Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Added Memory

You might think I'm going to tell you about some recent special event that will be long remembered and cherished. Not so! The news is, I installed RAM in my computer increasing its memory from 256 MB to 1 GB. I did it all by myself. How is this possible?

I took an after school class from Mr. Wood last semester. We built a computer from the ground up. Everything I did was explained thoroughly beforehand and then guided step by step pointing out exactly where every strange piece of equipment went and how to get it there. I didn't think I'd learned anything but if I ever took a similar class at VoTech, I'd have a little familiarity with the inside of a computer.

Mr. Wood assured me I could add the memory. "It's easy." I've heard that before! He opened one of his computers and showed me what the memory stick looks like. Then he let me pull it out and put it back in. Feeling confident, I ordered the memory from DELL (where I bought my computer). They knew the exact computer I bought from them and what memory I needed plus it comes with instructions. Unbelievably I found my computer owner's manual in the first place I looked. It has detailed instructions for installing memory.

The only trouble I had was getting the back to flip up so I could get to where the memory needed to be. It reminded me of when I lived in California and took an auto repair for women's class. Among other things, I learned to change a tire. I KNOW exactly how to do it BUT I was not/am not strong enough to loosen the lug nuts. I need a big strong man to do that for me. So I might as well let him change the tire too!

I called DELL tech support for help. While on hold, waiting to be transferred to a live person, I finally got the back off and I hung up on DELL. The rest went easy as promised. I got everything back together and it actually worked! I was so happy. And still am.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We've just completed the 4th day of school (4 down, 176 to go) and I find myself dreaming of vacation, especially travels to New York City. Who knew that Queens has such beautiful beaches? Not your average tourist! This beach has clean blue water, white sand, gorgeous skies, and it isn't very crowded. The beach front property is lined with public housing! What a great idea to provide low cost housing at the beach.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last Week of Summer Vacation: a Novella

I've decided to spend my last week before school starts in computer pergatory. It's not quite hell, but it's close.

I finally made the leap to high speed Internet and got a good deal by bundling our ATT land line, cell phone and Internet together. I apparently send out Murphy's Law vibes, though, because if it could go wrong, it did.

A box arrived from ATT. I let it sit for a couple of days, hesitant to find out if it really would be easy to set up, as promised. When I did open the box, I found it filled with pamphlets, cables and gadgets wrapped in plastic, a modem and a CD that was labled "Important! Back-up CD only. DO NOT USE UNLESS DIRECTED." Why do I need a CD that I am not supposed to use? And what do I do with all this new equipment that needs to be installed? It turned out to be easy, just like they said, because Beth hooked it up for me.

It didn't take Beth long to discover that ATT sent the wrong modem. I'd ordered a combo hard-wire and wireless but got the single non-wireless kind.

A quick phone call to ATT (Well, I say quick because it didn't take long to dial the number. But then I spent 10 minutes talking to the automated guy who had the gall to tell me to be patient. Then I waited another 10 to be connected to a real guy who was able to help me after gathering critical information: Daryl's ss# and his mother's maiden name). In under an hour ATT knew they had sent the wrong modem. They promised to get the correct one in the mail, no charge, and asked me to send the wrong one back to them. It's a deal!

In a few days the new modem came and Beth finished the installation, almost. When it was time to attach the ethernet cable, the port was too small. I now know that my DELL that I've had since 2002 only has a phone jack. To find that out I called ATT again. The automated guy was getting on my nerves but Matt was excellent help. He told me that I could get an ethernet cable adapter at Radio Shack (or any similar establishment) and then I'd be good to go. He also helped me configure my laptop so the wireless internet would work. No kidding, he was on the phone with me for an hour. ATT really picks good tech help people or trains them well or pays them a lot or all of the above because no matter how stupid I acted, Matt remained calm, friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. When I hung up from talking with Matt, I had "get an ethernet adapter" on my to-do list and I could hop on the Internet with my laptop. Too fun.

The next day we got a bill from ATT with a charge for both modems and overnight shipping which I neither ordered nor received. Another quick call :~) and I got them to remove the wrong charges and agree to the amount quoted in the first place. We paid that bill and headed to RadioShack, got the ethernet cable adapter, and did a little other shopping (we went to the RadioShack in the mall).

The following day Beth put the finishing touches on the hook-up process. Everything worked great. I called AOL to cancel our dial-up but in the process took them up on their $11.00 a month 10 hours of dial-up plus free McAfee deal. I found out later that free McAfee comes with ATT Internet as well. Daryl likes to check his email on our old computer so I thought the AOL deal might be worth it. We'll see. There is probably another phone call in my future.

I hadn't realized that you can still use AOL software even if you don't pay for their service. I downloaded AOL onto my Dell (it had never been on the Internet before!) and went to bed.

The next morning I hopped up ready to check email only to find out there was no connection. AOL couldn't connect and Internet Explorer couldn't connect either. WAH!!! I called ATT hoping they would know what the problem was. I wanted to talk to Matt again, wishing I had his direct number so I could bypass that annoying automated guy. No such luck. But I was lucky when Felix answered my phone call. Another gem. He stayed on the phone with me for well over an hour. He had me reboot the modem, did diagnostic tests from his end, walked me through the guts of my computer checking configurations and fixing any problems found, and finally said, "I don't know what else to do." He asked if I knew anyone with computer knowledge who might be able to look at the computer and figure out what was wrong. I know a lot of teenagers, does that count? And when school starts I can ask my building buddy, who is a tech genius, for help.

I fretted and fumed and then was hit with a thought...last night it was working, I loaded AOL and now it isn't working. I deleted all things AOL from the computer and voila! Internet connection. I wish I had Felix's phone number so I could call and tell him.

My next project was to load the free McAfee. Not as easy as you'd think. Oh sure, I went to ATT and clicked on the free McAfee download. Went through the download process only to find out at the end that, "your version of windows is out-of-date, McAfee can not be downloaded." Gee Whiz, what next?

I'm not sure how I figured out it needed service pack updates. I'd never heard of service packs before. My DELL had not been online for 7 years, therefore no updates for 7 years. Through trial and error and a lot of time, I hit upon the first update needed to start the upgrade process. I also don't know how I came to the conclusion that enough updates had been downloaded, but at some point I thought it was time to try to download McAfee again. This time it didn't mention that Windows was not worthy, but it did say, "Cannot download, not enough memory, need a minimum of 256 MB RAM." I'd seen that before and checked my computer. I have exactly 256 MB of RAM. I ignored their message and clicked next anyway and it finished downloading. Hallelujah!

I was so happy, I danced around the house. I guess pergatory is just as close to heaven as it is to hell.

That was my last major accomplishment. I've done some little stuff like switching to Firefox (I do think it works better than Explorer) but nothing big. I do have a project in the works. I'm going to add memory to the computer. I have ordered two sticks of 512 MB RAM to total 1 GB (the most my computer will hold) from DELL (it should be the right memory, don't you think?). I'll let you know how that goes.