I had a good time earlier this afternoon. We wandered up the mountainside a short way- only as far as the irrigation channel- but, and this, unfortunately has been rare this winter, the weather was so incredibly clear that we could see the reservoir to the southwest, Shijinglong Ski Field to the east, the county town, and the mountains along the southern rim of the Yanqing basin, even as far as the Badaling area. Unfortunately there was still enough of a haze in the distance that not all of my photos turned out as well as I would have liked. And with the winter sun hanging low in the south, I just couldn’t get the photo of the village from above that I wanted. And of course, my little Aiguo point and click just isn’t up to the kind of photos that I wanted to take. Still, I did manage to get a picture of Shijinglong and the housing development next to it- that’s got to be a good 10 kilometres away. It’s not a very good picture, because I was stretching the camera to the very limits. But nevertheless, I managed to take a picture over that kind of a distance. And some of the attempts at photographing the basin managed to show up the mountains in the south, despite the best efforts of the sun and the haze.
So I got back feeling pretty good about the world, turned on the computer, loaded up all the photos, and started playing around with all those that needed a little touching up. The lighting made some of the photos a little too washed out, others a little dark, and a little fiddling was needed so that they’d actually look like what I saw. Then my bloody computer crapped out on me. That was about an hour ago. It’s taken until now to get the bloody thing started again.
The process of getting it working again involved much starting and restarting. At least half the restarting was done by the computer itself without it even stopping to ask my permission. I hate disobedient machinery. The other half of the restarting was done by either me or lzh, with many periods of enforced waiting between restarts ordered by lzh- she’s got this theory that the computer gets tired and needs a rest. Strangely enough, waiting half an hour to an hour for the computer to rest usually seems to work. It also involved a couple of different versions of the blue screen of death helpfully informing me that Windows had been shut down because my computer was fucked.
Then I got it restarted, checked to make sure my photos were intact, and then tried that defragging thing that used to seem to keep the piece of shit computer my school in Changsha provided functioning in a somewhat normal manner. Then the computer crashed again. And so followed another period of lzh-enforced resting of the computer, this time with the computer carefully placed on the kang so it could take a nice, warm nap.
Starting it up this time involved the usual round of Microsoft-ordered checking of the desks, which revealed and then fixed a couple of problems. That was followed by the computer starting up properly, but with a weird message about Active Desktop that neither of us understood replacing the usual wallpaper. I tried that defragging thing again, only to be told there was no need for it. Weird, it’s been many a long month since I last defragged, and that took a hell of a long time for everything to be put back where it belonged, and that was preceded by an equally long period without defragging. Then we had another look at this weird Active Desktop message, and still couldn’t figure it out, so I just clicked on what looked like a button, and hey, Presto! The usual wallpaper magically reappeared. So then I quickly checked my photos, they were all intact, and then started writing this. So far, so good.
I was so eager to check my photos because I’ve already lost a few in the long series of computer troubles I’ve had this winter holiday. That’s not all, either. Some IPA fonts I downloaded to help lzh write her dissertation also disappeared into the ether. I don’t know what’s going on with this thing. Since I got here, I’ve had a lot of trouble either starting the computer, or with it crashing at random moments. And there’s various kinds of trouble starting or crashing. Sometimes the fan whirrs, it checks the CD-ROM, and then that’s it: fan whirring, black screen, no activity. Sometimes it gets a bit further down the start-up process then gets stuck: again, fan whirring, black screen, no activity. Sometimes it shuts itself off or even restarts itself. Sometimes it simply seizes and refuses to respond to the pushing of any key or combination of keys or moving the mouse or anything other than holding down the power button till it goes off. Sometimes in the process of restarting, whether the restart was ordered by me or the computer, it goes to some version or another of the blue screen of death, or to that weird grey screen that lets you choose between various modes of running Windows. If I’m given a choice of the various modes of Windows, only the normal mode will actually work.
This time around, the restarting process involved the computer restarting itself part way through the restarting process, sometimes up to three times in one attempt to get it going. Then it would either go to the disk-checking screen, the blue screen of death, or the grey screen giving me a choice of modes. If it didn’t immediately go to the blue screen of death, then it would either part way through disk-checking or somewhere further down the start-up process.
A few days before Spring Festival I talked to a mate of mine who’s a software engineer and far more knowledgeable than me about computers. He reckoned it could be the software that came with the camera, or that it could be a problem with the processor. He seemed to lean more towards problem with the processor than problem with the software. I suggested it could be environmental or a dodgy power supply, with random power spikes knocking out the computer. He didn’t hear my environmental theory and had no experience running a computer on a dodgy power supply. Well, the power supply up here isn’t too bad. In fact, it’s more reliable than what I had in Taiyuan or Changsha, and those are cities of three and five million respectively. And Taiyuan has phenomenal energy reserves. Trouble is, too much of its coal is exported to other provinces, along with too much of the electricity it generates. But that’s beside the point. Just as I expect toilets up here to be simple holes in the ground, lined with concrete and with brick walls and a roof if you’re lucky, located in the southwest corner of the courtyard, bloody freezing to use even in the warmest part of the day, and that’s where toilets even exist, I expect the power supply out here to be generally useable and not too bad, but not up to the same standard as the city.
Anyway, I’m starting to lean towards the problem with the processor theory.
But, to explain my environmental theory: When we first got here, we stored the computer in a cupboard where it would be out of sight of random visitors who showed up while we were all out. Then, after we bought the washing machine and the camera, I turned the computer on to see if I could get it to cooperate with the camera. Well, I tried to turn it on. That was the first round of starting-up trouble. It took about an hour to get the bloody thing going. Lzh came up with the theory that it had frozen in the cupboard where we’d stored it, so since then we’ve kept it on the kang where it is kept about as warm as anything can be up here. Since we’ve kept it on the kang, it’s been generally useable, and we’ve only had trouble starting it once or twice. The trouble has mostly been about it freezing, stalling, or crashing sometime after it’s been turned on. There’ve been a couple of rounds of start-up trouble, but not much. Also, our cellphones seem to slow down when they’re left in colder areas. Left on the kang or in a pocket close to our bodies, they’re ok. But left on a table or desk, they seem to work slowly and ‘fuzzily’, and lzh’s has on occasion given us start-up trouble similar to what the computer has been doing. Which would seem to suggest that the cold is at least partly to blame for the technological difficulties we’ve had of late.
But to bolster the processor theory: The trip up here was rather bumpy, involving, as it did, an uncomfortable taxi ride, two and a half hours on the bus from Tianjin to Beijing, a taxi to my colleagues hotel, a walk up to Soho, a taxi ride to Deshengmen, the bus to Yanqing, then the miandi to the village. And to top off all the on the road bumps, lzh got a bit careless and dumped the bag containing the computer rather roughly into the miandi, earning her a rather rough rebuke from me at the time, then more anger when the computer first started playing up. Age combined with all the knocks and bumps it’s taken on this trip and a quite possibly dodgy repair to the motherboard (I think that’s what zhuban means) when my computer went comatose a few months back could easily have all combined to cause some kind of trouble with the processor or some other bit of important hardware.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that CDs seem to have caused some of the trouble. After that first round of start-up trouble I set about installing some of the software that had come with the camera, trusting AVG and Spybot to deal with any nastiness that may have been on the CD-ROM. Then the computer crashed halfway through installing the second programme. Sure, I’d been dealing with a couple of other issues that had come up at the time, so it could easily have gotten overloaded, but since then it has crashed every time I’ve put a CD in the drive. Could it be that too many pirated DVDs and CDs have fucked up the CD-ROM, causing at least some of the start-up trouble and some of the crashing?
Or could it be some other problem? Or some combination of problems?
And to make it all even more frustrating, it had been running reasonably well since I talked to my mate about it about two weeks ago. Lzh got her dissertation typed up fine. The only hassles we had were it shutting down explorer.exe and a similar .exe programme after we’d told it to shut down and one very minor and short-lived refusal to start. Then today it fucks up this badly, with the trouble starting in the middle of me playing with photos.
So to try and rule it the software theory, or to convince me to get rid of the software that may be causing the hassles: Has anybody had any trouble with Ulead Photo Explorer or Ulead’s video software? The computer crashed in the middle of installing the video programme (whose name I can’t remember and can’t be arsed finding), and it has crashed a couple of times in the middle of me fucking around with photos. It’s also disappeared a few photos, y’know how things you’ve downloaded or installed or whatever disappear while still leaving the link/button/picture/icon/whatever as if they’re still there, but telling you the file is empty or non-existent or needs to be retrieved from the net if you try to open it.
Thing is, I don’t want to lose Ulead Photo Explorer. I’ve found it much more user friendly than the ACD See thingy I had until now.
Or maybe I should just find a proper Tsinghua Tongfang weixiuzhan to sort out what is evidently a hardware problem not likely to be fixed properly by some dodgy-looking wanker in an electronics market.
And so a bloody excellent walk up the mountainside and all the goodness that created were ruined by my bloody computer.
And now, two days later, snow is falling oustide and I'm sitting in a normally unheated room with a tub of smouldering corn cobs to stop me freezing.