the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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My new toys arrived.

Last week I ordered a couple of computer components from a company out in Vancouver. More specifically, I ordered some upgrade memory for my laptop, and a water cooler for my desktop. When the package arrived today, I encountered a problem that had not occured to me when I was placing the order. I had ordered a component containing fluid to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. The bottle of "antifreeze" had, in spite of its namesake, frozen almost completely solid, and some of its contents had spilled out in to the rest of the box.

I pulled everything out and wiped it all down with a couple of paper towels. It looks like Purolator was juggling this package in their usual manner, because in spite of the fact that only about 50ml appears to have leaked from the bottle, everything in the box was wet to some extent. The outer housing of the water pump was wet (but fortunately the electrical components were dry). The manuals were damp too. The bulk of the spilled liquid appears to have soaked into the box itself, so I'm thinking it is all good. I am tentatively planning to read the instruction books tomorrow and then start assembling it, so I will know fairly quickly if there are any problems.

The upgrade to my notebook did not go as smoothly as I had hoped, though in the end it did not go as roughly as I had feared. I know that notebook computers can be finicky about RAM, but I had done some research in advance and knew that mine was capable of addressing up to 2GB. I swapped out the memory, fired up the computer and it quit midway through the BIOS load screen with a memory error. All drive activity stopped, and I found myself faced with an error screen informing me that the amount of memory in my computer had changed. Really? Rather, no shit -- it changed because I swapped it out for bigger sticks of memory you stupid machine. The error message politely suggested that I should try reseating the memory sticks.

My first thought was that it was probably one of two things: one or both of the memory sticks I had bought were bad, or the memory was not compatible with my laptop. I removed the memory and then alternately inserted each memory stick into alternate slots, powering it up on each change, but I got the same result on all four combinations. Since it seemed unlikely that both sticks of memory were bad, I resigned myself to the idea that it was a compatibility issue, and I plugged the old memory back in. Oddly, on power-up the computer gave me the same error. Once again all activity had stopped, and pressing keys had no effect. As I sat there for pondering for awhile, and mildly irritated at the thought that I might have damaged my laptop in the process of swapping memory, the system suddenly became active again, and it gave me options to hit various function keys to either run diagnostic tools, change settings, or continue rebooting.


I powered it down again and swapped out the old memory for the new once more. This time I let it sit at the error screen for about a minute, when it suddenly became animated again. I told it to continue the boot process, and moments later I was up and running in Windows. My relief was tempered slightly by my annoyance. First I am annoyed at Dell for having such a brain-dead BIOS. When the amount of memory in a system doubles between boots, how is it acceptable to sit for a minute on a black screen with a dire warning that your memory might be loose. I was also mildly peeved at the help forums I had checked while I was trying to diagnose the problem. While a number of them addressed the problem, none of the ones that I saw said, "This is normal. Just leave it for a minute and it will resume normally." They all waxed on poetically about bad memory mods, and incompatible chipsets.

The moral of the story: when it doubt, wait it out.
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