September 7th, 2009

christmas 2008

The first of many "tales from the Unispan" ...

... the "Unispan" is one of the three pedestrian walkways over Hempstead Turnpike; while the other two are freestanding bridges, it connects the main library and student center.

Classes have begun for the fall semester, and so far they're not too bad. I have one on statics (basically an applied version of mechanics), macroeconomics, engineering economy, and oral communication. I don't have to be on campus earlier than 10:10 on any day, which spares me having to navigate the brunt of Long Island traffic. Unfortunately, one of the four classes meets on Tuesday and Thursday nights, leaving me with several hours of downtime on those days. That's when I intend to get the majority of my work done. I like the classes and the teachers so far, and think I'm well positioned to put up the kind of big numbers necessary to justify the Hofstra admissions department's faith in me.

The biggest difference between here and Cornell is, without question, the size and structure of the courses. On the East Hill, each course has a lecture (led my the professor, at which everyone enrolled in the class attends), multiple sections (led by a teaching assistant), and in the case of science classes, labs. Hofstra keeps the various sections of a class independent of one another; courses with multiple sections could be taught by multiple professors, and the classes have only one meeting time. As a result, none of my classes has more than about 35 students, and one has only nineteen. That makes it a lot harder to go unnoticed. Also, Hofstra seems to be rather keen on enforcing attendance at classes. On principle, I share the opinion of a few friends who are alumni of the school - that students are adults, and should be treated as such. But I can't fully disregard the fact that failure to attend class was a main reason for the failure of college take one, so it's not a completely bad thing.

I'm still working through many of the other details of this transition. I had to have my mother fish out my immunization records. On Friday, I got the letter from the Veterans Administration approving my benefits claim; that moves me much closer to getting paid - and more importantly, getting Hofstra paid. And I had to switch anti-virus defenses, despite the fact that I'm still have four and a half months remaining on my Norton subscription. Hofstra mandates McAfee for connecting to its network, so I had to change it over. At least I could download McAfee free from Hofstra. The kicker to this was that it came two days after I'd reinstalled Norton following a hard drive format and clean installation of Windows Vista (which is entirely another story). I know I'm losing the subscription for which I've already paid, but I can live with that in order to be online on campus.

The most important thing revealed reiterated over the past week: the need for me to find a place of my own closer to campus. I'm fortunate to be able to make the trips, thirty miles each way, when I can. Like I said, I do not have to take to the roads when the congestion is at its worst. But I am usually left with a desire to flee campus with a quickness immediately upon the conclusion of my last class on any given day. This, along with the normal pull of my personality and the fact that I don't know ANYONE, prevents me from fully engaging myself in the non-academic life of the university. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of benefits to living here in Northport. It's a beautiful place, I'm not paying rent, I get fed maybe half the meals I eat. But I'm living under a set of non-self-imposed rules more restrictive than any I've experienced in the last decade. It's frustrating, and it might not be all that healthy. I signed myself up for Hofstra's off-campus housing registry, so I think some progress can be made on this front in the near future. And it's far better if I can make this happen soon, before I get too deep into the semester.

It starts back up again tomorrow, with this nice three-day weekend having concluded. I'm certainly thankful for that, coming off plenty of class-filled Labor Days at Cornell and underway and/or duty on the boat. Fortunately, this little adventure is just gearing up...
christmas 2008

Almost enough to drive me to the world of Mac...

...but not quite.

Nearly two weeks ago, I was rolling on BitTorrent in pursuit of an important ingredient in the maintenance of most people's sanity, despite the general reluctance of the fairer sex to admit it. That's right, I was downloading porn. Not content with the wonder of RedTube and other such sites, I sought to add to the collection on my personal drives. After bringing in one particular file, I tried to view it, and got a notification that something malicious had been detected. The more I looked into it, the more frustrated I was with what I saw. The word "rootkit." Volumes of tech support forum posts containing registry entries. More safe mode boots that one should have to endure in a lifetime. Finally, after a few days without success, and with a noticeable drag on the computer's performance, I decided to proceed with the "nuclear option" - format the hard drive and reinstall the operating system.

I didn't get a copy of Windows Vista with this computer, but I did have a copy of XP Professional. In the course of my troubleshooting research, I discovered that one could not install XP onto a computer that previously carried Vista. I figured that formatting the hard drive would remove that restriction. If you know anything about computers, you know that I just committed a serious personal fail there. The hidden recovery partition - ironically enough, the "X drive" on my computer - still recalled the existence of Vista, and it couldn't be overwritten. So there I was, with neither an operating system nor a means if installing one. I called it quits for the night, a decision influenced heavily by the facts that it was already 12:30 at night and that the next day was the opening day of classes at college.

After the classes and lunch, I pondered whether to attempt to acquire Vista via the Internet, thanks to the old computer now in the use and care of my mother. I decided to instead resolve this problem by paying for a fresh copy of Vista. The first place I looked, the Wal-Mart in East Meadow, had it on sale for a hundred dollars. I wanted to at least look at Best Buy, although I highly doubted they'd come with a lower price. But when I got there, I was blown away by the number I saw - $199.99. Bitch, say what? Are somebody's synapses misfiring? You really think I'm going to pay double what Wal-Mart wants? Please. I continued on to another Wal-Mart and paid up.

Once I got home, I proceeded immediately to the install. First I tried the product key on the copy of Vista I'd bought. I was swiftly rejected, being informed that I'd have to work from a previously installed copy of Windows. Not so much an option. Had I really wasted $100 plus tax on a product I couldn't use? Only one path remained open - using the product key on the bottom of the computer. I typed it in...

...and away the installation went. In the following hours, I repeatedly gave thanks to my external hard drive. The last time I did a clean reinstall and recovery - four and a half years and two computers ago - it took nearly half a day to get everything back to normal. Having all the important stuff backed up on a single drive - including install files of several important programs - my computer had been recovered around five hours after I'd commenced the Vista reinstall. And a lot of the unimportant software that was present when I bought the thing was no more. Most certainly not a pleasant experience, and a time sink to boot, but at least I did come out a little bit ahead. Unfortunately, this might make me less inclined to upgrade to Windows 7 immediately after it comes out next month...