it all started because i wanted to play dvd's on my pc. i ended up corrupting my operating system on the mac, took apart my computers about a dozen times, and my pc still won't play dvd's (although i know why now). the explanation is lengthy but i think i owe history an explanation, so one day when people look back on this day they'll see what went wrong and hopefully learn from my mistakes.

i realized today that the trial version of windvd becomes the full version if you just enter the right serial number (which i just happen to have). i was all excited but after i finished installing and threw in a dvd, it wouldn't play at all. i tried windows media player which did play it, but with a stuttering audio problem. i uninstalled windvd and reinstalled it again. that seemed to do the trick, at least the video was playing now, but there was no audio. windows media player continued to play the video with stuttering audio. movie files on the hard drive played fine with perfect video and audio. it had something to with the dvd-rom drive.

i figured the root to my problems was maybe an outdated driver or system extension. i made sure everything was updated, and even upgraded the firmware of my pioneer dvr-110d. still no change. i gave up and decided maybe there was something on the windows XP system cd that might fix this problem. unfortunately suhan has it so i couldn't do anything until he gave it back.

i then decided to put in an audio cd just for kicks. i could understand dvd's not playing (for instance, maybe i just had to get a more compatible dvd codec), but a music cd would be no problem. i was wrong: the songs played back with the same stuttering audio problem. by now i was thinking maybe the hardware itself was damaged.

i couldn't do this while i was working, but after i was done coding for the day, i decided to do a dvd-rom transplant between my mac and the pc. so i took the dvr-110d and put it inside my mac. dvd's played fine, likewise with music. so if it wasn't going to work on the pc, at least it'd work fine on the mac. then i tried to burn a music cd, and it told me i couldn't do that. so i went online and found this software called burnpatch that modifies the system so it'll allow 3rd party burn drives to work with apple applications. so i ran that program, which turned out to be the most tragic event of the night. as soon as i did that, my mac wouldn't start up anymore. it showed me the circle with the line across it, which is better than the classic "sad mac" icon, but still didn't sit very well. i managed to get back into the system through safe mode (restart+shift key), and uninstalled the burn patches.

i returned the dvr-110d back to the pc. i'd read a few more suggestions, like how pioneer drives like to be in the master mode on the IDE chain and i should be using an 80-wire cable (instead of a 40-wire cable). so i set the dip switches, and i temporarily pulled an 80-wire cable from the mac and transplanted it into the pc. that didn't work, so i switched it back to the way it was this morning, hopefully that it'd somehow miraculously work now, but that didn't happen. elsewhere, while trying to reboot my mac with its original dvd-rom drive, i discovered it wouldn't boot anymore. so now i had two problems, trying to get the dvd-rom to work on the pc, and rebuilding the system on my mac.

at least i knew what to do on the mac. since my system 10.3 cd is an upgrade, i first had to install 10.2. the whole process takes something like almost 2 hours on my slow machine. after it was over, it restarted fine, but prompted me to enter in my password. i did, but it said it was the wrong one. i tried every single password i could think of, but none of them worked. then when i knew i had to start all over again, this time with a fresh install (instead of trying to import all my settings, what a mistake!).

while that was going on, i read up on setting the DMA mode for pc devices. it basically allows things like dvd-roms to run faster. i checked the setting on the bad drive and saw that it was running in the slowest PIO mode. setting it in the device manager had no effects because it'd just revert to the slow mode again. so i opened up the machine again and switched places with the original cd-rom drive. that, in combination with the 80-wire cable, did the trick. the dvd-rom drive was working now! but the cd-rom now had the stuttering problem, and i saw that it had acquired the PIO mode problem. researching further, i read that some dell machines purposely have their secondary device set to the slow mode, and that i'd have to change the setting in the BIOS. i tried getting access to the BIOS but because i'm using an USB keyboard, the F2 key doesn't work on startup.

in any case, i saw the dvd-rom drive working! but i had to return the 80-wire cable back to the mac, and spent the rest of my night nursing it back to startup health.

and finally, a bit of news that isn't computer-related: my mushrooms are finally starting to grow! they were supposed to be budding 2 weeks ago, but i think i had them in a really bad spot, in my southern facing kitchen with too much sun exposure. now that i've relocated them to the darker, colder region of my north facing living room, they seem to be doing a lot better. i may be a mushroom farmer yet!