a Microsoft wizard actually does something
Monday, September 12 2011
I started cutting out the pieces for the new shelving unit I'm installing in the west half of the laboratory's south wall. Originally the plan was to make a kit that I could build elsewhere and then drag into place and attach to the wall (like similar units installed in the four other corners of the laboratory). But it proved easiest to just build the shelf in place, using large drywall screws (my favorite fastener technology) to join horizontal shelves to vertical spacers. This particular set of shelves is designed to completely fill the available space, to the extent that the ends of the boards are mitred to the slope of the ceiling-wall. There's also a notch cut in one board to permit the passing of the handrail for the steps up to the teevee room (part of the unneccessary building-inspection-compliance jihad of September, 2005).
While I was working on the shelving, I kept hearing the air release valve on my solar panel discharging steam. That's a symptom of the poor circulation, which comes from excessive air in the pipe, a problem exacerbated by overheating caused by poor circulation. This was probably a legacy of the week-long post-Irene power outage, and the only solution was to add more hydronic fluid to the top of the system (adding it to the bottom, which happens automatically, doesn't appear to help). Unfortunately, though, I'd sacrificed my top-adding funnel (a half-litre gin bottle with a cut-off bottom and a female hose connector at the neck), so I needed a new one. So I decided the large general-purpose funnel I'd recently made for solar deck use would be more useful as a top-adding funnel. This meant I had to solder a hose connector to its bottom. And then, because of the angle of attachment, I had to add some copper sheet metal to increase the depth of the funnel on its lower half. This wasn't the first time I've ever soldered to copper sheet metal with hopes of making a watertight seal, though it's not a common plumbing job, and I wasn't entirely successful in my first attempt, but eventually I got it. As with everything else I make with plumbing hardware, the funnel looks to be a marvel of steampunk technology.
This evening I had some trouble with Woodchuck, my main computer. I'd click a link on a web page and it would take 30 seconds for the URL to resolve into an address. Something was wrong either with the DNS lookup or UDP generally. Obviously, this was untenable. I'll only tolerate that sort of internet behavior when I'm casually reading DailyKos.com at my parents' place via dialup over WiFi. The problem probably started with my ill-fated attempt to add a load-balancing ethernet driver to my computer to allow me to make optimum use of two broadband networks (though I'm in a rural neighborhood, it's full of broadband networks). At the time, however, I feared I'd been infected with a nefarious trojan or a rootkit.
At this point in my life I'm pretty good at getting Windows XP to do what I want, but I couldn't fix this problem. I tried removing things from HijackThis and deleting recently-added executables and DLLs in C:\Windows\System32, but the problem persisted. I even downloaded a fresh copy of SpybotSearchAndDestroy, but (as always with that program), it proved useless. As the night wore on, I began drinking heavily and contemplating the awfulness of having to reinstall my OS from scratch.
At some point I finally bit the bullet and installed Service Pack 3. (I'd been using Service Pack 2 for years and had resisted SP3 for years because my copy of Windows would never pass the Windows Genuine disAdvantage test.) It seems Microsoft no longer cares enough about Windows XP to enforce WGA bullshit, because Service Pack 3 installed without complaint, but my network problems persisted.
Eventually I was so desperate I tried solving it by using one of Windows XP wizards. I don't know about you, but I've never in my life found a Microsoft wizard helpful; it's always been easiest to click the Advanced tab and just do whatever needs doing. (Similarly, I've almost never gotten a driver by having Windows search for it on the internet.) The wizard in question was the Network Setup Wizard. I ran it, I told it that no I didn't want to make a floppy so as to transport network settings to my other computers, and then I rebooted. And, I'll be damned, the network problem was gone! My computer's network functionality was usable once more. Since Microsoft wizards are specifically designed to keep pretty heads from thinking too hard, I have no idea what it did. But I'm thankful. Still, since I'm running Windows XP, it felt a little like getting the last drinkable glass of water from a Roman aqueduct in the year 476.
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