Sep
23
2008
1

RIP Laptop 1-5-2007 to 9-21-2008

Sonic Screwdriver

Sonic Screwdriver

My laptop, a Dell XPS M1210, stopped working on Sunday night.

Symptoms:

  1. Totally unpowered screen.
  2. Computer will not boot from the hard drive, USB stick, or CD.
  3. Hard drive light indicator shuts off after 1 second.
  4. After 1 second, I cannot hear the hard drive spinning.

Tests:

  1. Do the LED indicator lights still work when I disconnect the power cord and leave the battery in?  Yes.
  2. Does the computer recharge said battery when the power cord is plugged back in?  Yes.
  3. Remove hard drive.  Insert new working hard drive to see if computer will run.[1]  No dice.
  4. While hard drive is removed, insert it into another laptop to see if that computer will run.  Yes.

Eliminated problems:

  1. Battery. The computer is able to use the battery to power the LED lights.
  2. Power jack. This is a common problem for laptops.  The AC adapter power jack sometimes becomes loosened over time and eventually slightly disconnects from the motherboard.  My computer is able to draw power from the power jack and recharge the battery, so the power jack is fine.
  3. Software. A new working hard drive does not fix the problem.
  4. Hard drive. Another laptop is able to boot using my hard drive.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

Possible problems:

  1. Motherboard. The motherboard is the most likely culprit since (a) I can’t see the BIOS (Built In Operating System) boot screen when I power on the computer (b) the hard drive stops spinning afer 1 second and (c) motherboards going bad are not an uncommon problem.
  2. Monitor. I can’t rule this out as the problem or as a secondary problem.  A motherboard failure would explain the dark screen.  A monitor failure would not explain why the hard drive isn’t spinning up or why the hard drive light shuts off after 1 second.

Learning that the hard drive is not the problem is a mixed blessing.  While I’m glad that my hard drive and information is safe, it means there’s a much bigger problem. Hard drives are easy.  Insert screwdriver, remove hard drive, replace, rock on.

MacGyver

If the problem is something other than the hard drive, you can’t fix it with a screwdriver.[2]  But, I figured I’d give it a shot anyhow.  I’ve fixed laptop problems similar to this before – opening it up, finding a broken wire strip, fabricating a new part, and MacGyver-ing it back into the case.  Its extremely difficult, precise, and time consuming work.

I removed the hard drive again, opened my laptop, pulled out the keyboard, removed the monitor, blew out dust and debris, and visually inspected the motherboard without finding any obvious defects.  At this point, I need to turn it over to someone with the expertise and equipment to fix the problem.  :(

  1. Yes.  I just happen to have extra laptop hard drives lying around. []
  2. Unless you’re The Doctor. []
Sep
22
2008
0

TWO New Calculators!

EAMS Logo

EAMS Logo

As you may already know, the WCAB’s EAMS sub-webpage allows you to search for the new ADJ numbers or the official address for a claims administrator or representative.

Calculator

Calculator

Using the same data, I’ve written my own search engines that, to be blunt, work better.  You can find these two new search engines on the calculators page.  They are named “WCAB ←→ ADJ” and “EAMS Registered Offices”.

Later this week I’ll post about “why” and “how” I’ve developed these two new “calculators.” For now, I’ll just talk about why you’re going to want to join this site (for free!) and bookmark the calculators page.

  1. User Friendly. Search engines shouldn’t need pages of documentation.  One search box is all you really need.
  2. Easier. My search engines aren’t picky.  Enter “OAK0123456, OAK 0123456, OAK123456, OAK 000123456” and you’ll get “ADJ522195, ADJ522195, ADJ522195, ADJ522195.”  The EAMS page requires you enter the WCAB or ADJ number with no spaces and exactly 10 characters.
  3. More powerful. Search the Claims Administrators’ Offices and Representatives’ Offices database or unlimited ADJ and WCAB numbers simultaneously.
  4. Faster searches. You can search for 50 WCAB and ADJ numbers on my site in the time it takes you to search for one at the EAMS page.
  5. Better results. Although I use the same information as the WCAB search engines, I’ve designed my calculators to apply your search query to more of the information.  The result is better search hits.
  6. One page to rule them all. Both new search engines are built into the same page as the rest of my calculators.  No need to poke around the WCAB-EAMS website.  Bookmark one page and have all of the latest EAMS information right at your fingertips.

Comments, questions, criticsms always appreciated.

Sep
19
2008
1

Virtual Real Estate – Part II – Less Obvious Benefits

Got Spam?

Got Spam?

The last post in this series was about the obvious benefits of owning your own web space and domain name.  However, there are a lot of other benefits which might be less obvious.  Frankly, I didn’t realize these benefits until well after I had set up my own website.

Virtual Real Estate – Part II – Less Obvious Benefits

  1. Outsmart spam. When I need to sign up for a new online service or website, I just create a new e-mail address – and point it to my real e-mail address.  For example, If I want to sign up for PDRater.com, I register with the address, “pdrater@my-very-own-domain.com.”  If I start getting spam sent to that address – I delete the e-mail account!
  2. Organization. Just as with spam avoidance, I can create e-mail accounts for differnet purposes and have them all routed to the same place.  Later on, I can search for information I sent myself (or had others send me) by searching for “todo@my_very_own_domain.com.”
  3. Portability. If you may need files while you’re out and about, just upload them to your website and have the file available anywhere.
  4. Redundancy. There are a lot of companies that charge for online backups.  Why not just do it yourself?
  5. Resiliency. I made a point of purchasing the domain names through a different company than the one hosting my web space.  If one of those companies were to suddenly go off-line, I would be able to put up a new site in roughly an hour.  If the web host is down, just upload a new copy of your website to a new host and connect it to your original domain name.  If the domain name host is down, just buy a new domain name and point the web host to the new name.

Next in this series: I haven’t thought of a next segment yet!

Sep
18
2008
1

Virtual Real Estate – Part I – Obvious Benefits

Virtual Realty (get it?)

Virtual Realty (get it?)

I purchased my first domain name and web space in August of 2007.  Since that time I’ve probably purchased about a dozen more domain names.  There are some fairly obvious benefits to owning your own domain name and web space.[1]

Virtual Real Estate – Part I – Obvious Benefits

  1. Your own website! Admittedly, there are a lot of ways to get a website for free, but there are always tradeoffs (pop-up ads, no creative control, ads inside your pages).
  2. Accountability. When you own your own webspace, your web host is responsible for taking care of problems when things go wrong.
  3. More features. When you’re paying for your own webspace, you can set up your own MySQL databases, install programs like WordPress, set up an FTP account, etc.
  4. Custom e-mail addresses. Always wanted “I-Hate-Clowns@SuperCoolAwesome.com”?  Good news!
  5. Hopeless customizerI’ve already confessed my need to customize just about everything.  Being able to tinker with every little setting on a web server is a customizer’s dream.

Next in this series: Part II – Less Obvious Benefits

  1. Its more like leasing, but whatever. []
Sep
17
2008
0

Why Web Apps Rule

The Internets

The Internets

I’m not exactly a neutral party when it comes to “web apps” (short for “web application”) versus their downloadable-installable cousins.  This website, its articles, and blog posts are basically just packaging for my own suite of free web apps, workers’ compensation calculators.

For the purposes of this post, I’m restricting the definition of “web app” to those programming applications which run from inside an internet web browser and require an internet connection to operate.  I’m excluding those hybrid web apps that require plugins to be installed (think flash or adobe multimedia banner ads).  While web apps have inherent…

Weaknesses

  1. Web browser. Some require a particular type or version of a web browser.
  2. Internet Connection. They won’t work without one.  If you lose your internet connection, you’ve just become isolated from your information and the program.
  3. Form. Sometimes the program will look different depending upon the type or version of web browser.
  4. Function. Sometimes the program will act slightly differently depending upon the type or version of web browser.

… there are also undeniable…

Consumer Benefits

  1. Portability. Web apps allow you to access your information from the internet.
  2. Independence. Web apps allow you to access your information from any computer.
  3. User Friendly. Nothing to download, install, or maintain.
  4. Seamless. These days web apps use AJAX so that your computer doesn’t need to reload the page to show you new information.  The result are web based programs that look and act as if the program was installed on your computer.
  5. Braindead Backups. Since all information is stored on the web app server, a browser crash doesn’t have to mean the end of the world.  No need to do anything.
  6. Updates. You immediately benefit from web app server program updates without needing to do anything.
  7. Compatibility. Most web apps can’t interfere with other programs on your computer.
  8. IT Security. With nothing to install, your IT professionals don’t need to worry about what you’ve got installed on your computer.

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