12 April 2006

Mr. FixIt .... and humility

I like to fix things. Take them apart, figure them out, put them back together, improve them etc. My first degree is in Mechanical Engineering - crammed my 4 years into 5 at New Mexico State University. I have rebuilt a 392 International V-8 engine, replaced the cab on my 1972 International dump truck, fixed multiple car / truck engine problems and numerous other projects.

Some of them worked well. I can replace parts on most vehicles pretty easy. Somebody tells me what is wrong, and I can change the parts out. Most of the time doing those kinds of repairs are relatively easy. Except for the engine rebuild. It worked really good, lots of power, smooth running, etc. until something in the bottom end let loose and it didn't have so much power, or run so smooth, etc. When I replaced the cab on the dump truck, the wiring harness was different and I didn't know it until the burning smell alerted me that something was definitely not right. Not too much damage - a couple of days later, everything was Ok again.

I'm no longer messing with dump trucks. My wife is extremely happy that she doesn't have to pray that the truck would start each morning at 4:30 am for some strange reason.

My latest fix it thing is computers. I am building my supply of parts rapidly.

A couple of years ago, I had a laptop (still have it - parts.....) It developed a problem with its keyboard. Rick let me borrow one of his spare laptops for the rest of the semester - thanks Rick!! After the semester was over, I decided to "fix" my laptop. Found just the right keyboard (I thought) until I opened the box and immediately found out it was NOT the right one. No problem - less than $20. Found another one - the right one this time, and it had a CD drive with it for around $20, maybe a little more. I needed the CD drive too, because the laptop originally had a 3.5" drive. Keyboard worked fine, CD drive worked fine. Come to find out, the battery had died in the meantime, so updating the BIOS was a problem without a fully charged battery. Reliable batteries are not the cheapest........

My desktop died a couple of months ago - no problem. Troubleshot it, found out that it was NOT several things. Talked to tech support, they wanted me to send it in so they could work on it - right..... as if I can't fix it myself. Talked with a couple of friends of mine - Rick, & Dante. Both of them thought it sounded like the motherboard. I'd never replaced a motherboard before, sounded like fun. $43 and 4 days later, I had a new, upgraded motherboard.

Put it all together, double checked everything, and surprise, surprise, it booted, first time!!! I was all kinds of excited. Miah and Annie saw their dear old dad do the Happy Dance.

Had to shut down to hook up to the net to update a few things - again, no problem. Noticed that when it shut down, the lights on the keyboard were very bright, but it didn't quite sink in - yet.

Hooked it up to the net, and it refused to boot - just like it had refused to boot prior to the replacement of the motherboard, and the keyboard lights were brighter than I had ever seen them, and the optical mouse glowed like never before. I was a bit discouraged.

Found out the next morning when I tried to boot the machine I borrowed the keyboard and mouse from that they didn't want to work. It now appears that I have 2 fried motherboards, 2 dead keyboards, and 1 blind optical mouse.

Just prior to me getting the bright idea of "fixing" my desktop, our inkjet printer (an all-in-one jobby) decided to get cranky. Being the fix-it kinda guy I am, I decided to find out why it was leaving ink drops the size of a small cookie on paper left in the tray too long. So, I opened it up, found out how to take it apart. Spent quite a bit of time one evening cleaning it up. Put it all back together, lo and behold, it does not do what it used to do - PRINT!!!! In spite of several attempts to fix what wasn't really broken, it still functions as an expensive paperweight - and we don't have a device that will put our words on paper.

To recap, I now have one laptop (with a dead battery, but a new CD drive), a desktop (with 2 fried motherboards, 2 dead keyboards, and 1 blind optical mouse), and a previously Ok inkjet printer on my hands, or laying around the house in various locations for storage.

So, how does humility come into play? I'm glad you asked. I have always prided myself on being able to fix pretty much anything that comes along. Give me the manuals, and I can figure it out (or so I used to think.) I'm not so sure anymore - at least about computers.

C.J. Mahaney wrote a book recently about humility. I have not read the book, but have it on my list of books to get someday. He published a PDF list of things that he does to encourage his humility. (It used to be found on the Sovereign Grace website, but I couldn't find it) Some of the things he lists should be on my list too - such as laugh at myself often, but I'm thinking that adding the title "Computer Repairman" to my list of my "talents" should not even be considered. Maybe I need to take these electronic devices to someone who is trained and capable of repairing them correctly the first time rather than spending way too much time, effort, money, and emotional distress on them.

In the meantime, Miah tells me last night that her laptop had quit talking to the wireless network at home. I tried to fix it. Good thing for her we had to go to church last night for Worship Team practice. She made it work this morning - guess that is one less thing for me to "fix."


Rick said...

Don't give up on your computer repairs yet. As you know, I service computers and networks for a living. Computer guys have these same stories, we just don't like them to be public. For the sake of encouraging you I'm going to break that rule.

In my very early days of working on computers, Eric asked me to look at an issue with the Johnson's family computer, the one that they had just bought. Now remember, I am a "Computer Professional" and I am employed to work on computers.

Eric wanted to put a MIDI card in the computer so that he could hook up his new keyboard (Which I think that only the black keys were ever played ;-)... Sorry inside joke.). We started on this project before Mr. Johnson came home. Just about the time we had the machine in pieces, Gary walks in. If you know Gary, you will know the face I'm going to poorly describe. Basically, he turned red and the vain popped out on his forehead. He then proceeded to grumble something like, "I just bought that; you guys better get it back together," then stomped away. I wasn't worried; I was a "professional".

We then installed the card and setup all of the interrupts. This was before the days of plug and pray (play). We put the machine back together and fired it back up. After a few tweaks of the config.sys file (there I go dating myself again), the midi card was working. I was proud and we showed Gary that everything was fine. I went on my merry way.

Soon after that, I received a phone call from Eric asking me if the computer should be smoking. Let me tell you that this is not a good sign. Well, I went back over to look at the machine and one of the cards in the computer was very burned and I pronounced a time of death. Gary had that red face again. I played it well, and let them know that it could not have been due to anything that Eric and I had done. I don't think that Gary believed us and said that he would take the machine to the repair shop the next day.

On my way home, I started doubting my career choice and was wondering what the repair shop was going to find. The question that the repair tech asked was if they had a Radio Shack printer. At this time Rat Shack was still selling the Tandy line of computers which had a parallel port for printing just like an Intel based PC. Come to find out the positive and negative lines on the Tandy printers were opposite of a PC. Needless to say this was what caused the computer to burn up.

So to some up Rick's Ramblings, it might not be your fault at all, or at least that is what us "Computer Professionals" believe ;-)

RMc said...

You forgot the spitting and sputtering that Gary does oh so well! I had forgotten about the vein in his forhead. I remember the red face though......