Since April 2016 I’ve been involved with the New Haven Chamber of Commerce Networking Group. We meet Tuesdays at Noon for an hour or less and we keep it simple with few rules. It’s open to anyone and we don’t limit one business per category. You don’t have to be a member of the Chamber, either to attend. I was talking to Steve today who was attending for the first time at the new location and he appreciated how easy it is to attend because we don’t require a RSVP or regular attendance. Someone else said they like our group since we get down to business quickly and get done quickly.
If you’re around the New Haven, IN area on Tuesdays stop by and meet some other business people. Have lunch and tell us about yourself
My laptop is probably my main tool in my computer repair business. It holds my accounting program, it gets used for troubleshooting and for data recovery. It’s a 9 year-old business class Lenovo Thinkpad. You can tell it’s a business laptop because it has a docking port, external audio controls and the inner frame is aluminum and hardened plastic.
As nice as it is, the hard drive is too small and filling up and the battery doesn’t hold much of a charge anymore. The operating system doesn’t update any longer and the hinges are loose with too much play in them. I’ve tried to repair the hinge play and I couldn’t do it.
I’ve procrastinated buying a new one partly because of the cost and one other reason. The older laptops I own are easier to repair and work on newer ones. They are made to easily remove sub-components like the RAM and hard drive. The newer ones I repair have sub-components which are harder to access by having one cover that is harder to remove than older laptops. Not all newer laptops are like this, but the one’s I’ve seen are like this.
I got a phone call on a Saturday this month about a Microsoft Windows 10 laptop. It wouldn’t allow my new client to log in to Windows 10 because the keyboard wouldn’t respond – yet the mouse wass responsive. They tried all kinds of things to get past this like restarting the laptop, shutting it down and removing the battery and the AC. Nothing worked and they dropped it off to me Sunday.
I won’t bore you with the details of my troubleshooting procedure as I usually do. One thing I wanted to do was determine if it was hardware or the operating system. I ran the built-in diagnostics for the laptop and nothing failed the test and this meant the hard drive, memory, CPU were ok. I tried two external keyboards and they didn’t work either.
Using my Linux boot DVD, I let the laptop boot into Linux and I found the keyboard was fine. Now I could focus on Windows as the problem. Perhaps a virus was the culprit and it disabled the keyboard so it could do what it wanted behind the scenes. My anti-virus CDs were used to scan for malware and three infections were discovered and cleaned. I restarted the laptop but the keyboards still didn’t work in Windows. It was challenging trying to log in to Windows with no keyboard.
I discovered a way to log in to Windows using my clients PIN which is only 4 characters instead of their longer password. I used the Accessibly options on-screen keyboard to enter the PIN. Eventually Windows started and I could troubleshoot from here. Unfortunately, the keyboards were still dead. A Windows message appeared which said a recent Windows update disabled a piece of hardware. This was probably the culprit. A Windows update must have disabled the keyboard. I tried disabling some of the updates without any luck. I decided that a system restore is the best approach if I could run it without a keyboard. Using just the mouse, I browsed through file explorer to find the system restore program. It was ran and I got it back to the time before the keyboard disaster. My client was happy to get their laptop in working order again and so was I. This was one of the most challenging service calls I’ve had in a while.
I acquired an old, low-end Dell Inspiron laptop a few years ago and it got used occasionally for simple things like web browsing. It originally came with Microsoft Vista as the operating system and I didn’t want Vista any longer. The two reasons are Vista was having problems and it has been retired from Microsoft updates. At some point in it’s life, Linux Mint was installed over Vista and I forgot about the laptop.
Last week, I discovered it in my inventory and started using it again. Most things worked, but I noticed the built-in WiFi didn’t function. The wired, ethernet network did work, but it would be helpful to have the freedom of portability. I tried different things to get it to work and they all failed. It would be a shame to abandon this laptop because the battery can still hold a 2 hr charge.
Brainstorming began and I remembered that in my inventory two USB WiFi adapters were available. The first one, a DLink failed to respond so it was discarded. A second one from iConcepts was tried next. It was plugged into the laptops USB port and I tried the Network Manager applet in Linux. No “Wireless” entry appeared as the “Wired” did.
Then I recalled to get some hardware to function in Linux a special, built-in program must be run. “Driver Manager” was run and It showed the USB network card! I selected it and the link LED lit on the USB adapter and it connected to one of my WiFi networks. I was amazed to see it working because I bought this USB network adapter in 2005! It was designed to work in Microsoft Windows XP and no mention of Linux was made on the package! Now I’m browsing on the internet and getting the Linux Mint updates thanks to a USB network adapter I bought in 2005 at Big Lots.
Last week I had a Fort Wayne computer repair client ask me for a service call. One of their problems was an HP inkjet printer that printed faintly. At some point during troubleshooting, I opened the printer lid to see the ink cartridges. I tried several times to get the print carriage with the print cartridges to slide out where I could easily see them, but nothing worked. As I looked closer at the print carriage, something didn’t look right. There weren’t any print cartridges just some plastic hoses running to reservoirs on the side of the printer! This was the first time I encountered one of these ink tank or inkwell printers. I thought one of the hoses was plugged because the four tanks were full.
We tried the manufacturers web site and finally called the company. The technician asked me questions and had me run the print head cleaning process. The instructions said it may have to be run at least three times. This did the trick and my client was happy to be printing again.
My client was wondering why it had stopped working and I asked when the last time it had been used. They guessed about a month ago and I surmised the ink had dried up and that’s the reason inkjet printers can’t be left idle for long periods or the ink drys out.
Over the phone yesterday I was talking to a friend who is also a computer client. They have an interest in computers and like me, use the Linux operating system. They have a Microsoft Windows 10 computer which has built-in memory stick reader which worked at one time. One day, they noticed it wouldn’t read memory cards any longer and started troubleshooting. They tried many different things to no avail. They other day they noticed it was working again and they didn’t know why since everything they had tried had failed. Then they noticed two Windows ten updates had been installed the day previous and they figured this was the reason.
You never know when OS updates will break or fix problems and this is a good example of an update fixing a problem.
Updates are necessary for any computer operating system to stay functional and secure. The operating systems I am speaking of are Microsoft Windows 10 and Linux Mint. I have experience with Microsoft Windows and Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Mint. Of the two, Windows is the most intrusive from my experience. I’ve had my own Windows 10 laptop reboot with new updates three years ago. It messed up my accounting program and it took me a day or two to repair. To be fair I think Microsoft has improved the update installation procedure where it doesn’t reboot when it wants to. I have had some computer service calls where a Microsoft Windows update has rendered a computer unusable and I had to remove an update.
Linux Mint updates are much easier to manage than Microsoft Windows 10 because they let you install them when you want to. In Mint, a grey and blue shield appears on the panel near the clock when updates are available. You have the choice which ones you want to install. It reminds me of how Microsoft used to do things.
Yesterday around 200PM I received an urgent LinkedIn message. The person said I had helped them a few years ago with an IT issue and they had an emergency today. Two hours later I was at their Bluffton, IN location ready to assist them. My contact person was in another state and we spoke on the phone for communication. The Bluffton trucking location had two buildings: Dispatch and the Shop. Each one had a 24-port gigabyte ethernet switch. The two switches were connected via an SFP fiber optic cable running underground.
My contact person had spent the morning trying to get the switch in Dispatch to respond and it never was completely down but it wasn’t perfect either. Sometimes the internet worked for the computers and sometimes not. The phone system also was up and down. The night before, there was an alarm for one of the switches that said a problem occurred but I don’t remember the details. They tried re-booting it and sending it instructions via the network and nothing seemed to work.
My contact wanted an IT person(me) on site because he tried instructing the local employees but they lacked the knowledge to help my contact. They did their best, but it wasn’t enough. My contact wanted to see if disconnecting the switches from each other would help. The problem the local employees were having was disconnecting the fiber optic cable from the Dispatch office switch. Four or five people attempted to pull the connector out and all failed. It took me several minutes but I finally got it disconnected. A thumbtack was used to pry the plug out of the connector. . It was in pretty tight and I had to pry it out with damaging the small fiber optic cable.
Once the two switches were disconnected from each other, the situation improved and we got the network back to normal and phones and internet, email all worked as usual. I checked back today and it’s still working normally.
This summer I refurbished an industrial cart for my Mom which had been outside in the weather for many years. Many pictures were taken during the project to record the terrible shape it was in and the various stages. I wanted to share them with others who would be interested. One of these is a computer client of mine who is also a woodworker and wanted to see pictures of the cart. Since he is on Pinterest(the photo sharing social media site) and I have a Pinterest account, too – I shared the pictures on Pinterest.
Most of the time it is easy getting pictures into Pinterest because I use my smartphone. This time I had to use my Linux computer since the pictures had been moved off my phone a few weeks ago onto my server. I assumed I could copy them directly from my Linux server to Pinterest and that’s how I proceeded. When I dragged and dropped a picture nothing happened – no picture. So I tried an old computer trick : copy the pictures from the server to the computer you are logged in to and then to the target (Pinterest). This worked and now pictures are on Pinterest.
When I first heard about Pinterest around 2011, I used it frequently for posting business networking groups. Pinterest allows you to save pictures on a “board” for organizing. I have created many boards for various categories like pets, my garden and computers. It was easy and fun to post pictures from my smartphone while I was at a networking group or at a client. I still have hundreds of pictures pinned in my business account (Shane Grantham Consulting) and my personal one in my many boards.
Something happened a few years ago which interrupted my Pinterest passion. It was called Instagram – another social media platform revolving around pictures. Instagram is a little simpler than Pinterest and it allows the user to post pictures in a straight line feed without categories. I started posting pictures from my smartphone but found it hard to do it from a regular computer. A few weeks ago I started using Pinterest again and plan to start posting pictures again regularly. I do have a personal and business Instagram account and I suggest you create them for yourself.
Last week I was in my kitchen making a meal for myself. Things were all over the counter – food containers, food and smartphones. I was making room for myself and pushed a tray towards the edge when tragedy struck. My kitchen laptop fell to the floor on its display. I picked it up expecting to find something damaged like the display.
Fortunately, it fell flat on it’s display back and not on an edge. The crazy thing was that it was on and streaming a television channel and didn’t miss a beat when it fell. I put it back on the counter and went on with my business. I wondered why the mechanical hard drive wasn’t damaged and it was probably because the laptop base didn’t touch the floor. It pivoted on the hinges and partially closed as it hit the floor. This probably absorbed the shock which saved the hard drive. I was very lucky.
Once in a while my own computers have problems and today was one of those times. I keep my Quickbooks accounting program for my business on an old Lenovo Thinkpad laptop. The majority of the time it works well when I’m at a client’s location or at my office.
Today I woke it up from hibernation and expected it to open my Windows 10 desktop. To my dismay, It went blank and shut down. Then I realized it had been unplugged from electrical power and completely depleted the battery overnight. This might have been what started my tale of woe.
I plugged it back in to power and turned it on. This laptop can boot into Linux or Windows and I chose Windows. The Windows startup process began and then the progress wheel began turning. I felt relieved, but then the screen went blank and never recovered to the Windows desktop. Task Manager was started and I ran Explorer to try and get back the Windows Desktop. It didn’t work and I powered the laptop down with the power switch.
The laptop was turned on again and I let Linux start which it did with no problems. I restarted the laptop again and let Windows start and eventually I got the Administrator user to log in, but the desktop was blank and unusable.
Somehow, I got my user account to log in and I got Quickbooks to start. It may have been Windows 10 built-in repair tools that fixed it or maybe me doing it flipping back and forth between the administrator account and mine. I’m just glad it’s working now and I was sure to backup my Quickbooks data before I shut it down.
Error Loading Windows 10
While I was at the New Haven Chamber networking group last week, I gave some tips about computer safety. One of the tips is to keep your main computer or device lean and mean by removing unused programs and apps. I also suggest the latest patches and updates be installed to prevent malicious software and hackers from getting control.
One of the networkers asked me which was safer – a computer or a smartphone? I wasn’t sure how to answer and I’ve been thinking about it since the meeting. I assume they were talking about a Microsoft Windows computer and not a Linux or a Mac. I would say the Windows computer is less secure than a smartphone of either kind : Apple or Android. The reason is the smartphones operating systems are written in Linux. And I think the Microsoft Windows operating system is more vulnerable than Linux. This is my opinion based on what I’ve read and studied over my computer career.
I’m not sure why the networker asked me this- maybe they were going to use which ever device I thought was safer and use the other one less. Or they were just curious. It’s still important to have security software on your smartphones just like a computer and to remove services and programs you don’t use. For most people that I know, they use smartphones and computers depending on the situation and environment.
Like many people, I have accumulated a lot of material “things” over my lifetime. Some of them I no longer need or want. Some items I gave away and others I want to sell. Selling accomplishes two things: makes me a little money and helps me downsize.
In the past I used eBay and Craigslist with a little success. I didn’t like the Ebay fees or Craiglist’s uncertainty and risks. I do have a relative who loves Craigslist and has used it for years. I also have two computer clients who have eBay businesses and do quite well.
I discovered another option recently. For the last year or so I have been selling things on Facebook Marketplace. It’s very easy to use and there are no fees like ebay. The downside is there are no auctions so the price you set does not go up with bids. I just sell it to the first person who pays for the item in cash or paypal. If the item doesn’t get any interest, I can change the price, description or put it on hold. The nice thing is you also post it to various garage sale or selling groups on Facebook.
To transact the sale, sometimes I meet people at my house and sometimes at a public location. So far I haven’t had any safety issues from a buyer. At least with Facebook, you can see the buyers profile and information and ratings before we meet.
Give Facebook marketplace a try if you haven’t yet and sell your unwanted items you have gathering dust. And don’t forget you can buy some interesting things as well on FB Marketplace.
I try to pass out my computer business card as often as possible and the bank(credit Union) is no different. When I have checks to deposit and I’m in the drive-through a business card is included with my checks. The card helps the teller see my name, business name and services. Sometimes they keep my business card when they send back my receipt. They might keep my card for themselves or they might throw it away – I don’t know. The good thing is another set of people know a computer consultant is a bank member if they need help with their computer.
I do the same thing when I go into the bank or credit union and deal with a teller face-to-face. I show them a business card so they know my company name when they look up my account. I usually get my card back in this case.
I haven’t got any business from passing my business cards to bank employees so far, but I will keep doing it. It may take years, but eventually one of them may call me or pass my name to someone.
The back of my business card