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
A new Fort Wayne computer repair client called me this month wanting assistance with their email. They were using a Windows 7 desktop computer with Mozilla Thunderbird as the email client. They could open the email messages, but when they clicked on any link inside a message, nothing happened.
Opening the links worked in the past so I started to investigate. Different messages were tried and all did the same thing – nothing when a link was clicked. I couldn’t see anything wrong with Thunderbird and I decided to try comcast web mail directly through a web browser, Firefox. My client was fine with that and they were tired of using Thunderbird, anyway. It was easier said than done because the password didn’t work on comcast’s web site.
After discussing possible passwords and realizing they didn’t know it – something different was tried. We started the reset procedure for his comcast account and luckily their backup email account was accessible. Once we received the reset message, we changed the password to the one my client wanted.
Now we could open his email in the web browser and his links opened as well! they were glad to I suggested he keep Thunderbird installed in case he can’t find something in his comcast webmail like a message or contact.
A friend brought me their touchscreen laptop last month. The screen was cracked in the upper right-hand corner and they wanted to know if it was worth repairing. I started researching how hard it would be to replace the touchscreen and how much a new screen cost. The repair procedure I found required the laptop to be completely dismantled to replace the screen and the motherboard has to be removed and ALL internal cables. I felt it wasn’t worth the risk to damage some other part of the laptop to try and replace the screen.
Only a small part of the screen was unreadable so I wondered if my friend could still use the laptop even with a cracked screen. Using the touchscreen was nearly impossible on or near the cracked area since the cursor jumped erratically. My friend asked if I could disable the touchscreen so they could use touchpad or external mouse. Research was done and I found out the touchscreen can be disabled in windows 7’s Control panel! Once I did that, touching the touchscreen doesn’t affect the cursor now and the touchpad and works well controlling the cursor!
A friend and client called me about a optical scanner which wouldn’t work in Microsoft Windows 7 for them. They downloaded a driver which didn’t work. I suggested they install Linux Mint along side windows 7 to give them a second opinion. They found It works in Linux mint so we know it isn’t a hardware issue with the scanner. It’s a software driver in Windows 7. I encouraged my client to contact the manufacturer to see if a Windows 7 driver existed or any suggestions. They could also try safe mode in windows 7 and see if device manager showed multiple scanners. An enable hidden devices in Device Manager to see all devices and delete the conflicting ones. My client later informed me their is no Windows 7 driver as this scanner was designed for Windows XP and earlier Microsoft operating systems. My client was just going to us the scanner in Linus Mint with it’s built-in scanner utilities like Scan and not worry about getting it to work in Windows. They prefer Linux Mint over Microsoft so this works out for them for the better.
Linux Mint Operating System
I helped a client of mine recently prepare for the end of support and updates for Microsoft Windows 7. They have been using Microsoft Windows 7 for many years and wanted to be ready when the updates cease next year. At first I proposed upgrading to Windows 10 which is what Microsoft is telling everyone.
After thinking about what my client does on their computer, I realized that another option is available. This option is cheaper, more stable and secure than a Microsoft option.
This option is another operating system called Linux. It can do everything that my client currently does in Windows 7. Linux Mint 19 was tested first on the computer to ensure the sound, video and network all work on the computer. Next it was installed on their Windows 7 all-in-one PC. The neat thing is you can install it in a dual-boot configuration so windows 7 can still be accessed if needed. Now my client can run Windows 7 or Linux when they start their computer.
Remember that Microsoft Windows 10 isn’t the only option for Windows 7 – you have a better option with Linux.
I have a laptop for my kitchen that plays internet web sites when I’m preparing food or eating(which can be often when I’m home.). It’s easily eleven years-old and came shipped from Acer with Windows Vista. I like it because it has a wheel volume control on the front of the laptop which makes it easy to adjust the sound level. When I first acquired the laptop, I installed the operating system Linux on it. Linux is safer, faster and reliable than Microsoft Windows operating systems and it can bring old computers back to life.
I knew because of it’s age, it’s may die any time or some part of it would break. One day I turned it on and Linux failed to start and I was greeted with a blinking command prompt instead of the Linux graphical desktop. A hard drive diagnostic CD was ran after the computer restarted, but it froze every time I ran it. I tried a different diagnostic boot CD and it ran but said there is no hard drive installed. Maybe the hard drive is physically defective and that’s why Linux can’t run. I removed the hard drive and put it back in the laptop in case it was a bad connection.
I restarted it and chose the recovery mode and let Linux attempt to repair the file system. This failed and it told me to manually run fsck which is the file system check program because it couldn’t do it automatically. I ran fsck at the command prompt and it began repairing my Linux operating system. It found orphaned files and other problems which it fixed. After it restarted, Linux still failed to start and now I suspect a defective hard drive.
Today I was posting some items for sale on FaceBook Marketplace. Pictures were taken with one of my old smartphones and they needed moved to FB. My goal was to connect the smartphone’s USB port to the computer. The USB connector was on the rear of the computer and it couldn’t be seen from my location. I fumbled around trying to plug in the connector and suddenly the computer shut down. It looked like I might have shorted the 5 volt line to ground and fried the computer! Or I static shocked the computer.
Sometimes, removing electrical power to an electronic device will clear any weird state it’s in so I was going to unplug the power cord and leave it set a while. I tried turning on the computer with the power button and it was a no go – no lights or noises. Next, I went for the power cord at the rear to unplug it and it fell out of the power supply connector! Hallelujah it was only a loose cord and not a blown motherboard!
My computer comes on now and I went on with downloading my pictures.
Every summer I switch out my long-sleeve company logo shirts for short-sleeves in my closet. As I’m going through them and arranging every year, I come across three black short-sleeve ones and I say the same thing, “Why do I have three of them?” One would be enough. Black is not a good color for the summer because it holds the heat. It is great for the cooler seasons. I wish I could change them to long-sleeve and have them for the cooler seasons. Or change one to green and one to white. I have no clue how I got three black ones and if I remember, I will let you know.
One of my business networking friends contacted me this week about their Dell laptop which wouldn’t power on. I picked it up at their business and brought it back to my workbench along with one AC Adapter. They said they have two AC adapters and neither powers it on. Just to verify this, I measured the AC adapter’s voltage and it’s correct -19.5VDC. I Tried powering on the laptop with the power button and nothing happens when it’s pressed. The problem is somewhere inside the laptop so the underside-cover has to be removed to gain access. Once this was done, I started troubleshooting.
The battery was disconnected and AC Adapter and I let the laptop sit for a while to discharge any weird data state it was in. The laptop power button was tried again and still wouldn’t power on. Earlier I noticed the WiFi card was loose and one of the wires had come off the board and the connector studs broke off. Also, the mounting screw was missing and I never did see it in the laptop.
Maybe the memory was defective or needed re-seated in the RAM holder. The RAM stick was removed and reinstalled and now the laptop powers on!
The next day I went to test the laptop after it sat idle overnight and to my amazement it wouldn’t power on! I was mad that I had to start over, but it had to be done. I wasn’t sure if a bad solder joint existed or a defective connector or the motherboard was dying a slow death. I went through all the troubleshooting steps again. But this time I disconnected a motherboard inter-connector cable and while moving the laptop around a metal mounting bracket fell off! It did not belong where it fell off and I realized it was the wireless adapter mounting bracket! Being metal, when it rested on the motherboard circuits it shorted them and disabled it. Later, after I disconnected the battery and AC adapter, the laptop came on! We were lucky it didn’t damage anything. I tested shutting down and restarting the laptop and it worked great every time.
In the center of the picture is the aluminum bracket with a black screw. Once it was removed, the laptop worked normally.
Yesterday, my wife let me know my company was nominated for the 2019 Fort Wayne Newspapers Readers’ Choice under the Best Computer Repair Store category. Click here for the link. I’m not a store, but this is the best category for me of the ones available. Likewise, let me know if your company is nominated so I can promote you and maybe vote for you. I also suggest you let your clients and customers know you are nominated so they can vote for you.
It’s interesting to see how different computer manufacturers design their hardware. Yesterday I was working on a Toshiba satellite laptop and was looking for the Windows key on the keyboard. Usually it’s on the bottom row near the Ctrl(Control) and Alt buttons. I didn’t see it in the typical location and finally found it on the top row near the Function keys. In all my years of computing, this is the first or second time I’ve found it here!
The Windows key has the Microsoft Logo on it and the key is used to access the windows menu. This saves time because the user doesn’t need to use the mouse to open the Windows menu by clicking on the start button. – they just use the keyboard since their hands are already resting on it.