Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Robot Girl Dances Up A Storm.

Picture from Engadget

I wasn't planning on linking to other sites for news, but I just can't help it with this one. You must head on over to my favorite news site, Engadget, and check out these two videos of the HRP-4C shaking her stuff for the camera. Ok, she's (it? I'm so confused) not really shaking it per se, but her moves are still pretty impressive. 
As said in the comments below the videos, "Skynet is pleased.".

HP Printer Installation Problems. Safe Mode To The Rescue!

My dad recently dropped his computer off at my house. Seems he was trying to install his new HP printer, and things went badly.
The HP drivers got about half way installed, and then things started going wrong. Now, when he booted up his computer, the HP drivers would try to continue the install, but fail at the same point, usually causing his computer to lag very badly, and then freeze. It's not the first time I've seen this problem with HP printer drivers. HP is bad for having a large and complex amount of software that comes with their printers.

My first recommendation when installing a new HP printer would be to go to the website and download just the basic printer drivers. For most people, this will be all you  need.

Second, and this is true for many more things than just bad HP printer installs, is SAFE MODE.
When you have a problem to fix in Windows, but it lags or freezes before you get a chance to try to fix or uninstall the problem, then you can boot your computer up in safe mode. Booting in safe mode will load only the drivers absolutely necessary for windows to run, allowing you to repair the problem without crashes. You do this by pressing F8 while your computer is going through the beginning stages of boot up, before the Windows loading screen comes on. I usually just start tapping F8 as soon as the monitor comes up and keep tapping it until you see the boot up screen. You'll be greeted with a screen asking how you'd like to boot your computer:
I usually choose safe mode with networking. This will load up windows with only the bare minimum needed to operate, but you'll still have internet access. You'll first see a bunch of text shooting by on a black screen. Don't panic, this is normal. After it's done, Windows will load. You will notice right away that things look different. This is because Windows has loaded with just the basic video drivers, causing your screen resolution to be decreased. Everything will look normal again when you reboot, other than possibly the placement of some of your desktop icons.
Now that you have booted up your computer in safe mode, you can do stuff without it crashing. This is the ideal time to uninstall your HP drivers.
I've also used safe mode to run virus and malware scans, defragment my hard drive or update and repair broken drivers. Once you've completed the tasks you needed, reboot your computer like normal, and volia! Problem solved! Install your basic HP printer drivers, and you're done.
So remember, before you give up and bring your computer into the repair shop to fix a bad driver install, try repairing it yourself in safe mode!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Computer Won't Boot Up!

What do you do when your computer won't even boot up as far as windows? There are various errors that you could possibly see during your computers initial boot up procedure. By this I mean, when all the text is scrolling by on a black background, before you see the initial Windows start up screen.
We had a computer at work that would randomly give errors on start up. Usually it would just come up with a black screen with a cursor flashing in the top left corner and stay like that.

Peripheral Devices

USB hard drives (backup drives) are the worst culprits for these errors. It can read "Unable to read from disk", "Invalid hard drive", "Boot disk failure" or something similar, leading you to believe that your beloved hard drive has just given up the ghost. The problem I was having in this case was a blank screen with the cursor blinking in the top corner. This can result from the computer trying to read your back up drive as if its the main boot drive, but since there is no actual copy of your operating system (Windows) on it, it throws out errors like there's no tomorrow. Luckily, its easy to diagnose. Simply turn off your computer, unplug the USB cord from your computer, and restart. If you boot successfully, it was your USB drive. Now that you've figured out why it wouldn't boot up, what now? Well, particularly in older versions of windows, you won't be able to power up your computer with the usb drive plugged in. Its a pain, but you'll have to wait until your computer is completely booted up, and then plug it in. There are options you can try to change in your BIOS, but can be risky if you don't know what you're doing, and is more advanced than I want to get in this posting. Do a google search for USB BIOS settings if you feel capable of changing your bios settings. In this case, the USB drive was completely toast, and had to be replaced.

The same principle applies to any USB device if you are having boot up problems. Unplug ALL of your USB devices, and try to boot up the computer. If you get a successful boot up, then shut it down, plug in ONE USB item (printer, scanner, camera etc) and try to boot again. Keep going until you find the peripheral that is causing the boot problem. Once you've found it, update its drivers, check the manufacturers website, post on message forums, email me, or do whatever you have to do to get that pesky item setup properly again.

Boot Disk Failure

Boot Disk Failure. Insert System Disk. 
Nov 30,2010: Had another one of these calls. Exact same symptoms, exact same solution. People, clean the dust out of your power supplies!

I had a computer at work BSOD (blue screen of death) on me. I shut it down and restarted it. Oh no! "Boot disk failure. Insert system disk." That is not a good error. It came up before I even got to the windows start up screen. I tried another restart, but the same error came up. I thought I'd try a windows repair from my windows disk, since it looked like something serious had corrupted the hard drive. I inserted the disk, rebooted the computer, but another oh no! "There is no hard drive installed to repair to." That can't be good right? But wait. I know for a fact the hard drive was there a minute ago. Had some dastardly thief stole in and made off with my hard drive, cackling madly and twisting his handlebar mustache? Alas, no. Cool as that would have been, when I removed the side cover of the computer and had a look, the hard drive was right where it should be. There was only one reason I could think of that the computer would think there was no hard drive installed at all. A cable must have come unplugged! But no, all the cables seemed fine. I then remembered a while back that something similar had happened, and the power supply had been to blame. I swapped power plugs with the DVD-ROM and the hard drive and tried a reboot. Success! A completely successful reboot. Do you know what can cause random power issues in a computer?  DUST! Yep, a build up of dust in your computer can do all kinds of crazy things. Luckily for me, we have a large air compressor at work, so I just brought the computer over to the nearest hose, blew about 10 pounds of dust out of it, reconnected the plugs the way they were originally done, and presto! Successful reboot, no more BSOD's and no more boot disk error. If you don't have an air compressor handy, you can buy cans of compressed air at most computer supply stores. A vacuum can work in a pinch too.

Remember, if random errors start popping up, especially during the boot sequence, before the Windows start up screen, it never hurts to pop your cover off and give the computer a good dusting!