That hormonal bath
Last week I heard a gifted teacher talk about what success feels like -- to a schoolchild, or to anyone. She pointed out that there's this bath of pleasant hormones that we enjoy when we learn how to make sense of something, or to make it work.
I really needed an endorphin shower at that point. The recent loss of my home computer had knocked me for a loop, and it's taken a couple of weeks to recover. I had some great assistance in buying a new computer, but setting the darn thing up the way I had the old one has been a challenge.
To start off with, the new one came loaded with the much-criticized Windows Vista operating system, which takes some getting used to. For what I do on the computer, it isn't any better or worse than Windows XP, the version I'd been on for many years. But it's different, and the changes take some getting used to. Most noticeably, it's much more uptight about security than ever. Tasks that XP performed routinely won't even get started on Vista until you've sworn that you're really you and yes, you realy want to do what you've commanded.
Then comes hooking up the many gadgets that hang from my computer these days. Oh, they physically plug in fine (with the help of a USB hub), but most of them need drivers, and the ones that they came with don't work with Vista. And so off we have gone, hither and yon throughout the WWW, trying to find and install updated drivers. It's been time-consuming, to say the least.
Next comes the software. Rooting around for the installation disks for all the programs on which we rely, then praying that they'll work in Vista. Amazingly, they all do. But of course, there are going to be a few "gotcha" moments. Like when we tried to install WordPerfect 12 off its original CD, and it haugtily demanded, "Give us your serial number." Serial number? Where is that? Maybe on the box, or the user manual.
The box that we no longer have. The user manual that we can no longer find. Hmmm, looks like the b*stards at Corel get another hundred bucks or two out me. I downloaded a free trial version, but it will run out 30 days after it was received.
There was lots of freeware to install, too -- nothing out of pocket there, but time, plenty of time.
Then there's anti-virus protection. In the past, I've used Norton by Symantec, but on every computer I've ever installed that stuff on, it eventually wound up becoming so intrusive and slowing things down so badly that the computer ran poorly. I wasn't going to make that mistake again, and so this time I decided to try AVG. So far, so good, but getting it to recognize the many programs on the computer, and teaching it what should be left alone, was a bit of a chore.
Two big challenges remained on my checklist the longest. One was getting my neat-o Sound Blaster/Creative Media audio stuff installed and set up. This toy lets me record anything, analog or digital, onto the computer, and edit it in all sorts of ways. Comes in quite handy for bringing those old vinyl record albums into the new millennium, among other things. But hey, a new computer doesn't just up and recognize it -- there's an installation process, and of course, it had to be reworked for Vista. That took a long time, but after all sorts of trial and error, we got it back and running better than ever.
The last task didn't get resolved until the wee small hours of this morning. Our Palm PDA, a trusty old m515 model, wouldn't sync up with our new computer at all. There's a little cradle that the handheld organizer sits in to charge, and it's connected to the computer via a USB cord. There's a program that sits on the computer, and it holds all the same data that the PDA does. Every once in a while, you push a "hot sync" button on the cradle, and the PDA and the computer update each other with your latest additions and subtractions.
I couldn't get the cradle and the new computer onto the same page to save my life. I downloaded new drivers for Vista from the Palm website -- that was obvious enough -- and I was careful to make sure I had the program on the computer configured to be expecting to hear from the cradle via a USB port. But every time I hit the "hot sync" button, the computer would tell me that the PDA was trying to communicate with it on the port "COM1," "COM1" wasn't available right now, and they'd let me know when it was.
This frustrating turn of events led me to various web postings, several of which instructed me to find "COM1" in the Windows Device Manager, and see what Windows said about it. Well, as it turns out, the new computer doesn't even have a port called "COM1," and so it seemed like my PDA syncing days were over.
This was a real shame, because what if I lost the PDA? All the data on it would be gone forever -- address book, date book, list of all sorts of important information -- yuck.
Having given up on the prospect of getting the sync mechanism back up to speed, I remembered that I had another Palm lying around in a box somewhere. I had bought this on eBay after an earlier drama had convinced me (wrongly, as it turned out) that my original PDA was about to die, and I never got much use out of the spare. Now, these gadgets have a nifty infrared beam thingie built into them, and I figured that maybe I could at least beam everything from my working one to the idle one as a means of backing up.
Alas, that wouldn't quite work. Not everything will beam. Date book entries have to be shared in pieces, not all at once, and the thought of beaming the entries one at a time (or even one category at a time) was ridiculous.
But I did have that second PDA sitting out for a while as I pondered fate, and one evening I noticed for the first time a little pocket in its carrying case that contained a little card to slip into the top of the handheld. And what was it? Lo and behold, a backup chip! You just slide this into the Palm, the Palm recognizes it, and next thing you know you can back up the full contents of the Palm onto the little removable chip. Extremely slick. Our backup problems were solved. Another little hormonal bath.
Still, the inability to sync with the computer was an annoyance. Sometimes it's much easier to work on the main computer, and download stuff to the PDA, rather than peck away with the PDA stylus. And sometimes there are large-ish memos on the PDA that I might want to cut and paste into another program -- blogging software, for example. Without the sync option, those interactions are impossible.
Last night, obsessively now, I went back to the internet tech support posts and continued reading about ways to solve this problem. Bypass Windows, go into the computer's most basic setup functions, and screw around with the port settings. Are you kidding? Not this cowboy. Reset the handheld -- erasing all the data -- and try with a clean slate. Even with my new little backup card, that did not sound appealing.
I was thinking that maybe I could find a contraption that would copy the contents of the little backup card onto the computer. Or maybe something that would allow me to beam data from the handheld to the computer without wires.
Finally, after reading dozens of possible solutions, some of them official from Palm but most written by other frustrated users, I came across a post that advised checking the Windows Device Manager, not for the communication port, but rather for the Palm itself. This post also pointed out something I already knew in the back of my mind: that the computer doesn't recognize the handheld and its cradle except when the sync operation is in progress. Until you hear that little "ga-dink" sound that tells you a new device is operating, Windows doesn't see the handheld or cradle at all. And that sound isn't heard until you start syncing -- when the sync is done, the other, "ga-dunk" sound comes on, Windows telling you that the device is gone. (BTW, those sounds are changed ever so slightly in Vista.)
Now, in our case, the computer was clearly hearing that the handheld was trying to talk to it -- it just didn't know what it was trying to say. And hey, I had tried everything else a dozen times, so what the heck? First I had to re-connect the cradle physically to the USB port; after giving up, I had pulled that plug. Then I hit the "hot sync" button on the cradle and clicked onto the Windows Device Manager on the computer. Sure enough, there under "Portable Devices" was the Palm. And when I right-clicked around a little, Vista told me something like, "The driver for this device has not been installed."
Huh? I had downloaded all the latest Palm drivers, long before this. Hadn't they gotten installed? Anyway, Vista asked me if I wanted it to look for and install the driver. I said sure, but I soon could see that it was not looking anywhere it would find it. And so I told it where to look -- in the "C:Palm" folder.
In a few seconds, Windows said that the driver was now installed! But was it the correct driver? I wondered. Was it a Vista driver or an old XP driver, which probably wouldn't work?
There was only one way to find out: hit the "hot sync" button on the cradle again, and see what would happen.
Mirabile dictu -- it was syncing. And fast, too. Compared to the old computer, this new one is a rocket ship.
Finally, there came the ultimate test -- had it synced properly? I knew I had my backup chip, and that would come in handy if, as I feared, the sync went in the wrong direction and erased everything.
But guess what. It worked perfectly.
And that, dear reader, produced a very long and luxurious hormonal bath. I am sure there are many tech adventures in my future, but with fingers crossed, I am now pronouncing the setup of the new computer complete.