBrik came today and I was able, by propping up the monitor on blocks of wood3 to provoke the wretched pile of crap to boot into it's horrible GUI4 and was able to actually do stuff. Not meaningful stuff, but stuff all the same.

I have to say that the experience of the Mac, for me, has not shown any of the "easierness" that is so often touted by Applejax. Indeed, my experience with it is that you need an electronics store, various glues, some aluminum sheet, a selection of screwdrivers, extra overpriced peripheral devices, an electric drill and a wallet stuffed with twenties just to browse the hard drive.

I spent the bits of time between eBaying and Amazoning putting Mr Brain to the task of devising a method for fixing the Apple Monitor Stand of Extreme Uselessness which, as I may have alluded, broke because the monitor felt it should be contributing more to the general G4 Jujuflop situation and collapsed under its own weight. I came up with a plan, which I am calling "The Plan (to fix Bil the Elder's Stupid Artsyfartsy Computer Monitor Stand So I Can Get the OYFOHE5 Out of My Life Forever and Get Back To The Paradise On Earth It Was Before I Ever Saw The Wretched Brick)".

Welding the plastic stand back together hadn't worked because the stresses on the joint were just too much in every conceivable direction. The weld got twisted, stretched and sheared as the Plexiglas flexed under the monitor's eight and a half ton mass6. What was needed was some way of supporting the two opposite sides of the join while preventing them slipping sideways or up and down and keeping them together against the tensile forces pulling them apart. I tried and rejected an Aluminum beam running under the arch of the "legs", then hit on the idea of two aluminum plates, one above the joint, one below, held in place with Gorilla Glue7 and fastened with two rows of nuts and bolts. The plates would spread the strain as the joint tried to twist and tear the bolts out of the plastic and help prevent new cracks forming around those bolts as a result of those forces. I chose aluminum because it was A) ductile enough to allow hand-shaping for conformance along the compound-curve of the plastic stand and 2) near at hand.

I took one of the aluminum plates I had in my non-ferrous metal supply bin, and using the slot formed by the separation from the main body of one of the leaves of the table I use for a workbench to gently work the required compound curve into the plate. Once the fit was reasonable, I traced out the edges of the stand on it with a pencil and cut it to shape using Mr Hacksaw, finishing the job by means of a half round and a bastard file. I glued this to the underside of the break after coating it sparingly with Gorilla Glue, and clamped it as best I could while the glue set up. The glue will not provide enough strength on its own. Actually, I expect the glue joint will fail quite rapidly since the Plexiglas offers little of a keying surface to grip to. Although I will take any added strength I can get, the glue is really only to hold everything in place for drilling and bolting. It is the sandwich that will provide strength in the major flex axis (up and down) and prevent twisting while the bolts provide the strength against shearing and tensile forces (smaller than the up/down force but significant). I shaped the top plate after dealing with the book problem, around midnight and once it was the right size and shape, called it a night and went to bed.

Azathoth, I hope this works. If it doesn't I will have to listen to Bil the Elder complain that I broke his computer despite my having actually resurrected the bloody thing, and I am fresh out of ideas other than junking the stand completely and designing a new one from steel or wood. Assuming it all works as planned the next job is to connect it to my cable modem to see if I can provoke it into talking to the internets. Bil the Elder's original complaint was, you may remember, that it wouldn't. He claims that was the case even before the OYFOHE iBrikked. We'll never know the real story since, like everyone not "computer literate" he didn't make a note of the error he was getting. Assuming I can get that part to work properly, step 3 is to install his digital camera software or know the reason why that didn't "just work" when we gave it to him.

Let's hope it all goes as planned and the evil anti-handyman spirits8 have better fish to fry.

  1. I've been on a small spree, techy computer book acquisition wise of late
  2. New, it costs almost $70 - for a description of the obsolete and then some SVR3 Unix operating system
  3. Which I am thinking of marketing to poorboob G4 owners under the name "iBlox" for when their monitors collapse under their own weight
  4. A thought occurs: if the Apple computer is such a delight to use, why has it seen first OS X and now the so-called "Leopard" replacements for it? Leopard is supposed to "add functionality" to the OS, but I thought OS9 "just worked", in which event, what extra "functionality" was needed? If it wasn't needed, it counts as "cruft", something Applejax are avowedly of the opinion is one of the evils of Windows
  5. Overpriced Yuppie Fadmachine of Hideous Expense
  6. Which would be approximately 4.4 Newton Hogsheads per Square Ohm Hectare in metric
  7. The only adhesive I though stood a chance of binding two such materials together
  8. Who, let's face it, aren't really needed with the OYFOHEs natural tendency to go nails-up at the drop of a hat


gil said...

You missed a book off your list. You may need this:

Stevie said...

Har bloody har. I've missed you, gil.

gil said...

Oh, I often tune in to your life. Other people's problems are so much more amusing than one's own!