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What is the name of this?

My son is a really good talker now. He is very inquisitive about everything. The most common question he asks all the time is "What is the name of this?" Sometimes he asks for the name of an animal, sometimes for some sort of vehicle, sometimes for an object that we just see or use. But sometimes he'd also ask for something we don't usually attach a name to.

One day we were walking on the street, he pointed to the ground and asked me "what is the name of this?" So I answered "pavement". Sometimes I used a new vocabulary like "hauling" and he'd ask what is the name of "hauling"? Then I explained to him what hauling means. Sometimes he'd ask "what is the name of green?" And I just answer green is green.

People might find him cute for asking this sort of naive questions. I think he is just curious and want to learn about everything. Somehow I have an epiphany; perhaps this is a lesson in epistemology for me, to know a thing is to be able to name it. He is just practicing the saying.

2009.04.24 [] - comments

 

Did My Virus Checker Kill My Computer?

One day my wife’s laptop won’t boot up all of a sudden. I rolled up my sleeves trying to fix it. This is a Dell Inspiron 710m with Windows XP. It turned out to be one of the toughest PC problems I have encountered in years. I have spent many hours using many different ways to repair it. I am still not sure what broke it in the first place. But the virus checker is my prime suspect. Did it kill my computer?

The first problem is Windows XP boots up to a blue screen saying “This application has failed to start because USER32.dll was not found”. First of all I used the BIOS diagnostic program to quickly check that the system do not have hardware problem. Then I found an Internet posting suggesting the virus checker may have make a huge mistake to consider the system file user32.dll as virus infected and has removed it, causing the system to become unusable.

This looks like a good lead. Sure enough I found user32.dll is missing from the \Windows\system32 directory. First of all I used an Ubuntu 8.1 CD to boot up the system. Then I mount the Windows NTFS with a command like:

  sudo mount -t ntfs-3g -o nls=utf8,umask=000 /dev/sda2 /media/c

This posting shows more information about mounting a Windows drive on Linux. Then I just found the backup copy of user32.dll from the dllcache and copied it to \Windows\system32. This simple step solved the problem. My system was able to boot up.

Nevertheless this is only the start. The laptop wireless was off after reboot. Its LED indicator was off all the time. I tried various ways to turn it on without success. Then I come across a useful support page from Dell about How To Restore or Reinstall Microsoft® Windows® on a Dell™ Computer. It provides instruction to three different ways to restore the computer. The simplest way is to use the System Restore function provided by Windows itself. The system automatically backup its configuration regularly. I pick up a configuration saved before this instance happens and restored it. Bingo, the wireless LED light just comes back after reboot!

Unfortunately, the network was still not usable. In fact, even if I plugged in a network cable, it still cannot ping any external hostname. Furthermore I cannot ping this laptop's IP address from another computer. The only sign of life was the laptop can ping an external host if I give it the IP address. I make sure the Windows firewall if turned off. This still did not help. Then I found out the virus checker program also have a firewall function itself. I shut it down also. Bingo, then the network works! It sounds like the firewall was 100% effective in protecting the computer simply by disconnecting it from the outside world entirely.

At this point, the laptop is basically functional. But I still see some programs fail with a message saying that it maybe infected by virus. I think it is necessary to take a more drastic step. I used the second method in the Dell support page, the PC Restore function. It re-images the hard disk to restore the factory image. This necessitates backing all the data files because they will be wiped out in the process. But at least it can start from a clean slate without any residue problem.

So I have re-imaged the hard disk and restore the data files. Then I have to uninstall tons of useless programs the come pre-installed on a Dell PC. I also make sure I have uninstalled the hopelessly outdated virus checker Trend Micro ("PC-cillin"), which I suspect has caused me several days of misery.

2009.04.17 [] - comments

 

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

We had a nice walk in the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland this Sunday. The park is just a narrow strip of land fronting the bay amid the busy Oakland container port. But this strip of land and the marshland has the best location. It has great open feel and the bay view is exceptional. This area used to be used by industrial and militarily before it was turned into a park just a few years ago. Now it has become a little known gem in the East Bay.

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

It is perhaps the best place to see the Port of Oakland in operation. However, when we were there, there were no loading and unloading activities. There was not even a ship docked at a berth on this side of the port. All I saw was many giant cranes standing. I am aware that global shipping activities are way down this year. But why were there no ships? Perhaps it is just because it was a Sunday in the Easter weekend?

Oakland Port Cranes

2009.04.14 [] - comments

 

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