Thursday, October 11, 2012

How do you kill a zombie?

You cause the stepper motor in the hard drive to die in an orgy of clicks and tocks, which is the sound that greeted me shortly after turning Bender on when I got home from the Land of Enchantment.

How fortunate that I had recently backed up everything that seemed backupworthy onto a thumb drive. Now I just need to get in touch with Adobe today or tomorrow and get a fresh download of Acrobat and I'm golden.

Meanwhile, I have the laptop open on the keyboard tray of my desk in front of the dark monitor and silent tower of my desktop machine, which feels oddly like pitching a pup tent in the bedroom and pretending you're camping. "Look! I'm on an intergalactic cruise without leaving the office!"

There was a brief moment of panic this morning when it appeared the wall wart on the new laptop had picked this moment to crap out as well. Thankfully, it turns out that those things work a lot better when you actually set the power strip into which they are plugged to the "ON" position.

The only sad thing about this process is the certain knowledge that there's no way this el cheapo commodity laptop from HP will go the decade-long distance like the kilobuck-plus tower it's subbing for.


Anonymous said...

The laptop may live that long if you leave it sitting in one place and clean the dust out of the cooling fan and heatsink. What kills laptops is the constant moving, bumping, and power cycling.


Tam said...


I refer mostly to the general quality of the components. Bender was built as a top-shelf no-kidding gaming rig back in '03. The power supply went eight years and the hard drive nine, and that was nearly constant duty, too.

Fodder4Thought said...

Looking to repair the tower? I may actually have a spare pata drive tucked away somewhere. ..

Tam said...


I think this is Mother Nature's way of telling me to let the single-core P4 go.

rickn8or said...

Bender could handle the gaming, but not the snark...

B.S. philosopher said...

Probably not a stepper motor in that hard drive, even if it's 9 years old.
Most modern hard drives (read within the last 20 years)use a voice coil style actuator instead.
(/pedant mode off)

KM said...

Should I know what any of ^^that^^ means?
'Cause I don't.

Anonymous said...


Hard drives work basically the same as record players. The arm that holds the equivalent of the needle is moved back and forth by the same kind of widget that moves an ordinary speaker cone.

There's no real need for you to know this.

Fodder4Thought said...


As a man with two single-core P4 machines doing active duty at home (one is my primary desktop, no less), I may feel obligated to defend the honor of this venerable workhorse, and may wax poetic about the storied feats of computing this platform achieved (remember with advantages, as it were). I may also feel compelled to exaggerate the shortcomings of all subsequent platforms, and accuse those who employ them of falling to the faddish claims of technology marketers.

At least, if I weren't jonesing so hard for a new computer, anyway.

David said...

I finally retired* the "family's" desktop computer last month. Everyone had aquired tablets or laptops and were doing their own thing, so the desktop had become redundant. Besides, lately it started making strange noises and occasionally would decide to just shut down without warning.

This reliable old friend of ours was a P2 that I put together in early 1998. It ran Windows 95 for about 5 years, and was only shut down or rebooted about twice a year when I added hardware or software. Eventually I upgraded to Windows 2000 in order to take advantage of the two USB ports on the back of the machine. (yeah I know the later upgrades to Win95 has USB support but it never worked as well as needed) Again this system would run for months without rebooting, until last year when it started it's occasionally unscheduled shut downs.

I'll bet we won't get anywhere near that kind of performace out of our laptops or tablets. Which is why each user has their own external back-up drives.

* "retired" = my son and I turning it into swiss cheese with an 03A3 from 300 yards.

Steve Skubinna said...

"Look! I'm on an intergalactic cruise without leaving the office!"

So your next laptop should be named Zarniwhoop.

Ian Argent said...

Old age and treachery is catching up with my current rig. Admittedly I use the optical drive once in a blue moon, but it's just decided that DVD video is too much work, kthxbye. OTOH, at the tender age of 3, she's got a few more years in her, as long as I keep the squeaky wheels well-kicked

Kristophr said...

Actually, George Hill covered the "How do you kill a Zombie" quite well in his recent books.

If zombies are attracted to the noise people make, put a speaker over an industrial sized trap, and let them walk into their own destruction..

A rather prosaic answer to a zombie problem ... just industrialize mass disposal.

Tam said...


Did you even read past the post title?

Kristophr said...

Yes. My condolences for the loss of your data.

I just like blathering about zombies, is all. Sorry.

Steve Skubinna said...

Easy Tam, there's never a bad time to offer advice on dealing with zombies. Because when you need that information, you're going to need it right away, and the internet's probably going to be down then too.

Stranger said...

Funny but the Ancient AMD I bought from Tiger for $300 in '98 is still DOSing along. As it has been except during power failures for 14 years.

It's on its second set of Rotaxes, but it plays Step'n'fetchit and does complex sums about as fast as the hi-end 12 gig HP I am typing this on.

Of course, it is only using 2.2 gigs of its monstrous 5 gig hard drive - but DOS programs are tiny. And easy to write, should you need to.


Tam said...

Funny, but the CPU isn't the problem. HDD's have an average life expectancy in daily use of five years... ;)

I'd say that I got my money's worth. :)

Tam said...

(And, please, don't tell me about how the computer you build in '98-'99 is still running. I have, f'rinstance, a Fat Mac in the basement that dates to the late 'Eighties that worked okay the last time I booted it up. Duty cycles and work environments vary and so do lifespans...)

Kristophr said...

( very old UNIX computers have been run successfully for decades, as long as they are not downed.

The second they reboot, you discover the CMOS battery had died years ago, the power supply will refuse to restart, and Mr. Stick-tion has claimed that HD that you just spun down ... )