The vapors

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So yesterday my mom’s computer decided not to start up. Media failure, exiting broadcom and the like. It was the no operating system found comment which caused a fair bit of consternation. She’s writing a lot, for herself, for others, all on that computer.

I thought I fixed this a while back but that was merely a bandage fix. It was time for something more substantial. So, my Friday night in the mountains was spent with a sickly laptop on one side and my computer on the other, as my experience has found google to be a lot better tech support than the real tech support. Type in the error and generally a good response will turn up.

I spent a while doing the various scans, updating all the software, doing a ritual dance under the light of the stars, and whatever else I could think of. Through my various trials and steps I found I should update the BIOS at the heart of the computer. Now, this means delving into the depths of Dell computer support to find the right update, then scratching one’s head when the update they assured me is right for the computer starts and yells “not compatible with this system!”

Oh, bother.

I go back to google and ask it why it would say that. A friendly post of a year ago details a conversation one man had with the Dell support. He had a long unhelpful conversation online, and a helpful phone call. Who you talk to matters. He listed both conversations, which described my problem rather exactly. I had to first update to a file which was a year old before I could update to the new one.


So I did, from A04 made by phoenix technologies to A22 made by Dell, and now to the brand new A32 flashBIOS.

Did a scan disk which took an hour, to check the hard drive. It was fine. Two months ago that had been the problem, for which Dell support told me we needed a new hard drive.


Didn’t need that. Just needed to fix some errors. This time I needed to update the core software. Did the checking, updated the files, started it up and all was well. The screen was even brighter and it seemed to run twice as fast. There had been a long lag which I variously attributed to viruses, spyware, or particularly focused little demons.

All was well. So I went to bed. The computer ran great, I was so proud. Showed it to my mother this morning, it ran great. We launched fireworks and invited the neighborhood over for a feast.


Well, around noon I went to look at it again. This time it was off, with an orange battery light shining, mocking my every attempt to turn it on. Ah, I said, I’ll remove the battery. The orange light stayed on. An odd thing as this was the battery light. No worries. I unplugged it and had it run only on battery. No change. The orange light stared at my like the eye of Sauron from the front of the computer. A google search told me nothing, except that the BIOS a32 was prone to running hot.


Nothing else, so I went to Dell tech support. Didn’t call though. I used online live chat. Which is neat because while I’m waiting I can still listen to Mambo Italiano by Dean Martin and otherwise entertain myself online. Kevin comes on, asks me the basic questions making sure I’m not really dull, and we get to the tech supporting. Take out the battery. Done, the orange light is still on. Are you sure you took out the battery? Yes. The one on the side of the computer? Yes. The orange light shouldn’t be on if the battery is out. Yes, that means I have a problem.

Well, we proceeded to take out the battery, the hard drive, the memory, the modem, the dvd player, hold the power button down, check the power cord, and have a lot of going back and forth about the fact that only the orange light was showing. Nothing changed. I was feeling silly and got into the responses. Saying “excellent idea” and the like, feeling like I was flirting with the tech guy, which because Dell has Marie Oden listed was to him something natural and to me something silly… since I am not Marie Oden at all. Well, nothing worked and he said it was the motherboard.

The motherboard.

I learned a long time ago when I had a Toshiba laptop with 32mb of memory and a 350 mHz processor that when a tech person says it’s the motherboard it may be. Or it may not be. It might be the power source, and a simple fix. Tech people cannot legally say they haven’t a clue what’s wrong and we should go ask someone who really knows. Falling back to the motherboard is the computer equivalent of blaming “the vapors”. When a computer person mentions the motherboard it’s best to end the conversation, because you’ve come to the end. I thanked Kevin for his time, and forgot to turn off the chat. Meanwhile he kept saying you are welcome, and then bye. I realized I had to shut the screen.

So I was left with the computer suffering from the vapors, feeling bad because my recent update seemed to be a cause of its consternation. I figured it wasn’t the motherboard but something else in the innards.

Being the solution for and cause of a set of problems is not a source for self-congratulations.

I thought I would let it lie a bit, and do something more, well, interesting. First, I thought I would have a chat with it. I also put the battery back in and tried once more. Nothing.


I pulled the battery out, jiggled the battery, and put it back in. Switched the power. A green light flashed, looking for all the world like a car when it decides whether or not to turn over. The computer came on, works great and even the power cord seems to work fine.

Jiggle it. The first thing a person should do, especially when they or their object of concern is suffering from the vapors.

3 Responses to “The vapors”

  1. Zippy the Troll Says:

    Get a Macintosh.


  2. Paddy Says:

    Then I would have to deal with consumption or leprosy and join a colony of the similarly afflicted which has to hide from the wary eyes of the normal, productive world.

  3. Paddy O Says:

    Oh. Another reason to own a PC…
    Rome: Total War