New Foreigner Book!


a few hardcovers and pbs available from Closed Circle, signed. Latest: Moonlover and the Fountain of Blood, Jane Fancher short story. Chernevog, part 2 of the Rusalka trilogy co-written by CJ and Jane; and Orion's Children, a tetralogy from Lynn.

It never fails that when Jane is nearing the end of a book…

We have a flood, fire, or a computer calamity…
In this case we are both nearing the end of our respective books and it’s my computer…

We called Dell; after days of fixes, from loading new USB drivers (the problem is ‘dancing’ up and down a set of USB’s) to flashing the bios—they concluded I need a new MOBO (motherboard) and sent one and a repairman, who began by saying he didn’t think it was the mobo, that the ‘dancing’ is indicative of a virus or spyware and that I should decline the mobo fix and undertake virus removal…which entails wiping the disk. He took away the new mobo and wished me luck with wiping the disk and reinstalling Windows.

Well, we pulled the affected laptop drive and first used a cable to connect it to the drive of another Windows computer, which threw a catfit, apparently—I wasn’t there— The object was to run Norton Antivirus via a Windows installation on THAT computer, which would be able to scan the ENTIRE disc.

So I was computerless all day, with the notion that we would have to re-image (trash and wipe) my hard drive, so I spent time backing up files, and calling Dell to arrange the disks needed to do that operation.

By evening, we got hold of Lynn, who does computers as a side job…and she said the dancing is more often than not a hardware problem. We called Dell and told them we had changed our minds, told them what the repairman had said, and that we weren’t convinced, and we wanted the new mobo instead. I had copied files to CD which the repairman had said couldn’t be done reliably with the virus he suspected; and I also ran Norton on the machine, which reported no virus…it couldn’t, from there, analyse the part of Windows software running it, but we were getting the most of it. AND the problem we have been having with the router the guy said was due to the virus…we are pretty sure has not ‘infested every computer in the house’ but is really just the crap modem Comcast gave us about the time we started having troubles with it.

So I called Dell for the multip-leth time and said I wanted the mobo change. They’re sending a new one. I hope they send a different repair guy.

Well, it was a stressful day. Really stressful. Wipe and reload every computer in our network? At tax time and with 2 novels near their ends? Gimme a break!

So this morning Jane pulled the drive again and this time put it into direct link with the desktop computer, and it ran Norton clean, no objections, no virus.

So Wesley has had his joke. All’s normal again—I’m waiting for the new mobo. I still have this computer working.
What can I say?

41 comments to It never fails that when Jane is nearing the end of a book…

  • Wilson

    You seriously need a spare writing station, with a copy of your work always updated.
    That way a computer failure would be disappointing, but much less stressful 😉

  • My opinion re the “dancing” behavior of the USB’s:

    I’ve seen Windows and Macintosh both decide they want to “ignore” a given USB device for no discernible reason, though at times it may because there has been more than one device hooked up to a given USB port in the past. I suspect the OS gets to where it can’t tell which of them is the one it’s trying to talk to, and thinks it’s talking to one when it’s actually another.

    I have also seen USB ports, like any other computer port, get dinged, knocked so that there’s a loose or faulty connection. (My old laptop’s audio jacks don’t work for the same reason.) That could cause not only one USB port to get iffy, but any of them, as they’re probably on a single controller, ultimately. So depending on the configuration, they’d need to swap out a controller card for the USB ports, or more likely in modern laptops, they’d need to swap out the motherboard, because the default USB controller for the built-in ports is likely to be built onto the motherboard. …And the tech, yes, should’ve thought of that.

    I’m not really a hardware guy, despite growing up with computers. I’m not as able to make Win or Mac sit up and beg as I used to be. (Back when I was working pro in DTP, I could reliably do the maintenance, software-wise, and connections hardware-wise, on our SCSI external drives. But I’ve never had luck with internal Windows HD’s.)

    My supposition: I’d guess the tech made the assumption that two ~women~ he thought were ~non-tech-geeks~ would succumb to a computer virus, rather than be smart enough to ~ahem~ know something of how their equipment works. In such a situation, the fact that you are both ~SF&F writers~ with years of experience dealing with computers and a natural hands-on, tech-geek bent, though like me, you’re not the wire-head, code-head extreme tech-geek bent. SF&F writers who fix their own handywoman jobs: Therefore not afraid of tech; in fact, people who speak geek and like geeks 😉 , and writers who are able to get some good idea what’s going on.

    If you do get the same tech, maybe he’ll ~stop and think through~ the problem more, and see what’s going on and … fix the dang thing.

    Best wishes getting everything all sorted out and working again.

    No, the phrase, “A Clockwork Apple”, would not in this case apply. Heheheh.

  • chondrite

    Do you get the same tech all the time, or is it just whoever happens to be in the ‘hot seat’? BCS might have a point that many techs, even though they should know better, still have a bias against nerd-savvy wimmimfolk. If possible, you might want to find a tech who you like, knows his/her stuff, and can work with you, then make a point of requesting ‘Sam’ every time you have an issue. It’s always better to have someone with a familiarity with your systems than playing technician Russian Roulette.

    • chondrite

      And incidentally, virus removal by a system wipe and restore is a last resort; it’s using a sledgehammer to drive a tack nail and a lazy man’s recourse. There are TONS of virus removal programs out there, some better than others, that could do the job without such drastic measures. The only virus that might merit such drama at the moment would be the dread CryptoLocker; if you don’t have your stuff backed up properly (I believe you use Carbonite, neh?) that’s a game ender.

      • chondrite

        I’m fortunate in that DH is such a person, and will only do such measures if absolutely necessary 🙂

      • Apf

        Chondrite has put this very well. There are very few pieces of malware out there that the big AV companies products will not deal with. Between Sophos, Kaspersky, McAfee (even Norton) you should get an answer that is non-destructive. I used to be head of QA for the AV for one of the leading companies and I cannot recall a single time we had to nuke a machine. When the normal av products are not able to remove the infection and repair the file or files, then they have the option to kill the infected files. If that fails or is unusually complicated the there are special tools on their websites for removing such dross. Tools like McAfee’s stinger and Microsoft’s removal tools.

  • I’m still trying to get a response from Dell’s Knowledge-based forums on my desktop’s power supply. We had a power outage last month, the computer is on an UPS, and maintained the power as I was shutting off printers, etc., but before I could get Windows to shut down, the UPS apparently sent the signal through the data cable to tell the computer to shut itself off NOW! The power button no longer activates the computer, and according to APC (the manufacturer of my UPS), it’s not an UPS problem, but rather a BIOS problem, in that I might have had the settings for “restore” set incorrectly. I’ve plugged the computer directly into the wall outlet, bypassing the UPS). The UPS is working fine, so it’s not that, either. I’ve had the power supply out of the case, can’t find any blown fuses (can’t find any fuses, period), no burned areas on the circuit boards. I’ve removed the CMOS battery, taken the jumper that is used to reset the BIOS to factory defaults, and it still will not come on when I press the “Power” button. I’m relegated to using the laptop that I intended to use for other things Amateur Radio related, and I really hate loading the applications on this machine, but I need them, too. Nobody in the User forums has responded to my request, and I can’t afford Dell tech support charges. If it’s the power supply, then I’ll have to get a rebuilt one, and that’s running about $70 right now.

    • chondrite

      Can you get the computer to turn on at all? Is there a chance that the power button itself might have had a brain fut and no longer work?

      • No, it doesn’t turn on at all. The only thing I haven’t done is to have put a VOM on the power supply while I had it out of the case and plugged into the wall socket. That would possibly indicate that there is voltage, but taking the damned thing out now is such a pain.

        • cwjordan

          If you decide to use a VOM remember that typically you do need a load connected up to a computer power supply or you will get no voltage out of it.

          • paul

            True for traditional switching power supplies and always recommended. But I’ve heard for some years some have internal load resistors that will regulate. It’s never been clear which those are, in my experience.

    • Walt

      I assume you did the press and hold for a five count bit? (Boots the system from scratch instead of trying to resume or restore a session.)

    • paul

      @joe, if you’ve left the “clear CMOS” jumper on long enough, 15-30sec, then your next best bet is to just pull the battery for several minutes (long enough to go to the store for a new replacement? They last a long time, but how old is it?) If that fails to reset to factory defaults, then one wonders whether the MoBo got damaged. 🙁

      • I’ll give it a try, Paul. Thanks. I had pulled the CMOS battery, but didn’t leave it out for more than about 30 seconds. Maybe that longer removal period might make a difference. I need to get another battery, anyway. Glad 2032 types aren’t expensive.

        • The CMOS battery has been out for 7 hours. I’ve held the power button down for at least 15 secones, and no response from the computer. Yes, it’s plugged in. No, I did not put a new CMOS battery in, yet, the socket is still empty. I have two new CR2032 batteries that I bought tonight, one will go in, if I can get the computer to power back on. Otherwise, there’s no point in putting it in if the computer isn’t going to start up.

          Maybe a drop kick test? Let me go get my combat boots……

          • paul

            OK 🙁 , not looking good for the home team, but let’s not jump to conclusions. What other computers might you have? It could be the MoBo, or the power supply.

            If you have a different system that works (I can take in 9 at a glance, more in the other room, but computing was my career) it might be useful to try the MoBo in it. Windows can be picky about that, but any thing can be used, like a bootable CD or floppy.

            Also try the hard drive in the other system as a non-booting slave, for reassurance your data is still there.

            You might try swapping P/Ses, putting one from a functioning system in. Then with a little risk, you might try this P/S in the other system.

            Any bare HD would provide enough load to make the P/S regulate, but for ATX P/Ses you need to short a couple pins on the MoBo connector, simulating the front panel push-button. But we can get to that later. 😉

  • NosenDove

    Shudder shudder shudder. I wish you success. I have had a power supply replaced on my iMac but nothing else.

  • Those little teeny connectors with their plastic guides … ugh. I have a hard drive where the guide on the data connection broke – I have stuff on the drive I want, but I have to hunt up a place that can handle it.

    • this thing just shut down on its own. The UPS has a data cable to it, so the UPS can tell the computer that it needs to shut down, but this wasn’t a normal shutdown, it was as if you had pulled the plug on the computer type of shutdown.

      • CJ

        Joe, a bios problem on a computer that can’t turn on is kind of a catch-22. A bios flash is do-able from their site—if you could turn on. OTOH, there are repair shops that service Dells, and you might go talk to one, for one thing to ask if there is something that can be done, and to find out their charges: they may be less than shipping it off to Dell blind.

  • CJ

    I haven’t told you all the best part of it—I had to have a thyroid biopsy last week, and the result report was due Monday. Didn’t come. Tuesday—the computer guy tells us we have to wipe all 6 of our computers while we’re a) finishing 2 novels, b) doing our taxes c) trying to deal with the fence falling down and the pond needing urgent attention;—and Tuesday was the first day in about 3 years we got NO mail whatsoever—so did it go missing, or what? I tried to call the doctor, but they’d closed for the day.

    I was quite thoroughly fried. So Jane kindly drove me to the doctor’s office and we got a copy of the report.

    Benign. No problem.

    Color us happy.

    We have a mobo coming from Dell—we don’t know whether we’ll get the same repairman or not; and we have—wait for it—ordered the fence! That will be the next big adventure—we hope!

    • ready4more

      So glad the thyroid problem is not weighing so heavily. No, wonder the books have been stalled, lately. Going through the tax thing ourselves, and having a lot of tax turbulence caused by retirement and our records not matching our retirement 1099 statements, readyGuy and I sincerely empathize with the angst that must be percolating through the household (as well as sh*t percolating through the pond filters…).

      It seems as if the level of tech repair is sliding downhill faster than the Olympic skiers. Our tech repair shop closed down last week after more than 15 years of working on our household computers. Part of the reason was that the owners wanted to retire, but also they were having problems recruiting and keeping qualified and trainable techs, who would get training at their expense then get lured away to become a member of the Geek Squad at some big box electronics store. We may not have a bricks and mortar bookstore anymore but we sure do have a plethora of electronics big box stores in town.

      We hope you and Jane both can settle into that productive place where the final scenes that tie together the story arcs appear with enough hooks for the next book… and that taxes, and the fence, and the pond and tanks, and life in general settle down with minimal drama.

    • wipe all six computers? Is that guy nuts or something? I’d be asking Dell for a better solution than that, and if that’s the best they can do, they need to reorganize their tech support. Come to think of it, is your support person here in the U.S. or overseas? I hate when I call Dell and I’m speaking to someone halfway around the world. I’m sure they’re competent, but there are those subtleties of language that people who have a very good fluency in the pure language, but not the idiomatic language, just don’t get. I never know how to ask for someone who’s in the U.S., so I just do the best I can and soldier on. Not only Dell, but also McAfee tech support…..I’ve just decided to let McAfee expire next month, and go on to something like Avast, which is free and I don’t have to worry about my credit card getting charged unexpectedly when renewal time comes around. McAfee renews about 2 months early and it’s always during a bad time for my finances.

    • chondrite

      New fence coming — good.
      New motherboard coming — ?? One hopes this is truly what the problem requires.
      Biopsy negative — excellent.
      Pond moving towards balance — restful.
      Taxes due — gird your loins and carry on.

      Whomever said things always come in threes never visited your household! More like infelicitous eights!

  • Aja Jin

    Really happy to hear the thyroid was just an annoyance. As to the computer(s), it’s really too bad you can’t switch to a Mac, since there is no track stick/trackpoint thingy option. The hardware is exceptionally good and long-lasting, and Mac OS eliminates so many of the troublesome and dangerous things that come along with Windows.

  • CJ

    Re the tech thing with Dell—I pay an extra fee at the purchase of the computer to get the ‘guy with pocket protector shows up at my door with part” sort of thing, and this means that after I have talked to Mumbai, I get through to Kansas, or wherever—or sometimes without talking to Mumbai. You input your Express Service number, and you get a whole different routing, excluding the overseas guys—who, really, honestly, are pretty good.

    And when I called back to explain why I was changing my mind (can you say ‘presented too many alternatives too forcefully with too much on my mind’—I fear I tuned half of it out) —but Dell asked rapidly: did the guy come on too strong, were you upset: me: no… not at all. He was quite sweet. We were just too frazzled. [Didn’t mention the medical thing going on, or the fact I was looking out the window waiting for the postman who didn’t come] —and we agreed I just had applied the tests the guy said would fail, they passed, and we wanted the mobo. So they took everything down and we were all very happy. No fuss, no quarrel, no ‘but we’re already sending you the imaging disks’ and so on—nope. Just, That’s what you want, that’s what you get, and this computer is fully covered for everything including owner stupidity until spring of 2016.

    I really do recommend a service policy if you have a laptop: too easy to hook a foot in the mouse cord (which I fear I had done) or some such; or to spill coffee on the keyboard.

    I will say, too, (and tune this out if you’re squeamish, but) that the needle biopsy option is not bad at all. It’s done with a microfine needle without anaesthetic, and while there may be one or two moments of discomfort, in generally I would put a tooth filling at an 8 out of 10, a root canal, after initial injection, at a 5, and this at about a 3. The main thing is — don’t move. Keep calm and carry on.

  • Teegan

    I feel your pain; I got a new mobo out of Dell and a new Seagate hard drive in January. The hard drive on my work laptop died the day I got our company books to the accountant for 2013; probably the best time it could have chosen to die. I futzed with it myself for a full day before I decided it really had a problem in the boot sector and the laptop was still under warranty with next business day on site service. When I called Dell and told them the error I was getting when I ran the Dell and Seagate diagnostics on the drive they said I needed a new drive and somehow the customer support person decided a new mobo would be in order as well. Dell uses Burroughs here in central MD to actually come to the house and do the work, and I should have gotten the new drive and mobo on Friday. Waited all day – nothing. Sent nasty email to Dell – nothing. Monday morning, Burroughs tech called; she had been off on Friday but they had assigned my job to her even though she was out of town. Go figure. Parts were replaced and everything worked fine when she left. Maybe because it was a woman she didn’t have any problem believing that I really had hardware problems.

    Ten hours later, the replacement Seagate drive died. I called Dell back and this time they sent a Western Digital, but I had to replace it my self. And reinstall the programs. Again.

    Yes, I was backed up with a proprietary backup software that couldn’t figure out how to use its own back-up to restore my data. Since the boot sector seemed to be the only thing that had gone south, the data was recoverable between Carbonite and copying other files up to the network.

    I’m now running a 1TB Samsung solid state drive in the laptop, with a decent WD 750GB drive in reserve.

    Did you run the Dell diagnostics? I did that before I downloaded and ran the Seagate drive tool. I’ve had the Dell diagnostics that run when you hit F12 during boot-up find hardware errors a couple of times when things have gotten weird.

    Glad to hear the thyroid thing is benign; that must have been worrisome. Here’s hoping the new mobo will be installed with no hitches tomorrow.

  • ryanrick

    So very glad the biopsy was benign! And totally sympathize with tech going sideways. As you say it never fails that the universe decides to vent an abysmal sense of humor in the most hashed up way possible just to see if you’re paying attention. It’s like falling into a really bad soap opera. Good your healthy and good the computer is getting fixed. One the upside the network is happy and you have a nice set of backups.

  • nzreaderlyn

    Congratulations on the health results.

    We were told the exact same thing about a virus on a one year old (under 3 year warranty) PC. Took it back to the small computer store we bought it from and it turns out it was the motherboard dying. Bios flashing on ours too, but then had all sorts of strange messages. They thought initially virus until they tested it themselves. I never buy a computer without an extended warranty. By the time it runs out, its time for a new version of Windows. The good thing about these guys is they sell towers. All the big computer stores were selling ugly, slow,all-in-one-computers. All the large stores had those or laptops, no other reasonably priced choices. The smaller store builds up computers, mainly for gamers. Good to know Dell looks after its customers when they pay the extra for door to door service. Hopefully by now the repairman has been and gone, or you get a nice early knock on the door this morning. When I ask my husband if he wants his computer backed up, he says backup what’s a backup. I do it anyway when he is working Saturday morning.

    Good luck with the taxes – I am glad our tax department doesn’t have us jumping through the hoops the IRS has you all going through.

  • Tommie

    I can think of several things you might say, such as guinea pig patootie, sn*w, and other ‘computer fixing words’.

    I remember drying dishes when I was four. I dropped Mama’s favorite coffee cup and it shattered on the kitchen floor. “Judas Priest, damn it all to hell”, I exclaimed. Mama wanted to know where I had learned that kind of language. I told her that it was what Daddy said when he got mad while fixing the car. She explained to me that those were magic car fixing words, and never to be used for anything else.

    Are there gods more fortunate?

  • CJ

    It was the sort of day when, while I was waiting for the doc to return a call, [which didn’t happen] —we got rings from yaks, and from the occasionally confused lady who believes we’re the post office.

    That’s when I declared I was going to the doc’s office to ask.

    And the official letter finally arrived at 4 pm.

    There’s so much stacked up to do. I’m excavating the fence line, moving about 16 cu feet of dirt a day so the workmen can bury the fence posts on an even basis. Right now its piled up against stone, and I may have murdered one of our peonies, which was too close.

    And the people who could help us with this fence are off on vacation when we’re likeliest to need them. Jane and I will have to unscrew the panels, slip them out, and contrive to make them stand up as a makeshift and smaller fence to protect the pond and garden from intrusion on our very busy street. We’re also having to have the fence installer do the pickup for us, for one thing because we can’t fit 6′ fence panels into a Prius, and for another, because a pile of anything like construction materials lying on the roadside on Ash might not be there in the morning. You want something gone, you put it on our driveway with a sign saying ‘free’ and it will go away in hours. Unfortunately this also extends to things you don’t want gone.

  • paul

    Aiji-daja usually posts these, but as we know, she’s been “busy”.

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – Astronomers have found a dwarf planet far beyond the orbit of Pluto and can only guess how it got there.

    The diminutive world, provisionally called “2012 VP 113” by the international Minor Planet Center, is estimated to be about 280 miles in diameter, less than half the size of a neighboring dwarf planet named Sedna discovered a decade ago.

  • CJ

    Another stray bit! Neat!

    According to one theory, there was a point at which the gas giants set up a resonance (2:1 orbit) that flung Neptune and Uranus out until they hit enough obstacles like that to slow them down and let them fall into far orbit. Who knows what else could have formed closer in and been catapulted out? They do think it’s icy, not rocky. But let’s say we can be duly grateful this one doesn’t fall into cometary orbit. The larger comets are impressive enough at 20 miles across. I’d hate to have one this size come buzzing us!

  • Tommie

    I think we should call it Epimetheus, or afterthought.

  • WOL

    For a labor saving device that’s supposed to make life easier, I can’t think of anything that can complicate life more than a computer. Had my turn earlier this month. I got a virus that hijacked Internet Explorer (which I never use) and only discovered because Rhapsody is based on IE. Took me literally 24 hours straight and $70 bucks to oust. See here.

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