Fast Forward to Summer, 2003
Somewhere in the Philippine Sea: It’s month number 6 of the longest aircraft carrier deployment I’ve ever been on, and home is a long, long ways away in both time and distance.
So far, I’ve been able to break away from my work duties and squeeze in an hour or two of Grand Prix Legends, NASCAR Racing 2002 Season, IL-2 or Ghost Recon (with the Navy SEALs 2.0 Mod) every few days, and the fleeting opportunities to enjoy one of my off-duty hobbies has been a great stress reliever for me as I spend these endless months away from home, family and friends. There’s no internet connectivity for my personal computer, but at least I have stand-alone, single player capability to entertain me.
As soon as I had received orders to the Carrier Group Staff, I considered what I would need to equip my stateroom for the arduous months at sea. A few quick trips to Office Depot and Fry’s yielded an APC UPS, a comfortable office chair and a small computer workstation that would fit in my tiny living quarters.
For the first nine months of my tour, my home-built PC is working well in its role as the entertainment center of my stateroom. But, while our Carrier Strike Group plies the waters of the Western Pacific region, a problem arises. The desktop display looks fine, but something is clearly wrong. It boots quite normally to the desktop, but 5 to 8 seconds after it gets there everything locks up. The mouse and keyboard cease to function. Even Num Lock on the keyboard doesn’t respond. A few dozen attempted reboots (and cursing) later, the problem remains. With no mail-order delivery at sea, limited internet access and no computer store down the road to drive to, acquiring what I need to repair my rig will be problematic.
I quickly got on the e-mail and posted my woes to my high school buddy Jeff and to guod here at SimHQ. Everyone was very helpful, and I cannot begin to explain how much their support meant to me while I was thousands of miles from home and isolated from most normal forms of PC troubleshooting. We sent dozens of e-mails back and forth, trying various techniques and troubleshooting plans to get the PC restarted.
For a few days, I was able to boot the PC in Safe Mode and manipulate data (mostly saving key files onto my slave HDD), making me think that I my copy of Win98SE had become corrupted. A re-install of Win98SE (with the help of a civilian tech rep onboard the ship) proved that theory totally wrong, as the exact problem remained. In fact, after a week or two of Safe Mode operation the PC’s unhealthy symptoms took another turn for the worse. It could no longer get past the RAM check during POST. Instead the initial DOS / POST / RAM check page displays the disheartening message: “CPU invalid. Please check your BIOS options.” Everything in the ABIT BIOS is set as desired, but the message now pops up every time I boot. It looked like either my mobo or CPU (or both) are toast. So much for a little simming at the end of a hard workday at sea.
My beloved gaming PC is now just a big paper weight in my stateroom.