Moments of Permanence

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Let me tell you about my computer Apr. 11th, 2014 @ 12:35 pm
So, my computer had a virus.

(It's not the whole reason I haven't posted in so long, but it's part of it.)

It was quite an unusual virus, in my experience, not least because it infected my computer, which no virus had ever done before. The symptoms were odd. Eradicating it was tricky.

I shall now describe the events in detail, because if other people get the same thing, they might want to spend less time trying to fix it than I did.

The first phase was odd, and we spent a fair amount of time thinking it might be a hardware issue, heat-related or something. It was characterised by a curiously progressive freezeup. First any background applications would go unresponsive, then Windows itself would, and finally the active application would hang.

Meanwhile, the hard drive light would be solid on, without so much as a flicker.

When I tried having Task Manager up before the crash started, nothing whatsoever showed as out of the ordinary or overactive in any way.

The system Event Log showed nothing.

At first, the crashes were happening with bizarre regularity, close on to every two hours. However, when I went to back up my data, all that changed.

Due to past bad experiences with forgetting to back up something in an odd corner of the hard drive and being sad when I realised I lost it, my preferred method of backing up before I do something drastic is to copy the entire contents of my hard drive to something else.

However, when I tried to do that this time, there were a couple of noticably odd things:

First, Windows Explorer appeared to conclude that the entire contents of my c:\ drive amounted to something like 25.7GB. This is not even close.

Second, the attempt to copy files set off the crash well ahead of schedule, and triggered a change in behaviour such that the crash would now happen more-or-less as soon as the computer booted.

In Safe Mode, however, I was still able to back up my files - which I did by copying them across to the other hard drive in the same computer, and believe me, it turns out I'm very glad I got a laptop that has two hard drives - but the computer was still instacrashing if it loaded normally.

So, files secure, I did a factory reset on my Windows partition. Did all the install stuff, then immediately downloaded a fresh copy of Microsoft Security Essentials, updated the virus definition, and set it to scan everything. Left that to run overnight...

... and in the morning discovered that it had crashed. Tried to go again, but the crash happened as soon as Windows loaded.

While I reinstalled Windows again, I had a long chat about all of this with my father, who's rather an expert on all things software, and he recommended that I outright hard-format the drive.

While we were discussing this, and I was poking around in Disk Manager, I noticed something out of place: a drive I didn't recognise.

Disk Manager was seeing my C:\ partition (HDD 1), my D:\ partition (HDD 2), my E:\ partition (HDD 1), my DVD drive (holding the system recovery DVD), and a strange, mysterious 8 GB drive that claimed to be a Sandisk SD card.

The thing is, while my laptop does have an SD card slot, as I very carefully verified, that slot was holding a piece of SD-card-shaped plastic designed, I assume, to keep dust out of the slot, but absolutely resolutely in no way more advanced technologically than "moulded plastic". There was no SD card.

My dad looked up the specs for my laptop online, and could find absolutely no mention of there being some kind of SD card onboard for any reason. I recalled no such thing, either.

According to Windows, the SD card did not contain readable data of any kind; Windows opined it was data intended to be read by a different operating system.

My laptop does not have and has never had any other operating system.

So I disabled that "drive", and reinstalled Windows. I nuked the c:\ and e:\ partitions but didn't actually do a full hard format.

Lo and behold! My computer worked. I even re-downloaded Security Essentials, updated it, and successfully ran a full scan of everything (which picked up nothing).

I've never before heard of a virus that hides itself as a fake SD card, but it's my best theory on this one.

There's actually a bit more to the saga of My Recent Computer Troubles, but it's not virus-related, and this post is quite long, I think, so the odd, quirky hardware incident that followed can be another post.
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dear USB ports: I hate you Dec. 15th, 2010 @ 07:45 am
So, my current laptop has three USB ports. 1 (front left; is a USB 3.0 port), 2 (back right), 3 (front right). (2 and 3 are USB 2.0.)

For no apparent reason, ports 1 and 2 stopped working. Anything plugged into them got USB power but the computer didn't recognise them as devices. (Tested with my mouse and a pocket hard drive.)

I've managed to fix port 1, by reinstalling the USB 3 drivers, but the others are proving more challenging.

Then I had to leave it for a bit, because I was going out, to the house of friends who are moving. I'm now writing this at their place. They're shifting stuff to the new place this morning; I'm supervising their infant son so they don't have to to try and juggle a four-month-old baby while they do their stuff-shifting.

I have, in this process, realised something about just how much I pretend to be a grownup.

While they were getting ready to leave, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop. (Baby is currently asleep.)

The instant they left, I moved to sit cross-legged on the floor instead, with my computer on the coffee table in front of me.

My non-grownupness is such that I STILL haven't adjusted to sitting in a proper chair. I find them just too boring.

... meanwhile, if this were Supernatural, I would be about to die horribly (although the baby would be fine, even if his cot ended up stained with my blood). The house is silent, and there's a weird noise coming from the ceiling.

This being reality, I'm pretty sure it's a possum or something in the roof, but in case I'm wrong: whoever finds my corpse and looks at my open laptop to find what happened, IT WAS IN THE CEILING.

Meanwhile again, in "that's going to be disconcerting" news: Heard a crying baby. Thought it sounded distant and not quite like baby J's cry, but went to check anyway; baby I'm supervising is fast asleep. Crying baby is presumably next door.

I am sitting here listening out for crying babies. Having the wrong baby cry is messing with my head, I feel like I should be checking on him even though I know he's fine and fast asleep and gah...
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