Category Archives: Technical

I’ll use this category to discuss technical issues I run into.

Good-bye, Hewlett-Packard

Today I got rid of the least satisfactory desktop computer I ever bought, an HP Pavilion Slimline s5280t.  If you have one of these loads of crap, and it’s still running, buy a new replacement immediately and transfer everything.  If you wait, you may not be able to.

Here’s the failure timeline:

  • Nov. 2009 – bought the system and paid for extended “house call” support (a colossal mistake)
  • July 2010 – the power supply failed.  Online tech support was trying to coax me to “prove” it was a bad power supply by removing the motherboard (I am not making this up), when I balked and insisted on talking to a supervisor.  Getting a tech out to replace the power supply cost me an extra $200 which I consider close to extortion.  The damn thing was under standard warranty.
  • Dec. 2010 – the scheduled monthly hardware maintenance tool showed a hardware failure on the drive (which was one year old!) and when I called tech support they had me run a separate BIOS test which also failed.  Tech support confirmed this means the drive is failing.  This time they shipped a new drive and sent out a tech to install it without any arguments; apparently they knew about this.  I had even more trouble when I tried to restore a disk image taken with a new program which I didn’t fully understand, but I can’t blame that on HP; eventually I had to do a full rebuild.
  • Dec. 2012 – H-P sent out a routing upgrade to their Support Assistant (the program that did the hardware checks) which was so buggy I couldn’t install it.  I couldn’t get any sense out of H-P. Since it wouldn’t run, I uninstalled it and ran blind on hardware problems from then on.
  • Aug. 2013 – got a very strange message, “can’t access the D drive due to a recently installed update.”  System extremely slow.  Eventually ran CHKDSK which fixed errors in the master file table BITMAP.  I don’t have notes on the next item but it was just a couple of weeks later that the system wouldn’t come up at all.  I took it in to East Bay Computer Center in Oakland for diagnosis.  They said the disk was so far gone they couldn’t even recover data from it; they also said it was a poor-quality refurb.  Thanks, H-P support.  The only good thing about this is that it died the day after I took my regular local backup, so once they’d built me a new Win7 Pro 64 bit drive, I was able to restore all my data.  And rebuild all my programs…
  • Sept. 2014 – the power supply from July 2010 failed.  East Bay Computer now has the whole box and will build me a new drive and transfer the data from the old hard drive (which should be good because they installed it!).  They also said they get these H-P boxes in with problems all the time.

It’s only 4 failures, you say.  True, but four extremely disruptive and annoying failures in 5 years.  I’ve had Dell computers that ran for 5 years without a single problem; I’m pretty sure I had a Dell that ran for 6 or 7 years without any problem.  When I think of the days when Hewlett-Packard was the absolute gold standard for any kind of technical equipment, it just makes me cry.

In any case, I’m somewhat limited in my ability to respond to email these days, so bear with me.  I hope to get the new system back by the middle of next week.

Also posted in Personal Tagged |

Damn you, Hewlett-Packard!

I haven’t done a tech rant in a while so I guess it’s time.

We have a several year old HP printer, a PhotoSmart C7280 all-in-one (print/fax/copy/scan).  The printer runs like a clock.  The HP software just died on me and as far as I can tell I can’t re-install it.  I use the HP Solution Center about once a month to scan documents for a project I work on.  Suddenly yesterday when I needed to scan some pages, it said (loosely translated) – I can’t run, I’m not completely installed.  Re-install me.

I’ll spare you the intermediate (endless) details. I’ve spent at least 3 hours on this, that I needed to spend on other things.  I have now downloaded the Win7 drivers for this printer from HP 3 times (311 MB), and every time I try to install them the install process tells me it’s missing a file, and it won’t tell me what file it’s missing.  HP’s automated system then generates a “solution” – which mainly comes down to checking that the network is hooked up, the printer is working and findable, etc.  I’ve done all that.  I even did the part where they tell you to turn off everything in the Startup menu and turn off your firewall!  (Do you know how fast Internet malwarebots can find a honeypot?  Fortunately there’s also a firewall on the router.)  Every time the installer runs it immediately says, “Missing file.” Whatever isn’t there is something it needs right away.

I’ve opened a question on the HP forum, but since both my printer and my PC are out of warranty I don’t expect much help.  I’ve concluded that their driver file is defective and they don’t know or don’t care or both.  Fortunately, the basic drivers are still there and I’ve been able to re-install the printer as a printer, but I can no longer scan to PDF, at least not with any control over the formatting.  The infuriating thing is that the software still runs perfectly on my husband’s nearly identical HP Pavilion – we bought them at the same time (but I’ve added different stuff).

This is sad.  Back in the day, H-P was the gold standard. If you had H-P equipment, you had The Best.  Now they can’t write working installer software.  Sic transit gloria mundi.

Also posted in Personal Tagged , |

FireFox 6 – Don’t!

If you are one of the fortunate people who is still using FireFox 5, or possibly still using FireFox 3.6.x – ignore the repeated requests to upgrade to FireFox 6!  Stay put.  FireFox 5 was a perfectly stable platform.  FireFox 6 hangs nearly as often as FireFox 4, and there are incompatibility problems with several of my favorite plugins.  I save install executables and I’m seriously considering uninstalling 6 and reinstalling 5.

Testing PHP Upgrade

This post is actually a test to see if I can post, so far so good.  I’ve upgraded PHP on my site to 5.3.6 to see if WordPress still works.  I think so.

Tagged |

The joys of WordPress – Not

I think I’ll probably stay with this, but it’s absurd.  WordPress can’t handle HTML.  In either of the two editors I’ve tried.  I create what looks like a normal page in the editor, and when I review it, it doesn’t look like that at all.  And I’m sorry – there is NO, zero, zip support for this product – there are forums, but nobody ever posts in them except desperate users looking for help.

Example:  a few weeks ago, I set up a couple of posts to display small photo galleries using NextGEN.  I came back to the site today and the photos were gone.  Why were they gone?  Because something (not I, and nobody else has access) removed the newline character between the text and the line of code that displays the photos.  I moved it to a new line again and the photos are back.  Mystifying and stupid.

Also posted in Photography Tagged |

Updating the site

I’ve decided to modernize.  I’m rebuilding my site, as you can probably tell, in WordPress.  My main blog will still be Hedera’s Corner, on Blogger, but I’ll put in occasional personal updates here.