Month: September 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

My girlfriend had been wanting to see this movie for a while now, and so we finally got a chance to sit down and watch it tonight.

I was really drawn into the movie. Sometimes, I even felt like I could empathize with the main character, though I clearly haven’t experienced anything so psychologically traumatizing as the types of emotions this guy goes through. Still, it seemed as though the movie demanded that I sink in what I was seeing and gather enough through observation to feel moved in some way.

I think anyone who isn’t totally inhuman can relate to at least a small piece of the emotional complexity of what the kid goes through in the year of his life the movie represents, and it makes it easy to feel a connection with the character. I truly liked that about this film.

As much as I enjoy sitting down and watching a sci-fi action film with intense special-effects and nostalgic eye-popping future-lending glimpses of technology – films like this are definitely a welcome change when I happen upon them. Especially ones that seem to do such a good job.

I recommend it to anyone who likes films that depict the growth through adolescence with the addition of dramatic twists, and there was a pretty big one at the end of this movie.

Before Installing Windows…

For anyone who is considering an upgrade for Windows, heed this warning before you choose to do so via a fresh install: get your drivers ready.

Many people take for granted that Windows works right out of the box. I think it is especially the case considering that Windows actually doesn’t work right out of the box. In most cases, Windows can’t even successfully find software drivers online when trying to install a simple peripheral device, so it surely does a poor job of working with the essential hardware of your PC as-is.

If you don’t know what I mean, then it means you’ve never taken a standard Windows installation and used it to install Windows onto a PC before. It’s safe to say that everyone is familiar with purchasing a computer with Windows pre-installed. In some cases, you may even be familiar with the luxury of having a Factory System Restore CD/DVD, though it’s not common with new PCs today. Either way, the biggest difference between having a Factory System Restore option (either on as physical medium or as an image on the hard-drive) and a standard installation method (Windows, of some version and edition, that you buy separately to use on any PC) is that the Factory System Restore method will include the drivers for your PC’s hardware already included. When you use the Factory System Restore image, your PC will boot up with the resolution looking nice and all network peripherals working as they should. Yet, if you install Windows from something other than a Factory System Restore image that is made specifically for your PC, you’ll find the resolution to be poor (and unchangeable) and no ability to access the internet even through your wired ethernet port.

In one of few ways, this is how Linux distributions really have a one-up on Windows. Because most essential hardware will work before you install the additional drivers, especially the ethernet port (which allows an easier path to obtaining essential drivers). When I installed Windows, I had to find a copy of my PC’s mobo, video and ethernet drivers, place them on a USB drive and then put them onto the PC I had installed Windows on.

In all truthfulness, Windows worked great after installing the drivers, but the real point is that you need to know to do this. I’ve heard of some people installing a Windows upgrade and then reverting back to their previous Windows version because they thought there was an issue with their PC being able to run Windows when they were presented with the lower resolution and unusable ethernet.

So, be prepared. Because if the PC you’re upgrading is the only one you have access too, and you don’t prepare a way to install the drivers onto the PC without internet-access beforehand, you might find yourself in a tough situation – such as with a temporarily useless PC.

Hamming Code

I’m just now getting exposed to Hamming Code in my Digital Electronics class, and I must say that I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of this before in any prior electronics classes – even if just being briefly mentioned. Parity bits used to identify minor errors is quite familiar, but Hamming Code was never mentioned.

My professor actually studied under Dr. Hamming, which makes learning about Hamming’s code that much more interesting to learn about, though it’s a pretty nifty and interesting either way you look at it.

I must say that the process of encoding and decoding is fairly straight-forward. It doesn’t seem too difficult to work out, though it does get progressively more work-demanding as the message that you’re encoding/decoding grows. And, of course, you have to watch out for conversion errors.

PC Hardware Failure

Coincidental circumstances that happened to fall into line over the past couple of weeks led me to believe that issues with Ubuntu’s latest download update for 12.04, 12.04.3, were causing problems with my system. Of course, if you installed 12.04 from the moment it was first released and have updated each time kernel updates and other core package updates were posted, then you are basically running the same thing as 12.04.3 anyway – it just includes more recent updates in the download to help keep from having to get any more updates than is absolutely necessary if you’re grabbing the OS over a year later.

But anyway. After running into some issues with Unity after installing Cinnamon on my system to check out how it ran under Ubuntu, I could not figure out how to recover Unity’s lock screen and screensaver functions. Cinnamon overwrote them and they remained gone after removing Cinnamon from my machine. So I decided to simply re-install Ubuntu – figuring that a clean install would be nice anyway. Since I was doing a fresh install, I decided to go with 13.04 and see how well I liked using it on a daily basis.

After about a week or so, I decided I’d rather go back to 12.04. However, I knew that the ISO for 12.04 was getting updated to 12.04.3 only a few days from that moment, so I chose to stick with 13.04 until then. After getting 12.04.3 and installing it, I found that the Ubuntu splash screen was never displayed during boots and shutdowns (with the exception of running it from LiveUSB before installing), and also that the graphics lagged at times – especially when viewing videos or minimizing and revealing windows. I hadn’t seen any issues in 12.04 prior to installing 13.04, or any issues in 13.04 after that, so I figured that it must have been something within the 12.04.3 update that was causing the problem. Still, I gave a re-install of 12.04.3 a chance to see if maybe there had been something else done along the way that I’d overlooked. However, the issues remained. So I decided to grab Linux Mint 13 and see if it would give me any problems. It had the same issues with the splash screen, but there didn’t seem to be any latency issues in the graphics, so I was satisfied.

I was using Linux Mint for maybe a week before my screen suddenly locked up, leaving me unable to do anything, and then the computer simply hard crashed a few seconds later – powering off immediately. I pressed my Power button and nothing happened. I waited a few seconds and pressed it again. Still, nothing happened. I then held it down for about 15 seconds, getting no response. Finally, I decided to go down to the PC and look at it. After touching the top of the PC, I realized it was extremely hot. So hot, in fact, that I could not keep my hand on it for more than about five to ten seconds. Naturally, I began to worry that I was looking at some serious hardware damage.

My initial thought, since the PC would not power-on or even show a light on the ethernet interface, was that the motherboard was fried. However, I pulled the cover off of the PC and looked around for any signs of burn damage or ruptured capacitors and found nothing. Still, when plugging in the power cord, I could not get any kind of reaction that indicated the system wanted to power-on. I did, however, notice that the main fan on the motherboard would twitch the moment I first plugged in the power cord. It was late, so I decided to call it a night.

The remaining few days had me looking around for a cheap PC replacement, because I needed to have something to do my school work on, and I didn’t feel like I could manage with just the laptop. I’m someone who prefers to use a desktop PC. However, I realized about the second day out that the video card had been located on the mobo right where the case felt so hot. So, I decided to open the case and pull out the video card, then plug in the PC and hit the power button. Sure enough, the fans kicked on and the PC started booting up (or at least as far as I could see at that moment). Attaching the monitor via the onboard VGA port proved that the video card was indeed the sole culprit. A video card replacement had me back up and running.

I guess the reason I decided to type out this whole post and explain my situation is that I’m not really the most savvy PC troubleshooter, and that sticking to my original assumption of the mobo being lost would have had me spending lots more time and money getting back to a desktop PC. I just hope that other people out there who run into similar issues, even if it is with other hardware, will consider my experience and keep an open mind to all the possible causes of their PC’s issue before taking extreme measures – just in case it may also wind up being a quicker and easier (not to mention cheaper) fix as well.