Tag Archive | tech support

Who’s got two thumbs and can do Zoom calls normally again?

I gave New Computer another update — this time making a point of backing up a bunch of stuff, just in case I had to do another reinstall from scratch.

Not only did the process go fine, the camera works again!

(This update was only released a couple weeks ago, and the camera-breaking update was a couple months ago, so it’s not like I could’ve just done that from the start. Someone on the development end had to fix what they broke.)

…so, ah, fingers crossed that it’ll fix the other weird problem, where the computer spontaneously decides it wants to reboot into a diagnostic scan. Which always finds no problems, just like all the previous scans.

Plot twist: I paid more attention to when these happen, and the last 3 times were on Thursday afternoon. So this past Thursday morning, I shut down the computer completely, then headed out to work.

I get home, and it’s on this screen again. Something in here didn’t just reboot the OS, it autonomously powered the machine on.

I mean. What even does that?

The camera-fixing update was later that evening, so I guess we’ll find out “did it also fix the spontaneous diagnostics?” next Thursday.


Had an extensive dream that was an AU of The Secret Garden, but Mary Lennox was a tween necromancer, Gideon the Ninth style.

…and now that I think about it, the parallels are there? Not to Harrow, I mean to Gideon’s backstory of “was a small child when a fatal affliction swept through the whole group around her, later retrieved after being discovered surrounded by bodies.”

Maybe I’ll request it for Yuletide, or something.


It’s that magical time of year when I put Kickstarter logos in all my social-media icons, re-re-proofread all my ad copy, and anxiously look up how much it costs to ship a 5-pound box to Germany.

(Just over US $70.)

That’s right, it’s the final-week prep for Leif & Thorn volume 4.

Please click that link and hit the “Notify me on launch” button, if you haven’t already!

And folks, I am so close to the weight where, if someone wants All The Leif & Thorn Books, the cheapest method is to pack them in a Flat Rate box. 4 books isn’t quite there — but at 5 books the flat rate is cheaper, and at 6 it’ll be much cheaper, and once we get up to 9 it’ll be astronomically cheaper.

…when we get to 10, they won’t all fit in a single box. But that’s a future problem.

(Not that I’m going to do this, but: there would be something really satisfying about drawing enough to fill 9 books, and then stopping the comic, just so it’s a perfect fit for the boxes.)

Aaaaand spoke too soon

Made a post last night about how I think the computer is okay, came home from work this afternoon to find it did this again. I know, I know, I jinxed it.

Dell Diagnostics hardware scan

No issues found! You didn’t find any issues the last four times, either! Why do you keep doing this.

Gaaaah. Should I even try to do a full reinstall? Contact Dell customer service and sit through however many hours of troubleshooting they’d want to do? Or just give up and live like this?


…and, in a completely unrelated bonus vent:

Chris Chan, long-time Webcomic Person and generally infamous Internet Personality, has been trending on Twitter for a bit. For entirely horrible reasons. If you don’t want to read about elder abuse and mental illness, don’t go digging.

But given that she has like a 20-year history of being egged/goaded/manipulated by trolls into doing awful things for their entertainment…my first thought on hearing bad news about her is “wonder which sociopath talked her into thinking this was ok.”

(For anyone who wants receipts, there’s a comprehensive documentary series on YouTube that goes through the trolling in detail. And by “comprehensive” I mean “59 parts so far, each about 40 minutes long, and it’s only caught up through 2017.” The creator just put it on hiatus, because they don’t want to seem like they’re taking advantage of a terrible situation for hits — which is a principled move, good for them — but here I am linking to the back catalog anyway.)

Seriously, in a better healthcare system Chris would’ve been taken into some kind of professional care at least a decade ago, for her own safety. Let alone anyone else’s.

And I hate how sure I am that the instigators are never gonna see any consequences ever.

(it’s the camera)

At some point in late June/early July, I ran a Windows update on New Computer, and the camera stopped working.

As in, the device is now fully convinced it doesn’t have a built-in camera. I tried the “delete the drivers to make the computer reinstall them” fix, and it didn’t reinstall anything, because why would it need those if it doesn’t have a camera? (Can’t download them manually from the website, either, it assures me Windows will handle this automatically.) I follow various troubleshooting steps, and when I get to the point where it says “choose Camera from the list of hardware to troubleshoot,” there is no Camera in the list at all, because what camera?

Not an urgent problem — Old Computer is still totally capable of picking up Zoom duties — but still a pain. (Now I’m using Old Computer once or twice a week, instead of once or twice a month.)

Fast-forward to July 22, and New Computer’s new trick is to reboot in the middle of the night — which, yeah, Windows 10 was already doing. I’ve hunted down and turned off every permission I could find and it wouldn’t stop. (It does its best to re-launch all the programs it unwillingly shut down, and mostly succeeds…)

But now, instead of booting like normal, it spontaneously loads into Dell Support mode and runs a full diagnostic.

There’s no screensaver in this mode, so once it finishes, it just sits. With the words “No hardware issues detected” on a full-brightness blank white screen. For howevermany hours go by before I wake up and get back to using the machine.

So naturally I figure this might be related to the camera problem. Maybe it’s getting worse? Seems prudent to go ahead and pull the trigger on a System Restore, undoing the last few weeks of updates, to before when the problem started.

Only reason I didn’t do that already was the fear that it would break the system worse, going from “tolerable pain” to “total disaster.”

Reader, it broke worse.

Now all I can get into is a troubleshooting utility that says “your options are (1) totally reinstall Windows while trying to keep your files and data, (2) totally reinstall Windows without trying to keep your files and data.”

So the good news is, this does rebuild a working, booting OS. It even keeps all my files intact! And it either remembers or does better with a few settings — notably, System Restore isn’t set to “feel free to fill up 100% of the disk space with your data” the way it was the first time.

All my programs are gone, but it generates a helpful list of “programs removed” (as an HTML file on the desktop). The amount of reinstalls I’ve had to go through at this point, I already maintain a full list of Things I’ve Installed + Backup Settings + Registration Codes + Saved Copies Of Installer Files + Also All The Fonts, but it’s cool to see Windows actually taking a little of the prep effort on itself now.

A few hours of reinstalling, re-signing-in, and re-syncing later, New Computer is 90% back to the state it was in a month earlier.

That was a week ago, and the rebuild has yet to spring any Horrible Surprises on me (knock wood), so we might actually be in the clear. At least, until some exciting new system failure comes along in another 8 months.

…guess what still isn’t working, though. Go on. Take a totally wild guess.

Why I’m still using a 20-year-old art program (not exclusively, but still…a lot)

Three months after this post about getting a new computer, and things are going swimmingly. There was a building issue for a while with a Mysterious Hidden Process steadily filling up hard drive space, but this forum post had the fix, and poof, my free space went from 29 GB back to 129 GB.

I also did a writeup about Paint Shop Pro 7 back around that time, and figured it deserved its own post.

And hey, it pairs really well with this recording of the strip-creation process! Not quite start-to-finish, but most of the “cleanup-flats-shading-effects” process. (Light Quarantine Flashback spoilers.)

Programs you’ll see in use:

  • Legacy version of PSP: cropping, lineart cleanup, flats
  • Newest version Clip Studio Paint: tiled patterns, perspective effects, anything that uses nice brushes or complex assets
  • Either: shading, adjustment layers
  • Legacy (pre-subscription-model) version of Photoshop: files saved by Clip are just different enough to be unreadable to PSP, but re-saving them in PS fixes that

And here are the functions of PSP that make it extra-useful for basic comic-strip operations, i.e. the reasons I’ll keep using the program as long as it will run…

  • Opens real fast. Not as much of a bonus since I got the high-powered New Computer, which can even open Photoshop quickly, but still nice
  • Lets you paste on the layer you’re working on. I do a lot of “copy this bit of the lineart and paste it over that other part,” and if they generated a new layer every time, I’d be constantly stopping to merge them all
  • Same with adding text  — which I write in another program, so it can be insta-copied as text into a transcript (I fully expect Clip Studio to add an “export all text into a plaintext file” option one day, it’s such an accessibility gimme!, but we’re not there yet)
  • Lets you paste a selection with one color erased to transparency. Lots of white backgrounds I get to auto-erase
  • Color/pattern settings don’t have to be universal, they can be different for every tool. So there’s a lot less referring back to the palette — you can just pair 2 lineart colors with the pen, 2 flat colors with the bucket, 2 shading colors with the brush, and then one-click switch between all of them
  • Keyboard-shortcut instant toggle between layers. Based on their order, regardless of layer names (lowest is ctrl+1, next is ctrl+2, etc). Working on one layer when you notice something needs fixing on another — toggle over, fix it, toggle back, without your eyes/cursor/attention being pulled away to rifle through the layer window
  • Switching between “view all layers” and “view current layer” also has an instant shortcut. No matter how many layers you have, pick one and see it alone in a couple of clicks, no need to go through and individually hide all the rest
  • This one isn’t about PSP working better, since Clip and Photoshop both have much more powerful vector tools…but PSP draws 99.9% of the lines I need that for, and it’s the one I already know, which saves me the effort of getting used to a whole new “click these points and drag those handles to generate this curve you have in mind” system

I could make a whole list of features where Clip and/or Photoshop have a fancier version, which is useful when I need to get fancy, but for a lot of these average daily operations, it’s overkill.

So: Clip has all these sophisticated content-aware fills — great, but you don’t need any of them to handle black-and-white lineart. Photoshop will let you do all this precise warping and twisting of vector text — sure, but I don’t need Fisheye Perspective Skew for the “click” of a door opening, just a little tilt and it’s fine. Both of them have amazing brushes; I don’t need any of them for basic cel-shading, it’s all covered by “freehand selection” and “multiply fill.” And so on.

And listen, if you got your start in CSP or PS (or any of the freeware programs still being updated), and learned digital-art skills there from the ground up, your workflow probably developed to fit that program anyway. So maybe none of this sounds like a huge improvement on what you’re used to.

But if it might be valuable, or sounds intriguing, or you feel like trying something new, or you’re just really into retro programs by defunct companies that are so well-coded they still run after 20 years and 5 OS upgrades…I’m gonna leave this link here. Have at it.

Two and a half weeks in

New Computer was delivered on the 12th, and by this week I’ve finally got enough transferred/installed to do most of my work on it.

Old Computer never actually got a real name (Windows called it ERIN-PC by default, 9 years later and I didn’t change it), so it seemed like a good opportunity to name both of them together.

…the bigger, sturdier, older solid-black computer is Gideon, and the skinnier, more-powerful, younger solid-black computer that’s been busily absorbing Gideon’s settings/data is Harrow.

(Apparently not enough people in my internet circles have read the Gideon the Ninth series, but (a) you should do that, it’s great and (b) this is very funny on multiple levels that you will appreciate after reading.)

Had a brief scare with Paint Shop Pro not functioning — it installed, and seemed like it was running, but once I started trying to work on comics it became clear that a bunch of the tools weren’t working. Like…the brush. And the eraser. And the text creator.

Did a general uninstall/reinstall. It didn’t help. Did an uninstall, then a Google-assisted hunt through the registry to find all the places where Jasc would’ve put keys and delete them, then a reboot, then a reinstall. That worked!

Comparative screenshots:

(Gideon’s screen is physically larger, but Harrow’s is more pixel-dense, so it comes out to the same width and a tiny bit taller.)

There’s some minor display differences — e.g. the narrower bezels around the frame of each open file — and function differences — you can see the disappearing “expand/contract” button next to the “close” button on the Layer and Tool Options menus. (Haven’t actually used that for years, so no big loss…) And there are changes in “this window/option won’t be active unless the mouse cursor is Right Here” that are gonna take some getting used to.

But it works! I can brush and/or erase things again! The only remaining hangup was that it wasn’t registering “drag a file into the program window means open it” — and that comes back when it’s run on compatibility settings for Windows 7.

Really wish I could find the details of the specific coders who put together this release of Paint Shop Pro. You folks wrote a program so clear and solid that a machine from 20 years in the future, multiple generations of operating systems later, still understands how to pick it up and get it running. That deserves a shoutout by name.

Other little updates:

  • Having to switch every device between 1 USB port is annoying as expected — definitely gonna get some new converters — but in the meantime, it’s manageable
  • The power cord is USB-C, which means it can plug into any of the 4 existing ports; turns out it was easy to make my Executive Assistant lose interest, I just had to move it away from His Side
  • Forgot that World Community Grid doesn’t install with default limits; the poor fans on this machine went nuts a few times before I tracked down the problem and told it that no, it is not allowed to use 99% of the CPU when it has the chance
  • Used to be stuck in a 7-day trial window to give different filetypes more aesthetically-pleasing icons, but this time I did it with the freeware FileTypesManager
  • I have switched to making art over here, and ohhhh yeah, Harrow is noticeably faster
  • Photoshop opens in seconds, instead of minutes. Batch actions now get whipped through in the blink of an eye. PSP only took a couple seconds to save a file anyway, but now it’s half a second.
  • I am so looking forward to the most resource-intensive task in Harrow’s immediate future: Exporting A 192-Page PDF From InDesign