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We've all heard of the blue screen of death, but here's something much scarier. It happened to someone in the Harrow Computer Club, of which I used to be a ...
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  1. #1
    Linux Engineer hazel's Avatar
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    Black screen of death


    We've all heard of the blue screen of death, but here's something much scarier. It happened to someone in the Harrow Computer Club, of which I used to be a member; I still get their circular emails.

    This chap saw a pop-up screen informing him about a Microsoft Security Essentials update so of course he downloaded it. On completion the screen froze so he closed it down. Since then he hasn't been able to boot the computer. He gets the normal POST beep but then just a blank black screen. He can't get into the BIOS and he can't boot from his Windows installation disc. His computer has turned into a very expensive doorstop.

    There's a BBC campaign at the moment trying to get all the old folks online (using Windows natch). The main thrust is to persuade them that computers aren't scary, that they're very easy to use, that nothing bad will happen to you...

    Imagine how the average old lady will react if this happens to her? I know how I'd react! Blind panic!
    "I'm just a little old lady; don't try to dazzle me with jargon!"
    www.hrussman.entadsl.com

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    Linux Engineer MASONTX's Avatar
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    Ugh! My reaction would be to try a live linux cd, but if that didn't work, remove hard drive, install in another computer, install linux, and swap back to see if that worked. If that fails, then its new mother board or new computer time.
    Registered Linux user #526930

  3. #3
    Linux Engineer rcgreen's Avatar
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    I wonder if it's one of those (rare) viruses that
    attacks your flashable BIOS. Nasty.

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    Given the situation, I would also try installing another graphics card (or switch to on-board graphics temporarily, if possible).
    Otherwise, you could also use some blind-typing and a LiveCD to SSH into the machine, presuming it's actually working underneath the black veil (some audio could indicate boot progress...).

  6. #5
    Linux Engineer hazel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MASONTX View Post
    Ugh! My reaction would be to try a live linux cd
    Mine too. But if he can't see anything when he boots from a Windows disc, I doubt if a Linux one would do any better.

    @ryokimball. I googled this and apparently you can still get online with this kind of problem; you just can't see anything on your screen so you have to work blind. Mind you, what I found was a recommendation to download some other kind of software that would fix the problem and I'd never recommend that to someone who had already suffered a bad download.
    "I'm just a little old lady; don't try to dazzle me with jargon!"
    www.hrussman.entadsl.com

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    Penguin of trust elija's Avatar
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    If the computer has an internal graphics card and your friend has been using an external one I would be inclined to try plugging the monitor into the other one to see if something has been reset
    "I used to be with it, then they changed what it was.
    Now what was it isn't it, and what is it is weird and scary to me.
    It'll happen to you too."

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    Quote Originally Posted by hazel View Post
    We've all heard of the blue screen of death, but here's something much scarier. It happened to someone in the Harrow Computer Club, of which I used to be a member; I still get their circular emails.

    This chap saw a pop-up screen informing him about a Microsoft Security Essentials update so of course he downloaded it. On completion the screen froze so he closed it down. Since then he hasn't been able to boot the computer. He gets the normal POST beep but then just a blank black screen. He can't get into the BIOS and he can't boot from his Windows installation disc. His computer has turned into a very expensive doorstop.

    There's a BBC campaign at the moment trying to get all the old folks online (using Windows natch). The main thrust is to persuade them that computers aren't scary, that they're very easy to use, that nothing bad will happen to you...

    Imagine how the average old lady will react if this happens to her? I know how I'd react! Blind panic!
    I use both Linux and Windows (There are a few things that Linux still can't do better than Windows, or just can't do at all).

    I've had issues like the one mentioned before and usually it's that a RAM stick has got knocked out of place. Many people here have mentioned using a live cd, if the computer can't load it's bios then a live cd means absolutely nothing (Hardware doesn't speak the OS language (whatever it is), it speaks machine and that must be translated by the bios).

    The fact that it happened after updating a program (or supposedly updating a program) could mean some sort of virus that erased the bios, if that's the case then only the original factory can fix it (They have the tools needed to connect the bios chip and reflash it with the correct bios).

    As far as forcing computers onto the older peoples I really can't agree with that. I don't expect my grandma to use a computer when she's afraid of screwing up her VCR/DVD player. Additionally, even if viruses and hardware failure wasn't a factor. If my grandmother saw some of the stuff on YouTube she just might croak. However, I do show her stuff on my computer. She enjoys looking at pictures with me and I've showed her my Bible software before and she loves that idea but, if I'm not around she'd rather just use a physical Bible.

    Even if older peoples don't adapt, someone else can always do stuff for them: I handle most of the computer stuff in my family as I'm the only computer nerd who knows how to do stuff and do it right. My aunt handles my Grandma's finances, my Mom handles most of the driving (she never learned to drive and is afraid to learn mostly due to the recognition that she lacks the necessary reflexes). If someone were in a nursing home then the staff would do most everything (and finances would probably be handled by limited if any computer interaction).

    Eventually the older generation will die out and what will be left are people somewhat comfortable with computers. Proof of concept: with the exception of the Amish I don't see anyone using a horse and buggy anymore. Most people also have a TV, not many have A-Tracks (unless it's a collection or something). The reason being that most of the holdouts have died or have someone else that can interface with the new technology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grnorris View Post
    I've had issues like the one mentioned before and usually it's that a RAM stick has got knocked out of place. Many people here have mentioned using a live cd, if the computer can't load it's bios then a live cd means absolutely nothing (Hardware doesn't speak the OS language (whatever it is), it speaks machine and that must be translated by the bios).
    My hope with the LiveCD is that it, whatever is the root of the problem, the result is only that lack of use of the displays is the only damage done. Since the POST beep is proof of _some_ activity inside there.
    The fact that it happened after updating a program (or supposedly updating a program) could mean some sort of virus that erased the bios, if that's the case then only the original factory can fix it (They have the tools needed to connect the bios chip and reflash it with the correct bios).
    They aren't the only ones with this technology But it is hard to get from them the binary necessary data needed in such instances (they rarely have support for anything that isn't currently being sold on-market, much less are they willing to simply hand out this kind of information). If you're lucky the system is compatible with coreboot, or if you're very smart you can program it yourself.

  10. #9
    Linux Engineer hazel's Avatar
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    Well, I'm 65, going on 66, and I have no problems with computers. But I do have a serious psychological problem with Windows. When I used to use Windows on the Internet I was always terrified of picking up some horrible virus. Even though I never actually did, it took all the pleasure out of surfing. Now I use Linux and I feel safe as houses.

    In my experience, old people need above all to feel secure. We're not stupid; we can learn to use a system. But it needs to be a system we can trust, one that we know won't do things behind our backs. At the same time, we are less likely to want to do the kind of things that you need to use Windows for. We don't usually play games or download stuff from iTunes. That makes Linux an ideal system for our age group. It's just that most of us don't know that yet.
    "I'm just a little old lady; don't try to dazzle me with jargon!"
    www.hrussman.entadsl.com

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    Linux Engineer MASONTX's Avatar
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    My mother in law is 81, and uses a computer. She mostly just uses the word processor, but is thinking of getting on the internet so she can e-mail.
    Registered Linux user #526930

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