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  October/November 2006 (10,006PH)
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Question :
Is there any legitimate reason that there should be a "fresh drinking water" problem on this planet ?

(See bottom of page for suggested answers)

Articles from "Rick's Workbench"

Tale of interest no.5

The Laptop Computer that was going to the tip :

An acquaintance of mine (read as a friend of a friend) rang me one evening.
He came right to the point and asked me if I wanted a Pentium Laptop.
I looked at my humble little 486 Laptop sitting there....  and said to him that I would love to have it.
(Apparently it didn't work and he was going to throw it on the tip!)

About a week later, the fellow turned up with the Laptop computer, a mouse, a plug-pack, a disk and some cables.
The computer turned out to be an old Compaq machine.
It looked attractive, had stereo sound, and a CD ROM drive.  Definitely a step up from the old 486 Laptop!
The power supply was also built-in which meant no more power pack lying around to be tripped over.

The friend told me he had already tried it, (as we set it up).
All it did was flash a number on the top left-hand corner of the screen.
He thought he got it to boot up once from his floppy (a DOS 6.2 boot disk).
I had a collection of assorted bootable disks to hand and was thinking along the lines of installing either Windows 95 or Windows 98.
The number in the corner of the screen turned out to be the on board memory count....
48 Megabytes in this case.

There was something not quite right about it when I switched it on, but I couldn't quite think of what it was.
It definitely wouldn't boot off the hard disk, and it took several attempts to get it to boot from a floppy.
When it finally did,  it reported that no fixed disks were present,  nor did the CD ROM work!
A poor little sick computer indeed!
I thought that its BIOS had got scrambled but,  neither I nor the friend could figure out what key/s got it into the CMOS setup program.
After a cuppa and half an hour, we gave up.     My friend went home.

Something was still nagging me about it when I decided to tackle it again.
I remembered a trick I'd use with other computers with dodgy BIOS setup programs....
       Give it amnesia!
If the back-up battery is removed for a while, it would have to go to default settings!
At least that was my hope.
Removing the keyboard gave access to the back-up battery and also allowed me to check everything else.
I disconnected the battery, checked the voltage, and convinced myself that there WAS a hard disk present!

I fired it up again,  this time the memory count started at zero and slowly went up.
It then informed me that the default settings were now loaded.
That was it!     Still no setup menu or screen though.
That nagging feeling suddenly became a dull roar!
The Hard Disk wasn't working!
I know laptop hard disks are usually very quiet but...     Nothing!     It was as dead as a dodo.
I wanted to see what size it was anyway   and so it was removed.
It turned out to be a mini IDE style unit of 1.2GB capacity.

I made a note of the hard disk parameters and examined the contacts.
There was an adapter to convert the IDE connections to their own style of connector.
I gave the plugs and sockets a clean.     I then reinstalled the hard disk and fired the beast up.
Bingo!     We now had the gentle whir and clicking noises of a working hard disk!
I did the amnesia trick again and this time, it picked up the hard disk as type 65....     So far so good!

I then let it run without the bootable floppy disk to see what would happen.
The little hard disk icon flashed away and, lo and behold,     Windows 98 flashed on the screen!
I opened and closed a few icons and then it froze up!     "I am making progress" I thought to myself!
I then ran "scandisk" off the booting floppy and it came back with the all clear!
After a few attempts, I got Windows to run long enough to run "defrag"...     Man,  what a mess!
It took two & a half hours (no kidding) to sort it all out!     No wonder Windows froze up!
After that it worked fine.     Plenty of stuff on it and,  about 200MB free.
It turned out to be a 133MHz Pentium 1.     Not exactly a speed machine but good enough for me.

The setup program turned out to be on the hard disk, on its own little partition.
I found all this out on the internet, plus,  I downloaded the Diagnostics and Set-up programs as well.
The web site also had a discussion session about this computer.
"F10" was nominated as the key to get to the setup utility.
Apparently HP took over Compaq computers and all this appears on their web site now.
My "new" laptop is up and running.     I now use it to write these ramblings!

Bye Bye!

Till next time.

All rights for this article belong to "Rick's Workbench" in Tasmania

 Disclaimer  :  We do not recommend attempting mains powered projects or repairs without qualified assistance.
                                                     The articles from "Rick's Workbench" are for entertaining reading only.

Suggestion to above question :

  It may be a political farce.
  There is more than seventy percent of the surface of this planet covered in water. 
  Fresh drinking water can easily and cheaply be extracted from this source, especially in the warmer drier areas of the low to middle
  latitudes where it is more desperately needed.
  All that is needed is the will (which seems to be appallingly missing) and the money (which is available for such important projects).

  From an early age, (if travelling in the outback of Australia for example) we are told to extract water from any moisture containing
  vegetation (and urine if necessary) by covering the moisture containing substances with a condensing surface to collect the evaporated
  This idea can easily be scaled up to cover larger surfaces and, (as in my home town)  we could use existing evaporation
  areas to implement this process.

  There are large salt pans (near to our city as well) where sea water is allowed to enter under natural tidal flow and the water is then
  allowed to evaporate into the atmosphere as waste.    
  The only part of this process that is collected is the remaining salts, to be used by industry and for food processing.
  Each day, millions of litres of fresh water are lost to the atmosphere.
  This water should be collected by large scale condensing surfaces which could be as simple as sea water cooled, glass sheeting.
  Storage of fresh water should always be under cover to prevent loss to evaporation.
  This is another important point that always seems to be lost to the controlling bodies.
  Large underground storage tanks or caverns are the only options.
  Even ancient civilizations (such as the Romans) knew this to be true.
  Why have our modern civilizations lost (or ignored) this simple knowledge ?
  We squander our water by placing it in large evaporation ponds and lakes, which are also prone to excessive pollution from runoff.
  We then spend millions of dollars a year removing the pollutants, both solid (not very efficiently) and organic.
  If politicians were pressured more to act more responsibly with our fresh water supplies, then maybe the "fresh water problem" would
  fade quickly into our past and would never again be repeated.

  Here's hoping.

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