Friday, July 9th 2010

Computer woes

A few weeks ago I did a post about when technology fails and how dependent I have become on it. Well that little episode of losing access to my computer for one hour pales into insignificance compared to what’s been happening this week. In fact at one point I was seriously considering enlisting the help of one of these home computer repair companies to both repair the hardware and save my data. It is only now (Friday) that I have finally managed to get back online for any length of time without stability issues. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My problems began on Tuesday afternoon…

I’d just had a delicious lunch time meal in the conservatory and was looking forward to spending the afternoon writing and updating my blog. The computer hadn’t been on long before the screen suddenly went completely black. Moments later it decided to completely reboot itself but as it began its start-up routine I could tell something else was wrong. There was vertical coloured banding and what looked like dots all over the screen followed by a blue screen with lots of technical information. It then tried to go into system recovery and failed. Eventually we managed to gain access to the system again only to find that it had become unstable with the screen going black and then going through the whole start-up and recovery routine. To make matters worse the internal fan was running flat-out and the laptop was getting very hot underneath.

In a way I was fortunate that this happened at the hospice rather than at home because I was able to call on the services of Bernie, their very friendly and eager to please IT manager. But even he was flummoxed and between us we couldn’t decide if it was a hardware or software issue. I was leaning towards hardware because I had remembered that shortly after I had bought the laptop there had been a big issue with the mobile graphics chip fitted to the motherboard. Apparently there was a design flaw and they were overheating and failing. But I have been running my laptop for about 2 1/2 years now and it has been getting well above average usage as it is on practically all day, and yet despite that it has for the most part been a very reliable and stable machine. If it was hardware that was failing it was going to be either expensive or impossible to repair. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a software solution.

Before going home that night Bernie and I did a system restore and rolled it back a few weeks just in case recent software or patches were causing an instability issue. We left the machine (which had got really hot on the underside of the chassis by now) to cool down. Wednesday arrived and Bernie and I were spending hours trying to get to the bottom of why the machine was running fast and hot and rebooting itself all the time. Eventually it stabilised long enough for us to run a full system scan that took the rest of the afternoon and half the evening and revealed nothing out of the ordinary. But the machine was still running and not crashing so I got permission to stay up late so that I could back up my data to an external drive just in case the hardware should fail completely. I worked non-stop until midnight watching progress bars as my data was copied.

In the meantime I had spoken to Rachel (my social care manager and the person who originally organised an assessment for me) to ask her to contact AbilityNet to see if they were able to help by providing me with a laptop computer as it was looking like mine was about to fail. I had remembered reading on the MND Build forum about people who had been given a free laptop with all the necessary software. I was hoping that this scheme was still running as I was completely helpless without a computer. Rachel had done her usual good job and managed to convince them of my urgent need, and although they had none available they agreed to ship out their training/demo machine equipped with the essential speech recognition software that I need within two days.

I woke up on Thursday morning to be told that the laptop had arrived at St Michael’s Hospice! I was half tempted to unpack it and start using it straight away but part of me still wanted to sort out the problems with my own computer especially as it has all sorts of programs and utilities that I find useful and which make life easy for me. I fired up my machine and was able to finish backing up all my own personal data before it crashed again. We then had fun updating the graphics driver which had become a recommended update on the Sony VAIO site. For the rest of the day the computer was stable although it still had a tendency for the fan to constantly run fast.

In between all these technical glitches I’ve tried to keep the blog updated but as the week has gone by it has become increasingly difficult to remember all the things that happened, and without a computer I’ve had no way to write them down so I’ve been relying on my memory.

So here we are and it’s Friday evening. The computer has been stable today (and quieter) and I’ve been able to catch up a little bit. But because I have no IT support over the weekend I’ve had to make a decision about whether to swap over to the laptop provided by AbilityNet (which will have reduced functionality compared to my own) or carry on using my own machine and run the risk of being without one if it should fail (unless I could convince someone to unpack the other machine and plug it in). I’ve decided to stay with what I know as I would still have to train the speech recognition on the new machine to understand my voice.

And finally just before I sign off would like to say big thank you to all the help that I’ve received from Bernie this week in getting my computer working again, and to Rachel for reacting so quickly to my request. Without the help of these people I’d be sitting around doing absolutely nothing and getting very frustrated at all the time being wasted.

Fingers crossed for a hassle free weekend. fingerscrossed


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One Response to Friday, July 9th 2010

  1. I am so amazed how you remember all this so well Mark; your days are always well documented and there is no sign that your laptop was giving you troubles. So glad it is working again and fingers crossed.

    Love Chris x

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