Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

10 Articles Tagged with “computers”

  1. My weekend failing to upgrade to Windows 10

    Initially I wasn’t going to bother upgrading to Windows 10. I currently dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu and use the latter almost exclusively. Mostly I use Windows 7 for SMART Notebook, and to play the occasional Steam game that will run on my 8-year-old laptop. Of course, I use Windows nearly every day on other computers. I’ve noticed that I feel somewhat uncomfortable on Windows 8 computers—the interface changed enough from Windows 7 that I don’t know all the idioms, and I haven’t spent enough time using Windows 8 to learn them. It almost feels like trying to use a Mac!

    With a long weekend upon us, I decided I might as well try to upgrade. I would get to learn Windows 10, and I wanted in on some of the purported performance boosts it could give to older systems—Windows 7, despite having few enough programs installed and running, was agonizing at times. So I blithely backed up my data, burned a Trusty Tahr Live CD (to restore GRUB after the upgrade overwrote the MBR), and booted Windows.

    Incompatible, inshamatible!

    First I had to invoke several Old Ones and make numerous arcane sacrifices to even get the Get…

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  2. Fighting CryptoWall on Windows XP: caltrops, scorched earth, and triage

    How was your Easter break? I spent a good portion of my four-day weekend fighting a ransomware attack.

    My boss's computer at the art gallery (not at my other job) is still running Windows XP while connected to the Internet. This is, no joke, a terrible idea. But they are a not-for-profit organization with very little money—she is finally getting a modern computer in May.

    Not soon enough. Last week her computer was hit by CryptoWall 3.0, the beefier descendant of CryptoWall 2.0, which was hitting computers last April. Seems like this is going to be an annual event. This ransomware is so pernicious it has been hitting police departments in the United States, with some of them even paying the criminals because they had no other way to retrieve their files.

    Ransomware is exactly what the name describes. It is a pernicious virus that infects your computer, disables as much security as possible, and then it encrypts your files so you can’t access them until you pay its masters for the decryption key. If you refuse to pay, then tough. It’s RSA encryption: you can’t just brute-force your way past it and get your files back. The only…

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  3. Dusting off the Dell

    My computer is a Dell Inspiron 6400, and it turned five years old last month. It’s been good to me. I replaced the battery once, about two years ago, and the keyboard twice, once under warranty because I broke a key—er, it snapped off—and once because the space bar was getting worn out. Sometime in the past few year years, the left corner of the white trim on the palm rest cracked. Otherwise, this computer has served me well, and it has never let me down.

    But it was getting a little old. And slow. And loud. Despite having a cooling mat, the fan was on full blast pretty constantly—especially in Ubuntu, which is a shame considering I use it as my primary operating system these days. After five years, I suspected that a lot of dust had accumulated inside the laptop. Since I’m not a hardware person, I was worried about opening it up—but if I plan to keep it for at least another two or three years, which I would love to do, I want it running at its best.

    Last week I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and went down to Northern Computers to…

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  4. Tying the knot with Ubuntu

    My summer research project involved extensive use of Macaulay2, a computer algebra program. Essentially, what Macaulay2 does is make it easy to do computations on different types of abstract algebra objects, like rings and ideals. Since there is no native version of Macaulay2 for Windows, my options for running it these past two summers have been: run it in Windows under Cygwin or, once again, dual boot Windows and Ubuntu (or Kubuntu). Ubuntu and I have a love/hate relationship, as I have testified on this blog before. It’s been a while since I last blogged about my adventures with Linux, and now it’s time for an update.

    Last year I was using Kubuntu 10.04, and the experience was immediately better than any other time I've tried using Linux. Maybe it's a truism, but with each new release, more features in Ubuntu work out of the box for me, which of course makes it much nicer to install and use. Whereas earlier versions like Hardy and Gutsy played havoc with my display or printer, Karmic Koala was actually an enjoyable operating system to use. It had one problem, however: when in Kubuntu, my network card would keep dropping wireless…

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  5. I have the power

    Yesterday my laptop power adapter died. It was fine all day at work, but when I plugged it in after coming home, there was no joy. My computer blithely informed me it was draining its battery, oblivious to the fact that, if I did nothing, it would only have a few hours of life left. I suspect that the adapter was miffed that I was making a big deal of my computer's fourth anniversary and ignoring it, the real workhorse. No matter how much I wiggled the many and various connections on the adapter, there was no joy. While part of me was freaking out, the rest of me calmly formed a plan to go to Future Shop and spend ten minutes standing awkardly in front of the display of adapters until someone noticed I could use some help. And so, while my plans for a quiet evening reading outside were thrown into disarray, I managed to ensure my computer continues to receive an uninterrupted supply of yummy electricity. You're welcome.

    I'm sorry, power adapter, for taking you for granted. You are a marvel of physics and engineering, converting day in and day out Tesla's treacherous AC into Edison's DC

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  6. Windows 7 is Windows Vista After Rehab

    My copy of Windows 7 Home Premium arrived on Friday. On Sunday night, I began doing some housekeeping on my computer to prepare for the upgrade: I uninstalled programs I was no longer using, cleaned up unnecessary files, defragmented, etc. To finish it all off, I decided to finally delete that 10 GB recovery partition Dell put on my computer when I bought it. I've never used it and probably will never need it, so I got rid of it.

    That was a mistake. Or rather, I didn't anticipate the problems it would cause, which was my mistake. When I rebooted the computer, rather than faced with the choice of booting Windows Vista or Kubuntu 9.04, I saw "Grub Error 22," and my heart skipped a beat. I had killed my boot record!

    The good news in this situation, of course, was that my filesystem was intact. I cast about for the Kubuntu 9.04 Live CD from which I had installed Jaunty back in April . . . and couldn't find it. Fortunately, I did find the CD for Kubuntu 7.10--old, but perfectly usable. I booted into Gutsy Gibbon and verified that yes, my Windows installation was intact. I just…

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  7. I canna give her any more, cap'n!

    I've been very happy with my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop since purchasing it over a year ago. I bought it online, customized it to meet my needs, and this lovely machine has performed without complaint. There's a chip on the lower left edge of the white trim; I'm not quite sure how it got there. And I had to replace my keyboard once--Dell support was very helpful and shipped one to me by the next day.

    As for battery life? Well, the battery charge lasts a long time--I can get four, four and a half hours out of my laptop if I'm not doing anything more strenuous than browsing or writing--listening to music or playing videos drains it a little faster. This is a marked improvement over the twenty minute lifespan of my Toshiba Satellite's battery, which is one of the reasons I love this laptop so much! :D

    The battery's life, however, could have been better--past tense. The original battery has reached its golden years in a little under a year and a half of service. Unfortunately, Dell's batteries are covered under a separate "standard" 12-month warranty. If the battery fails after that, you have to buy a new…

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  8. Shifty habits

    Right, so, I have a confession to make. I am a left-shift-key discriminator (or a right-shift-key abuser, your choice).

    What is an LSKD (or RSKA)? Simply put, it is someone who uses his or her right shift key almost exclusively when capitalizing letters. Just reverse the terms if you abuse your left shift key.

    I learned how to "touch type" (or whatever you want to call it) in grade 4, and I'm proud of my speed and accuracy on the QWERTY keyboard. I've pondered learning something like Colemak, but I don't have the time to devote to retraining myself, unfortunately.((Yes, that is a code phrase for "I'm lazy." Good catch.))

    Unfortunately, as with most abilities, I've developed some bad habits with typing. The abuse of the right shift key is one that particularly annoys me now. I was taught that you hit the shift key with the opposite hand of the letter you're capitalizing. So to capitalize "S", I hit the right shift key; to capitalize "I", I hit the left shift key--except not so much. I've developed this habit of using the right shift key, even on characters on the right side of the keyboard.

    This habit has…

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  9. Finally

    The long night has ended.

    Two good events have occurred in the past week to counterbalance this annoying cough that's plagued me. Firstly, my new computer arrived on the 21st! Secondly, I am now officially done with high school.

    With university approaching, I wanted a new computer. My former one, a Toshiba Satellite A70, was ... performance-challenged, to say it nicely. It was a nice computer in its own right, but clunky from the start and it did not improve. While it did what you asked, the battery life was poor, and it ran too hot. It would not make a good computer for commuting between university and home. Time to upgrade!

    With Seth's assistance I went through the customization process on Dell's website and had soon ordered my own Inspiron 6400: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive. :drool: Oh, and Windows Vista. It was a tense two and a half weeks waiting for it to arrive. No one was home when the courier came, though, so I had to go pick it up at the depot. Luckily I've got a great boss who let me drop by the depot while I was working to…

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  10. My computer hates me

    My computer is starting to overheat and automatically shut down--again. >_< I had this problem last year, and thought it was gone.

    Recently I installed a temperature monitor as part of an attempt at undervolting my laptop. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Intel Celeron is a gutted piece of hardware junk, that's not possible. So my battery life remains short (which is fine, I can live with that), and my CPU continues to run hot. Apparently I can't live with that.

    The temperature monitor occasionally gets up to 42°C (it starts off around 30°C, and typically hovers around 35° to 40°). But for some strange reason, it will spontaneously shut down on me even though it is below 42°! (This is the part that bugs me--sometimes it won't shutdown, but at other times it has apparently decided it has overheated and does. If a computer fails, it should at least fail consistently! <_< ). I'm not doing all that much when it overheats either--nothing at all resource-intensive. It's annoying.

    Alas, I don't know what I'm going to do. I cannot afford a better computer. I could take it in, but I've done that before and I…

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