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End of Life Decisions, Planning

Good article describing remarkable differences in how people in the medical field view treatment for life-threatening illness: How Doctors Die « Zócalo Public Square

It turns out they often don’t make the same decisions that are recommended to patients, and appear to place much higher value on quality-of-life factors. 

Posted in People, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

Rogue Anti-Virus Removal

Over the past few years I’ve had a number of clients who have been hit with ‘fake’ Virus alerts/warnings that are intended to alarm the user into scanning their system and eventually paying to have the fake virus removed.

I have found the safest way to deal with these is to get the computer re-booted into Safe Mode as soon as possible and then to do a scan with Malwarebytes AntiMalware. Here’s how you can do that:

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Posted in Computers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to switch to Microsoft Security Essentials Anti-Virus

Most of my clients and friends want an Anti-Virus solution that’s simple and cheap, and I have found myself installing Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on more and more Windows systems.  It has a small footprint, doesn’t drain a lot of resources, and automatically updates.  It’s also free ;’)

Please note: MSE will not install unless you have a ‘valid’ copy of Windows (XP, Vista, 7 or 8).
Here’s the procedure I use in most circumstances:
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Posted in Computers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Seagate ST35000620AS Failure

I received a call from someone with a two year-old Hewlett Packard Pavilion Slimline Photo of crappy drivewho told me the system would no longer boot.  I started talking him through some troubleshooting procedures so I could get a better handle on what was going on when he read an error to me that appeared on his screen: “Error- Non-System disk or disk error. Replace and strike any key when ready.”

Wow…  It had been a long time since I had seen that error, one that was more common 10 or 15 years ago, when hard drives had less life span and reliability.  I told him there was nothing we could do over the phone, that I needed to get his computer, and we made arrangements.

As soon as I got it back to my lair, I determined that BIOS was not seeing a drive any longer.  I booted up off a ‘live’ GParted CD-ROM and Gparted reported an error; ATA1: Not responding.

I’ll cut to the chase here: It turns out that his drive is a Seagate ST35000620AS (Part No.: 9BX144-621) and is one of about 21 different Seagate/Maxtor (Seagate owns Maxtor now) models that have faulty firmware that can put the drive into a non-responsive state (read: Brick, Door-stop, etc.).

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Posted in Computers Tagged with: , , , ,

Feelin’ Irish?

Lyrics | Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up To Boston lyrics

Posted in People

And now, for an existentialist moment…

What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, ‘This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!’ Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, ‘Never have I heard anything more divine’? -Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted in People

Magellan Roadmate Loose Power Plug

Recently I received a call from a friend of mine who said the power plug on his GPS had “fallen off inside….” and he asked if I would be interested in taking a look at it. I thought: “Cool, a chance to take apart someone else’s stuff!” Or something like that…

Once I had it in my hands it became obvious that the power plug ‘receptacle’ had become loose inside the unit, so I took out a hammer and smashed it into little pieces. heh. Kidding. Although I think that was one of Frank’s proposed solutions…

Removing the cover exposed this:
Magellan Sans Cover
In the above image it’s not easy to determine what’s going on with the power plug, so here’s some close-ups:

Magellan Power Plug

And from a different angle, you can see the ‘lift’:

Magellan Power Plug 2

So, I whipped out my soldering iron and melted some solder… Here’s a closer look at what I found after lifting the plug receptacle off the PCB board:

Magellan PCB Sans Power Receptacle

Once the receptacle was removed, I ‘tinned’ the 4 feet that protrude from the receptacle. Then I melted the mating solder points on the PCB board. Then holding the receptacle in place, I proceeded to burn my fingers several times (solder in one hand, iron in the other, I’m lucky it was only my hands getting singed…). Eventually I found a method of leaning a light object against the receptacle so I could use both hands for soldering.

Once finished, I re-assembled and tested. Plugging in the power (male) felt solid and secure, and the unit recognized the external power source, charged batteries, etc.

Then Frank told me he had already bought another GPS… Bastard.

Posted in GPS Tagged with: , , ,

1999 GMC Yukon Intake Manifold Gasket Leak

I noticed some time back that my Yukon was stumbling under loads, and tried several repairs and diagnosis techniques without success (I don’t have access to a scanner/reader), so I nursed it along until one evening it was really acting up, and as I looked in the rear view mirror to see if anyone was coming up on me I noticed a huge, continuous white cloud pouring out of my exhaust.  I was a mile and a half from home, so I headed there, and went to bed. With dreams of mechanical failures floating in my head. bleh.

The next morning I started in on trying to figure out what was going on, and noticed the Coolant Reservoir was empty. Taking the radiator cap off showed there was very little coolant in the radiator. Great, I figured I blew the engine.

I checked the oil, and the first thing I noticed was the color tan, like paint Rommel would use on his tanks in his North Africa campaign. AND the level was very high, way up the dipstick. When I drained the oil, it looked like this (classic case of water and oil blended by the splashing crankshaft of a 4-stroke engine):

Drained Oil (and water)

Some research on the internet turned up some info, most notably that this was not an unusual occurrence. The common thought was that since the cylinder head is cast iron and the intake manifold is aluminum (the lower part that bolts to the head) it’s the usual effect of dissimilar metals contracting and expanding at different rates, and under high heat, wildly different rates.

Most prices quoted by people who had taken it to a dealer were between $600 and $900, so I decided to take it on myself and use the money for drugs and hookers instead. Just kidding there.

A quick summary of what I found out on the internet (Google is your friend!):

  • The intake manifold can be removed as an assembly (lower aluminum and upper composite plastic do not have to be disassembled)
  • The radiator does not have to be removed (though getting at fasteners on the AC mount is more difficult)
  • The AC unit can be left intact, that is, remove the four bolts (and electrical connectors) and move it over by the coolant reservoir without removing the hoses.
  • A lot of people mentioned the ‘newer’ gasket available from GMC, unfortunately I went with an Edelbrock performance gasket (it failed, pictures below).

A quick summary of what I didn’t find out until I performed the work:

  • The right (passenger side) valve cover has to be loosened considerably (or removed altogether)
  • The Distributor and shaft assembly has to be removed (not as obvious as you might think)
  • There are three bolts behind the power steering pulley that have to be backed out (as well as the obvious ones higher up) to loosen the AC mount/casting enough to get the manifold out (and access the front left (driver side) bolt in the intake manifold.
  • The bracket underneath the Ignition Coil is fastened to the back of the right cylinder head, as well (after removing distributor, reach way back there and you’ll find a nut holding a ground wire to the cylinder head, under that is another that holds the back of the bracket).

Here’s a picture from when I started:

Yukon Engine compartment

The procedure I used wasn’t tricky, as you look at the engine it’s pretty obvious what is in the way as you proceed. However, I don’t recommend anyone do this who has never worked on engines before. Once you have cleared the components in the way (Intake, AC, coolant hoses, throttle cables, electrical spaghetti, distributor, etc., etc.) the tricky part is loosening the bolts holding the casting that the AC mounts to from the front of the engine. I chose this method because I didn’t have a power steering pulley puller tool, and had read that it was possible (it is). There is a nut and one or two bolts at the top of this casting that are easy to get to, but there are three behind the pulley that are tough to get at. I recommend a combo wrench (spanner for you Brits ;’) that has the offset box (slightly angled). Take your time, you’ll need that and patience.

But once those fasteners are backed out, you can wiggle the AC mount back far enough to maneuver/lever your way through the rest…

I should note here what I did to remove some of the gunk left in the engine: Drained oil/water/sludge, and replaced drain plug but left old oil filter in place. Once manifold was removed, I used towels/whatever to remove all traces of water from top of block/pushrod-area. Then I used about a quart of kerosene to wipe down the area (letting the kerosene drain into the oil pan). After reassembling I put cheap 30w oil in and drove 5 to 15 miles, very easily, very light on the throttle. Then I did a proper oil/filter change after letting it drain overnight (I use synthetic oil).  Coolant was a simple flush/refill.

This is what it looked like after removing the intake manifold:

Intake Manifold Leak

After the surfaces were cleaned, new gaskets in place and silicone beaded on top of the block (front and rear horizontal surfaces), I re-assembled. Note the factory torque specs and order for the intake manifold, I believe they were 11 ft./lbs., and as typical, start from the middle and work your way out. I used two passes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The above is slightly fictionalized. That’s because I had to do the replacement of the gaskets twice. The first set, Edelbrock Performace, failed after about 10 days.  I noted the engine started racing, idling about 2300 RPM. Diagnosing it was a bitch because the leak was both on top of the manifold gasket and under it (inside block), so the real tell-tale was removing the hose that goes from the top of the right valve cover to the intake and noting a very strong vacuum there (as well as a dramatic change in idle speed).  Disassembly revealed the Edelbrock gasket is actually two pieces, sandwiched together. pfft. Here’s a picture of what happened:
Edelbrock Performance Gasket Fail
And for those curious, yes, I did follow the directions to the letter that were included with the gasket, and no, I didn’t ‘stack’ them.  I ended up getting the factory gasket from the Chevy/GMC dealer, that’s been holding up fine. And the engine is running better then it has in years…

So, the reason for this post is two-fold, because I feel sorry for anyone that has to do this, and sorrier for anyone who has to do this twice in one month ;’)

Posted in Automotive Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Please avoid Symantec/Norton

In the late 90’s I started questioning the quality of Symantec/Norton products as they started showing a large amount of support time (while IT Director at a Video Game Company supporting over 200 workstations)…

Norton support was lacking, and we often had to uninstall their products to get our employees workstations up again. This required a lot of manual work beyond simply hitting an uninstall button: The registry had to be searched and edited manually to remove all traces left behind by the uninstaller, and a special executable downloaded from Norton had to be run (yet another uninstaller).  We soon stopped using Norton/Symantec products.

Recently I was working on a day traders workstation and came across a troublesome problem with network printer sharing. Was taken aback when several results from a Google search recommended to “First remove all Symantec products…” After doing the exhaustive removal process, all was well.

Deja Vu.

Apparently their support has not improved, with the recent discovery of what appears to be a rogue executable ‘phoning home’ to Symantec. When users posted questions regarding this executable all of their posts were deleted by the Norton/Symantec admins.

I bet the Bush administration wishes it could have done that ;’)

Slashdot article about pifts.exe

Re: PIFTS.exe – Off-Topic – ZoneAlarm User Forum.

Posted in Computers Tagged with: , , , , ,

Cash4Gold pays a penny. Literally.

I hadn’t heard much about this company, and was surprised at the outlandish Superbowl ad’s. Big names, big greed.

Didn’t we used to have a Consumer Protection Agency?

Cash4Gold Complaints – Former employee exposing the scams of Cash4Gold.

Posted in People Tagged with: , ,