Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Computer has Insomnia

I don't sleep well at night. One gets used to it. Over the years I have developed a skill in writing imaginary equations on the ceiling. But last night I noticed I'm not the only one in my apartment who is up at night.

My computer presently sleeps on the couch (also known as 'the ouch' to our long-term readers). That's because I figured if I work in the living room during the winter I have one room less to heat. And electric heating at an outside temperature below -20 °C makes quite an impact on the bill, believe me. I recently acquired a new computer, a Lenovo Thinkpad, after my Dell had developed more and more bugs and one was eventually fatal (don't buy Dell).

I wake up around three in the morning and lie around for a while. “Beep!” I hear from the living room. Funny, I think, is this my computer? After a while I hear “Dschingeling!” Indeed, I think, it must be having some kind of dream. And after some more minutes there comes a “Plong!” which I recognize as an error message. My poor computer, has a nightmare.

So I get up and find my computer is wide awake. It seems it decided, after seven hours or so, to notify me that a program didn't start properly and if I want to send an error report to Microsoft, or maybe restart the program? I hit Ctrl Alt Delete, kill all zombie processes, and put it back to sleep. Not without first switching off the wireless feature. At least so I know it won't talk to other computers if it has a bad dream.

23 comments:

Rachel - computer hardware said...

Really cool post. I was caught by the title. And I am really surprised with what the post is about. But I was disappointed with what you've said about Dell laptop... I bought one last week. Is it really true? :(

Mum said...

About Dell-it`s really true. Me too will never buy a Dell again!
Mum

ismail - computer help said...

I had one Dell laptop on 2006 (company laptop) it last for one year only, after that the wireless network dead, computer going slow even after format the hardisk.

Maybe can try either HP or ACER or better Apple

Bee said...

Hi Rachel,

Well, I don't know what the status is of the current generation of Dell machines. I bought mine in 2006 because it was recommended to me by somebody. I previously had an IBM Thinkpad and I never had any problems with it, except that after 3 years or so the Ethernet port got a bit loose. I bought a new computer because the Thinkpad was pretty large and heavy and the harddisk was full (and, okay, because I like new stuff).

The first thing that happened was that the fan started making funny noises, that was already after 6 months. The noise became worse, such that it eventually got really annoying. If I wanted to speak to other people, I would turn the computer off, just so it was quiet. Of course, the badly working fan meant heat spread to other parts of the computer, and the battery would run low very fast. Next thing that happened was that the network card stopped working for whatever reasons. While I was trying to figure out how to solve the problem, it started working again, but then would continue to occasionally just refuse service.

Then the AC adapter stopped working, which was really bad because I couldn't recharge the battery at all. The problem with that was that I couldn't get a replacement anywhere in the vicinity - all computer hardware shops told me I'd have to order it at Dell. Looking at the Dell website, I couldn't find any store in Canada (maybe I'm stupid or maybe their website is stupid). Ordering and shipment would probably have taken weeks, who knows. I ended up fixing the thing myself (funny what you can do if you have to).

Then eventually the screen stopped working. It just went dark. Putting the computer into hibernate and turning it on, it would work for a couple of minutes and then go dark again. It became simply impossible to work. That's when I ordered a new one.

I meant to buy another IBM but had to learn IBM Thinkpad is no more, thus I have a Lenovo now (it looks and feels exactly like the IBM). I have some issues with this one as well, but they are all software related (Vista running).

The other day I talked to somebody who had similar experiences and told me that the Dell's cooling system is really crap and this causes most of the other problems. One would hope though they realized and fixed the problem meanwhile.

Mum, what was your issue?

Best,

B.

Uncle Al said...

"Dschingeling!"? Wechselbalg! It is possesssed by the Redmond Ripper. Don't panic (panic). Summon Tux the Penguin to exorcise.

Verify that your wireless connection is fully encrypted by default. Go into the Control Panel (banana suit - Enewetak not Josephine Baker). Ream out the boot sequence. Kaspersky anti-virus would not hurt as an addition.

Live in a perpetual state of grace, sleep the sleep of the just, own a dependable firearm - stored in the nightstand. Enter an improptu nocturnal debate with critique not dialectic.

Plato said...

Like Al said a good all around Virus protection system Bee. This is one thing I do not scrimp on. I use Norton 360 on my three computers.

Also, quite cheaply now, I can say an external hard drive for 500 gigs is well worth buying and transferring info that you do not want to reside on the laptop that can eventually slow it down.

I think it is a smart idea that over time you have another location that holds this memory apart form the place one works. The connection of the USB port is very easy thing to do by adding that external.

Best,

Plato said...

Oh, and I use Firefox as my browser.

stefan said...

What a poetic text!

Maybe your new notebook is related to Marvin? Or ET?

Cheers, Stefan

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

There are lots of websites with nifty lists of Windows services that you can safely turn off.

Not that I'm endorsing this one, but for example, http://www.vistarewired.com/2007/02/18/services

Makes for a much nice experience.

Best,
-Arun

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Does the computer actually sit on the c(ouch) or on a coffee table in front? The reason I ask is that the cooling fans for most laptops are on the bottom with only a small clearance provided by the small legs. If it rests on the couch the legs will sink in and there will be little if no air space below. Couple this with the fact that the cushions will act as an insulator this would cause the machine to heat up considerably more then normal. Strangely enough in the winter I also work on the laptop from the couch yet with it resting on the coffee table which is glass and thus a very good heat sink. I just thought I’d ask.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven of Nine said...

I so love this post!

Nice story line. :D

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Just one more question, which is to ask when you can’t sleep and compose imaginary equations on the ceiling do they also render complex solutions? Of course as you know for Dirac a negative solution turned out to be antimatter . I just wondered then what an imaginary solution might suggest as that in itself could have one have nightmares :-)

Best,

Phil

chimpanzee said...

For the AC adapter, just search on Ebay..you can find inexpensive 3rd party (or genuine Dell) accessories there. Like a 12v car adapter (the brand-name equivalent is outrageously expensive)

I have had a Dell (from 2001), HP (from 2005), Acer (from 2008), Apple Powerbook (from 2005). PCs were fine, they were thick & had big fans.

My problem was with this WRETCHED Apple laptop, it was designed to be thin ("cute" is coolness), & it wasn't properly ventilated (violating the Laws of Physics). I used it in some severe duty environment (in hot deserts over 100 deg), & the result was errant behavior & 2 catastrophic loss of OS on HD!! Turns out tens of thousands of these laptops had a "memory failure" on the mother-board (incl mine), & there was a class-action lawsuit. The overheating was the culprit. I could easily run the HP in 100 deg heat..NO PROBLEM.

If not for this "non-physics based" overheating Apple Powerbook, it's my laptop of choice over the PC laptop.

Acer makes a nice product. It sounds like a cheap Asian brand, but the Acer Extensa 5620 (see here) I have is really IMPRESSIVE. On sale for $350 (after rebate), & is loaded with Firewire, webcam, 3G memory (!), 160G HD, PCMCIA slot, 5-in-1 multimedia card slot.

I met an ex grad school mate of mine recently (now EE prof @NTU/Nat'l Taiwan Univ) at a conference, & he told me "Dell is just a services company". I.e., they simply contract Taiwanese companies to make their product. A local computer store sales guy told me Dell has a "cheapish" feel. Although, I think Dell's high-end laptops are pretty good.

Toshiba is overpriced. The recent HPs look pretty good. The dang Apple I got cost nearly $2K, whereas this Acer 5620 I got last year was merely $350.

Christine said...

I have no complaints with my macbook at all, on the contrary. I have run several micromagnetic simulations for days, and it operated very well. I don't know about the older Apple laptops; what is the operating temperature limit of the Powerbook? The upper operating temperature for the new Macbooks (see, for instance here) is 95 F.

As for operating systems, I simply hate, hate, hate Windows. I only use Mac OS, Linux/Unix platforms.

Christine

changcho said...

Very nice 'short story' (it could be read like that).

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

When I'm working, my laptop sits on my lap (like right now). The fan usually doesn't even turn on. Otherwise it balances on the armrest, which leaves most of the bottomside free. Best,

B.

Count Iblis said...

Try to connect the computer directly to your brain via a wireless connection. :)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee

“When I'm working, my laptop sits on my lap (like right now).”

How could have I even questioned that you would have not used the machine as not only intended yet as advertised ; after all it’s not a couchtop :-)

Best,

Phil

The Ridger, FCD said...

I've had my Dell laptop for several years with no trouble.

Monique said...

Is it really bad for using Dell?
I think depend on vista or xp. if i use vista , my computer is going slow ^_^

Mac Crasher said...

I like Vista... I like Mac... But if it has a microprocessor when it gets old, it will slow down. if they didn't where would be the incentive to buy a new computer? And as for Insomnia Ive got a cure...
If the device is not mission critical just shut it down all the way... it wont boot back up if you do that... if it is mission critical conveniently leave the thing at the office but don't loose it!!! other then that don't click on links from people you don't know and run a anti virus scan every night before you go to bed (Mac users too!!! its common sense!!!) That should fix your problem right up. (by the way shutting the device down also saves it from heating problems cause it allows the device to cool down)

Chippets said...

This happens to my thinkpad too. Also, it will sleep when it should wake up -- at least the screen is sleeping (black) except for a white mouse cursor. Quirks that I can live with -- otherwise, a faithful workhorse.