Computer and Truck issues

Posted by Thoughts and Ramblings on Thursday, January 19, 2006

It has been a while since I wrote here, and with good reason.

Sunday night, my computer froze. I looked at it very oddly because this is a far cry from normal. I was about to reboot it when it suddenly unfroze. A few minutes later, it froze again, and this time I heard the too familiar sound of a hard drive on its last leg. It was the the typical hard drive slowly failing kind of failure where the drive mostly works, but freezes every once in a while. So, I took the computer down and started using the laptop, very happy that the data is backed up.

So, I took the drive out, and noticed the date on it. It was a bit over a year old, so I may get lucky and it have a 3 year warrantee on it. I went through the return procedures, and it said that I had to run this stupid PC only tool and use the 8 digit code output from it to continue. I didn’t have a PC around here that could do the job, so I went to campus where I knew there was one. It took about an hour to run, and I left for home about 1:30am.

When I got in the truck, I noticed the headlights looked rather strange. I stopped while still in the parking lot, and noticed the left headlight was not on. I tapped it, and still nothing. Flipping on the high beams yielded both of them working, so I knew it was not a fuse. I decided I would just get home so I could figure it out then. Well, I got pulled over before I even got off campus. The officer was nice about it and just gave me a warning (I would hope so since I had no means of getting home and didn’t know about it until after I started to go home. There was a very real chance that I could have been unaware of it).

So, with my 8 digit code in hand, I went through the return procedure, and it said that I had to contact the manufacturer of my computer (Apple) because the drive came with the computer. This was not the same as before so I wondered what had changed. It had not as far as to ask for my code yet. Turns out, I had entered in the wrong serial number, but against so many odds, I managed to get a legitimate one.

I called Apple the next morning and found out the drive was out of warrantee. I then ordered two, yes two, replacement drives. They wouldn’t arrive until Thursday (today).

Tuesday, I set out to fix the headlight. I went to some auto parts places looking for a new headlight. When I got to the first place, I got out and heard a strange hiss. I went to investigate, and saw a screw sticking in the rear tire, just what I need. To top it off, the first two places I went didn’t have it. At least the leak was slow enough I could drive some distance.

I went home and looked up tire places, running on a clock. I never noticed how slow the lights were in this town until then :). There was a discount tire on Texas, so I went there. They told me they could repair it and it would take 45 minutes to an hour, so I went to the Dairy Queen next door to relax for the first time in several hours. To my surprise, they repaired it for free.

I then continued my search for a headlight, and so I stopped at a place I saw on the way to discount tire. They had it, and they were only across the street from my apartment. I could have walked there!!!! So, thinking this part is finally over, I went home, and replaced the headlight (after a lot of tinkering trying to figure out how to do so and feeling like such an idiot when I had step by step instructions with pictures in a manual).

So, with the headlamp freshly replace, I turned on the headlights and …. the left one was still out! ARG!!!! Well, being as I am an engineer, I am trained to localize the problem. So, the problem must be electrical, since the chances of a new headlight having exactly the same failure is far lower than a broken wire. I knew the everything from the battery to the switch was fine because the high beams worked on this light, so I removed the switch.

After consulting the electrical diagrams in the service manual, I found which pins to connect to light up the left headlamp. I did so, and it lit! So, the problem is not the wires, but the switch. Here comes the problem. I found this out at 5:30, and I needed to be at breakaway in a bit over an hour and half. I took out one of my electronics kits, and stuck wires in the proper places in the socket, then replaced the steering wheel column cover. I connect each blue to each red wire and the headlight light. I then realized I didn’t have running lights, so I took it apart and put in a pair of yellow wires to do that job. The whole time, I had a nagging question in my mind as to whether these small wires can take 2 amps?

I made it to breakaway without incident, but I had no high beams (don’t need them in the city anyway), and no turn indicator. I hope I didn’t upset too many people when I changed lanes without signaling. I also wondered if I would be accused of stealing this truck with six wires sticking out of the steering wheel column. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of this.

When I got home, I disassembled the switch and noticed the contacts were dirty. I cleaned them and reassembled the switch. I went out to the truck, removed my wires, and stuck the switch back in. Headlights worked!!!

Today, at 6:30, the hard drives finally arrived. I stuck them both in, re-installed the OS, and updated it. I set them up in a mirror fashion so the both contain identical data. That way, if one fails, I can keep on humming like nothing happened and replace the bad HD. I then removed one of the mirrored drives and stuck in the bad drive to get non-backed up data off it (my computer can only take two such drives). I copied about 100G of data I didn’t really need, but didn’t feel like losing if I didn’t have to. Stuck the other good drive back in, and told the computer to re-mirror the hard drive. At the same time, I was recovering data from backup.

Now it is 12:12, and the mirror process still has 32 minutes left. The last backup restore is my music collection and it is still running. I don’t know when it will finish, but I can interrupt it and resume it any time.

The end cost: $197.98 for two hard drives including shipping, and just under $10 for a new headlight I didn’t need (oh plus a few bucks at the DQ ;) ). I say I didn’t fair too badly, but I would rather not run through something like this again anytime soon.