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Friday, August 19, 2005 
overcoming entropy
barry managed to get his truck to start again, and virago's furniture is moved! it might not be in the right position or anything like that, but it's in her apartment, so that's something. the truck apparently died again during barry's ride home, but at least that didn't happen until the furniture was moved... and the truck was in the driveway tonight, so i suspect he was able to get it to start yet again.

anyway, that was the most intimidating thing on our "to do" list, so now that it's accomplished it's like a huge weight has been lifted. whew!

of course, my home computer still won't boot most of the time. i just haven't had time to properly troubleshoot it, but i will this weekend.

googling my error message ("DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER", though i've had a couple KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE_ERRORs as well) has turned up a few potential problems and suggested fixes/troubleshooting methods:

it could just be a corrupted boot sector; in theory this should be super easy to fix, but windows makes it a huge pain. to do so, you basically need to use the recovery console, which is not installed by default (you have to install it or run it off the cd). theoretically, using the "r" repair option on the windows cd could also conceivably fix it, but again, you need to boot from the cd to get that option.

or it might just be a bad bios setting, and fixing it could be as simple as resetting the bios. but i kind of doubt that.

the other possibility is that my hard drive could be going bad: it's possible all those power flickers physically damaged it somehow, in which case i'll need to replace it. i've located the samsung diagnostic utility (it's important to use a tool from the HD provider; in my case samsung), but that needs to be run from a boot floppy.

or it could be a bad cable or something like that, but again i somewhat doubt it.

there are a couple other problems exacerbating this, which is partly why i've been unable to troubleshoot it yet: i need to take care of these other issues first.

one is that i never hooked up my floppy drive properly. lazy lazy, i know: i built this machine 5-6 months ago and the floppy drive has never worked, but since floppies are pretty much only used in emergencies these days (for boot problems like i'm having now), i never got around to fixing it. i believe that all i need to do is flip the cable around and it should work.

the other problem is that i use a USB keyboard. because of general shittiness with pc bioses etc, while bios USB support will allow me to use my keyboard within the bios menu, apparently USB keyboards don't work during the boot process: so i can't boot to safe mode, i can't access the boot menu, i can't "press any key to boot from cd", and i can't even press enter when it tells me to insert a system disk. fortunately, we have a couple ps/2 keyboards lying around, so i just need to hook one of those up and i should be good to go. still a pain in the ass, though; i'm lucky that i like in a geeky house and we have lots of hardware lying around.

so i guess tonight (or this afternoon) i'm going to open up that bad boy and adjust some cables, clean out all the dust with some canned air, and try a couple things to see whether i can fix the system as-is or will need to buy a new hard drive. i would really rather not have to buy a new one, as then i'll need to reinstall windows and all my software again, which is fairly time-consuming... especially considering that we are building a new computer for virago as well: in fact, all her hardware arrived yesterday, and it seems likely we will start trying to build it this weekend... assuming that i get my computer fixed first. after all, she already has one working computer (even if it's old) as well as brand-new DSL service, while i don't have a working computer, so i think she'll forgive me for wanting to fix my own computer first.

anyway, the fair was fun. the prairie home companion live show was rather enjoyable: all the storytelling/radio drama stuff was pretty good, but there were way way way too many songs, and the songs ranged from mildly amusing to aggravatingly dull. and it didn't help that we were in the very uncomfortable bench seating at the marsh grandstand. but it was a good time; we ate a lot of fair food, including some deep-friend candy. we got the "combo", which consisted of one fried candy bar, two fried oreos, and a fried reese's cup. we concluded that all of them were messy and none were really very good. we plan to go back to the fair this weekend before it ends (looks like sunday will have the best weather; it could storm tomorrow), and when we do we might have to try a deep-fried twinkie.

update: dave lindquist has a review of the prairie home companion show online and in yesterday's star.

i find myself listening to prairie home companion a lot. i particularly enjoy the stuff like the ketchup advisory board, the duct tape council, guy noir, that guy who does the sound effects... but when he starts to get all maudlin about 90 minutes in, right after he says "well, it's been a quiet week in lake wobegon"... and his voice starts to modulate in a downward crescendo with every sentence, talking about the big doin's at the lutheran potluck or when he had to pick potatoes for old man bjorklund down the road... he just gives me the creeps, in that same kind of mr. rogers, pogo the clown way.

is it better to see live?

and how the hell is robert altman going to make a movie based on p.h.c.? ¶

as for whether it's better to see live... man, i don't know; i liked the stuff you mention, but i was so restless during those songs. if i were just listening to the radio, i could change the station for a minute or go do something else.

he talked somewhat about the altman movie: i guess it's supposed to be altman-esque hijinx that take place during/around the recording of a show? so it's not about lake wobegone; it's about the radio show. and supposedly there's a scene where keillor kisses meryl streep. ¶

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