It is my pleasure to introduce John Carrona, a Microsoft Windows Expert-Consumer MVP. John has been an MVP since 2006 and is very active in online support communities. As a fellow member of the Sysnative Microsoft support forums, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind being featured here as part of the ongoing WindowsTalk MVP Interview series.
1. John, please tell us about your first PC.
My first PC was a console model by Radio Shack with 2 – 5¼” floppy drives and RCA plugs to connect it to my TV. The keyboard was built in. It had no mouse or touchpad. I purchased it from the Army Exchange at Camp Casey, Korea around 1987. It was used mostly for playing text based games like Zork – although I did learn a bit of DOS on it.
2. Please tell us how and where you got your start with computers.
Computers were a household word for us. My dad worked on superconducting memory at RCA’s Princeton Labs in the late 1960’s, and then on hard drives in the early 1970’s. One of my early jobs was working night shift for DEC (Digital Equipment Corp) making circuit boards. Our primary work was on the PDP-11, but we did many other models also.
While I was in the U.S. Army, I got started with the Wang word processors in the 1980’s and moved on to my own computers. We would watch the Wang technicians repair the Army computers and learned about their version of DOS by asking questions about how to fix things.
I then moved into working on my own computers due to a leaky CMOS battery on a 286 computer that I bought from a newspaper ad. I replaced the damaged motherboard with a 386 board/processor combo that I ordered from a computer supply company. Eventually I graduated to a Pentium 100 mHz computer with WFW 3.11 – and shortly thereafter upgraded it to Win95.
Around the year 2000, I first started helping people online. In 2002 I wasn’t able to leave the house for health reasons so this left me a lot of time to devote to online help. I started to specialize in BSOD’s (Blue Screen of Death) in the mid-2000’s and started a website ( http://www.carrona.org/ ) in 2009.
3. How do you spend your time online helping others with their PCs?
Most recently I concentrate on BSOD’s in Windows 8 systems. I have a “routine” that I follow, yet I still end up falling behind of the demand. There’s just too many BSOD’s for the few number of analysts that are available. I’d like to spend more time helping with other problems (I have a special interest in Windows Update issues and boot troubleshooting), but there’s just not enough time in the day to do them all.
Luckily I’ve been assisted by MVP John Griffith, MVP writhziden, MVP nominee niemiro, and the rest of the analysts and helpers at Sysnative Forums. They’ve helped to automate a good portion of the analysis so that I can spend my time working on the parts that aren’t automated.
I also developed a website to help people with BSOD’s in September of 2009. Currently I see 600 to 700 visitors a day – mostly to the BSOD Index, the Driver Reference Table (DRT), and several of the pages that describe hardware diagnostics.
4. Probably everyone has heard of -if not experienced- the “Blue Screen of Death” (BSOD). How did you come to be an ‘expert’ in diagnosing them?
Around the time that I was awarded as a Microsoft MVP, I noticed that there were only a couple of people who could help users with BSOD’s and there weren’t very many resources for those interested in learning to help.
As I learned more about BSOD’s, I started to collect information on how to do it. Having no ready place to keep this info, I decided to start my own website. Not being skilled at HTML, I was only able to write simple webpages.
I developed the BSOD Index in order to give analysts a ready resource to lookup BSOD errors. And the DRT (Driver Reference Table) is a compilation of information on where to get updated drivers for BSOD errors Initially it started as just a list of links to manufacturers ( http://www.carrona.org/drvrdown.html – no longer updated). It evolved into a hand-coded, manually updated table (based on an Excel spreadsheet) which was adequate until we reached about 2500 drivers in the table. Now it’s an SQL table and contains over 4400 drivers and links. Currently there’s a lot of behind the scenes work going on with it – and we expect to see a new header on it shortly (thanks to MVP John Griffith, Laxer, and Will Watts!)
The rest of the website contains helpful (I hope) pages in several different sections to assist people with BSOD related problems. Those sections are: BSOD, Registry, Diagnostics, Boot, Memory, Windows, and Misc (there’s also a Family section if you’re interested – lot’s of pictures)
5. Downtime: tell us what you like to do away from technology.
I like to spend time with family, work in the yard, take care of our animals (6 dogs, 6 cats, and a Chinchilla), babysit my grandson, travel, eat out, read, play with/fix computers and attend MVP Summit! Yes I know the question said “away from technology”, but it’s an integral part of my life and I enjoy it! :0)