Galveston Trip 2008


The trip to Galveston was awesome. Amy and I had a great time with the Herings, Allisons and Januarys. See the pics here.

Kids: always remember to apply your suncreen carefully and evenly.


I hate computers

Seriously.  Don’t like ’em.  That may sound strange coming from an IT professional, but there you have it.  I’ve spent the last day trying to get my wife’s laptop to work correctly.  I’m writing this (1) to vent, (2) to kill time while her data copies back from the backup drive and (3) so that if anyone on these inter webs has a similar problem maybe this will help them out if Google sends them my way.

My wife’s laptop is an HP ze5630us laptop.  I replaced the CD burner recently which wasn’t too bad. However, she has been running out of hard drive space.  She is really getting into digital photography and photos from a 10 megapixel camera really takes some serious real estate.

I purchased the largest IDE/ATA-6 hard drive I could find: a 160GB Hitachi Travelstar.  I borrowed a cable and some cloning software from a guy at work and proceded to get to work a couple of days ago.  I cloned her current 60GB hard drive onto the new drive, popped the new one in the laptop and thought I was good to go. I had tons of stuff going on so I checked to make sure her data was there and called it a night.

The next day, my wife complained that her laptop was VERY slow.  I didn’t think too much of it until she mentioned it again Saturday morning.  When I noticed it took several minutes to boot up and then crawled, I knew something was seriously wrong.  After much hunting around I discovered that the computer was not talking to the hard drive over ATA as it should.  It was using PIO.  Basically, PIO is a lowest-common-denominator sort of thing that Windows defaults to if it runs into errors.  I could not make XP use DMA on this drive.  I tried various “tricks” I found on the web to no avail.

I even reformatted the new drive, re-cloned the old one, and then re-installed the big boy.  No dice.  Same problem.  I began the three-pronged approach of (1) praying, (2) Googling and (3) cursing.  Finally, I came across a gem in the rough.   Someone linked to this site from the comments section of some other website.  Basically this guy had the same problem and it turns out it was related to the IDE controller chipset driver.  I figured there was no way my laptop would happen to have the same one.  Oh yeh.  It did.  I downloaded the recommended driver (gee, thanks HP for providing it–not!!!).  I had to download it from this guy’s personal website as it didn’t appear to be available from the chipset manufacturer’s website any longer.  Anyway, I followed the readme instructions and BANG (a good bang).  It began working fast, just like it should.  As I began copying backed-up photos onto the new, large drive I quite literally got down on my knees and thanked God that somone else took the time to post the info from the problem they had.  That’s why I’m doing this.  It ups the odds just a little bit that some other poor schmuck who just wants to upgrade his wife’s laptop in a couple of hours can get relief from a painfully difficult and confusing problem.

No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer

This is an article written by Christopher Gibson and published on It hit the main page, which is how I came across it. To those of you that are close friends (you know who you are), you can disregard this. I’ll bend over backwards for you, and know you would do the same for me. All others, please take notice.

I’m sorry, I don’t work on personal PC’s. It’s nothing personal, I promise”.

Have you ever heard these words come from the lips of your company’s in house IT guy? Have you ever asked and been rebuffed? Well don’t fret. Rest assured dear user, it really isn’t personal. A lot of us computer guys just don’t work on personal PC’s.

But why not?” you ask. A computer is a computer right? If it’s broke you can certainly fix it and maybe make a little money on the side. It shouldn’t take you long, you’re an expert.

As tempting as tax free money on the side sounds, it usually just isn’t worth the hassle. That’s right, I said it. It’s a hassle for us to work on personal PC’s. The laundry list of why it is a hassle is long, but I will try to just touch on the most significant aspects of it.

First off you have to realize that people that work in a corporate or government IT dept are used to dealing with standardized hardware and software configurations and being in total control over the goings on of their network. We know the hardware and software inside and out. We are in control of the inventory, we know what types of printers we have, and know what the most common problems are that occur with our standardized hardware and software. We like to be in control. When you bring us your personal PC from home, we don’t know what kind of software you have installed, where it came from, or what kind of hardware you may have connected to it that may or may not be causing your issues.

Secondly, we don’t like to have to “overlook” stuff you may have on your computer that may or may not be “legal”. Is that copy of Office 2007 you have installed on your PC properly licensed? Did you pay for the thousands of mp3’s you have in your “My Music” folder? It honestly bothers us to work on somebody’s computer and see software like Limewire or the likes of it, because we then know you are illegally downloading music. Honestly we want no part of that. We don’t want to know because many of us possess professional technical certifications from Microsoft and others, and with those designations come ethical responsibilities and the like. These companies are our bread and butter if you will, and we don’t like to see them ripped off. Plus when you get sued by the RIAA, we don’t want to be called on to testify against you.

Thirdly, we honestly can’t charge you what our time is actually worth. When you bring in your PC loaded down with viruses and trojans, we could literally have to spend hours cleaning it up, and even then we may not be able to successfully clean it. Nasty infections are generally very difficult to get rid of and usually require that the operating system be reinstalled from scratch, which just adds time to our task.

Fourthly, (is that even a word?) we don’t enjoy working on computers as much as you might think. You know those guys you see on TV that are always messing with computers and talking about the latest whiz bang graphics card that renders a bajillion polygons per second? Guess what. We’re not them. We are IT professionals. We are usually highly specialized in our fields and concentrate on one area of expertise. We usually don’t know about the latest graphics card unless one of our AutoCAD users is getting a new machine and it requires a high end graphics processing unit. To us computers are just a job, a way to make a living. When we go home at night, we want to spend time with our families, chilling in front of the tube and eating dinner. We don’t want to spend all evening trying to figure out why your ipod won’t talk to your computer.

Please understand I’m not trying to be rude. I’m just trying to make it easier for you to understand that it’s really not personal, it’s not that we don’t like you. We really just don’t like to work on personal PC’s.