3 Easy Steps To Replace Your PC RAM


Fast Memory Upgrade

Assuming you have unplugged your pc already, just follow these simple steps to replace or upgrade the RAM in your computer. Remember to make sure the memory you have will work in your pc and, if adding more RAM, that it matches the memory you already have. In other words, if your pc came with DDR3 memory, or is “pc2-5300” or whatever, make sure that’s what you put in it or it may not work. Just because you want 2000Mhz RAM doesn’t mean your system can handle it. To be certain you’re running the fastest memory you can use, it’s best to just look up the specifications for your pc model online, usually at the manufacturer’s website.

1. Remove the side cover of your pc. Looking at the back of your pc, this is usually the right side, but some Gateway models and others have recently started using the left side. It should be obvious to you, as there will be some latch mechanism on the correct side. Once you’ve removed the cover, lay the pc on its side, so you can reach into it easier. Touch the metal case to put yourself at the same electrical potential as the case, eliminating static electricity.

2. Locate the RAM cards, located on the motherboard near the CPU. You will know what to look for if you look at the replacements you have bought. Remove the cards by releasing the latches on each end of the card and pulling the cards straight out. Make a mental note of the gap in the bottom of the card. It will be slightly off center, and you will need to remember this when you insert the new cards into place.

3. Noting the correct orientation, slide the new RAM cards into the slots on the motherboard. The cards should require very little pressure to seat properly into the slots. If the gap orientation is wrong, the card might seat on one side but not the other. If this happens, do not force it. Remove the card, recheck the gap and try it again. When the latches close on both sides, the card is seated properly. Remember, it should require very little force.

That’s all there is to it! But before replacing the case side panel, check out the fan and other things for too much dust or any debris that might cause heat inside the case. Then replace the cover and you’re good to go!

When you restart your computer, it might stop and report that the system memory has changed. If it doesn’t, you can check the available memory in Windows by right clicking on MyComputer and selecting “Properties”.

Bloggers’ First Challenge – Be Happy! Go Lucky!


It’s About Time

Writers of all forms have many reasons for what we do. We write to inform, to entertain, to make others think, to cleanse our soul… the reasons are like the stars in the sky–uncountable. Regardless of the reasons though, the challenge to succeed is always the same. 

As a writing form, blogging may have a unique challenge. With most other forms, the reader has accepted the conditions of reading and has ceased other activity in favor of the current reading. Each form has its requirement of time and the reader allocates this time up front. Whether it’s a book, a story, a poem, a news article, or even the comics, focus time is awarded up front, before beginning to read. For most blogs, it doesn’t work this way.

Blog readers seem to use a different way of allocating time. Scanning headlines in various readers, they may give the title less than a second of attention. If they are attracted within that initial glimpse, they may spend 10 seconds reading the 1st paragraph or two before deciding whether to actually read the rest of the piece. If those ten seconds fail to grab attention, the reader moves on in search of something to read elsewhere.

Perhaps of all readers, blog readers are more acutely aware of the value of their attention. They know how valuable their time is to themselves. There might be hundreds of titles on a given day to choose from, and they know they will not choose them all. They also know that just because Joe Blogger wrote a killer piece yesterday doesn’t mean he will do another today, or ever. But they will probably at least look at his headlines for a while.

The Challenge Of Blogging

So the first challenge of blogging is getting the reader’s attention, and then keeping that reader interested. How important is it that thousands of people visit our blogs but not one stays longer than 10 seconds? There is no value in that for the reader or the blogger. I would rather have lower numbers of visitors who spend enough time to read something.

When I look at the stats for my blog the most important number I’m looking at is the time spent on site. Right now that averages out to a little under 4 minutes, and I think that’s pretty good. Most of the things I publish take about that long to read, or less. That tells me that people are reading this stuff. That tells me I’m not wasting my time.

So now, the question is how to get the reader’s attention and keep it, in less than 10 seconds. As any successful writer will tell you, there’s no real formula for it. But there are some components that are a necessity.

Write well and write often.

Any art or craft must be practiced to be perfected. Poor writing in the form of badly constructed sentences, bad grammar, or incomplete thoughts tend to drive readers away. If we want our efforts to succeed then our blogs must have fresh, well-written content published on a regular schedule. Sporadic postings train our potential audience to expect nothing, and they’ll stop checking pretty fast.

Don’t be too afraid to fail or succeed.

The best way to guarantee failure is to be too afraid to do anything at all. Some people fear failure and some even fear success. Either way, if you want to build a readership you have to get over the fear and actually write something and publish it. And remember, no matter what you do, the world isn’t going to end.

Be happy! Go lucky!

All my life I’ve had this echoing in my head. My great-grandfather Pa Roberts used to say it every day, and I only understood why after I’d grown up. He’d just laugh when I asked him. “It’s Life, son! Be Happy! Go Lucky!” And we’d grin at each other like we knew a secret. And the secret is this: Do whatever you do with a true joy in your heart, for the goodness of it. Life will respond in kind with good fortune.

Write from your heart, using your mind. Be true to yourself and others will feel it. Recognize your fears but overcome them all.

It’s Okay To Turn It Off

Push That Button

One of the most recurring questions I’ve gotten over the years is whether it’s best to leave a pc running all the time or to turn it off when we’re not using it. All solid state electronics perform best and last longest when they are left in the “on” state, so my answer used to be, “Leave it on.”

But computer prices are falling. There’s more awareness of the impact of energy usage on our planet, and more concern over climate changes. With that in mind, here are three reasons why you might consider turning off your pc.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint.

Your carbon footprint is a representation of how much of the earth’s resources it takes to create your lifestyle, measured in tons of carbon waste. It’s been said that in the US the average pc, in the course of a 24 hour day, can have a carbon footprint at least half that of a person in Brazil. If you leave your pc running 24 hours a day for a year you will use about 1752 watt-hours of electricity, producing around 117 tons of carbon.

2. Save Some Bucks.

All that carbon footprint up there in #1 is costing you money. I don’t know what you pay for electricity… 15 cents? So that would be about seven dollars a month to run the pc. Turning it off at night and when you’re not using it would cut that down, probably by half, maybe more. Not a ton of cash monthly, but by the time you replace this pc, it’ll be hundreds–maybe the cost of a new pc. Definitely worth the (non)effort.

3. Security

People are always asking me how to protect their broadband connections from threats on the web’o’net. I always tell them, “Turn it off.” It’s meant as a joke, but as with many jokes, this one’s built from fact. The truth is, there is no way to protect yourself from a determined attack. You can make it extremely difficult, but if they want you they will find a way to get you. Security is always a matter of trying to stay one step ahead, or in a dead heat. To fully protect yourself, turn it off.

Naked Shorting


To understand why naked shorting is bad for the markets, you first need to understand exactly what a short sale is. I’ll begin with a couple of quotes from Wikipedia:

“In finance, short selling (also known as shorting or going short) is the practice of selling assets, usually securities, that have been borrowed from a third party (usually a broker) with the intention of buying identical assets back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the price of the assets between the sale and the repurchase, as the seller will pay less to buy the assets than the seller received on selling them. Conversely, the short seller will incur a loss if the price of the assets rises. Other costs of shorting may include a fee for borrowing the assets and payment of any dividends paid on the borrowed assets. Shorting and going short also refer to entering into any derivative or other contract under which the investor profits from a fall in the value of an asset.”

Naked short selling has an insidious twist:

“Naked short selling, or naked shorting, is the practice of short-selling a financial instrument without first borrowing the security or ensuring that the security can be borrowed, as is conventionally done in a short sale. When the seller does not obtain the shares within the required time frame, the result is known as a “fail to deliver”. The transaction generally remains open until the shares are acquired by the seller, or the seller’s broker, allowing the trade to be settled.[1] Naked short selling can be used to fraudulently manipulate the price of securities by driving their price down, and its use in this way is illegal.”

Did you get that? Short sellers are required to borrow the shares sold within a certain time frame (usually about 3 days). Until this time passes, it’s just a short trade. Once the seller fails to borrow the shares, it’s considered a “fail to deliver”, but the transaction is not cancelled. The seller is still allowed to ‘sell’ shares that don’t even exist.

How can something that doesn’t exist ever be sold at all? The standard stupidity says that it’s okay – when the shares are bought back at the end of the trade, it’s mathematically the same as destroying those nonexistent stocks, so the net sum is a zero. But this ignores the fact that, for as long as those ‘nonexistent’ stocks are in fact, counted as REAL, the price of that stock IS manipulated downward.

Let’s see how this works in a simplified market.

Paper Beats Rock

Assume I have 10 special rocks, and the value of them all together is 10 bucks. If I sell them, the value of each is a dollar. If someone comes along and says there are really 20 special rocks and he has 10 of them for sale at half price, then the value of each of my rocks will go down by 50%, even if nobody buys his rocks. My rocks haven’t changed, but the perception now is that since there’s so many rocks they shouldn’t be worth that much, and this guy over here says he’ll sell them for 50 cents. My net worth based on rocks has just gone down by 50 percent, due to some lying asshat who wanted to take my stuff by lying to the public.

Now, let’s further assume that this jerk actually sold some of his rocks to unsuspecting buyers, constituting a short sale in the special rock market. The buyers expect delivery of said rocks. (Remember, this guy doesn’t have any real rocks.) The only place that rock can come from is me. What happens if I won’t sell any rocks?

Think about that and then think about the ‘freeze’ in the credit markets in 2008. If rocks were dollars, the same thing would happen in my little story. The whole rock economy would tumble and fall. The reason is simple: So many non-existent rocks exist, and so many people have bought them. The real rocks aren’t for sale anymore, so there’s literally NO WAY anybody will get any part of what they’ve paid for. So many bought what they thought were rocks, but all they got were paper promises.

That We Connect At All Is A Miracle


It’s Sunday here so I’m publishing a few of my poems. Today’s theme is the loss of someone you love. Maybe they’re gone forever, maybe for a year, maybe they just left for the day. Time is such a relative thing and our feelings so subjective…

Colors Brush Your Cheeks

Your nose is leaking
rainbows at the top,
where it meets your eyes.
Colors brush your cheeks
and drip onto your feet.
Then they roll around
like painted ball-bearings,
just making their rounds.

Airports used to hold a horrible significance to me. Every time I said goodbye to someone I really cared about, it was at an airport. Sometimes it was me with the ticket, sometimes it was me standing in a crowd with tears in my eyes…

Never Say Goodbye

Will it be years from now
you glance back across your shoulder
you see me with security
watching the distance between us grow?

And we smile
(we are brave)
And we laugh
(we are young)

And we never say goodbye.

And then the absence. The loneliness. The despair. The utter and total Loss…

Simple Sea Algae

Where am I to be
without your confidence
to support me?

I will be like simple sea algae
when taken from the water;
lifeless, and alone.

Sometimes you know that part of your life is over. With only the memories being all you have left, you have a choice to make. Do you fatalize the whole thing, bury it deep beneath your current pain of loss? Or do you celebrate its wonder?


That I am so blessed
to have known you at all,
that I have the fortune
to call you my friend;
that we shared a lifetime
in days now long passed,
that our memories last,
that our love never ends.

The universe is so large, and forever lasts a long time. That we connect at all is a miracle.

Walking Pneumonia v Catdaddy Moonshine – Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE

Legal Lightning


I realized that if indeed I had pneumonia, that it could explain the on-again off-again progress of my symptoms over the past year. I had always thought that pneumonia was caused by either bacteria or viral infections, but I learned that there are at least five other causes, and that one of the most common causes was from inhaling particulate matter. Even dust can cause the condition to occur. Working as I did with computers, I was constantly exposed to it.

I called Tommy and asked him if I could get some of that moonshine from him. He said I could have a quart if I would use it just the way he said. I agreed, and on the first day I was barely able to get out of the house I picked up a quart jar with an ‘A’ on its lid. The ‘A’ designated the highest grade, 180-proof, 90% pure alcohol.

That’s when I learned where the stuff came from. It was from the Piedmont Distillery, owned and operated by Junior Johnson under a license from the state, making him a legal manufacturer and distributor of the most illegal alcohol in North Carolina. Until then, I didn’t know anyone could do that. From what I understand, it was a hard fought battle to get that license. This particular jar was from his ‘private stock’, not for sale to the public.

I’m glad Junior Johnson didn’t give up making moonshine. I couldn’t even tell you what the numbers are on his race cars. I don’t know who his sponsors are. And that probably won’t change. Junior Johnson isn’t in my mind associated with racing. In my mind, he’s the guy with the cure for what ailed me.

Alcohol In – Lots Of Other… uhhh… Stuff Out

I started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at about 8 o’clock by drinking a full six ounce dose of the moonshine. It was really hard to swallow, literally. I don’t drink, remember? Can’t stand the taste, can’t stand the feeling in my stomach. But convinced I was dying, I continued with about 2 ounces every two hours. After a few doses I felt just purely awful, but I persevered.

Following Tommy’s advice, I drank this way throughout that night and Thanksgiving day, and around 10pm was nearly done with the quart. That was the total dosage he had set for me, and that’s when I stopped. I wanted to be able to drive to my mom’s house for the big Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. Most of my family would be there and I had hopes of looking good and feeling better. They’d been really worried about me lately. I wanted them to see a future with me in it, not me in a box.

Thanksgiving, For Real

I won’t describe the nastiness that came out of me. Some of you would enjoy that narrative, but my mother probably wouldn’t and she still reads some of my words. Suffice it to say that I was both amazed and humbled.

Alcohol is one of the few things humans put into their bodies that cannot be metabolized in the stomach. Alcohol is different. It remains alcohol until it reaches the liver. From the stomach it enters the blood, goes immediately to the heart and lungs, then is sent to literally every cell in the body. What’s not turned to sugar in the liver is removed from the body through urine, sweat, breath, and feces.

But along with it comes many things one might never expect were in there. I will ignore the other ways it comes out and just say here that the blackness which came out of my lungs–clumps of it at times–was simply astounding. I almost said ‘breath-taking’, but after each spell of coughing this crap up, I could actually breathe BETTER.

It is strange to feel yourself healing, almost minute by minute. Within hours of waking on Friday, I knew I was on the right track. A certain fog that had descended on my mind months earlier began to lift. My vision actually cleared a little (I was nearly blind in one eye). The pain that had wrapped around my chest for months was gone. It had completely disappeared from one day to the next.

Dinner was scheduled for 5pm, and I showed up at my mom’s house around 1 o’clock. There was color on my face, the blackness receded to just under my eyes, and my eyes were clear and sure. I could stand straight and tall–geez, I could stand at all! I felt absolutely fantastic.

( Disclaimer: I need to note here in the strongest of terms that I am not telling you to drink alcohol to cure any illness. This story is an anecdote, and though what I describe here did take place, I was by no means cured of my underlying affliction. The cure came in the form of several years of medication to treat the fungus and then the necrotic pneumonia that over time destroyed about 80% of my lungs. If you are sick, see a doctor. )

They Forced Their Hope Upon Me

What still brings me to tears all these years later is the solemn truth that I had accepted my death as not just a certainty, but as an imminent fact. I don’t know if I ever actually gave up–I think I was on that precipice–but I do know that I had accepted it. I was trying to help others accept it, trying to make that inevitable day less painful to them.

But they would not accept it. My niece, my sons, my family and friends – they didn’t let me go. And go I would have, with a dignity and honor I had rehearsed all my life.

There is no way I can ever thank them enough for that. I hope they always know with certainty that they saved me from an end which I mistakenly thought my own. I hope they know how much that means to me. They forced their hope upon me, when I could find no hope at all. They gave me these last ten years, and they’ve been some of the best years of my life.

Death is not something to be feared. It is not some horrible destiny that awaits us like a ravenous beast, but is instead the natural completion of the time we have here. It’s the last New Thing any of us will experience while we live. In some ways on any day many of us look forward to it. Still, to die when there is reason and method to remain with the living would be a sad thing, indeed.

We’ll all take that journey some day–the fare is paid the day we’re born–but there’s no reason to use the ticket today.

Walking Pneumonia v Catdaddy Moonshine – Part 1

I Am Not A Doctor

And neither is Junior Johnson. I’m not a NASCAR fan either, but I have developed a sincere appreciation for at least one thing this man has accomplished.

He makes and sells moonshine. And he does it legally.

Back In The Day

NASCAR fans already know the short history of the sport. It grew out of the mid-20th century moonshine-runners here in North Carolina, driving powerful muscle cars from county to county, delivering the illegal drink to those who would have it, regardless of the law.

My grandaddy ran a still, way back then. Here in Rockingham county it was a common sight to see the sheriff drive up and get out of his car, pulling his pants up to cover his enormous belly, looking around like he was the sheriff of Nottingham instead of Rockingham. Yes, the fat sheriff from NC who said things like ‘You in a heap o’trouble, boy’ really DID exist. I have seen him in my childhood, and I will never forget.

It was against the law to make your own liquor here. Still is, as a matter of fact. But Carl Axsom, the high sheriff of Rockingham County, showed up on a regular schedule to load the clear juice into the trunk of his huge Plymouth Fury III. On the side of the car in letters six inches tall were the words ‘Carl Axsom, Sheriff’, and down below, in two-inch letters was ‘Rockingham County, North Carolina’.

Sheriff Axsom would pull into the driveway, get out of the car, and hike his pants up around his really (and I mean REALLY) fat gut. It was his trademark move. He’d ask for my grandaddy and they’d go down one of the little farmroads–down into the ‘holler’–to fetch the stuff. A little while later they’d return loaded down with the shine and drunk on their asses.

Grandaddy would load gallons of the stuff into the official car’s trunk and the fat man would leave.

Axsom was defeated in an election by a guy who promised to clean up law enforcement. My grandaddy got older and finally died, a sober man who spent much of his time reading the Bible. In the end he was a man I was proud to call my family, a man who finally came to be who he was all along–a good man.

But before I was proud of him, I learned to hate drinking alcohol. I learned it made me feel bad, that I hated the taste of it in all its forms, that I was one of the few lucky ones in my family who would not love the beast that killed. I can drink, and I have been drunk many times. That’s how I learned.

Back To The Story

So it came as a special surprise to me that I was planning one week to drink that strongest of drinks, white liquor, in a quantity that even my grandfather might have avoided in his wildest days. And I didn’t plan to eat anything while I pulled this drunk. I was just going to pour the stuff in and see what came out.

Long term readers know I have been sick for awhile. Since November 2007, as a matter of fact. My personal philosophy prohibits me from seeking so-called medical advice except in extreme cases. I won’t go into the reasons or the philosophy right here, but I do have reasons for my stance. So in August of 2008 when I bowed to my family’s demands that I at least have some tests done, it was a major deviation from my normal way of living.

The truth is, I thought I was dying. I just wanted to know exactly what it was that was killing me. Because of some really severe pains, I was pretty sure it was something in my circulatory system, so I chose a heart specialist. After nearly $3000 in testing, he assured me my heart was fine, and instead diagnosed me with a severe case of emphysema based on x-rays of my lungs. But he also told me that I was a strange case, as the only indication of any emphysema was the x-rays. I didn’t exhibit any of the symptoms you’d normally expect from a severely emphysemic patient.

That was in September. By the middle of October I was very ill. When November rolled around, things took a turn for the worst and within another week or so I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. My skin changed colors, gradually becoming a kind of gray you’d expect to see in a terminally-ill patient. The black circles under my eyes had grown to cover much of my face.

I was dying.

Mysterious Ways and Unexpected Means

I’m a lucky guy, though, and the Lord of the Universe wasn’t finished with me. My niece would come to check on me every day back then and sometimes would force me to let her drag me to Chaney’s, my family’s local restaurant, for soup or whatever she could get me to eat.

One particular night during the worst of this ordeal she lugged me over to the restaurant. I hated going there by then. Chaneys is one of the most popular places in this little southern town and I didn’t want folks I know to see me in that shape. But this night it paid off. One of my friends, a customer with a contract for IT services (which had been neglected for a month due to my illness) came in with his wife and sat at the table next to us.

Southern hospitality always trumps everything else. Forgetting myself, I asked how he’d been lately. It’s the polite question, the equivalent of asking how’s the weather. The answer is almost always as shallow as the question. I expected Tommy to look at me, see my illness, and say something like ‘fine’ and then ask about my health. That’s the normal way it goes.

But he didn’t. He told me how he’d been sicker than he had been in over 30 years, maybe longer. Told me how he’d seen the doctors, taken the antibiotics which did nothing, taken the anti-viral shot which did nothing, followed all the doctor’s orders, all with no improvement. It lasted for 5 weeks he said. ( His wife leaned around him and said that he had looked JUST LIKE ME.) He listed his symptoms, and they were exactly what I was going through.

Well, he looked fine to me so I asked him what he did to finally get rid of it, which brings me back to Junior Johnson. The cure my friend Tommy came up with was to go back to his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, when his grandma would treat nearly everything with what else but liquor and honey.

Liquor and honey was a big cure-all around my house, too when I was that young. My grandaddy’s wife Mama Lacie, would make a small glass with the white liquor and honey and make us drink it. I never understood why, and being so young I never asked or gave it much thought. It was just one of those things that eventually went away as the 60s turned into the 70s and then the 80s and we became too ‘modern’ and ‘advanced’ in our thinking, throwing away the old so that we could embrace the new.

The wisdom of trying to eliminate an illness gave way to the madness of managing it. Younger doctors with much education brought with them a distrust of the old ways, the ways that had kept us alive these last several eons, the ways which brought us here to this pinnacle.


Back in the restaurant, Tommy said he just sat himself down on his couch in front of his 60 inch TV, turned off all his phones, and broke out the best of the best of the ‘shine, a quart of white lightning made by the only guy in North Carolina with a license to do so. He drank that quart over a period of about 36 hours, supplemented only with chicken noodle soup (another old remedy, which recent studies have shown has many curative properties which are still not understood well.)

He said that was all it took. He coughed and shat the infection out of his body within the next two days and had felt fine since. (Again, his wife leans forward and says ‘He looked JUST LIKE YOU, Jon’.) And then he makes a comment that stuck in my head: ‘I think I was on the verge of having walking pneumonia’.

That stuck in my head for a few days. I’d been sick off and on for over a year, always the same symptoms, always seemed to be some form of the flu. For decades before, I’d had hardly a sniffle and then, an entire year of it. I had done what I never do (seen a doctor… and believed him), and I had given up on recovering health. I had updated my will, began to unwind my obligations, started trying to prepare those closest to me for the certain day of my approaching death.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about what Tommy said. I could barely breathe the day I started searching the internet for information on pneumonia. I knew it was a waste of time, but I had nothing else I could do anyway. I felt like a desperate fool, grasping at a hope that would never be real, but I did what I do. I searched and researched and gradually I learned.

I had never before found any illness that matched ALL the symptoms I was experiencing. I’d been searching for nearly a year, and had finally given up. You can imagine how it made me feel to find that pneumonia caused every symptom I felt. Well, imagine my surprise when I found a cross-section photo of a pneumatic lung, and compared it to the cross-section photo of an emphysemic lung, and to my eye they were identical!

Clickback tomorrow for the conclusion.

I Remember The Sixties

My family, circa 1960

The old saying is that if you remember the 60s, you weren’t really there. Well, the truth is that if you don’t remember the 60s, you really weren’t there. All of us who lived through it remember it. How could we ever forget?

How could we forget Kennedy being assassinated? I was only 4 and even I have vague memories of my grandmother screaming at the television. I remember The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I remember Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and I clearly remember their deaths.

I remember the Eagle landing on the moon.

And I remember the endless streams of war correspondents who seemed to live inside the old black-and-white (what you call monochrome) set with the rabbit ear antenna. I remember Jed Clampett, I remember Andy Griffith, I remember Uncle Joe.

I remember walking more than a mile every day with my 3 brothers and sister to my grandma’s house for water. We couldn’t afford a well, so we carried our water in gallon jugs along the gravel road from Mama Lacie’s house to ours.

I remember my mom working 2 jobs as a single parent. I remember how tired she was, and how hard she tried to never let us see it. I remember how important education was to her. I remember her playing the old piano her parents gave her each night until we slept: Mendelssohn, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff…

I remember the new clothes of my classmates on the 1st day of school, and looking at my own threadbare hand-me-downs. I remember not being allowed on the gym floor because all I had were my brother’s broughan boots and we couldn’t afford gym shoes.

I remember my mom playing the piano in the church. I remember showing up to Sunday School in clean but barely fitting handmade clothes, eyeing the other boys and girls with envy because their clothes looked so much more stylish. I remember not wanting to make many friends because I would be too embarrassed to show them where I lived.

So I can tell you, I remember living through one of the golden ages of America. And I remember knowing, at the tender age of 9 or 10, that my family was one of the poorest in the state, maybe the whole country. I remember being angry and not understanding why my family, who were some of the nicest folk you’d ever meet, were so cursed with poverty.

Putting It In Perspective

I remember my mom telling us to eat everything on our plate. ‘There’s children starving in China!’. At the time I thought it was just something to make us not waste food, something probably only poor parents say to poor children.

I remember my grandma telling us that our family was one of the wealthiest in the world, because we had health, family and possibilities. We were dirt farmers, scratching an existence out of the red clay so abundant here in the foothills of North Carolina.

I remember my father taking me for a ride through the wealthiest section of town, Belmont, and pointing out and adding up an estimate of how much money those people owed the banks to be able to display their success. 

I remember finally understanding that wealth is not something that can be measured with money, because in this world money is just another word for debt.

I remember finally figuring out that those old beat up boots were actually some of the best made shoes ever, worth far more than their rugged appearance implied. I remember finally seeing the pure value my mom was investing every night, stating timeless truths and beauty in the notes she played, themes that would forever find a home in the hearts of every child she had brought into this world.

I remember eventually missing those daily walks with my family to get the dearest, most priceless treasure in all the world. I’m not talking about the water we carried. I’m talking about the closeness that comes from shared actions which keep the whole family alive.

I remember that finally, it dawned on me that at least we had a television, and time to watch such silliness when most of the world was too tired from just trying to survive that day to even care about a TV.

I remember finally understanding that there really were starving children in China, and India and Africa and even here in the US.

And I wasn’t one of them.

This Ain’t Yer Futurama’s Farnsworth

The Real Farnsworth

Philo T. Farnsworth?

I love that name. It’s history. This guy changed our lives. For real.

And it turns out, he and I had something in common.

Imagine growing up decades ago. Some of you can remember it. No internet. A couple of TV stations and mainly it was radio that you kept up with. Oh yeah–the seventies, in North Carolina–growing up on the farm. Spending hours and hours going back and forth over pieces of dirt about 4 feet in width, and what seemed like miles long….

Philo grew up like that, too, only decades earlier than me. He had practically no radio, and any TV available was capable of only 15 frames per second. Anything less than 30 is a waste of time, so really, he had no TV. But he had the idea of TV. And one day, going back and forth across miles and miles of aisles of his very own plough’s making… he got the weird idea of dragging electron beams back and forth across a field of phosphorous. 

He changed his world, and he made this one possible. Without him, you would not be sitting there, reading this. Every video screen used in the world today owes its existence to his idea. And though our screens look great today, imagine what it looked like at the very beginning. Below is just a few seconds of video simulated from 1927, to show you what electronic television looked like when it was all shiny and new!

Okay, I just have to add this. He figured this stuff out when he was 14 years old… here’s a video of his appearance on TV’s fun and funny show from the 50’s, “I’ve Got A Secret”. To some of my readers, this will be a re-run. To other, younger ones… who are we kidding, they won’t bother to look at it. I wonder if they would if they knew it was one of the top rated shows for most of the 50s and 60s?

None of my monitors drag electron beams anymore. I guess that’s progress…

Read more on Farnsworth HERE.


Catastrophe! Pt 4

Everything was going so well. The near-disasters had been avoided and the catastrophe was only minutes from being a memory when the worst happened, and finally the data really was lost and along with it, maybe this customer. Only one thing was left to do. Read on, for the final installment of… Catastrophe!

Data Loss? It’ll Cost!

As soon as I realized there might be some data loss, I decided to ship the original defective SCSI hard drive to Marlon Stone at ReWave Hard Drive Recovery in Concord, NC. They are the go-to guys when you have a crashed drive and bad backups. If you look online, you’ll find alot of data recovery places. My two reasons for choosing ReWave were simple:
1. They were less than 100 miles from me and if needed, I could drive there and
2. Of the four emails I sent out the night before, Marlon answered fastest and personally. (As a matter of fact, none of the others ever responded.)

Recovering data from a dead hard drive can be a tricky business. There are generally two kinds of faults, logical and mechanical. You hope for a logical fault, which is alot cheaper to recover. A mechanical fault is exactly what it says, mechanical. It requires parts, and a mechanical failure can be expensive to recover. Common estimates can run higher than $2400. The number I got back from Marlon was 1900 bucks.

Now, you might think that’s a bit high for just one file. If that’s what it was, I’d agree with you. But it wasn’t one file. It was much more than that. That one file represented my reputation, my business, my integrity. It’s one thing to lose data, a terrible thing. But to refuse to restore that data because of a price tag? That would be unethical. If I ever looked at it that way, I would not be myself.

Pay The Piper

So I sent the payment to ReWave and waited for the file. Once the recovery was complete, the file would be ftp’d for me and this ordeal would finally be over. That should have taken a couple of days. Several days went by and I was beginning to worry. There was only a 45% chance of recovery going in to it, and I was beginning to think they weren’t going to be successful. I know that it seldom helps to interrupt an IT worker, and in fact never gets the job done any faster, but I had to call.

And I got no answer. Just voicemail. So I sent an email. Late that afternoon, the phone rang and it was Marlon. He sounded beat. Everybody there had come down with a really nasty flu and nobody had been at the office for 2 days. The guy who normally set up their ftp was out and they were sending my files overnight. I should have them in the morning. About 30 minutes later I got a Fedex tracking number in my email. My file was on its way.

The next day, the file arrived and copied perfectly onto the server, finally ending the ordeal of the near catastrophe. In the end, after riding a roller coaster of successes and failures, there was no data lost at all. As far as the customer was concerned, all that was lost was some time. And from my point of view, I wasn’t out too much of anything. Just money. My good friends–my clients–were smiling. They were happy. That was what was most important.

What Can I Say?

I learned a couple of lessons from all this. One, and I’ve said to my customers over and over, Do Not Panic. When we panic we don’t think clearly. We forget things easily. We make more mistakes. I could have saved myself alot of emotional pain and quite a bit of time if I had not panicked at the beginning. I would’ve remembered my daily backups. As it was, I looked right at that file several times before I even realized what it was. Yes, that is embarrassing to admit, but I’m making a point. Don’t Panic.

Secondly, Dogged Determination will win out over almost any obstacle. As long as you’re not willing to give up, there may still be a chance. Honestly, I didn’t really have the couple-of-grand to pay for just one file, but I was not willing to let that determine the outcome. I found a way to make it happen if it had to, and then hoped it didn’t come to that. When it did, I bit the bullet and did what was needed.

The third thing to note here is that Sometimes We Can’t Do It Alone. We’ll need help. It’s wonderful if we’re the best at what we do. But there are times when being the best isn’t enough, especially when a catastrophe strikes. When the worst comes to pass, we can’t be so proud that we let the disaster defeat us. Asking for help from the right people and then trusting them to deliver should always be an option.

Finally, I learned that yes, even I can have a set of days or weeks or months when events seem destined to go against my wishes. And for certain, just when we think it cannot get any worse, it can and does. That’s just life’s way of telling us we’re not bottomed out yet, and there is more to come. We don’t know in advance whether tomorrow holds good or ill. All we can know is that whichever it is, it will be ours to deal with. And It Won’t Last Forever. Nothing does.

 Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


Catastrophe! Pt 3

The new day dawned. So far, this catastrophe seemed like it would go on forever, a cascading series of failures which, honestly, were starting to get on my nerves. I take alot of pride in certain numbers, particularly the number “0”. That’s how many times I have lost a customer’s data. This catastrophe was not going to change that number.


With a fresh outlook nurtured by a bit of sleep, I was able to quickly troubleshoot this latest problem. Installing this program requires a folder to be created and mapped as a network drive, which I had done each time. When reinstalling Windows, the original desktop, with all of its shortcuts, was retained. The old shortcut referred to the old mapped drive, which was eliminated when I reinstalled Windows. I remapped the drive, and the program worked fine.

I spent a little time making sure a few other things were correct, and went to test the program on the users’ machines. Everything connected and ran perfectly. Back in the server room, I restored the backup files to bring the program up to date. Then another round to make sure the remotes could see that. All the users were happy, and ready to catch up on the work that had been steadily accumulating. I asked them all to stay out of the program until I had ran the rebuild routine before I headed back to the server.

Now that the shortcuts all pointed to the right mapped drive, the rebuild ran fine. It takes awhile to run it. There’s decades of information that has to be sorted through. The best thing to do is just sit back and watch the file names change.

With about 2 minutes left, the routine halted. When the error appeared I knew immediately what must have happened. The program has 2 main functions, event co-ordination and accounting. By far, the event coordination side is the largest, and the most used. But the accounting program is there, and someone had logged into it while the files were rebuilding.

Sigh… So after a short talk to the users about staying out of the program while I’m rebuilding it, I reload the backups, check the remotes, remind the users, and rebuild the database for the, well, I forget how many times actually. This all took about another hour, and by now everybody was gone to lunch. I decided to skip a final test until they returned and moved on to the last program.

Data Loss!

The cd installed fine and this time, the backup copied right into the correct folder. But when I ran the program, the data was not there. I compared the backup file size to the “last loaded” file size on a remote machine, and the file sizes were different. My backup was considerably smaller than it should have been. It was my worse fear. Data was lost.

I checked the backup file, on the external drive. It showed the decreased size. I looked at the properties, and there I found an indication of what might have happened. The last time the file was changed was the day before, at about the time the server crashed. Somehow, and I do not even pretend to know how, when the server crashed, the file became corrupted.

I sat back and stared at the screen. In my mind I was going over the amount of information contained in that database. There were about 600 files. Each file would take about 30 minutes to key in from paper. So that was about 300 hours of work. Working 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, I could get it done in a few months, maybe.

Sigh… I surely was not looking forward to that. But even more, I was not looking forward to telling my customers that their data was gone. That data was my job. Though I keep my prices below industry standards, they still pay me well to protect that data, and I had failed. The data was gone, and soon I would be too, most likely.

That thought didn’t appeal to me either. These people were more than just customers to me. They were my friends. These guys were a source of great motivation and friendship when I was first getting started. They were one of the first to sign on for contractual services. They had stood by me since the very beginning.

I decided not to roll over. The thing that has always set me apart is my insanely steadfast determination not to fail. There was still one more thing I could do. The desperate act of nothing to lose. Though it had slightly less than a 50-50 chance of working, I had to go for it.

Clickback next time for the exciting conclusion of ….. Catastrophe!

 Part 1           Part 2

Catastrophe! Pt 2

The unthinkable had happened, and I found myself in the middle of a catastrophe. The server had crashed and my precious backups were useless. It seemed that if not for a stroke of luck, all the data would have been lost. But that still left months of data missing…

 Mom Always Said To Dress In Layers

The reason I do manual backups is that I just have a gut reaction that if I don’t see the job done, it might not be. I’ve worked with electronics in one form or the other since the late 70s, and I don’t trust the stuff. Granted, reliability has improved over the years, but still, old habits are hard to break. I’d rather do it myself than trust a machine to get it done for me.

But as it turns out, I do ask the machine to back up this program for me–every day. You see, even though I don’t trust them, I do use them, just in case I am the one screwing up. Which, in this case, for whatever reason, I was.

Redundancy is the guardian angel of IT. When it comes to my work I believe one thing: eventually everything’s going to fail. No matter what I do, I’m gonna miss something. I do very good, very precise work, at breakneck speed, deliberately and meticulously. I know that I am working a bit faster than normal, and I know that means I am statistically more prone to make mistakes(maybe). So instead of slowing down too much, I always add little safeguards against my own blundering as I go.

It’s the layers principle. Try to get as many layers of security between you and whatever it is that you need to be protected from. In this case, loss of data. Once I recovered from my initial panic and remembered the automatic backups, I was able to restore the data files right up to the night of the crash. It would be no exaggeration at all to say it was an emotional moment to see the program working as if nothing had ever happened.

She Also Said There’d Be Days Like These

I was on top of the world, almost giddy. The program was happy, I was happy, my customer was happy–there were probably cartoon birds flying around somewhere singing just for us. Triumphant, I returned to the server room ready to install the last program, restore its backups and still get done in time to eat supper. I placed the disk in the tray and gently tapped it in. There was no documentation with this cd. I had been told that the company which released it hadn’t been heard from in about 5 years. But it had always been a straightforward program, so I wasn’t worried in the least.

There was no autorun on this cd, so I told the machine to display the contents. There was one file, an executable installer, so I ran it. It wasn’t a large installer, only about 20 megabytes, but it seemed to be taking a very long time to install. It finally showed the Finished screen, and I clicked Ok. The backup file for that program was a single database file, so I grabbed it from the backup drive and copied it into the folder. This file was pretty large, about 22 meg, so I sat back to wait the 3 or 4 minutes I figured it would take.

A couple of minutes went by. I noticed that the “Time Remaining” count wasn’t changing. Well, sometimes it doesn’t. I gave it a few more minutes, then hit the keys to bring up the task manager. And… nothing. The machine was locked up in some loop somewhere and I wasn’t invited. So I held the power switch in for 4 seconds and restarted the machine. Sometimes these things happen, I’ve seen it a hundred times. No problem, just do it again.

Only, this time… well, I don’t know if it was my mom, but somebody said there’d be days like these.

The Crash… Again?

Yep, again. On the reboot, Windows wanted to scan the disk, and I thought that was a good idea, seeing as how it had just locked up. So it scanned, found and repaired the offending area of the disk, and rebooted. As the desktop was coming up, it detoured and decided I wanted to see that beautiful Blue Screen of Death again. I tried restarting several ways, but each time Windows would get almost to the desktop and then shut down with an error code that could mean lots of things.

First I tried repairing the master boot record, but that wasn’t it. Then I tried repairing the Windows installation itself. No help there either. After a couple of hours I was still getting blue screened on every startup. There were several things I could have tried at that point. Since it wasn’t repaired by repairing Windows, I could look for it, maybe get lucky and find it in another hour or so. More likely was that I would spend many hours and never find it.

So I decided to just reinstall Windows, replacing the existing installation. It would mean that I had to reinstall all the updates and programs again, but that might actually be faster than trying to find the source of this latest crash. So far, the hardware seemed to be working just fine. All the installing and repairing indicated that the components were in good shape. So it was almost certainly software.

Never Underestimate The Value Of Coffee

I did a replacement install of Windows, and soon was back up on the Windows Update site grabbing the 94 updates I knew I would need. A few hours later and I was back to installing that monster management program. The install was going great, until I restored the backed up files. Sometimes, when dealing with databases, after restoring backups, a little routine has to be run that rebuilds the database structure, optimizing your files and your settings. Every time I tried rebuilding the database, I would get a multitude of errors from the program about missing files.

From the pinnacle of victory I found myself cast into the depths of despair once again. I’d spent too many hours not to see any results. Outside, it was dark. It was cold, the January wind moaning low between the buildings and the trees. I was tired. It was late. I was hungry. I wanted a cup of coffee. Yeah, a cup of coffee and about 7 hours of sleep. I knew it was time for decisive action. I shut it all down and left the building, heading for food, a good cup of coffee, and a night of fitful sleep.

Clickback again tomorrow, for the continuing saga of… Catastrophe!


Catastrophe! Pt 1

Catastrophic events don’t happen very often with safeguards in place to mitigate against them. But even if the odds are always approaching zero, there is the very real chance that every safeguard will fail, or that a situation arises you didn’t plan for.

 In my business, which is a bizarre combination of hardware, software, systems and user support, I need to be ready for just about anything. There are software packages out there that are incredibly complex. These applications usually come with a great support system already in place. I don’t even try any more to learn how most of them work. Nowadays all I really have to do is to back them up…

The Crash

There’s a server. It’s located in a big room somewhere, with dedicated APS and all the accoutrements. Recently there was a blackout in the building. Although I wasn’t there, I assume the APS did its job, and that the server shut down gracefully. When I arrived to restart the machine, everything functioned fine up to the login screen. I typed in the password, hit enter, and the desktop began to load. And then, without a warning, the Blue Screen of Death.

I don’t mean the dark, heavy blue one with all those big ugly letters. I mean the really pretty light blue one, with the perfectly sized, professional little message telling you that everything basically just went to hell, and to go and contact yourself (the administrator) if the problem persists. There’s only one message I wouldn’t want to see more right then, and that’s the Black Screen of Doom.

So I do a shutdown and a clean boot from nothing. And the controller reports the horrible news. No available devices present. The catastrophe had occurred, but I didn’t know it yet. What I did know was that this machine was going to the shop with me. At the least it probably needed a new hard drive, and I was better equipped to do that and all the software rebuild than the customer.

Just Another (Sun)day at the Office

I took this as an opportunity to change some things I had never liked on that machine. The only reason that SCSI drive was in there was to be striped in a “RAID” array. My opinion is this: without at least 2 drives, RAID is useless. So I replaced it with a fast SATA drive and reinstalled the OS and basic programs. Several hours later, after getting all the updates and extras from Microsoft installed, I went through and cleaned out all the leftover temporary files, service pack uninstall files, you know, the usual suspects.

Once I was satisfied with that, I proceeded to install that huge, complex management program I alluded to earlier. The previous incarnation had been started off as a 16 bit application and upgraded over the years to its current form. Wanting this install to mirror that one, I went through the process of installing the earlier versions and then upgrading them. The history of paperwork was a bit confusing, stating contradictory things in different places, and the whole thing was a mess. For an entire Sunday I worked on this, well into the night. I quit about 2am, too tired to think.

Next morning, I tried loading the latest version of the program and trying it again. Everything seemed fine until I loaded in my backup data. Then the whole thing fell apart and nothing worked. When 9am rolled around, I called their customer support. The wonderful woman I talked to listened carefully to my story, asked a couple of questions and then informed me that the data I was trying to change was dynamic in nature and I simply couldn’t do that and expect it to work.

All The Data Was Lost

Now, on the third day into the mouth of devastation, I finally realized the extent of the catastrophe. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t get that program to work. The problem was, that even if I did, All The Data Was Lost. To top it all off, someone at this same company had told me which data to back up when I’d called and asked them which files are required to be backed up to save the company’s data. Thanks to this misinformation all my backups were of files that couldn’t be copied over, and none of them had my customer’s data.

This is a catastrophe. This is the thing you never plan for, the thing you couldn’t see coming.

Most huge management programs have menu options to create backups. Some even remind you every so often. On those, backups are easy. Most people don’t even bother with someone like me to do that, they do it themselves. But this program, though it stores all the data required to run a busy business in a specialized and growing sector of the economy, doesn’t have such a function.

When I’d talked to one of their guys about backups in the past, he told me I needed to preserve the contents a particular folder, and that’s what I had been doing. The email I received from the woman this day showed four folders and several files that contained the data. None of which were included in my regular backup files. But the game was not over yet.

Luck, A Plan and Hope

Back in October I had done some unscheduled maintenance to this machine, and had made a larger backup of the drive contents, outside the context of the regular schedule. When I looked in there, I found the files I wanted. I grabbed them and used them as the backups. This time when I ran the program, the company files were found, and after another 30 minutes of rebuilding and optimizing, the program gave me the correct login screen. A decade of business data had been recovered, but that left almost 4 months of data missing.

It was an important victory, a master stroke of luck. But it wasn’t enough. I needed to find some way of getting that missing data back. A plan began to form in my mind. And with it, a hope that this might all just work out fine. I’ll continue with the story tomorrow. Maybe you’ll drop by and see how it plays out.



How To Bounce A Dead Cat

You Goose It, Of Course!

So, your stock market is heading south for the summer and you need to lift it north? No problem. Just watch the following video to see how to do it right.

Karl Denninger narrates as we watch our very own SPX index manipulated higher over the night of July4th-5th.

As an aside, I found nothing in the new finance reform that would correct this kind of crap. Then again, it is already against the law. Like Denninger is often saying: Where are the cops?

(edit: Look HERE for background info on the title of this post.)

A Little Fireworks For Your Day Of Independence

A Couple of Thousand Nukes

Between 1945 and 1998 more than 2000 individual nukes have been detonated on this planet. Check it out in the visual timeline below (requires Flash). Be sure to watch it through to the very end.

Happy 4th of July, everybody.