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Hurricane Sandy Recovery/Spook Central Status Update

 By Paul Rudoff on Jun. 24, 2013 at 4:27 PM , Categories: Personal, Spook Central , Tags:

For those of you who haven't been playing along at home... Hurricane Sandy flooded my home of 23 years in East Rockaway, Long Island, New York with five feet of water on October 29, 2012. As a result, my family had to spend six weeks in the Red Cross Emergency Shelter at Nassau Community College, before we found a new place to live in a neighboring town. We've now been living here over six months, and although we are settled in, we've not yet 100% recovered from the storm. I felt it was best to post a status update to let everyone know what's going on with my hurricane recovery and with Spook Central. Click on any of the bold "titles" to go to a blog page with more details; or feel free to check out all of the hurricane blog posts. I've also put up a quick link box in the upper right corner of the blog.

Old East Rockaway House - Since I went back to check the place out on April 10th, I've been documenting what's going on there. The house is still there, but part of the ceiling in two rooms has collapsed. That's in addition to all of the buckled floors, mold, and so forth that's been there since the beginning of November. Our old landlord is trying to sell the property (he apparently has a bidder), and I assume that the new owner will knock the house down, raise the ground up, and build a new house there. I'll keep going back every two months to document the progress until a new house is built there. I may one day comb through the family photos (most of which survived) and the family home movie VHS tapes (most of which did NOT survive) and put together an article on the evolution and devolution of the house in the 23 years I lived there and the year or so that followed.

Salvaging Project - I stopped worked on this at the end of February so I could take care of the computer. Thanks to the problems with that (detailed further down this page), I have not been able to go back to working on this. Thankfully, there's nothing soaking wet left to deal with, but there is still a lot of damaged stuff I have in bags. There are HUNDREDS of flood-damaged media (Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, PS1/PS2/PS3 games, computer games) that I have to try to salvage. Cases and artwork (and game manuals) are trashed, for the most part, but the discs are fine (except for a small handful). They just need to be cleaned with some disc wipes. A time-consuming job, but not hard. A few family photo albums got damaged, and I'm not sure if the photos inside will be salvageable. I would bet that my grade school and high school yearbooks (signed by my classmates) and diplomas are even less likely to be salvageable. The same is undoubtedly true for birthday books and other paper personal mementos. I don't even know if there's any way to salvage the home movie (and Real Ghostbusters) VHS tapes. I'm hoping Nora & Doreen from the defunct Ghostbusters Fan Forum can help with the Real Ghostbusters VHS tapes (these contained the redubbed and other alternate episodes not in the TimeLife DVD set), but no one can replace the home movies. If those VHS tapes can't be salvaged, those memories are gone forever. (We also have to go through all of the boxes of undamaged stuff to see what can come out, what has to stay in storage, and what we may want to donate. We had a lot more room in the old house, so there's a lot of stuff we won't have room for anymore.)

Computer (and Spook Central) Recovery - This is the area that's caused all of the problems over the past four months, and it's why I wish the hurricane didn't damage my old computer. From October 29, 2012 to January 31, 2013 my only "computer" was an iPod Touch I kept in my pocket while living at the emergency shelter. Thank goodness I had the foresight to take it when we evacuated. An iPod Touch is *NOT* an ideal computing device (having to rely on it for so long gives me a deeper hatred for Apple), and internet access on it is only as good as where ever I could get a free wifi signal (which was *VERY* limited at the shelter), but it was certainly better than nothing. Somehow I doubt "Apple: It's better than nothing" is gonna be the company's next tagline :-) Anyway, I digress...

On January 31st a charitable organization gave me a free computer. The computer works - I'm typing this message on it - but the hardware inside is too old for it to be anything more than an emergency computer. (I've been calling it a "temporary" computer on my computer recovery blog post.) I found a local mom & pop shop here in Valley Stream called Coast To Coast Computers, and on March 11th, I placed an order with them for a custom-built computer near-identical to the one the hurricane destroyed. It cost me $312 for the computer and $100 for the monitor. After FOUR WEEKS of giving me the runaround, and boldly lying to me (you can read all of the sordid details on the computer recovery blog post), the computer was ready for pickup on April 9th. I thought that would have been the end of the matter, but it was only a new beginning of problems.

For starters, I was under the impression that I was buying a custom-built computer assembled with 100% brand new parts that were going to be bought in bulk via OEM channels. What I received was a *USED* computer which is NOT a custom-build, but actually a nearly completely pre-assembled Hewlett-Packard (HP) computer originally designed for use in a business environment. All the computer shop did was swap out the hard drive for two larger ones, install Windows XP Pro on one of them (HP had Vista Business on it), and add in a 1GB PCI-E video card. None of that takes four weeks to do.

HP *PROPRIETARILY-DESIGNED* this system so that it's very user-UNfriendly. There's no reset button on the front, and there's no on/off switch on the power supply on the back. The case opens on the right, while normal cases open on the left. Metric screws are used throughout, instead of the common Phillips-head (or flathead) screws. HP designed the case to be "tool-less", but HP was rather clueless, and a bit foolish, since it actually makes things harder on the user. I had to make several trips back to the computer shop to pick up these "special" metric screws so I could install the Blu-ray drive, the floppy drive, and the video capture card's front panel.

I was willing to put up with this "new" computer being used, and all of HP's proprietarily-designed bull, but what would happen next made this computer unusable. I copied all of my files over to the new computer, installed all of my programs, everything was going smoothly. One day, out of the clear blue, on every boot it started giving me an "512 - Rear Chassis Fan Not Detected" error message, requiring me to press F1 to continue booting, even though the chassis fan runs at full speed nearly *ALL* the time. I think it's even louder than my new air conditioner! I would bet that the only way to fix the computer would be to send it in to HP, and they already told me that the warranty expired on February 15, 2012 - over a year *before* I bought the computer.

As if all of that crap wasn't enough, around the end of May, Windows decided to no longer provide the internet. I was using my SeaMonkey browser to surf the web, closed the browser, and less than a minute later, I decided to run it again to look something up. Imagine my surprise when SeaMonkey couldn't go online anymore. Internet Explorer was able to go to Google *once*, but upon a re-run, even IE lost access. The "Network Diagnostics for Windows XP" program claimed it "detected a problem with the Winsock provider catalog" which "allows programs to communicate with this computer across the network", but its "fix" (resetting the catalog to the default configuration and then rebooting) didn't fix the problem. I suppose, worst case, I could get internet access back by re-installing Windows, but that still wouldn't solve the fan issue.

All of those problems have forced me to switch BACK from using the "new" computer I bought from Coast To Coast to the "temporary" computer that the charitable organization gave me. I recently noticed that NewEgg and/or Tiger Direct (two online computer parts stores) have bundles where you can buy all (or some) of the parts and assemble the computer yourself. Although I've never put a computer together, and am a little scared to try it, I'm starting to think I may have to go that route and hope for the best. I think that's my best option right now for getting a computer that 100% suits my needs...and hopefully won't give me any problems.

Right now I can't even deal with that, as I'm halfway in to a 30-day free trial of PlayStation Plus, which gives me a dozen free games to play as long as I'm a member. Since I have no interest in paying for the service past the 30 days, I need to *attempt* to play and complete 11 more full games before July 12th. Once that is done with, then I'll try to motivate myself to get my computer issues resolved completely, finish the salvaging project, and finish going through the boxes in storage in the attic. Then I can focus my attention back on my usual online activities - you know, like scanning in those scripts and books :-)

I actually thought I would be able to make my official return at the beginning of April when I got the "new" computer. I didn't know at the time that the computer shop boss would lie to me about a few things, and that the computer I'd be getting from them isn't what I thought I'd be getting, and that it would cause me all of these problems. I even managed to pull of an April Fool's Day prank (on the "temporary" computer) and uploaded the new Spook Central Staff page. I was planning on mentioning the new staff when I made my official return, and then have them start making regular non-hurricane posts after that. Right now we'll hold off on any non-hurricane posts here for the time being. I'll keep Spook Central in suspended animation, sort of speak, though I'll definitely post an unusual holiday song in December. Although I hope to make my official return before then, I'm gonna err on the safe side and plan to be at that stage (aka "back to normal") by the beginning of next year. My family should be on a new lease by then (our one-year lease expires in December), so that'll definitely ease my mind that I won't be moving again any time soon.

Just because the Spook Central website isn't being updated much, doesn't mean there isn't anything going on. The SPOOK CENTRAL FACEBOOK PAGE is CONSTANTLY UPDATED by staff member Matthew Jordan (DevilManOzzy from the Ghostbusters Wiki) with all of the latest news and previews of the IDW Ghostbusters comic book series, and other little bits and bobs. I even pop in there from time to time to post something. The Spook Central Facebook Page is definitely the place to be!

As for me, tomorrow's my birthday, so I'm taking some time off. If you want to get me a present, my Amazon Wish List is still valid; and some money via PayPal is always good. (I'm reusing my Hurricane Recovery Donation button for that previous link.) I'll resume tackling everything in July (hopefully), and all future detailed updates regarding the computer, the salvaging project, and the old East Rockaway house will be posted on the respective blog pages.

(Banner Image Source: BethelBulletin.com)


Comment from: Mrmichaelt [Visitor]

Sorry to hear it’s still been a bit rough. 2013 hasn’t been fun and games for me either. The bundle from NewEgg/Tiger Direct seems like the only route left for you to try. Is that person that made you your old custom computer before Sandy available to help or is he still booked?

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 02:28
Comment from: [Member]

I could *probably* get Lance to help me next month - he helped put together the last computer in July 2007, so July should be an unbusy time for him - but I’m thinking of only using his as an absolute last resort.

This experience has taught me that it would be better if I could do this myself instead of having to rely on Lance. I was relying on him not just for his knowledge, but for his van. It’s a lot easier to transport a large computer case box, a large monitor box, large scanner and printer boxes, and all of the smaller components in his van than it would be to do all take all of that on public buses. In fact, I’d say it would be near impossible to transport all of that across two public buses, WITH lots of walking and waiting in between.

Thankfully, now that I have a Staples (office supply store) nearby, I was able to get the monitor and scanner from them, and I found the printer in a nearby Walmart. That means I wouldn’t have as many *big* items to transport from Microcenter in Westbury anymore.

On top of that, if Tiger Direct and/or NewEgg can ship all of the items to my house, that solves *ALL* transportation problems! That just leaves putting it together. Honestly, it might be for the best if I try to learn how to do that for myself, even if I make a few mistakes along the way.

Jun. 26, 2013 @ 16:35
Comment from: Mrmichaelt [Visitor]

Good point, Paul.

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 02:40

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