Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I Didn't Work on my Airplane Last Night

It's important to realize, but perhaps not intuitively obvious, that the act of building an airplane typically does not happen in a vacuum. The reality is that the airplane building project, even as meritorious as it is, often has to be set aside in favor of competing demands on my limited amounts of disposable time. Time, I've learned, is often very like money in a couple of respects: first, you seem to never enough of either, and second, you typically have more of one than the other.

So, where has all of my time gone? Well, I have a few things going on that seem to be demanding more than their fair share of my attention. First of all, I've been working on the leaking fuel tank on the RV-6. As you may recall, what started as a minor seepage on the left tank became a full-blown nine gallon leak under the ministrations of my local A&P. To be fair, it was my decision to have him attempt a repair with the tank still on the airplane; in retrospect it would have been best to just bite the bullet and remove the tank. And I would have made that decision, as it turns out, had I known how relatively easy it is to remove a fuel tank from an RV-6. Removing two 'B' nuts for the fuel and vent lines, a screw that holds the fuel indicator sensor line, a big bolt that supports the weight of the tank, and seventy-two screws is all that's required. It takes maybe half an hour.

It would take a couple of days for the Pro-Seal (fuel tank sealant) to set up after being applied Saturday morning, so I decided to merge another little project into the schedule. I've been right up against the limit of available disk space on my computer for quite awhile and it was becoming critical to do something about it. A quick trip to Best Buy for a new hard drive was all it took to come home with a spanking new 2 terabyte drive. I was surprised that a 2TB drive is even available (I remember the days when a hard drive with less than one millionth of that capacity was as big as a beer keg), much less that it was only $89. I'd had to decide between that drive and one half the size priced at $79. The faster drive was smaller, but faster. Since the new drive is intended for storage, I decided that capacity and reliability were more important than speed, especially for just a $10 difference.

I plugged the new drive into the computer without any difficulty whatsoever (which surprised me), but the computer failed to recognize that it was even there (which did not surprise me). Thus began a journey of pain and frustration that is not yet complete nearly a week later. After a few hours of monkeying around down in the BIOS (the very guts of a computer - a mistake here can be fatal) I managed to get the computer to 'see' the new hard drive by changing some settings that have not often even been seen by mere mortals. I took a break to pat myself on the back for having resolved such a thorny and exotic problem. I figured one person in 10,000 could accomplish such a miracle.

The other 9,999 would have been smart enough to just have the drive installed by someone that knew what they were doing.

I rebooted the computer and logged into Windows. Windows still couldn't find the drive, though. Off to Google where I learned that the drive has to be "initialized" first. I did that, and proudly patted myself on the back for a job well done. Welcome, drive F:, you will be a great help.

What's that you say? You need to be formatted first?

Ok, let's try the 'Quick Format' option.



Let's try the 'Deep Format' option.

[six hours go by]



Try again, thinking that maybe someone had bumped the cancel button.

[six hours go by]


Swear. Stupid Windows crap.

[Next day]

I downloaded a different disk format utility to try.

[six hours go by]


Consider suicide.

Try again.

[six hours go by]


Swear. It's Wednesday by this time. I'm still doing this in parallel with fixing the RV-6 fuel tank. We'll get back to that.

I noticed that the formatting seemed to be failing right around the halfway point.

Google "2TB drive format fails at 1TB"

Google: "There's an easy fix for that. Just download these new disk drivers from nVidia."

Piece of cake, that. Apparently the brilliant folks at nVidia had, like me, never envisioned a day when a consumer could walk into Best Buy and walk out with a 2TB drive and had imposed a 1.1TB limit.

I downloaded the drivers and applied them, all the while patting myself on the back for having fixed another problem. We're well into '1 person in 100,000' territory here.




The computer would not even boot up. It just sat there saying 'Detecting Array' or something helpful like that. That's not good! Having only changed one thing (the disk drivers), there was no doubt at all as to where the problem came from. Bad drivers. Unfortunately, there's no way to fix that if the drives won't even work! There are few feelings of despair deeper than those you get from "bricking" your own computer.

I was completely at a loss. I had no idea what to try next. I don't have a Windows boot CD, so I couldn't sneak my way back into Windows that way, and even if I could, I'd have no hard drives.

As a last, desperate attempt to save the computer, I acted on a gut feeling. You have to realize that part of the "story of my life" is that things that have worked perfectly for years will fail at exactly the same time that I make a risky change to some tangentially related thing. In this case, I had changed the disk drivers. Could it be that there was actually some unexpected and unrelated problem with the drives? I decided that I had nothing to lose; I removed all of the cables to the drives and put them back on.

It worked! I was able to get to the Windows log-in screen! I immediately logged in, patting myself on the back for another miraculous save. One in a million, mister! One. In. A. Million.

"Preparing your desktop..."

Whuuuh? I already have a Windows des....

BAM! BSOD. Blue. Screen. Of. Death.


Re-visit the idea of suicide. Also consider blasting PC to smithereens with shotgun.

Or both, noting that the order would need to be reversed.

The BSOD is yet another pit of despair. The emotional roller coaster had just gone down another steep hill.

I diddled around with stuff, hoping against hope that the blind squirrel would find another nut. After half a dozen tries, 'Preparing your desktop...' actually took me into Windows.

"Your profile is corrupt. This is a temporary profile; any changes you make will not be saved. Contact your system administrator."

I'll take that deal. By this time it was late Wednesday night. We had gone from Winter to Spring in one day, and our air conditioner is broken. Windows is going to have to wait.

So, what went on with the leaking fuel tank during the same period? Well, that's another story.

I put it back on the airplane Monday night, then went to find the gas guy to put five gallons of gas in. The idea was to put in five gallons at a time in case it leaked; we'd be able to locate the leaking area, if there is one, more easily that way.

There was good news and bad news. The bad news was that they wanted $6.18/gal for it. The good news? They didn't have any.

Tuesday night I stopped by again. I chased down the gas dude and told him I still needed that five gallons of gas, and that I'd meet him at the hangar. After ten minutes of waiting for him, I figured there had been a miscommunication somewhere. I was just getting ready to go find him when I heard "Chuff..... Bang..... Growl..... Chuff...." somewhere down the taxiway. A few minutes later, the truck emerged around the corner of the hangars, doing about half a mile an hour. I apologized to the fuel dude, "I didn't know I was supposed to help you push it."

An inspection on Wednesday afternoon showed no leakage. I decided to skip the five-gallons-at-a-time test due to the difficulty in getting the fuel truck out there, so I went with ten gallons. As I was patting myself on the back for being such a swell guy and saving the fuel dude the effort and humiliation of driving that busted up truck out to my hangar, I saw the receipt that I was signing:




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! I mean, I do feel your pain, bud. But hilarious nonetheless. Well done!

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