The reason(s) I have not written a post in a very long time

posted in: Web/Tech, Weblogs | 5

There will be no photos in this brief post for a reason that will become clear near its end (at item #4). There will be some screenshots. I have screenshots.

Note: I have a lot of backups. It's good that I have a lot of backups.

When something is wrong with a computer communications system, it can be difficult to diagnose and fix the problem. When something is wrong with each element in the chain of services, hardware, and software that makes up a computer communications system, it can become nearly impossible to diagnose and fix the problem(s).

What has been wrong between me and getting anything done on the computer (and I haven't figured out how to do a blog post without a computer):

1. Connection to the external world (i.e., provider of the communications channel). This was so-called high-speed DSL (insufficient speed, ultimately, to play a short YouTube video, for example, even with patience for significant loading time . . . e.g., fix and drink a cup of tea, still not there). We now, somewhat reluctantly but with greatly improved performance, have a cable connection.

That was somewhat difficult to track down because there were also problems with

2. The local wireless (and wired) network. I have lost track of how many routers and other hardware we went through to get this figured out, and how many knowledgeable people helped us. It was especially difficult to determine what was going on because of malfunctions in #1 above. We now have two pieces of hardware that effectively connect us to the outside service. Although we also have ethernet cables strung all over the house (and we do use them, although they were more critical while we were working on #1).

3. In addition, my primary computer has had hardware problems. This computer (and I am currently using it, although in an incompletely restored way) was bought at the top of the laptop line 18 months ago, in order to make it possible for me to do all the work I need to do wherever I am. It has not been able to do that, and the "not able to" has gotten increasingly obvious.

I've had it in for diagnostics multiple times since February (when I finally was in a location with an Apple store for long enough to do something about the problem, or try; when I'm at home, the nearest Apple store is a 2.5- to 3-hour round trip). Since February, it has on many occasions passed all the local-to-store diagnostics, both the "go out and have lunch and come back in a couple of hours" type and the "we'll need to keep it overnight for deeper testing" type.

Thus "not hardware, therefore software." We have reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled the documents and some of the software first with the migration assistant, then with the assistant but without preferences and settings, and then, repeatedly, manually, one item at a time, in order to rule out bringing in any legacy problems (with a hard-drive reformatting between each attempt and the next). I have not had all the software I need back on the computer in several months because we keep having to reformat and start over. Plus I want to keep the system as simple as possible until we know what's going on. (Although at this point, I'm not sure that will ever happen.)

As it turned out, when the machine (having passed all routine tests but still behaving erratically) was sent off to the repair depot in, I think, Nashville, it had a defective logic board and defective cables connecting the hard drive to the logic board. Those were replaced. (This also involved replacing the graphics card, which is attached to the logic board.)

It still had problems.

It now also has a new hard drive ( . . . start over with that re-installation of everything . . . ) and is better.

But is it fixed?

Not sure yet. There are still a few problems. I'm still watching the processor take a long time to do many normal tasks. And. . . .

4. iPhoto has apparently corrupted something relating to the photo library. It has lost keywords and other identifying information (e.g., image numbers) from some of the photos and is providing garbled event names in some instances. This is a problem for my research, and for my writing of blog posts.

Here's where I can put an image in this post.

2014-06-19-scrambled event names

Those events with strings of letters or numbers did not have those names a short while ago. They had either dates in readable formats or topic names (like "Soay wool").

The socks in the events above (Brenda Dayne's Tintern Abbey pattern, adapted for a different weight of yarn) used to have the keyword "Wensleydale" attached. They still come up on a keyword search for "Wensleydale" BUT the keyword is not visible in the information file for the photo. The keyword appears to be there and usable, just transparent.

On the other hand, those four lovely sheep below and to the right are Finns. They used to have the keyword "Finn" attached. They no longer do, and they also do not come up in response to a keyword search on "Finn." The keyword appears to no longer be either there or usable.

This is a problem. Apparently scrambling and loss of data like this "sometimes happens" with iPhoto (and also with Aperture, to which I had been thinking about switching).

I do have multiple backups of the iPhoto library, in several forms, but some of them need to be converted to be read by the current version of iPhoto, so they're not (yet) helping us solve or sidestep the problems of lost data.


Other erratic behavior is not yet explained.

At almost 100% complete, why is there no indication on the progress bar? (This is iPhoto again. At this point I have fairly low expectations for iPhoto to have rational behavior.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 8.17.01 AM

Is the fact that the icons along the bar at the top are missing a problem of Firefox (probably) or something with the local software or hardware (possibly)?

2014-06-19 Firefox missing icons

Is the problem on Facebook with linking to names (blue indicators do not align with the name, or sometimes won't link at all) indicative of a problem with Facebook, the browser, or the computer?

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 8.19.51 AM



I haven't even tried reinstalling the most resource-intensive software on the machine yet. So even as far as it does work, it doesn't have the tools I need and depend on. And when it comes time to install the Adobe software, it's highly probable that I'll have to spend a significant amount of time on the phone convincing the company that I'm not trying to steal their software and put it on more machines than it's licensed for—because undoubtedly on one occasion or another I forgot to deactivate it before I, or someone else, wiped the hard drive yet again.


The good news is that while this 18-month-old MacBook Pro with 8 gigs of RAM and the big hard drive and the optical drive and all the other goodies is not working reliably, the 5.5-year-old iMac downstairs, with 4 gigs of RAM and the somewhat creaky (but not unexpectedly so) disposition, allows me to continue with the basics of my freelance editorial work. However, it doesn't travel. And it doesn't have all my photos on it. And even if I were to load them on, I'd have to reinput all the keywords (assuming I could remember the identification of everything without the clues that I previously spent time keying in). And I don't have time to do that.

If I were sure that a new computer would solve the problems, I'd have already jumped in that direction. But I'm not.

Meanwhile, a friend has suggested that we check for magnetic lines or radio waves running through our property and that maybe I need to be working in a Faraday cage. If invisible waves were the cause of the difficulties, I'd think the other Macs and the PCs would be affected.


I'll be back when I can be back.



So I go to the coffeeshop to get some work done in a quieter, less fraught location.

  Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.13.42 AM


Reminder to self: People did get work done with quills, inkwells, and the Pony Express. Unfortunately, those means of communication might work for me, but they would not work for most of the people I need to communicate with. Plus I think the ponies have all retired.


5 Responses

  1. Tashamillergriffith

    How frustrating! We have also been having some fairly massive computer problems (though different) and it was somewhat comforting to read that it’s not just us. I hope you get everything straightened out ASAP!

  2. Helene Levenson

    You have my sympathies. (I have just been fighting with Google+, WordPress, and Facebook merely to post a comment.) My MacBook isn’t logging into Safari, and that is an Apple product!

    Breathe deeply. Have a nice hot cup of tea with wildflower honey. Think sheepy thoughts. You will feel better.

  3. Virginia McKenna

    I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating this must be especially with the work you do. I can only hope it gets resolved sooner rather than later. I just wish I had a magic spindle to spin round and fix that computer.

  4. Caroline F

    Wow, and people complain about Windows. Seriously, I have never heard of anybody having as many serious laptop problems as the Mac users I know. I can’t believe that by now they just haven’t given you a new one….

  5. Joanne Seiff

    Oy! I had been wondering how you were…and now I see why I had been feeling irrationally concerned. 🙂 so, please accept my good hopes for a fast and effective fix in the computer department. About all this, all I can say is thank goodness for knitting and spinning, without which, one might blow a gasket or two.

    On that note, I just put out a pattern on Rav, edited by Donna, that might be just right for using up relatively small bits of yarn (a skein or two) in lace to dk weight. It’s called Sumpin and it might be good for using up sample yarn, if it is fine enough to wear at the neck. Just a thought, since i know you spend a lot of time exploring yarn and fiber one skein at a time. If you want a copy, let me know and I’ll give you a present. It is the least I can do.

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