The requiem that isn’t

A week and a half ago, I started having problems with my computer while doing the marathon GOAJ3 scan of 10,800-odd OA journals. Once a day or so, usually late afternoon, first the external Sony display (where I had the “to do” spreadsheet) would go black, then the notebook display (usually showing Edge, although the “done” spreadsheet was also there but hidden, as was a Firefox session if I wanted a break from the scan) would go black, then one or both might come briefly back to life…and I’d eventually have to force a power-down and reboot. Sometimes I’d lose no work; sometimes 5-10 minutes (but after the second time, I started saving fairly often).

At first, I thought it might be the notebook itself, but after discussing it with the sensible person in the household–my wife–we concluded that it was most likely the external display, or possibly–unlikely–the cable.

Since replacing the cable (male VGA to male VGA) was really cheap, and since it was true that the old cable wasn’t a very secure fit on the notebook size (for some reason, Toshiba produced a notebook with only a VGA display connector–but didn’t seem to feel there was any reason to make it possible to secure the cable screws: there are no screwholes), I obtained a new cable. Still, we both assumed it was most likely the 12.5-year-old Sony SDM-HS95P display. After all, it was 12.5 years old (built in May 2005, and purchased shortly thereafter), and for the last 10.5 years it’s probably been on around 60-65 hours a week (that is, since OCLC decided I was of no further use: for the first two years, it probably got 30 hours a week or so. Add it up, and the display–expensive at the time (close to $1,000 as we remember it) and with spectacular quality for the time (look up the model number: it’s still one of the physically classiest displays around)–has probably been running for around 35,000 hours. I wouldn’t even assume a CFL backlight would last that long…

But…

I made one other change: instead of running the to-do spreadsheet full-screen, I ran it 22 rows tall (I normally do ten journals per pass, and move completed journal rows to the Done spreadsheet in 20-journal chunks), or about half-screen.

And when the blackout happened again, I realized that it was neither the cable nor the display: only the spreadsheet went black, while the Windows background picture stayed active. So, even after 12.5 years, the Sony continues to work (and to be a great display). I don’t see any rush to replace it whileit’s working: the 19″ (4×3 ratio) display fits the working space nicely and offers 1280×1024 resolution; to get the same vertical space and the same-size text on a newer (and certainly much cheaper!) 19×6 display, I’d probably have to go for at least a 24″ display, which would be awkwardly wide.

So the requiem or elegy for this long-surviving display will be put off for a while.

What’s the actual problem?

As far as I can tell. it’s either Excel 2013 or some interaction between Excel and Edge. (I’m using Edge for this pass because it seems faster than Chrome, has close-enough-to-equivalent autotranslate, and handles Ctrl-F, which I use a LOT, in a manner that makes it faster/easier for groups of journals with similar characteristics. I won’t make it my “standard” browser because it still won’t let me set a preferred typeface, so I’m dealing with the deluge of Arial/Helvetica/other dreary sans text on journal homepages.)

[Yes, I’ve done an Excel repair–but not a reinstall, because it’s not bad enough yet.]

Yesterday, another oddity arose, but this one turns out to be a blessing in disguise, sort of: Excel stopped converting cells containing URLs into hyperlinks by double-clicking. And here’s the thing: turns out that the Excel-activation-of-browser process, along with occasionally blanking out for a bit, was slower than what I’m doing now: copy the cell, open another Edge tab, paste the text, Enter. Four keystrokes and a touchpad move–just one keystroke more than the method I was using, and now I can inspect URLs without having them activate accidentally.

The blackout? Hasn’t happened again, yet, and perhaps the lack of Excel-to-Edge interaction has something to do with that. I still save early and often, and eventually I’ll try to figure out what’s going on and fix it.

But for now…back to the spreadsheets.

I’m leaving this one open for comments. Someone might be saying “I know what the problem is,” and if so you’re invited to comment. (Comments along the lines of “the problem is you’re still using Windows” will be cheerfully ignored.) And, yeah, maybe I’ll fire up LibreOffice and see how it does with the spreadsheet… [Added a bit later: Tried LibreOffice. At least with LibreOffice 5.4, there’s no such double-click-to-make-hyperlink functionality, so never mind.]


Update 2/8/18: It’s too early to say for sure, but I might have found the problem: Edge. Now running Chrome with Excel. On one hand, Find/ctrl-f across multiple tabs is much slower than with Edge; on the other, it’s nice not to have to look at all that bloody sans serif (since Chrome, like Firefox and unlike Edge, lets the user select a typeface. Most significantly (but it’s early yet), after the problem kept recurring every day or two, it now seems to be gone–and there are some suggestions online that Edge has or had stability problems. Sigh

Further update 2/13/18: Given the non-recurrence of stability problems, I’m now fairly sure that this is the problem–either some MS software doesn’t play nicely with other MS software or Edge just gets tired/cranky after lots of tab opening and closing and shows its edginess.

Leave a Reply

Comments will be closed on March 22, 2018.

Comments Protected by WP-SpamShield Spam Plugin