Black Box Down

by Brad Nelson   2/26/14

Today I’m christening the StubbornThings “TechBlog.” This is a place for all things techie, include reviews of technology or just thoughts on technology (or simply experiences with technology, as you’ll soon see). As with most things here, this sub-blog is somewhat a creative free-for-all. If you have something interesting and/or informative to say about technology, by all means, submit it for inclusion.

My own first entry is a humble one. I have a very nice 27″ iMac as my main machine for work. It is, by far, the best Mac I’ve ever owned and probably the best Mac that Apple has ever made.

But at home, what I have is an old Windows XP ugly-beige box. (Okay, it’s beige, not black, but black makes for a catchier headline.) It’s enough for my modest needs of surfing and blogging, but it’s hardly a gaming platform. I’m not one of those who keeps up with the Joneses. I don’t need the latest and greatest. I buy something and then hope to get as many years out of it as I can, perhaps extending the life with upgrades, if possible.

Well, the XP box went dark the other day. One moment it was on, the next it was off. It wouldn’t boot up again. This looked exactly like a power supply failure. I’ve had that happen before on other machines. So I went to and found an inexpensive 480 watt power supply. They are easy enough to install if one is patient and careful.

The power supply came via UPS yesterday. I had brought my computer from home to work where I have a much better bench area. The first thing I did before removing the old power supply was to take a can of compressed air and blow out the innards of the computer. It wasn’t a total pigsty, but there was a lot of dust, particularly in and around the fan/heat-sink combo sitting on top of the processor.

So I thought, “What the hell?” I plugged it in, hit the power button, and it booted up. It wasn’t a power supply problem but a processor over-heating problem. I had tested this theory earlier at home. But even after waiting a good 20 minutes after it had turned off, the power wouldn’t come back on. So that’s why I thought it was a hardware problem in the first place, not an over-heating problem.

So the moral of this story is that sometimes hi-tech problems have low-tech solutions. Normally the binary universe of the computer is very unforgiving. It either works or it doesn’t. It’s either on or it’s off. The bit is set either high or low. You’re either pounding your forehead on the table or are not. But in this case, there was a gray area…of dust.

The good news is that I don’t have to get a new computer and the old one was fixed without much cost or bother. I’ll keep the $20.00 power supply as a backup because these things are known to go out eventually. But the bad news, if you can call it that, is that I was secretly looking forward to getting a newer computer. I love new technology. But old is good too.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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3 Responses to Black Box Down

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    We have a large computer that we keep on MS-DOS (though it does have Windows capability) mainly for word processing (mostly FOSFAX). We had problems using its modem with the phone line, though it might work now that we have a Wi-Fi connection. Now, if we could just get a working mouse attached to it . . . and then there’s the problem of old monitors going bad.

    My internet access is on a laptop, which also serves as a major music player thanks to all the MP3 files I got from a friend (some of them copied from my CDs). He also suggests running a cleaning CD on my regular CD player as well as the CD/DVD player on our TV, both of which are failing to read disks.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      To hear of someone still using MS-DOS is like hearing that someone still listens to Sinatra. That would be me. The analogy is not quite correct as it’s hard to think of anything connected with Microsoft being the “Sinatra” of anything. But you’re certainly doing things your way.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I listen to both Sinatras. And Tennessee Ernie Ford, who goes back even further (though not by much), since Frank Sinatra was still active into the mid-60s. In fact, my favorite music tends to come from about 1960 to 1975.

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