Losing my hair and losing my mind in Western New York

Monday, June 13, 2005

OW ow ow ow ow!

Oh my aching jaw...

Just a bit of advice from the Weary Man. Do not ever let your dental care go for 6 years! You will regret it, I assure you.

This is the mistake I made. 6 years ago I had a tooth go south. Not a cavity mind you, the tooth just got cut off from it's blood supply by all the orthodontic work I'd had done, and finally died.

At this point I had a root canal performed on it, and had it filled with tooth concrete. Due to my financial situation at the time (poor as a church mouse) and the fact that I had just gotten married, I neglected to have it capped. Within about a year the concrete on the inside of the tooth had fallen out and I was having to regularly clean it out due to all the stuff that would get stuck in it. Now, you would think I would be smart and go get it looked at right? Nope. I was in the midst of a job change (actually a couple changes in one year), my daughter was born, I went back to school to get into the IT field, etc.

At any rate, by the time things finally settled down in my life to the point that I could even THINK about going back to the dentist I was so embarrassed about not having gone in so long that I ended up putting it off even longer. Finally my wife convinced (ok, browbeat) me to go. After an extensive cleaning and X-rays, Not only did my dentist find several cavities, but of course, the tooth was so badly decayed that nothing could be done with it anymore. He referred me to a local Oral Surgeon, and rescheduled me for a second appointment to get the larger of the two cavities taken care of.

Over half this month I have at least one dental appointment every week to get all these issues straightened out. All in all it's probably going to cost me over $600 to get in order what should have cost me about $80-$120 to do right the first time.

The moral? Go to your Dentist regularly. If you do have a problem, get it taken care of right away. Don't wait! Better to pay a small amount up front than to have to pay much more down the road, and be uncomfortable on the way to boot.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Well.. I Finally have my new laptop. I have it up, running and mostly configured the way I want it. In fact I am typing this post on it. It's a nice machine, although I should mention that the video card was NOT a 128 meg card as specified by Newegg.com, it's a 64 meg card. Not that it's really going to matter all that much as I am not likely to be playing any games on it anytime soon. However I will be dropping newegg a line regarding the error just to see if I can get either a replacement one with a 128 meg card, or some type of financial remuneration for the error. I can't simply replace the card though, as it's an integrated one and thusly not removable.

EDIT: After posting this, I used the WinPhlash (yes, they actually used 'ph' instead of 'f') utility I downloaded from Acer's website and flashed (or is it Phlashed?) the BIOS up to the latest version. This appears to have unlocked the 128 meg capability of the Vid card, as I was then able to go into the BIOS and set the card to 128 megs of RAM, instead of 32 or 64. So I guess I won't be sending that e-mail to Newegg.com after all!

That aside, It's a beautiful laptop and the photos on newegg really don't do it justice. It is a 15" screen, but the laptop is only 14" deep. This calculates to a wide screen laptop, with a native resolution of 1024x768. This doesn't sound like much, but given the overall display size, anything higher would result in overly small type. As it is, it's a perfect resolution for this machine.

The only real drawbacks to this laptop are ones that are to be expected for a machine that retails in the $650.00 range. Examples would include the somewhat tinny speakers, the less than optimal RAM size (expandable, and an extra stick of 512mb is highly recommended if you do get this machine) The somewhat slow HD (which I replaced before even booting the laptop for the first time) and the smaller than advertised video RAM (EDIT: apparently just a BIOS issue).

Despite these relatively minor issues, it's a stellar laptop for it's price range and I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a starter or budget laptop, or even as a road warrior workhorse, provided you get the upgraded RAM.

Once I am able to take the time to e-mail newegg, I will let you all know how the service experience turned out. I have always gotten tremendous service from newegg, and so I expect this experience to be just as good. In the meantime, here are some better pictures of my laptop in action:

As you can see by the pictures, there is no floppy drive in this laptop, so if you MUST have a floppy, you will either have to get a USB floppy drive, or get a different laptop. The DVD drive is also a burner, and No, Acer does not include any DVD software with it. I installed WinDVD Platinum, but I haven't had the time to try it out yet. I'll probably do that soon.

EDIT: Sorry, another error. Apparently they DO inlude DVD playing software in thier "Acer Arcade" software package. Unfortunately it is so poorly written that about the only real use for it is the DVD Codecs and Plugins so you can Play DVDs with WMP9 or 10. But it IS available for free on thier website, and included with the software bundle.

As you can see in the 4th picture, the heatsink is solid copper. VERY nice cooling solution from the guys at Acer, and very effective. Just don't place anything you don't want heated up anywhere near the output, as it does blow very hot air out that port. Also, (of course) do not block that port, as it is the primary heat exhaust for the laptop.

The small row of buttons up near the screen are the "Launch Manager" buttons. Basically one-touch software launching buttons. They are programmable via the "Launch Manager" software that comes with the laptop. In my case, since I was starting with a blank drive, I used one of my other PC's to download and burn to disk all the various and sundry drivers and utilities for this laptop off the Acer website. I still have one or two minor util's to install, but I have most of the original Acer software installed.

The touchpad is a very nice one from Synaptics, and in addition to the standard right and left buttons, it also includes a four way scroll rocker and an adjustable sensitivity tap-to-select feature.

All in all a very nice laptop, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good solid workhorse laptop.

Friday, June 03, 2005


As you know if you read my earlier posts, I am having a storage issue on my home network. While I will still need to expand, I have managed to free up some extra space on the primary storage drive on my server by deleting some more unused and unneeded data. I have slightly less than 30GB left, and that should be enough to last me another month or two. In the meantime I have had to curb some of my downloading activities until such a time as I can afford to pick up that external hard drive.

Now, it's not as though I couldn't afford a larger hard drive for my server. It's just that I decided to put my money other places. Namely into a new laptop. My current laptop is my primary writing vehicle, and it is getting so aged that I am starting to experience occasional hardware failures on it. Also, due to overheating issues, my wireless card has been damaged to the point that I can no longer use it's built-in WPA-PSK hardware decoder. In fact I can no longer run any kind of encryption on my wireless at all! Fortunately for me my home is a brick and aluminum siding house. In addition to that, all or most of my windows use aluminum embedded tinting in them for energy efficiency. Essentially I live inside a Faraday Cage. I have tested the wireless strength outside my house using Net Stumber. You cannot get a signal more than 5 feet from my front door. So in order to steal my wireless connection, someone would literally have to be standing in my front yard!

All discussions of my wireless setup aside, my current laptop is pretty much on it's last legs. I can't really do anymore upgrading to it, and frankly, it's not worth it. It's an old IBM Thinkpad i1400 series with a Celeron 433 Mhz processor and an ATI Rage mobile 8 meg shared RAM video card. I got it for free from a relative for repairing her identical laptop by scavenging parts from this one. I have repaired and upgraded it as much as I can over the past year by adding more RAM (256MB, the max it can take) and replacing the original 2GB Hard drive with a new 40 GB Toshiba drive (7200 RPM with a 12MB Cache!) But even that is not enough to stave off the inevitable. While it's still ok for surfing and e-mail (and blog posting!) The wireless setup causes undue heat buildup, which makes the machine lock up after about 3-4 hours of use. I also suspect there may creeping CPU and other component damage due to the overheating problems.

Therefore, I decided that it was time for a change. I have been shopping for a new laptop off and on for the past six months. While I really wanted an Apple Powerbook with the new Tiger OS, I really can't afford the $1500-$2000 one of those goes for. I ended up selecting this. Yes, it's an XP machine, and not really in the same class as a powerbook, but for what I will be using it for it will do fine. I also ordered an extra 512MB stick of Kingmax RAM to go with it, so I shouldn't have any memory issues with it. Despite the 128 MB shared video RAM, I'll still have 640MB left over to run the OS and anything else I might need. I suspect I may even be able to play a few lightweight older games on it.

So it's on it's way from Newegg as we speak, and I don't mind saying I'm more than a bit excited to finally be moving into a modern laptop, even if it's not a top of the line machine. It will be particularly nice to finally be able to run a few multimedia apps and watch DVD's on my laptop. While I don't expect to be replacing my Desktop anytime soon, it'll nice to be able to use a PC while being upstairs with my family rather than down in the basement PC area where I do my gaming.

Of course, when I want some time away I can still head down to the beast downstairs and get some frag time in. But I will no longer be tied to that location if I want to do anything multimedia related on a PC. In addition, I should be able to add some wireless security to my wireless network, and perhaps find a way to bounce the signal out to my hammock in the back yard during the summer!

That's the real promise of a good laptop. An hour or two lounging in my hammock blogging away in the dappled afternoon sunshine. A nice cool drink waiting on the nearby picnic table, and my kids playing in the sandbox or spending time with their teachers.

The anticipation is killing me.