Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mitchell's new toy

A couple of weeks ago, Mitchell bought a quad. This is something he's been dying to get for ages now. Last year he bottle fed a calf and at the time we told him when it was big enough to sell he could keep the money and buy something with it. Since then the only thing he's wanted is a quad.

A short time ago, we heard from my sister that they might be interested in selling their oldest boys quad, which was a small kids size machine, with an engine probably around 50cc. It's not a name-brand machine, just something made in China. Around here people call these machines Chondas (China/Honda). Their son was getting a little too big for this one so it would be perfect for Mitchell who's a couple of years younger. They only wanted $200 for it which was a lot less than we expected to be paying for something like this. As Mitchell got $550 for his calf he still had lots of money to spend on a helmet.

Before picking up the quad we went shopping at Canadian Tire, something of a department store in Canada, which sells auto parts, sporting goods, hardware, etc. Mitchell's "problem" is that he has a big head and we ended up having to spend $100 on a Adult Small helmet to fit his head. As you can see in the picture despite the fact he's only eight years old, it's definitely not too big for him!

Anyway, finally the day came to make the deal and bring the quad home. Mitchell went for a little spin and we promptly had a little problem with the brakes. It appears a brake pad broke and jammed up the rear axle. My sister's husband rushed out and fixed it for Mitchell and here he is roaring around. Thanks Uncle Tim! Mitchell loves it and happily spends hours cruising around the farm!

Sometimes I hate being tech support

Those of you who are knowledgable about computers have been there before. Someone you know (friends, family, coworkers) is having trouble with their computer and ask you to fix it for them. I have had two recent occasions that have left me with headaches.

I should start by saying that I help family out without question or or monetary compensation. My sister and her family take our kids when Carla and I go to the annual homeschool conference And my mom, well, she brought me into this world and she can take me out! But for everyone else I usually charge something. If it's a matter of "My computer is running slow" and it's not infested with malware, I do the basic maintenance and send it back with a bill for $20-$30. These last two were something more, though.

The first one was a newer box running Windows XP that was thoroughly infested with malware and after beating on it with various antivirus and spyware apps, I gave up and reinstalled Windows. The previous scanning and deleting just couldn't get rid of everything and I tried AVG and Avast antivirus software as well as Spybot Search & Destroy and AdAware. I also ran an app called HijackThis which spit out a log for me to look for suspicious stuff. Unfortunately as I said, I was still getting detection warnings after trying to clean things up with those apps. So I backed up what I could and went on to the reinstall

Reinstalling Windows also turned out to be problematic as the installer wouldn't work properly so I had to create a custom XP install disk with both Service Pack 2 and Service Pack 3 built into it to get around the install problem. But once I got that figured out and Windows reinstalled the machine seemed to be nearly cured. I ran a couple more scans and cleaned out a couple more apps and files that were still infected and sent it back to the customer with a bill for $60.

A job Carla and I are both working on now involved a local business. Due to a staffing change, their office manager is gone and took some computers with him. We were contacted to get another machine into the office with the required apps and then Carla would teach them the software (I'm the hardware guy and Carla's the office software expert). They supplied us with an old P3-500 Win98 machine they hoped would work in the interim.

Well, after struggling at home for a while with this old box I came to the conclusion that it was DOA. Luckily I had a used 1.3Ghz XP box in the basement collecting dust. I dragged it out and it fired up right away so I set to work cleaning the drive and installing software. This consisted mostly of updating it for security and getting QuickBooks 2008 and 2010 installed. Most of the trouble here was with this old box being a little weak. Installs and updates took a frustrating amount of time to finish.

I did eventually get finished with that machine and Carla delivered it. She got it setup in the office and working with the printers. While there she was supposed to instruct the other workers on how to operate the machine and do the various office tasks including payroll through a conference call with the American head office. Unfortunately the never called so that has been put off for now. The local workers would rather Carla became an employee and do that work for them as they aren't computer fans and Carla would love to get back into an office as that was her career previously. That would be awesome if it did happen. Anyway, this job is therefore still ongoing and hasn't been billed but I expect to get a pretty good cheque out of it. Though the last job I did for a commercial enterprise, it took six months to get paid (a skidsteer snow clearing job for a construction company). Hopefully it's better this time!

I want to end here with a word about why I found these jobs to be headaches. I'm not a Windows guru. That's not to say I don't use it, but my day-to-day machine is a Mac and of the eight computers used in our home, five are Macs. I've been a Mac user for about three years and before that I main box was a PC running Linux for a decade. So when it comes to getting down and dirty with Windows and especially Windows malware the stress level goes way up. It's not something I encounter on my machines. I don't even run antivirus software on our two machines running Windows as they are mainly just for games (one mine which is rarely on and the other for the kids) not to mention that I don't mindlessly download crap.

Yes, Macs cost more than PCs. But I'd rather pay the money and never have to worry about malware while having a consistent and reliable operating system. One can also buy them cheaper refurbished from Apple's online store. If you still prefer a PC, please consider Linux if you don't have a requirement for specific Windows software. The Linux operating system is legally free for the download and some places will also send you a free disc. Heck, I'd even send you a free disc! On all the Mac and Linux boxes I run only software I legally obtained for free. For example, our farm accounting is done by Carla is spreadsheets using OpenOffice.

So, well, I'll get off my soap box and wish you all safe computing!