Thursday, March 25, 2010

300 Days and Counting!

The countdown is ON! Today marks 300 days until we go on vacation! That might seem like a long ways off, but we actually started counting at 365 and the last 65 days have kind of flown by. January 20th, 2011 Karen and I will begin an 8 day vacation on the beautiful island of Jamaica. Staying at Sandal's Whitehouse Resort on the south side of the island, we will enjoy the all-inclusive features of this resort including unlimited dining at any of the 7 restaurants, unlimited drinks (including those at the swim-up bar), unlimited land and water sports and all oceanside rooms along the 2 mile beach.

We booked this on January 20th, 2010 when some of the vacations were 65% off. SWEET! And we were lucky enough to find a reasonable room on the first floor and is footsteps to the water. Ahhhhhhh, get up... throw on swim trunks... walk out the patio and onto the beach... relax... switch over to the pool... have a drink... eat... sleep... repeat X 8. I'm ready NOW!!!! Things to do: 1) Get passports. 2) Get plane tickets (we wanted to get them through the resort, but you can only book flights 330 days in advance).

Friday, March 12, 2010

PC Update

Well, as suspected, the more challenging part of the hard drive install was to come. Getting the software back onto the PC didn't necessarily go as planned, but all appears to be OK. I am about 75% back to normal now. I realized about Tuesday that I had no video or sound and using Device Manager I couldn't even pick a default audio device. Hmmm. That's going to make listening to iTunes difficult. The coverflow feature already wasn't working. Back out to the internet. Apparently, when you re-install XP, it wipes out your video/audio drivers and the first thing you should do after bringing XP back up is to download and re-install the Chipset... onto the Motherboard... Huh??? Thank God for Dell and their Service Tag #s. Downloaded the chipset, installed it(twice... the first time locked my PC up). And downloaded the audio drivers (also from Dell) and voila - sound!!! And iTunes Coverflow works!

While this has been a bit of a pain, it's still better than spending big $$ on a new computer. Besides, that money saved is now going to pay for the new exhaust on the Explorer- something it's needed for a while. Couldn't hear ourselves think anymore when driving it, so had to get it done.

Tomorrow, we are heading to the Auto Show with Diane & Nathan who are supposed be on their way up to the Twin Cities right now for the weekend! Too bad it won't be sunny while they are here. Oh well. Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Impending Hard Drive Crash

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the hard drive on the computer at home was making this peculiar ticking sound. Knowing that no one had planted a bomb, I began doing some research. A google search of 'ticking hard drive' returned millions of hits all saying basically the same thing: the hard drive is on it's last leg and will fail. Not 'probably fail', not 'might fail'... WILL fail, as in "I'm surprised it hasn't already" failed. Great. I backed my hard drive up to my external portable one. Soon the PC started randomly locking up and a couple weeks ago started taking at LEAST 15 minutes to boot up and log onto the network. Not wanting to shell out $$$ for a new computer and it otherwise being a good machine (the amount of memory it can have has been maxed out!), I decided I would try and replace the hard drive. Again, I backed up my hard drive.

Thankfully, Dell keeps track of the PCs it builds and what parts are in them. After I put in my Service Tag ID on the Dell site, it told me what hard drives were compatible. I ordered a 500GB hard drive from Western Digital for $65.99 (no tax, no shipping!) This is much more space than I'll ever need, but the smallest drive was 250GB and has less RAM.

After researching what this process was going to entail, I found bits and pieces of what to expect from different articles from Dell, Microsoft and others. No comprehensive "Here is how it's done" instructions. Great. This should be FUN! So I pieced together what I thought the process was going to be, did one last back up, replaced the hard drive, plugged it back in, held my breath and poked the power button. From there I:

-Entered the computer setup upon first boot to make sure the drive was identified by the computer (it was - Woo Hoo!!)
-Configured the PC to boot from the CD-ROM drive so XP could begin installing right away
-Decided not to partition the drive. If I need to later, I can
-Formatted the new hard drive
-Reinstalled Windows XP from the original disk that came with the PC
-Reinstalled the Wireless card software so I could get on the internet
-Updated Windows XP to the most current service pack including updates
-Reinstalled the drivers I needed from the disks that came with the PC
-Reinstalled Microsoft Office programs
-Went to bed

Tonight I hope to get my MS Outlook email and the .PST file back on the PC so I'll have access to all my old email, calendar and contacts in addition to other programs from the back up. This has been MUCH less scary than I figured it would be, but I'm not done. And thankfully, we have the laptop I can do some research on in case things go really wrong! Thanks to the new hard drive (and no other programs being loaded), it takes about 30 seconds to boot up and get on the internet. Much improved over 15 minutes!!