A small Dell discovery

I learned something interesting today. If you call Dell Sales and say you're buying for a small business, you get a non-outsourced, knowledgable technician. Lesson learned!

Unfortunately, they still didn't have the proprietary part that I need to install my drive. WEEP. I have got to find a Dell graveyard somewhere so I can salvage one.

Dell isn't what it used to be

A couple years ago, I was turned down for a tech position at a local school. They said they really liked me, but that I needed to learn more about hardware. Being one who listens to constructive criticism, I've spent my time since then working on my hardware skills.

When I got a new computer a few weeks ago, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn some new things. The plan was to buy a cheap system and then upgrade it myself. Looking over the Dell website, I found the Inspiron 530S, which is billed as being completely customizable and ready for upgrades. It was one of the least expensive models they offer, and it had the specs I needed, so I bought it.

The Inspiron 530S is not what it is advertised to be.

Seeing that the unit has an empty 3.5-inch bay, I decided to install a media card reader. Ordering this took roughly two hours of struggle with the outsourced Sales Department. Upon trying to install the drive, I noticed the strange set-up of the bay. It actually measured nearly four inches, causing the drive to rattle around inside, and none of the slots cut into the side lined up with the screws in the drive. Another hour and a half with Sales, and I ordered a set of brackets. When the brackets arrived, I discovered (and nearly wept) that they were 3.5 inch-to-5 inch brackets. Obviously, those would not fit.

Which left me wondering whether I even wanted to try Dell's Sales Department again. I was sorely disappointed, because I really wanted to learn how to install a serial ATA drive. It looked simple! So I called a friend over, who's been building his own systems for years now, and he inspected the bay.

We discovered, with no small amount of horror, that the cage cannot be removed. It is riveted into place, something we had never seen. The grooves are set up as such that no common bracket would work with it. Apparently, only a proprietary bracket would work, and Dell Sales had failed to send me that bracket. What's more, the outside of the chassis is riveted into place, making only the access panel and front bezel removable. It became obvious that Dell built this machine with the intention of preventing user upgrades.

This leaves me forced to return my parts to Dell, no doubt with a restocking fee, and I have to settle for an empty 3.5-inch bay. It sits there. It mocks me.

So consider this a fair warning. Do not buy a Dell with the expectation that you can easily customize it. You can install a PCI card, maybe a graphics card, and that's about it. I'm starting to think Dell no longer deserves the reputation it once had.

Flash drive voodoo

Woo! Long time since I posted here. I've decided this will be where I dump all my tech babble and really nerdy stuff so I don't bore my friends. Okay, I've said it before, but I mean it this time.

My Lexar Jump Drive died yesterday, and I realized with horror that I had just lost a number of valuable files. Now, before you wag your finger at me for saving files solely on a USB stick, I have to point out that I had a faulty hard drive that I didn't trust. Said faulty system finally was replaced last week, so I was moving files. I plugged in my drive only to discover it was dead. The computer didn't recognize it, and the light on the drive didn't turn on.

I went through the usual rain dance motions--unplugging and replugging the drive repeatedly, plugging it into a different port, wiggling it inside the port, cleaning the connections with an air duster. I then moved on to more desperate measures, sticking my jump drive in the freezer, as one would try with a dead hard drive. Still nothing. I wrote it off as dead.

Then, on a lark, I tried one last thing. I took a USB extension cable and plugged it into a port. I connected it to the jump drive, noting that it fit more snugly than the ports on my computer. Nothing happened, but when I turned the stick upright, it sprang to life! I quickly transferred my files, one hand holding the stick and one holding the mouse. I'm now convinced that humans should have four hands, but I had my files.

My guess is that holding it vertically caused some broken connection to reconnect, but honestly, I do not know. But hey, next time you're faced with a dead USB stick, you can add this to your list of things to try.

Wizard World Dallas

If you went to Wizard World Dallas and entered the drawing to win a trip to Orlando, you will receive a call saying you've been "selected for a trip to the Bahamas." You haven't won anything, although they won't come out and tell you that. They're trying to sell you a cruise. Just a friendly FYI!

The con was great. I got to have a long conversation with Ethan van Sciver, who was easily the nicest person at the convention. I met James O'Barr and Matthew Sturges. And I met Frank Cho. Unfortunately, Cho is not the kind of guy I thought he was, and I was disappointed.


I took out for a spin. It's supposed to be the New Google. I wasn't impressed.

Pick a topic--any topic!--and it will serve up a long list of pages and DMOZ mirror sites. If that's the case, you might as well conduct your search at DMOZ. Perhaps they're still tinkering with their algorithms.

At any rate, Google is still my Firefox start page.

Damn it, Firefox.

I just upgraded to Firefox 3, and I really, really should have done a separate install. My favorite plug-ins don't work with it, and it's so ugly!! And I can't find a page with previous releases so I can download Firefox 2 and use it until the plug-ins are updated. All the download links at Mozilla just take you to the Firefox 3 page. Jerks!

I think I'm going to cry.

Cat person?

Looking for someone in the Waco area to adopt a very affectionate, well-mannered, indoor cat. Please email at dizzydava (at) aol (dot) com.

More fun with Call of Duty

Kris was playing Call of Duty again last night, and once again, the headsets provided free entertainment.

Some kid was in the group, and a guy started making fun of the kid, saying it must be past his bed time. This didn't get a rise out of the kid, so after a few moments of silence, the guy did the unthinkable. He started using the n-word. The kid sounded black, and those words hit home. He started yelling at the guy to shut up, but the guy just threw out more slurs.

But then the kid did something just as surprising. He said, "Alright, where you at?!" And he found the guy and shot him. The guy's character respawned, and the kid found him, and shot him again. This really pissed him off, and he started saying even more ugly things. Keep in mind--this kid was young. His voice hadn't even dropped yet.

Kris found the guy's character hunkered down in a building and gleefully shot him in the back of the head. That one felt good.

And at the end? The kid came in first place! It was awesome. He taunted the guy, asking if he'd play another round, but the guy left in a huff. Serves him right. I wish I'd written down Racist Guy's username so I could publicly out him.