Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rough Rider

After our little MINI came back from Seattle MINI, it seemed a little rough when idling.   It seemed otherwise fine, and we motored down to California and minor adventures public and private.

When we got back to Seattle, we took the car in to the dealer to check the idle.

It wasn't the idle.   After they replaced clutch, due to dealer error the engine mount was loose.   And it was driven 1700 miles with it like that.

We're not at all happy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Motor On!

I had the carburetor cleaned and checked
    with her line blown out she's hummin' like a turbojet
Propped her up in the backyard on concrete blocks
    for a new clutch plate and a new set of shocks
Took her down to the carwash
    check the plugs and points
I'm goin' out tonight
    I'm gonna rock that joint
-- Bruce Springsteen, "Open All Night"
It was 19 years ago this month we leased our first Miata; we're now on our third rag top, our 2006 MINI Cooper S.

The MINI now is eight and half years old with 67,000 miles on it, and it still hasn't been driven by me in the warm California sun despite our living on the West Coast seven years.   We're going to fix that this spring.  But first things first.

Before we motor out into the wildness between Oregon and the Bay Area, we took it to our local dealer to have the clutch (which they've been warning us about for couple of years) and few other things looked at.   They looked.  They said it was time.   

It took three days and an American Express card in good standing.

And yes, it was time.   Sometimes one wonders if the repair shop actually did any work.    Not this round.

Katherine drove the MINI out of the dealer yesterday, and the first few times she shifted the transition slapped me against my headrest.    Likewise, when I took it out this morning,  I discovered for myself how tight the MINI shifts now.   That's a new clutch.

California ho!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Insert Tab A in Slot B

TL;DR: You too can lose a weekend troubleshooting computer hardware, just like the old days.

Back in 2003, I got a Dell Pentium 4 computer that lasted me five years.  It was the last machine of two to three year upgrade cycles I had been doing since 1989.  Even with the five year gap, it would have lasted even longer had I not wanted a HP LP3065 30" monitor to match what I used at work; the video card in the Dell wasn't worth upgrading, especially since by then I preferred Apple machines.

So in March 2008, I replaced the Dell with my first new personal Mac, a high end Mac Pro.   The machine, a real beast, supports up to four 30" monitors, four internal hard drives, and two hardline Ethernet connections. They don't build 'em like that any more. Literally.    

(Don't drop it on your toes.  The case would survive having an anvil dropped on it.   I'm not sure how the anvil would fare.)

With a solid state boot drive added a couple of years ago, the Mac Pro has held up well, and even at six years old I am in no hurry to replace it.  So for its birthday, I had the flaky second video card serviced, and also ordered a couple of drive upgrades.  I got the machine back, installed Mac OS on a new bigger SSD drive, generally futzed with an almost-but-not-quite-perfect user migration, and I was back in business. 


Checking the machine out, I realized I couldn't get the machine to accept the magic key to select the boot drive at startup.   Maybe it did accept the key -- but there was no screen to see the results.  I realized there are subtle evil technical reasons this could be a video card problem, which would require a trip back the Apple store.   

I prepared the machine to go back, including building yet another virgin boot drive (my third in a week) so I didn't take my data to the Apple store ... and the pre-boot screen started working.

After checking alternative keyboards, unplugging and plugging in monitors, swapping cables and reinstalling my real drives, I got it down to if my older HP 30" monitor was in the plugged into the lower video card and my newer Dell U3011 30" monitor was plugged into the upper one, I didn't see the Mac pre-boot screen -- the OS had to boot up before I saw anything. If I swapped them, the pre-boot screen did show on the old monitor even though it's dumber than the newer monitor.   Not optimal, but acceptable.

Mostly, just weird.