1316: "Inexplicable"

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1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby poxic » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:21 am UTC

Image

Title text: 'It has a ghost in it. Take it back.' 'No.'

I have one of those. It draws little coloured boxes all over my screen sometimes, then goes to sleep under a blue blanket. Usually while I'm playing Skyrim.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby rhomboidal » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:24 am UTC

I didn't know bugs had ghosts.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby WolfieMario » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:26 am UTC

Literally my first thought:
Image
1108

Surprisingly, I was only two minutes late by the time I had a thread ready to post. I blame Fireworks for inexplicably crashing twice.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby NeatNit » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:27 am UTC

Haha, this is one of my favorites! So true, computers can be many things but logical is not one of them.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:45 am UTC

Only humans could take one of the purest, most exact sciences and muck it up so badly that it feels like it isn't one. Physics has a lot of little variables that can't be tracked or accounted for; computer science has one big one.
cephalopod9 wrote:Only on Xkcd can you start a topic involving Hitler and people spend the better part of half a dozen pages arguing about the quality of Operating Systems.

Baige.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:48 am UTC

I'm just going to postulate that any sufficiently advanced (complex) logic is indistinguishable from randomness. Unfortunately, computers are way beyond that point for us by now... :(

EDIT: modern car engines come in as a close second. Thanks exclusively to... yup... computers.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Platypodes » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:10 am UTC

The alt text is probably the next two lines of the same conversation, but I initially read it as a fast-forward to the fellow having an irate discussion at the return counter of the computer store... I kinda like it that way.
videogamesizzle wrote:so, uh, seen any good arbitrary, high numbers lately?

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Waladil » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:10 am UTC

I had a computer like this once.

It ran Windows Vista. However, after an *incident* involving trying to make it dual-boot Linux, it would eventually refuse to boot up unless there was a hard drive with Windows XP installed. When it had the XP drive in, it would boot normally straight to Vista. Take the XP drive out, and it couldn't boot at all. To this day, nobody has been able to explain why it needed that XP drive in.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby keldor » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:37 am UTC

Waladil wrote:I had a computer like this once.

It ran Windows Vista. However, after an *incident* involving trying to make it dual-boot Linux, it would eventually refuse to boot up unless there was a hard drive with Windows XP installed. When it had the XP drive in, it would boot normally straight to Vista. Take the XP drive out, and it couldn't boot at all. To this day, nobody has been able to explain why it needed that XP drive in.


Actually, I have a hunch what was going on.

From what I understand, Windows boots in two phases - first, the BIOS loads up the boot sector from the drive and runs the code there, which loads up the Windows Boot Manager. This then reads in the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) from each partition, and lets the user boot into any one of them marked as a valid boot partition. The key is that the BCD and the boot sector that BIOS loads up are two different things. This means you can have a drive that has a missing boot sector, but an intact BCD, which would mean that BIOS can't figure out how to start the boot, but once the boot manager was up and running (off the XP boot drive) it has everything needed to boot from that point on.

I believe that the new EFI BIOS'es skip the first part and use the BCD "directly", but this is a new technology which wouldn't be found on a Vista-era computer.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Shakleton » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:33 am UTC

[obligatory Ghost In The Shell joke that I am astounded nobody has made yet]
mikekearn wrote:You even have an appropriate shirt. Excellent.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby da Doctah » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:36 am UTC

keldor wrote:
Waladil wrote:I had a computer like this once.

It ran Windows Vista. However, after an *incident* involving trying to make it dual-boot Linux, it would eventually refuse to boot up unless there was a hard drive with Windows XP installed. When it had the XP drive in, it would boot normally straight to Vista. Take the XP drive out, and it couldn't boot at all. To this day, nobody has been able to explain why it needed that XP drive in.


Actually, I have a hunch what was going on.

From what I understand, Windows boots in two phases - first, the BIOS loads up the boot sector from the drive and runs the code there, which loads up the Windows Boot Manager. This then reads in the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) from each partition, and lets the user boot into any one of them marked as a valid boot partition. The key is that the BCD and the boot sector that BIOS loads up are two different things. This means you can have a drive that has a missing boot sector, but an intact BCD, which would mean that BIOS can't figure out how to start the boot, but once the boot manager was up and running (off the XP boot drive) it has everything needed to boot from that point on.

I believe that the new EFI BIOS'es skip the first part and use the BCD "directly", but this is a new technology which wouldn't be found on a Vista-era computer.


Yes, that might explain the observed behavior.

But "it's haunted" works better under Ockham's Razor.

I once had an issue with a mainframe where nothing I did to a certain program would alter its behavior. Starting with modifying some loop limits, then gradually altering output message text, eventually throwing caution to the winds and deleting the entire section of code that was misbehaving, and it still did the same thing!

So finally I deleted the program from the system altogether. And it still ran!

(At this point I came up with a plot outline for a corporate computer that does this, the hero finding some mysterious program a little too suspicious for his liking ends up taking a fire axe to the disk drive units, and the next morning the system is running again as if nothing had happened. In the story I was going to reveal that the company had sold its soul to the devil in exchange for software, recent legal precedents having established that corporations were people and therefore had souls.)

The actual resolution of the real-world problem was that the list of default executable libraries was alphabetical instead of putting CTL.LINKLIB first like they were supposed to, which meant that the program I was dinking with wasn't getting run in the first place because a program with the same name was in AJO.LINKLIB.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Antior » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:53 am UTC

He's probably just running Linux.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby addams » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:09 am UTC

aahhhh. The Haunted.
It is a handy excuse.

Things can seem haunted.
Remote Service?
Hey!

I was so surprised when my computer took on a life of its own.
Who? Might be a Ghost? I don't think so. (shrug.) what do I know?

Science educations are to protect us and others from superstition.
Sometimes it does not work.

He has a background in Science.
He said, "I think your house is Haunted."

I thought he was joking.
He was not joking.

The house was not Haunted!
The computer was not Haunted!

What are the initials they are using, today?
Fucking Alphabet Soup.

FBI, CIA, HS, NSA....Not Ghosts! Worse!
A person might be able to reason with a ghost!
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Yargling » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:23 am UTC

Steve the Pocket wrote:Only humans could take one of the purest, most exact sciences and muck it up so badly that it feels like it isn't one. Physics has a lot of little variables that can't be tracked or accounted for; computer science has one big one.


To be fair, its not as simple as the purity of Computer Science theory would suggest - the sheer complexity of an OS alone allows for alot of unintended consequences that, yes, could be predicated with enough calculation and verification, but it would be alot of it; then on top of the OS you have multiple drivers which won't necessarily work together properly, either due to problems in the OS's handling of them or in terms of human error.

Again, in theory a perfectly written OS is possible, but it would require a very long time to run verification and corrections on the source code --- and this is all assuming the requirements are well written to being with. This is before user programs or drivers or anything else can come along to foul up the works.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Goderic » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:26 am UTC

The weirdest problem i've ever seen was with the laptop of a friend of mine:
There was one band from the bottom to the top of the screen, about 5 cm wide, where all the colors were wrong. When you moved the the lid up and down a bit it would go sometimes go away. Clearly a bad contact in the connection to the screen, right? Well, the problem occurred only with Windows applications. When you moved for example VLC over the band, it looked just fine.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby keldor » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:30 am UTC

da Doctah wrote:
(At this point I came up with a plot outline for a corporate computer that does this, the hero finding some mysterious program a little too suspicious for his liking ends up taking a fire axe to the disk drive units, and the next morning the system is running again as if nothing had happened. In the story I was going to reveal that the company had sold its soul to the devil in exchange for software, recent legal precedents having established that corporations were people and therefore had souls.)


Clearly it is the user that is damned to hell for this.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Jiffy » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:09 am UTC

Antior wrote:He's probably just running Linux.

Yeah. Linux is great, and open source, and user friendly, and configurable, and fast, but it's filled with inexplicable problems.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Leibnix » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:17 am UTC

Again, in theory a perfectly written OS is possible ...


I don't think so, not even in theory. OS design is a tradeoff between so many concerns: functionality, efficiency, security, scalability, modularity, and user friendlyness, just to name a few. Popularity is perhaps more important than any of these. We can't measure how 'good' an OS is in objective terms, far less know when it's perfect.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby PolakoVoador » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:30 am UTC

Jiffy wrote:
Antior wrote:He's probably just running Linux.

Yeah. Linux is great, and open source, and user friendly, and configurable, and fast, but it's filled with inexplicable problems.


In my experience, problems in Linux are usually less inexplicable than in Windows. Linux at least lets you see under the hood, and with some combination of skill, luck and a bit of magic, one can sorta understand what the hell was going on. Windows, on the other hand, wants to make things "easier" for you, by way of hiding everything and repeating "NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG"

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby sween64 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:31 am UTC

I read this and the hit the "random" button. It took me to this strikingly similar comic:

http://xkcd.com/722/

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby pkcommando » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:18 pm UTC

My favorite computer problem was the desktop I had in college. I typically left it on 24/7. Until my Senior year when it decided that, whenever it needed to be shut off for the night, the screen saver would stop working. I'd step away from the computer to watch TV or read a textbook and the screen saver wouldn't start when it was supposed to. I'd give it extra time, switch to a different one, nothing. This would usually happen after 2 weeks. Restarting the computer? Nope. I had computer guys in my dorm look at it, no result. That was the only thing that would go wrong, the machine worked beautifully otherwise. Only by shutting it down overnight could the problem be 'fixed' and it never happened at home where it was always turned off at night. When I later took it into a shop to be serviced for another issue, I mentioned it in passing to the guy and he looked a little freaked out that my computer had done that. I'm glad I got rid of it before it had a chance to take over the world.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby im3w1l » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:21 pm UTC

Shakleton wrote:[obligatory Ghost In The Shell joke that I am astounded nobody has made yet]


Damn you, I was gonna post that. Well not as in literally damn you, I mean please don't haunt my computer or anything. I didn't mean it like that.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby gaute » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:46 pm UTC

It has to be a bios virus.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:51 pm UTC

Clearly he needs to get a Mac. </cheap joke>

He had a problem with his computer. Then he let his friend try to solve it. Then he had two problems with his computer. </even cheaper joke>

Hey, there's a reason for those Three R's of Fixing Computers: Retry, Reboot, Reinstall.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Mental Mouse » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:04 pm UTC

It also raises a more basic question, which is, what would it take to get you to believe that yep, there's a ghost in there?

For me, there's at least two components there:
  • It would first need to pass a Turing test, indicating that it was sapient (or for some models of ghost, at least establish that it was a subset of a sapient mind).
  • Also, it would need to disambiguate itself from a hacker with Back Orifice or equivalent! Some options would include passing the Turing test while disconnected from the Internet, or showing sense perception around the computer (without or beyond available cameras and such). (Ectoplasmic manifestations or other extraordinary evidence would obviously do.)
Last edited by Mental Mouse on Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:28 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby R3sistance » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:44 pm UTC

pkcommando wrote:My favorite computer problem was the desktop I had in college. I typically left it on 24/7. Until my Senior year when it decided that, whenever it needed to be shut off for the night, the screen saver would stop working. I'd step away from the computer to watch TV or read a textbook and the screen saver wouldn't start when it was supposed to. I'd give it extra time, switch to a different one, nothing. This would usually happen after 2 weeks. Restarting the computer? Nope. I had computer guys in my dorm look at it, no result. That was the only thing that would go wrong, the machine worked beautifully otherwise. Only by shutting it down overnight could the problem be 'fixed' and it never happened at home where it was always turned off at night. When I later took it into a shop to be serviced for another issue, I mentioned it in passing to the guy and he looked a little freaked out that my computer had done that. I'm glad I got rid of it before it had a chance to take over the world.


Since you mention this was the desktop you had at college, I'm assuming this was on a college network where people probably did stupid things on the network. Perhaps the desktop was being kept up by somebody sending out some kind of bad wake up packets. I suspect the issue will be down to something else on the network you were on anyway, that or somebody on the network compromised the machine and kept it awake for nefarious purposes using an RDP session to the console session to keep the machine awake.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby johnay » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:49 pm UTC

Ugh. These young techs today.

Just wave a dead chicken over it! It's right there in the knowledge base, AKA alt.tech-support.recovery.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby speising » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:05 pm UTC

these young whippersnappers.
we used to debug with DDT!

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Zassounotsukushi » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:19 pm UTC

Until this comic, it never occurred to me that doing genealogy research might be increasing my computer's risk of infection. The sites aren't on the usual lists of suspicious and/or dangerous sites, but they have a huge vulnerability to exploits from the undead.

Then again, they might also be the solution method. How does this go - you have to figure out who's hanging around causing trouble and figure out why they have excess baggage that prevent them from moving on? I knew there was some kind of black magic going on in those history subreddits...

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby R3sistance » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:20 pm UTC

speising wrote:these young whippersnappers.
we used to debug with DDT!


can't say I have ever used DDT but debugging tools naturally are helpful :P.

I remember having to debug a customer complaint around the slow speed of their wordpress website, when browsing the affected page it would take 10 seconds to load but the load average was 0, iowait 0, sysstat showed nothing really going on and there was plenty of memory. No reason at all for the website. Issue is this site had been migrated from an old server too two servers, a separate web and DB server, an xDebug later and we just had to query the customer about why a single browse of the website raised ~2,600 database connections/requests. When the site was on a single server the DB connections did not require going over the network but in the split approach the web server needs to raise a connection to the DB server and each connection adds at least a 1ms delay to the running of the page... we figured that the wordpress theme they used invoked 600 connections and for some reason they were invoking that theme 3 times for a single page view! We would never have figured out how badly they were abusing their wordpress site if not for xDebug.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:28 pm UTC

johnay wrote:Ugh. These young techs today.

Just wave a dead chicken over it! It's right there in the knowledge base, AKA alt.tech-support.recovery.


It's not dead. It's just sleeping.
Unless it's name is Neil Boekend, of course.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby monkeyangst » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:40 pm UTC

I'm reminded of a story I was told when I worked at Apple in the early 2000s. An older guru who'd been there a while told me why he didn't lament the passing into obscurity of SCSI (on the desktop, at any rate). He had a set of SCSI peripherals, which like any such devices, were temperamental and difficult to get to work with each other. He finally got everything -- probably four or five devices -- working perfectly. Everything terminated right, all the LUNs and IDs lined up and all that other SCSI stuff I'm thankful I never had to deal with.

Then it came time to move to a new apartment. Despairing of ever remembering how to properly connect everything again, he simply bolted or glued all the peripherals to a big sheet of plywood, and moved the whole thing in situ. He disconnected not a single cable except for the SCSI cable connecting the first device to the computer. And when he got to his new place and reconnected that cable... nothing worked. He spoke of "SCSI Voodoo." He'd accounted for every variable... except of course the direction of the wind, the barometric pressure, the phase of the moon, the day of the week...

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Primis » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:58 pm UTC

Goderic wrote:The weirdest problem i've ever seen was with the laptop of a friend of mine:
There was one band from the bottom to the top of the screen, about 5 cm wide, where all the colors were wrong. When you moved the the lid up and down a bit it would go sometimes go away. Clearly a bad contact in the connection to the screen, right? Well, the problem occurred only with Windows applications. When you moved for example VLC over the band, it looked just fine.

I know what your problem was actually.
Windows doesnt by default use accelerated graphics, it's usually just pixel pushing from the vga buffer.
Vlc on the other hand, has to push 30fps out so the window is drawn by the gpu.
Because they dont share the framebuffer in hardware, a blitter on the gpu pushes the vga frames to the monitor, but has to use whatever is on the vga buffer. If there was a timing error on the vga's DMA transfer, you would experience a band of mixed colors because the blit would be putting them in the wrong locations.
The more you know.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Goderic » Mon Jan 13, 2014 4:52 pm UTC

Primis wrote:
Goderic wrote:The weirdest problem i've ever seen was with the laptop of a friend of mine:
There was one band from the bottom to the top of the screen, about 5 cm wide, where all the colors were wrong. When you moved the the lid up and down a bit it would go sometimes go away. Clearly a bad contact in the connection to the screen, right? Well, the problem occurred only with Windows applications. When you moved for example VLC over the band, it looked just fine.

I know what your problem was actually.
Windows doesnt by default use accelerated graphics, it's usually just pixel pushing from the vga buffer.
Vlc on the other hand, has to push 30fps out so the window is drawn by the gpu.
Because they dont share the framebuffer in hardware, a blitter on the gpu pushes the vga frames to the monitor, but has to use whatever is on the vga buffer. If there was a timing error on the vga's DMA transfer, you would experience a band of mixed colors because the blit would be putting them in the wrong locations.
The more you know.

You get one internet from me for this.

How do you explain that it could go away when moving the lid? It could've been coincidence of course, it didn't work all the time.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Adam H » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:00 pm UTC

WolfieMario wrote:Literally my first thought:
Image
1108

No, you're not allowed to complain over the use of "literally" in this comic. It's part of the joke.
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Accipiter46 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:09 pm UTC

I had one of those problems with a family computer. Often it worked fine, but it would sometimes be inexplicably slow. It could take an hour to start the computer and launch the first program, and then another hour to click on the first thing. Sometimes by some magic the whole thing let go and it was usable again. If not a hard reboot was required because the start menu would not open. Sometimes clicking fast on the desktop background would speed up the process. Sometimes several reboots fixed it for a while.

I reinstalled windows multiple times, diagnosed the hard drive and memory sticks. No errors, nothing fixed it. Mind you, sometimes the computer was fine for weeks.

A new ssd solved the problem, so it was probably some kind of hardware ghost. I have no idea what it might have been though.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Crissa » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:15 pm UTC

My most confusing one was recently I upgraded the RAM in a laptop. I couldn't get exactly the RAM I wanted, since it was no longer manufactured, so I got something similar, that fit the specs.

Everything worked. The RAM tested out, stepped down the speed, fine.

A week later, backups stop working.

Then VPN.

Then anything that touched SSH would be flakey. Not quite always, but most of the time. Enough that backups wouldn't work and VPN would cut out after a few hours up.

But only secure connections. And they wouldn't give an error, not even really deep down. It'd fail silently, process waiting on something that would never occur.

Tested the memory. In multiple testers. In that computer. Everything is fine, it says. Long tests, like all night tests. But replace the memory, and everything would return to normal.

Turns out that SSH was doing some quick transform in the memory, and because the syncing was just off a tiny bit, it'd fail. But it'd fail silently, in some cache it built but never used, because of this.

Augh.

-Crissa

One of the ones that continues to haunt me is that something is wrong in Disk Doctor in OS X and no matter the machine, it no longer builds drives appropriately. This includes using the stock 10.4 version to build 10.4 disks or the stock 10.8 to build 10.8 startups. Everyone knows how to do it manually, so it's not a big deal, but it's a weird thing that suddenly, several years after being abandoned, it no longer works reliably, even though nothing has changed on the dozens of machines I run it on. We don't even run new software.

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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Crissa » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:19 pm UTC

Goderic wrote:How do you explain that it could go away when moving the lid? It could've been coincidence of course, it didn't work all the time.

Basically, raw VGA draws go to the screen and come back with an echo, the lappy screen isn't doing it with just a six or eight pin scan, it'll have a tiny bit more control than that. So whatever was broken in the sync would sometimes fix when you wriggled the cable - but it was only affecting things with the raw draw.

Really, it just means they put more of the chips on the motherboard side of the connection than they really needed to. Or maybe, ought to.

-Crissa

project2051
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby project2051 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:40 pm UTC

Weirdest I've had is if I used the computer after midnight sometimes blood would seep out of the USB ports and the word "Tamrofer " would float across the screen.

Usually after a couple bourbons and a talk with Lloyd at tech support, the problem would go away for awhile.

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Ken_g6
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Re: 1316: "Inexplicable"

Postby Ken_g6 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:10 pm UTC

I constantly exorcise my computer with distributed computing programs to prevent this kind of thing.

Oh, wait, distributed computing programs exercise my computer.

Uh, oh.
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