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I’ve been sitting in front of a computer almost every day of my life since I was three years old, so I eventually got around to thinking, “why not use all the experience I’ve accumulated to create a team of amazingly skilled computer aficionados?”  Since I set out to do just that and opened up shop, we’ve been in Siler City for around half a year now, starting with just myself and one other technician.  Since then, we have clearly provided a sorely needed service in Chatham County, because I now have four in-shop and at least two regional on-site computer techs doing work for me.  You see, we have some “crazy” ideas about doing business, such as **putting customers first** instead of our own wallets, and we’re willing to tell you exactly what’s going on without holding back information or making pie-in-the-sky promises.  Here, it’s not about the bottom line, it’s about YOU.

If you’re looking for anything computer related for your home or business, we can help you.  We’re aiming to be a one-stop computer shop, and we do pretty much everything you can imagine.  Since our opening, we’ve already set up or done major overhauls on a few local business technology infrastructures, and almost every single day, customers are waiting outside of our front door for us to open up because we’re that good at what we do.

Because we’re also the only shop I know of that is a convenient drive for Chatham County residents that deals with Macs and Linux, we’ve also helped local people who previously had no local support whatsoever for those computing platforms.  We also perform some repairs that most other shops don’t usually offer, such as replacing bad capacitors on motherboards, which has saved tons of our customers from buying expensive new computers with a simple $80 procedure.  We offer the best price you’ll find anywhere on laptop hardware and power jack repairs, typically half the cost of most competitors and totaling at least $19 less than the cheapest national laptop jack specialists as well.

I think that what ultimately makes us different is the fact that we care.  We care about you and your computer, and we care about your specific needs.  We want you to be happy.  You’re not just a number or a source of income.  You’re a prized and valued customer the second you walk in the door.  That’s all there is to it.  It might not be the way other people do business, but by gosh, it’s OUR way, and it’s going to STAY that way.

Areas we provide services in include Siler City, Pittsboro, Goldston, Fearrington, Bonlee, Bennett, Silk Hope, Ramseur, Asheboro, Liberty, and even in more distant places such as Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, Apex, Cary, Raleigh, and Garner.  On-site or in-shop; it’s all up to you!  Call us and tell us how we can help you out.

As for the obligatory details, we’re at 1416 East 11th Street, Siler City, NC  27344.  Our hours are 10-7 M-F, 12-4 Saturday, closed Sunday.  You can reach us by phone at (919) 200-6003 (which automatically kicks over to a second line if the first one is busy) and on the Web at you can read much more about us and what we do.  Thanks again to all of our customers who’ve helped us to be such a huge success!  We love all of you!

(It occurred to me that I haven’t made a single post actually plugging my business for the local areas it covers; that’s why I wrote this.)


At Tritech, many things have changed since even just one month ago.  Here’s a spiffy list of such things.  By the way, my new favorite word is “terse.”  The magic of the word “terse” is that practically all of its synonyms not as terse as “terse.”  It’s a self-fulfilling definition!  ^_^  So, what’s been going on during my silence, you ask?  Read on!

  • My Sylvania G has an unusual issue with the custom Linux installs I’ve done on it where the keyboard and mouse touchpad stop working.  This didn’t happen while I had Windows XP on it whatsoever, nor the custom gOS that came with the computer, so I’m fairly sure it has something to do with a more generic (read: not G-specific) Linux distro running on the VIA CX700M2/C7-M platform.  I doubt it’s the hardware itself because of this.  The headphone jack worked on XP, but not on my custom Linux, which apparently is caused by an incorrect HD Audio pin mapping in the HD Audio drivers in the stock Linux kernel.  I’m not too concerned about it, though, since I haven’t needed to use it much at all lately.
  • I’m still working on the custom Tritech Service System.  It’s grown from a very humble project to simply give us basic remote access to a machine in a clean operating environment to a much more useful general service system.  Big secret: it’s a Linux-based project.  The entire “distro” is essentially built from scratch, however, and uses such classic tools as busybox to minimize space usage.  What really sets TSS apart from the Linux solutions we’re using now such as KNOPPIX (CD) and Slax (USB drive) is the fact that the entire system runs out of an initramfs, eliminating the need to find the rest of the system after booting has started.  This presents some extremely tough limitations, but solves the biggest problems I’ve run into with Linux live CD and Linux live USB distributions.  Sometimes the rest of the system can’t be located at boot-time, which on KNOPPIX in specific “crashes” to a “very minimal shell” in which you can essentially do nothing at all.  When a CD drive is old, dirty, or otherwise impaired, you can have these failures as well as major problems when the KNOPPIX cloop driver chokes on every little scratch in the disc surface.  Slax sucks because it constantly spews out OOPSes in the kernel log when you don’t use a “fresh mode” to boot, and since it doesn’t come with any of the specific tools we need (and the only way to properly add them is to make a squashfs thing I don’t feel like dealing with) it’s a huge pain in the rectum.  Enter the Tritech Service System: completely customized for our own exact needs, reliant only on the bootloader working as expected and not locking a CD drive or USB flash drive in the process, and EXTREMELY FAST to work with.  Plus I made a cool green-on-black splash screen to go with it.  The fact that it easily installs on any Windows XP machine as a boot menu option seals the deal.  NO OTHER COMPUTER SERVICE COMPANY HAS THIS POWERFUL TOOL.  Granted, any sufficiently skilled Linux nut could do what I’ve done, but most Linux nuts would rather deal with KNOPPIX forever than go to the trouble of making their own custom distro from scratch.  The lack of Linux-knowledgeable techs out there makes it impractical for a large company to even bother with.  Now all of you that thought my claim of being the only company that is capable of doing this was audacious can understand exactly why I can make that claim and support it.  We’re not to the point that I’m willing to release it to the public yet, but it’s been so much better than KNOPPIX or Slax on every system I can boot it on that I’ve fast-tracked my development on it and I’m making it a very high priority on my list of things to do.  Stay tuned.
  • We cleaned up the shop.  I’m not kidding: we REALLY CLEANED UP THE SHOP, big time.  One unfortunate problem with computer geeks is a complete lack of organization, particularly with a shop as busy as mine usually is.  We didn’t have many customers at all over the past week, so I took full advantage of the opportunity to give the place a brutal cleaning.  We’ve moved all the security camera equipment, run permanent wires that we’ve been using temps for for months now, purchased lots of additional storage bins and shelving and made excessive use of all of it, organized and better proceduralized the process of shuffling customer equipment in and out and keeping said equipment organized and together, tossed out an insane number of disintegrating cardboard boxes we REALLY didn’t need, built a central working “kiosk” at the front of the shop where we can print invoices and perform other administrative tasks (where previously all of this work was done on our own individual workstations in the back of the shop), optimized the table configuration for better access to existing power and network cables, completely cleared off the bird’s nest of wires that had formed on the front tables due to lots of working and no time to clean up after it, and a ton of other minor things I don’t even want to think about right now.
  • I mowed the lawn at my house.  Like an idiot, I did so at 4 PM instead of waiting until it started to get cooler in the evening.  Boy, push mowers SUCK.
  • Yes, the last item was comic relief.  So is this one.
  • I recently managed to use Linux to fully change XP HALs, rendering all of my disparate XP “clean system images” obsolete.  I’m actually looking at ways to get chntpw/reged to be easily scripted.  They’re the most useful and most underdeveloped Windows tools on Linux that I know of, and a reged that is inherently script-friendly (without using expect) would be a boon to the Tritech Service System, as well as frustrated sysadmins in general around the world.  With a fully scriptable reged/chntpw, I can write a simple package for TSS that replaces HALs on images without any additional effort, making life much easier for my technicians (and myself) in the long run!
  • We also created a custom HAL.INF file that opens up access to all the XP HALs from XP itself.  Reverting to “Standard PC” pre-imaging and then using this file in the images to allow changing to, say, “ACPI Multiprocessor PC” would be much easier than having six images per XP type (home retail/OEM, pro retail/OEM, MCE OEM) and would save TONS of disk space on the poor old server.
  • I’m also writing a custom Web-based Tritech administration system using PHP and MySQL (well duh), which will let me throw a bunch of crap out of my filing cabinet and go nearly paperless.  Invoice creation will also be much easier, because invoices, work orders, and inventory usage share huge amounts of information between them already, so invoice creation would essentially be a two-click thing for most jobs.
  • We raised our prices.  Let’s face it: we charge by the half-hour already, and $80 per hour is outrageously cheap for access to my skills and the skills of the technicians I contract work to and teach my ways to.  We may need to go up again, and I’d love some feedback on that.  I feel that we should because we’re selling a level of quality that Siler City, Pittsboro, Goldston, and all the other towns in Chatham County can’t get within an hour’s driving distance, but of course I fear pricing myself out of business at the same time.  Given the economic climate right now, I’m not keen on going up too fast, but we could use some capital SOON.  Plus, that pesky $65,000 in small business loans is still hanging over my head, sucking up essentially all of the “profits” and converting them to expenses.  The rest is used to buy what we need to keep serving customers in the future.  Even if we charged $100 per hour, our competitors’ bench fees and rates put them at or above that price tag on almost every job, and unfortunately Chatham County’s pre-existing computer service shops apparently have the worst customer service and/or technical skill you can imagine, considering we hear horrible anecdotes from multiple customers on a DAILY BASIS about who we’re supposedly “competiing with.”  I’d hardly call them competition at this point; we’ve had two separate laptops come in that I personally serviced where Siler City’s established computer shop I won’t name had charged $100 or more to look at each and came back with the answer that “it’s unfixable, you need to buy a new laptop.”  In both cases, I fixed the problem in less than five minutes.  One was a loose LCD data cable behind the laptop screen, the other was a RAM stick either making bad contact or the SODIMM socket going out (I moved the stick from one socket to the other.)  I’m so upset when these things happen, and I know I shouldn’t be, but I feel that these things tarnish the reputation of the industry as a whole and bring customers to my door wondering if I’m going to screw them over before they’ve even met anyone on my staff.  I digress a bit, though; should I raise prices from $40 per half hour to $50 per half hour?  What do you think?
  • We now have four technicians that come here to get jobs regularly, and all of them are awesome at what they do.  They really care about my customers, and that’s what I like!

That’s about it for now.  I have a repair job I’m working on that I must return to, so I have to wrap this post up.  A construction company owner and long-time client of mine got a HORRIBLE virus infection, and I have gone very far out of my way to personally see to it that he’s back up by 8 AM tomorrow (Monday) morning.  His system went down completely on Friday.  If you’re a client or potential client of my business, I want you to know that just like I’m doing for his business, I will bend over backwards and do whatever I must to make sure you’re taken care of.  I’ll post more anecdotes about how I do this later.  That’s all, folks.  Happy computing!

Today I ran into two very troublesome situations.  One was a failing hard drive on a long-time client’s laptop, chock full of important information, but luckily the failure was gradual enough to cause serious speed issues and force them to call me before the whole thing could become a toaster.  The other was a far more difficult scenario: another returning client who uses the computer to run his business had somehow managed to pick up the worst class of computer virus I can think of: an executable-infecting virus.

You see, what these horribly nasty viruses do to your computer renders them essentially incapable of being repaired and returning to “like it never happened” functionality.  In case you don’t know, an “executable” is a term for the actual file that your icons run to start the program of your choice.  Essentially, they are the program.  A virus that infects executables will insert the virus code into the actual program file that you run to start software…including Windows itself.  I’ve only seen two infections before today that involved this class of virus, and the first one completely latched into everything, forcing a total wipe and reinstall.  The second one was not quite as “zealous” and didn’t infect things as readily, so I was able to recover that system from pending doom.  Today, however, is the second time I have encountered this type of infection to a point that I was incapable of repairing it.  My clients can tell you that I don’t play around on the computer: I know what I’m doing and I boast extremely high success rates where other “technicians” fail miserably.  I’d estimate that out of a random sample of 50 jobs, I have to do some sort of Windows reinstall on only about 1-2 of them.

Despite having six years of all-day-every-day experience tirelessly working to find every imaginable way to repair every computer problem under the sun without “major surgery” like reinstalling Windows, today I had to give in to the reinstallation machine that I so dreadfully despise, but I don’t regret doing so.

You must come to understand that even Windows itself is composed of hundreds of executable files.  They are often hidden behind the scenes and carry names such as “winlogon.exe” and “svchost.exe” and “ctfmon.exe” and “userinit.exe” and “logonui.exe,” and none of these should really ring a bell in your mind because you’re not supposed to know that they’re floating back there.  However, every single one of these files can be infected with a virus like this one.

Let’s put it this way: when you boot your computer, Windows loads a bunch of drivers, this thing called the HAL, and the NT kernel.  Basically, a bunch of really critical core stuff that makes everything else in the machine tick.  Once the pretty blue background pops up, however, those executables start firing off one by one.  svchost.exe starts in the background numerous times so that your sound card, automatic updates, Internet connectivity, and other system services can start working.  When you log in, logonui.exe runs, and then userinit.exe kicks in as well.  The ever-popular explorer.exe loads and shows you your icons and Start menu.  Any software you have installed may have startup items, such as the Adobe Reader Speed Launcher (reader_sl.exe) or the various America Online core services.

To bring all that irrelevant-sounding blah-blah-blah into perspective, nearly every single thing that runs in the list above gets infected with this kind of virus almost immediately once your machine is compromised. That means that Windows becomes a living virus.  The system is infected everywhere.  You can’t even boot halfway without running the virus itself, which then reinfects anything you may have cleaned.  Got Adobe Creative Suite?  They’re probably all toast–infected with the virus.  Hearts?  Infected.  Solitaire?  Infected.  Norton 360?  Infected.

I hope that this admittedly lengthy explanation brings you to appreciate the skills of a good computer technician (as well as the skills of the virus authors, who we’d all probably love to strangle one day), and the true importance of practicing good security habits when using your computer.  When I originally wrote the spyware and viruses page on the company website, my intent was to help you jump-start your computer security knowledge (and break some of the misinformation that exists today), and I hope you’ll read it now if you haven’t done so already.

I need to add this detail to said page, but I will dispense it here so that it will be clear: once your computer is compromised, you have NO SECURITY AT ALL!!! Modern viruses use rootkit-like technologies to hide themselves from virus scanners and bypass security measures such as software firewalls.  If you are compromised, security software is essentially rendered useless. Prevention should be your goal, not mitigation after compromise.  Don’t click on anything or say “yes” to anything unless you are 120% certain that it is legitimate.  Get Mozilla Firefox to avoid the plethora of security holes in Internet Explorer.  Take the time to find out what can get you in deep doo-doo when browsing the Internet (“free porn” searches are the biggest culprit, though many wouldn’t admit it–see that “.exe” at the end of the file name?!  It’s amazing how easy it is to infect a computer when the user is desperately looking for free porn and will download and run anything to get it.)  Most importantly, if your computer seems to be slower than usual, or pausing more frequently than is normal in your daily experience, do not hesitate to call a verifiably experienced computer technician to diagnose the problem.  If your water heater sprung a tiny water leak, would you hesitate to call a plumber, or would you try to patch it up until the pressure caused the leaking part to explode?

I can’t even begin to explain how frustrating it is to walk into a loyal client’s house to discover that the problem actually started months ago, and became disastrous because they chose to “live with it” and let it grow and compound rather than call me up and ask for a little bit of free assistance.  (Any computer business worth their salt will take five minutes to talk to you at no charge.  It’s called “customer service” and it gets left out a lot with many large businesses these days.)  When I perform computer services, it is a very personal matter for me, because the results of my work (short- and long-term) define what people think of me and my skills, and I can’t do my job for someone properly if they don’t tell me that there’s a problem.

If you take anything away from reading this post, (A) learn how to avoid danger on the Internet in the first place, and (B) don’t hesitate to call an expert when things may be getting beyond your control.

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