There’s Excitement in the Air!

May 31, 2007

Is there a full moon? For some reason tonight’s news is packed with fascinating technology developments.

I subscribe to the TED website, which very generously allows mere mortals who can’t find the time (or afford the price of admission) to experience much of what takes place at this extraordinary conference.

Tonight an email from the site directed me to a presentation by Blaise Aguera y Arcas, an extraordinary scientist, younger than he has any right to be, demonstrating groundbreaking software at the TED conference last March. It’s sort of about photography, yet is an astounding example of where that leads to brave new worlds.

And also, dare I say more, the report on the new Microsoft “Surface” computer is truly compelling. It’s not just a flash-in-the-pan, but a device chock-full of new ideas.

Then the TED website led me to fascinating earlier research co-authored by Blaise Aguera y Arcas which methodically reexamines (and challenges) Gutenberg’s exact methodology in the invention of printing.

Such an embarrassment of riches in a single night!

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VAIO-Vista Update

May 18, 2007

Well, after wasting a whole lot of time following the automated advice from Sony, I Googled the error message and found a solution on the Microsoft Web site. It involved making changes to the registry (which, as we are always advised, is as dangerous as playing with a neutron bomb). But they worked. The optical drive is back and working fine.

So I immediately tried to install my brand new copy of Adobe’s CS3. Error! Error! Does not compute. I got the “2739” message! No steps were recommended on how to solve it.

I’m fortunate to have a few contacts at Adobe, and was eventually referred to an Adobe “TechNote” ( which in this case challenged me to change the registry via the old MS-DOS interface (when will this finally disappear from the Microsoft’s various OSs?). The instructions were a trifle arcane, but I summoned all of my old skills, and soon succeeded. CS3 will soon take over the remaining space on my hard drive. Success! (?!?!??)

Vista Hell

May 6, 2007

One of my clients is doing some work with Microsoft Vista. (I can’t figure it out: is it Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows Vista, or just Microsoft Vista?) So I bought a new Sony VAIO computer with Vista Business Edition pre-installed, knowing that if I tried to install Vista over Windows XP I would probably destroy everything I ever loved or cared for (digitally speaking).

Vista seemed alright for a an hour or two. There’s some cute little graphic do-dads in the interface. It’s very uptight about security, and that began to annoy me fairly quickly (I’ll write a whole lot more about this later).

I basically toyed with the computer for the first week or two, not spending a whole lot of time with it, preparing for what I feared would be a soon-to-be broken heart (digitally speaking). I stuck with my old XP VAIO as my main computer.

A few days back the computer offered me a bunch of software upgrades, most of them related to the software that Sony pre-installs on the computer. What could be wrong with installing those, I figured (not realizing how idiotic I soon would feel)?

Anyway, the net result was that these upgrades (I assume it’s these, as I haven’t done anything else to the puppy) somehow disabled my DVD drive. I got a dialog box that first alerted me to the problem that contained the text: “Please try to close the tray after close all the using softwares or after shutdown the system and then start the Windows (stet).”

After decoding this message, I went through all of the steps that the average computer dummy tries — a bunch of restarts, playing with the control panel, trying to uninstall the driver and so on. All to no effect.

Although it was late in the evening when frustration turned to rage, I discovered that I could still obtain online chat support. What follows is my conversation with Sony’s technician:


user Thad has entered room

analyst Casey_ has entered room

Casey_> Hi Thad. Welcome to Sony Online Support. I’m Casey. Please allow me a moment to review your concern.

Casey_> Thanks for waiting, Thad. I’m sorry that the DVD Drive is not working. I’ll be happy to assist you with this.

Thad> Thanks

Casey_> Have you made any Hardware or Software changes since it last worked normally?

Thad> I installed all recommended software updates which included several for VIAO media center, etc.

Thad> I also tonight did a roll-back to yesterday, although probably I installed the updates a few days ago

Thad> No hardware changes

Thad> Also, the problem started before the roll-back — the roll-back didn’t help

Casey_> Please check whether you see yellow exclamation mark on any of the devices listed in the Device Manager Window.

Thad> Yes, on that drive

Casey_> I would like to forward a link to a page where you can view the steps to troubleshoot this issue.

Casey_> When you receive the link please click on it to open the page and let me know if you are able to view it.


Thad> OK

Thad> I did restart — it doesn’t detect the drive

Thad> “Restart the computer.

NOTE: Wait a few seconds for the CD/DVD to be detected before double-clicking to access it.

Ensure the disc is clean and free of smudges, fingerprints and scratches, and that it is inserted correctly.

NOTE: The label should be facing up for CD and single sided DVD discs.

Try a different disc in the drive.” —- I DID THAT

Casey_> Are you able to view the page?

Thad> Yes…did you not see my response? I quoted from the page — the drive does not appear.

Casey_> Thad, please follow the steps in the article as each step is a possible solution. Also click on the sub links provided on the page for further information.

Thad> Also, did a virus scan 2 days ago

Thad> Please read the page again yourself. It is not relevant. What part is relevant if the drive does not appear?

Casey_> Did you perform all the thirteen steps mentioned on the page?

Thad> YES!

Casey_> The troubleshooting steps listed on the page should resolve this issue. If you have completed all of the steps and the issue is not resolved, service may be required.

Casey_> Shall I forward a page where you can locate your nearest service location and setup a work order for the repair.


Casey_> Please enter the Model #, the Zip Code and the Date of Purchase to initiate the service.

Thad> How am I expected to understand this instruction:

Thad> “Reset the computer BIOS to the default values.” That’s far beyond my knowledge, understanding or ability

Casey_> Thad, I’m sorry, Let me forward another link where you can view the steps to reset the BIOS. Let me know when you’re there.

Thad> I’ve used this computer for a total of 8 hours. I’m heartbroken!


Casey_> I’m sorry for the inconvenience you’re experiencing with the CD/DVD Drive.

Thad> Thanks, for the link. Let’s give up now. I appreciate your earnest effort!

Casey_> You’re welcome.

Casey_> Please perform the steps mentioned on the page. This should resolve the issue.

Casey_> Also please click on the sublinks for more information.

Thad> And then I will fly to the moon in a rocket I designed myself!

Casey_> If the issue persists please feel free to contact us here again at your convenience.

Thad> Good night. Thank you.

Casey_> Thad, I wish you a happy journey.

Thad> To the moon?

Casey_> Is there anything else I may assist you with today?

Thad> Yes. Solve my problem! Bye bye.

Casey_> Thad, we value your feedback, if you could share your thoughts about this chat session by filling out the short 3-question survey that will appear after this chat is completed it would be highly appreciated.

Thad> OK

Casey_> I enjoyed chatting with you, hope you had a positive experience and enjoyed this chat session.

Casey_> Thank you for contacting Sony Online support. Please feel free to contact us for further assistance.

Thad> You betcha!


You may have gathered that I was lying about going through the 13 steps (12 might have been more appropriate, but certainly no more effective). I’ve now performed them, as well as a few bonus steps (such as uninstalling all the Sony upgrades). The drive still does not work.

I could wax bitterly upon my feelings about all of this but I think I’ve said enough.

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