Author Topic: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three  (Read 1183 times)

Offline buster

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Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« on: September 06, 2019, 12:49:09 pm »
Preface: Problems with the Publisher

When my publisher received the book three manuscript, she wasted no time in phoning me back.

‘Buster, we’re not interested in this. Sorry.’
‘Why not? You put book two in all the New York major book stores?’
‘Yea, and we sold a grand total of seventeen. Probably some of those were picked up by accident. We can’t afford another disaster like this. By the way we sent complimentary copies to your family and some friends. Many of those were sent back with uncomplimentary notes attached.’

She suggested I take a writing class and learn what I was doing. Get some professional feedback so to speak. And that’s how I ended up in the Communication and Writing Development Course – Find out who you are through Story Telling.

 I found out that most in the class had to be there as part of their parole obligation. They were young and salvageable, but rough around the edges. Each in turn would read his or her manuscript, and then the rest of us would comment on the stories, making suggestions. My reading seemed to receive the most heated responses. Here are some of the more memorable critiques:

Jacko, who still had a few bit of skin showing with no tattoos : ‘Like man this totally and completely sucks. This would win a gold medal in the ‘This Sucks’ competition. Dump it and start over, mainly because it sucks.’

Bouncy, one of only two ladies in the group : ‘Do you know why I’m called Bouncy? Like everyone does right? ‘ She beamed a big smile. ‘Well, you know, your story wouldn’t appeal to women readers at all. Like, there’s no, you know, romance and stuff.’ She looked coy as she said stuff. ‘Can’t you have a hot techie lady on your street? And she comes to help with the computer? And the storage room is dark and warm? And as you both work closely with all the computer thingies, you know? And then, you know, it’s what always happens. That’s what I think the story needs.’ Alas, in real life, computer expertise does not a chic-magnet make.

Voltage Man: ‘Like there are no heroes in the story. It’s clear to me you need a mysterious man, dressed in a flowing cape and wearing a mask, who sneaks into your house when it’s just finished and steals the computer to give to a needy charity. And as he bounds down the street carrying his gift, a neighbour says something like, “Who was that masked man? Lovely flowing cape. Silk I bet.” ‘

Herbert, the smallest in the group: ‘ Not enough sword fighting or swinging on ropes. That’s what I like most.’

Ms Tao: ‘Not understand much. But lovely voice. Our house come, read to son. I then snip hairy face. Eat, drink. Talk.’

So with that advice, I went back to the manuscript. I used all their suggestions except for the hot techie, the masked invader, the sword fighting and the swinging on ropes. So

Tomorrow: It Starts with a Messy Storage Room
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2019, 10:27:42 am »
Chapter One: It Starts with a Messy Storage Room

It’s hard to imagine any time that a messy storage room can be useful. However, four decades ago when I was fit and tidy, and had a reddish brown beard and curly auburn hair, I went to get my ears tested. I knew the woman who would do my tests. She sat across the desk in a blue dress, a blue ribbon tying her pony tail, and with blue walls behind her. Somehow the conversation got on to something I had lost in the storage room because of the accumulating mess.

‘You can’t believe how messy I’ve let that room become!’

She leaned forward a little, looked me straight in the eye with her amazing blue eyes  and said, ‘You should see the mess in my bedroom.’

‘I would love to see the mess in your bedroom’ is the response that pretty well any male in North America would reply with, and he would lean a bit closer as he said it. The lame-brain typing this said unbelievably, ‘You know, I think this summer has been even wetter than last summer.’

Her eyebrows went up a bit, she frowned, and said curtly, ‘I think we should do the tests now.’ That sentence about the weather haunts me to this day. Where did those words come from? And why?

So there may be rare occasions when a mess is an advantage. But recently, it had hidden something which later became very useful for the old desktop. It was only a chance spotting that led to a great enhancement. And it involved my new friend, Ms Tao.

She was wandering about the mess, saying things I couldn’t understand, with a frown on her face. Sometimes she shook her head.

‘Your wife know I here?’
‘Ah no.’
‘Why?’
‘Should I say, “By the way dear, I’m spending the afternoon with a gorgeous woman.” ’
‘Hmmm. You sometimes very...’ She searched hard for the right word. ‘...simple, for old person.”

She wandered through the litter awhile, and finally said, ‘What this shiny thing?’

And she handed me a 1 TB mechanical hard drive that I had absolutely no memory of. None what so ever. But this silver prize was going to transform the old desktop, and I thanked her profusely. She sighed deeply the way women do when they think you are behaving strangely.

Out from the old desktop came the ssd – the home originally of the deceased Mint. And in went the 1 TB mechanical drive with who knows what on it.

With no idea what would boot, you can imagine my surprise when an old install of Mint I had put on this drive showed on the screen! I finally figured out that this was the drive with Mint I had used before I purchased the little ssd and long before the old desktop came into my life.  But it had been buried in junk since the ssd had displaced it.

And it had one golden feature that most Linux / Windows users don’t have, and which I’ve not been able to reproduce since. So no more Samba, no more error messages, no more frustration setting up Win/Linux shared files.

I had on the Mint menu 2 shortcuts to the two win10 computers upstairs, and they worked perfectly from first click showing all the shares!

So tomorrow I’d upgrade Mint to the latest release, check the huge ntfs partition to see what’s on it, add   the win10 ssd and have lots of storage space for it, Linux at my finger tips, and the best of both worlds.
This was going to be the best computer in the entire galaxy.

If I had listened closely, I might have heard my mother say, ‘Pride goeth before a fall.’

Tomorrow : The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline ssfc72

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2019, 10:54:49 am »
Can t wait for the next chapter. :-)  very intriging!
Buster, you should exceed the 770 views that your other books have garnered. :-)
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Tried Mint 19, but too many bugs. Went back to Mint 18.3
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Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2019, 01:32:38 pm »
Awesome first chapter. Love the use of self-deprecating humour and the return of Ms Tao.

In the second chapter I find the description of the hearing test lady a little suspect - "She sat across the desk in a blue dress, a blue ribbon tying her pony tail...". They do talk about how we embellish memory more over the years so maybe that's what is going on here.

I think you missed your calling as a world-famous author.
Primary: Dell Desktop i5 - 3.2 GHz w/ Kubuntu 19.04 / Win 10 Pro
Secondary/Test:  Toshiba i3 - 1.4 GHz w/ Windows 10 Pro and Linux Du Jour (Ubuntu 19.10 right now)
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Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2019, 08:28:36 am »
Chapter Two : The best laid schemes o' mice an' men

One early autumn my wife and I were trailer camping in Algonquin and met an American who had driven a long ways to do something he’d always wanted to do since he was a kid. A Canadian friend had made all the arrangements, they had sites booked, and equipment ready. He talked enthusiastically though his trim beard of their plans.

‘This is going to be so great! We spent hours planning our 3 night canoe trip, making sure the mileage is fairly low and the portages not too tough.’

But the day before they were supposed to embark the weather warnings started to come in – not just a storm, but for most of two days or more with dangerous thunder storms. The two canoeists came to our site and sat down around the fire. The American asked me, ‘What do you think?’

I looked at the Canadian, who I figured was fairly used to being out there in a canoe. I could see what his opinion was by the look on his face. Trying to be honest and kind I said, ‘A bit of rain I don't mind. Big storms, big winds on the lake sections can be treacherous. One late afternoon storm you can work around. But continuous? And being wet for two days? And being stuck? And at this time of year, maybe being cold? And being a novice?’

‘But it may be my only chance.’

‘If this is your first experience out there, and the storms are as bad as predicted, I guarantee you will never attempt to do it again.’

He wisely didn’t head out, and enjoyed some time in the campground. Which leads me back to the title of this chapter which comes from the Robbie Burns poem To a Mouse. The line I quoted is often translated as the best laid plans of mice and men often go askew’. Steinbeck used this for his book Of Mice and Men.

The American canoe novice, the mouse preparing for winter and Buster creating the best desktop in the galaxy all shared the same fate – Lady Fortune turned her back on them and walked away.

But I didn’t know this yet and approached my prize desktop with unusual enthusiasm.
The procedure would be to update the Minto to 19.2 with as many steps as needed, make sure all the software I would need was there or could be acquired through Synaptic, install the win10 ssd and test both boot systems with the esc key, which shows all bootable media in the Compaq.

Soooo... The updates worked well, and then I got an ‘upgrade’ notice. ‘Yes’ I click, sort of bouncing up and down on my chair, but in a subtle, dignified way. And it worked! This would get me to edition 19.

Everything was working. And I rebooted it after the changes. And that worked fine. Mint was before me, bright and shiny, but the little notice that shows after a boot said Mint 18.3.

A wee frown. A mistake in just the graphics?

Time to give it a rest. Go to bed. Maybe in the morning it would fix itself with the new boot. Was that laughter I heard somewhere outside on the street??

Tomorrow : X-Files Visits our House
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2019, 09:33:14 am »
This is probably old news and not relevant to you, but for anybody else wondering, within any Linux distro (at least that uses the Linux Standards Base), you can find out its release version with a terminal command:

lsb_release -a
Primary: Dell Desktop i5 - 3.2 GHz w/ Kubuntu 19.04 / Win 10 Pro
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Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2019, 07:31:00 am »
Chapter Three : X-Files Visits our House

Robert Frost wrote the brilliant line ‘Something there is that doesn't like a fence’ in his poem Mending Fences. There is some force in the world that doesn’t like us to wall off spaces and separate things, maybe like borders and dams. This force, every year,  works on stone fences in Vermont, so the locals annually have to repair them.

Similarly there is a force that breaks computers. Most think it is code or hardware or incompatible updates, but the truth is out there – Something there is that doesn’t like a computer. Call Mulder and Fox and check. There is no reason for it to break, but it happens too often to be just happenstance.

As Goldfinger said, ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.’

I approached the first boot with the belief that the faulty 18.3 would be replaced by 19.2, either through a computer’s unseen magic, or if necessary, my work.

First boot. A bit of a pause turned into a substantial silence. ‘No irq handler for vector’ on a black screen.
Second boot. A bit of a pause turned into a substantial silence. ‘No irq handler for vector’ on the same black screen.

I will not reveal how many times I rebooted with hope in my heart.  ( The rumour that to get the best computer in the galaxy to work I rebooted 42 times is false. ) But I did come to my senses and google the problem.

Almost all the writers said it was an irritating message that went away after a few seconds. Mine was more serious X-Files stuff. The Compaq quietly stared at me as if it was in on the conspiracy, for as long as I left it, its annoying little message mocked me, ‘No irq handler for vector’. 

More serious action was required in order to save the BCG. Where were the rope swingers and sword fighters, the caped superheroes, or the hot techie?

The huge advantage Buster the Lone Wolf had was that the system was Linux. And Buster knew how to solve this.

Tomorrow : The Magic of a Linux Install
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline fox

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2019, 12:46:50 pm »
Intriguing. But what is BCG?
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Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2019, 12:59:52 pm »
Best Computer in the Galaxy.
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2019, 08:35:39 am »
Chapter Four : The Magic of a Linux Install

The appliances in our home are old friends – the kitchen stove goes back to the 60’s,  the freezer to the early 70’s, and the 3 others are at least a quarter century old. Despite their disadvantages, they have one huge advantage – when they break, you can fix one small part. With modern appliances, with the computerization that’s built into them, generally when they break, the whole thing has to be replaced, because the cost for that electronic motherboard makes replacing a new appliance more cost effective than fixing.

Fixing a Linux machine or fixing a Windows machine fits nicely into one of these two categories. With Windows usually you use the entire hard drive, so if it needs serious fixing, often you need to wipe the entire drive:

C: broken
to
C: fresh install

With most Linux installs you have 3 partitions on the hard drive. So it looks something like this:

root partition; home partition; swap partition, or

 /    /home   swap

So what? So everything!

Upstairs on my trusty laptop I had VMWare, and on my wife's machine I had an old copy of a virtual Mint sitting quietly in Storage. Drag and drop from hers to mine and after awhile I had this virtual machine sitting in the proper spot in the laptop, and with WMWare I fired it up and had a Mint desktop appear before me on the laptop.

Next I went to the Mint site and download the latest Mint iso.

Meanwhile, my next very nerve-wracking step was to go down to the messy storage room and rummage for a small no longer used USB, and I finally found 2 of them. It seemed my luck had turned. I dusted off both of them and headed upstairs to the laptop.

What Mint allowed me to do with infinite simplicity, now that it held the iso, was to turn one of these grimy sticks into bootable software for a complete, new Mint Linux system, latest edition I might add. It uses two little programs that are embedded into every Mint OS and can be found through the menu under Accessories:

USB Stick Formatter
USB Image Writer

Basically, using these two programs, and following the simple instructions, gave me a grimy USB stick that was going to perform magic, and save the BCG, because I was going to install a new Linux system the Linux way, not the Windows way.

Tomorrow: Best Computer in the Galaxy
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline buster

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2019, 09:23:45 am »
Chapter Five : Best Computer in the Galaxy

In 1951, Robert Heinlein, one of the giants of science fiction, published The Puppet Masters. In this story the alien invaders were large slugs that attached themselves to the back of the neck of humans. They then connected with ganglia to the human nervous system, taking it over, and turning men and women into  mobile bodies for the slugs, who could now easily slap more slugs onto human necks. To reclaim the controlled human, and free him or her to be the person of the past, someone had to sneak up on the controlled human from behind, and zap the slug. With the slug dead, the human was saved. So get rid of the one bad part, and the rest was totally good.

( Historical fact: If you see a film depicting the era of my youth, you will see the style of dress included, besides a duck-tail haircut, shirts with our collars up. This was not a true style statement. 
This was because all the young males back then had read The Puppet Masters, and felt the shirt collar offered some protection. And none of my friends were ever taken over, so I believe that it worked. Ladies had long hair and were not as much at risk. For confirmation of this, watch a film based on that period, and you’ll see the collars up. )

So what I needed was some way to zap the slug on the malfunctioning Mint hard drive, and leave it working as it should. Linux, with its flexibility, has the power to be the caped super hero who can zap the slug, and return the trapped operating system to its fully alive state. And here is how it was done.

I inserted the grimy usb stick into the old desktop, and turned it on. Immediately I started to tap the esc key and finally two boot choices showed. I select USB. Most readers have done this, but for those who haven't, what happens is that Mint installs itself in the ram of the computer, but leaves the hard drive untouched. Soon it would be allowed to touch the hd, and like an assassin, zap the bad stuff.

So now the delicate surgery started. I clicked install and went through a number of tedious steps, of which really only 3 are significant.

1. Use exactly the same user name and password as before.
2. Leave the hard drive partitions as before.
3. Choose wisely what you format, the key element.

So the old  root is to be formatted.
The old /home is NOT to be formatted. This is where, without the help of any other super heroes, I defeated the forces of evil.
The swap will take care of itself, and normally Mint wont touch the ntfs partition if there is space to use elsewhere.

So in effect, the underlying engine is replaced in root, and the stuff in my home is maybe dusted and tidied up, put generally left as is.

Time passed, I made some tea, the install progressed until the BCG was ready to be rebooted.

I pulled out the grimy usb and selected reboot. Felt kind of ho humm. The Best Computer in the Galaxy would amaze the viewer ( me ), but life would go on in its usual way. After all, the slug had been defeated, the messy room returned to its peaceful ways. The universe was safe again.
And all was as foreseen. The ssd with Win 10 was reinserted, the new huge space for Windows examined, the shortcuts to shares confirmed. It was a thing of beauty.

But I was glad the journey was over. This had been a long 3 stage trip, both unnecessary and rewarding at the same time. So while the desktop sparkled, and felt like a real accomplishment,  I was very tired, and glad it had come to an end. Scotch on ice seemed appropriate.

* * * * *

After a few days my wife had coffee with Ms Tao, who said she was leaving the area. Apparently her work here was done. She said her son, who had a strange Asian name that sounded like Tonto, was leaving with her. Her final words were, ‘Left silver thing with fuzzy face. We go now.’

And she left the coffee shop, got on her electric bike, and with a wave, drove off into the gathering dusk.

* * * * *

I would like to thank the FoxWall Foundation for completely funding this story.

August, 2019
"With all due respect John I am head of IT and I have it on good authority if you type 'Google' into Google you can break the internet, so please no one try it, even for a joke." ( Jen on 'The IT Crowd' )

Offline fox

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2019, 10:03:34 am »
You know, of course, that you signed away the copyright to the Foundation. :)
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Offline ssfc72

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Re: Adventures with a 10 Year Old Desktop Trilogy - Book Three
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2019, 08:02:29 am »
Thank you Buster, for tthe detailed results from your 10 year old computer, project!
Mint 18.3 on an HP Pavilion X360, 11" k120ca notebook
Tried Mint 19, but too many bugs. Went back to Mint 18.3
Cellphone ZTE Axon 7 Mini, PCMobile pay as you go