Craigslist Renews My Faith In Humanity

To be honest, I’m really not sure if I should be referring to that as my lack of faith in humanity, but whatever it was, Craigslist readers managed to affirm the Hell out of it.

I’ll start with the ad I posted:

For Sale: $10 firm, you pick it up
21″ HP CRT computer monitor
This is big monitor, about 45 pounds, so I’m not shipping it anywhere.
The front of the CRT is flat, but I’m not calling it a “flat screen”
to avoid confusion with LCD monitors.
The monitor is about 10 years old, but in excellent condition, with no burn in.

Pretty reasonable deal, eh?  That doesn’t stop Craiglist readers from trying to make this deal even better:

Hey, I can use a bigger monitor.  Can you deliver it to [a place about 100 miles away.]
If it works perfectly and it’s really clean (and I still need it) when you get here, I’ll give you $5 cash on the spot.

I have a pretty efficient car, but at today’s fuel prices, I estimate that the round trip to your place will cost me about $20, so that even if you paid the least bit of attention to the word “firm,” I’d be $10 behind, not to mention four hours of pointless driving.  To seal the deal, there’s the possibility I’d be driving back home with this 45 pound behemoth of a monitor, since you may have found an even better deal during the two hours it would take me to get to your house.  Presumably some hot naked chick with a brand new flat screen television willing to drive it across the country and drop it off with a few cases of free beer.

But I have to give the guy a little credit for at least understanding the listing.  I got a smattering of emails that could be answered simply by copying and pasting the listing they were responding to in the first place:

Is this a flat screen LCD or a tube-kind of monitor?

Is this for a computer or is it a television set?

How heavy is this monitor?  I’m thinking of putting it on a shelf.

Will you ship this to me?

And my personal favorite:

How big is the 21″ screen?

I’m not sure if this person is just really, really stupid or just wants me to do the conversion into centimeters or cubits or something for them. I’d like to think he smacked himself in the head immediately after hitting “send” because he realized he had asked an obvious question — because the alternative is that no conceivable reply could possibly make him understand the size of this monitor.

Other questions at least asked about things that weren’t answered in the listing, mostly because it never would have occurred to me to answer these questions, much less that anybody would ask them.

What colors does this monitor display?

Has anything been living in this monitor or died in its case?

Do you think this monitor will make my computer faster?

How much storage (MB or GB) does this monitor have?

Does this come with a computer?

Has this monitor ever been used for viewing porn?

Here again, I have a personal favorite, from somebody whom I hope misread something and really didn’t eat that big a bowl of crazy for breakfast:

Is this fully mature?  How big do you think it will grow?

Shame on me, I guess, for not mentioning that this monitor has already grown to its full size in the original ad.  I’ll remember that for next time.

It’s possible, I guess, that all these people are just pretending to be morons and lunatics in order to screw with me, but there are naturally a few whose purpose is explicitly to screw with me — or more accurately, screw me over:

I’ll bring a check for $210 for that monitor, if you’ll give me $180 in
twenties when I pick it up.  You’ll get $30 out of the deal for your trouble.

For $180 and a monitor, I’ll get a bad check in return, so I’m not entirely clear on where the $30 comes in.  Maybe he’ll mail it to me later care of my address in Gullible Idiotville.  He’s not the only person who thinks that’s where I live:

I will pay you $10 plus $100 in shipping and other fees if you will ship this to Nigeria.
I will send you cash money by FedEx but I need it right away so please ship when I give you the FedEx tracking number if this is agreeable to you we can do business.

Nigera?  FedEx?  Cash money?  What could possibly go wrong?  Oh, right, it might actually cost more than $100 to ship a 45 lb. package to Nigera using any possible method of getting it there “right away.”  Plus the odds of this guy actually shipping me an envelope full of “cash money” for my trouble seems about as likely as me suddenly being declared the Pope.

But at least these scammers  sort of paid attention to the listing.  Other scammers were more lazy:

It seems like you could use some money.  We have money to give away!
To start, send us your:
Full Name:
Full Address:
Social Security Number:
Full bank account number where we can make a deposit:
Amount you need:

Yes, it’s true, my motivation for selling a 21″ monitor for $10 is not to find it a good home instead of letting perfectly good hardware rot in a landfill, but because I need $10 to pay my mortgage.  Or something.  At any rate, I guess I can just keep the monitor, because, hey, free money.

The depressing part of that is that somebody must exist who would actually reply with this information — who still has an account with actual money in it, and despite this,  manages to believe that there’s some other idiot in existence who desperately wants to pump money into the bank account of a random moron for no conceivable reason.  Now that I think of it, Craigslist might be a good way to find such a person.


Yes, I did sell the monitor to a reasonably sane and intelligent person for $10, so at least one person who reads Craigslist isn’t a complete maniac.  I accept the fact that he could be a partial maniac, but he at least held it together long enough to complete a simple transaction, which up until now I thought was a pretty easy thing for most people to do.


Restoring Selected Keys from the Registry

As I hope everybody does, I have a backup system in place that ensures that I have copies of all critical files, including the system registry.  A combination of Volume Shadow Copy and BackupPC ensure that I’ll have ample copies of the registry available, but the registry itself makes recovery a less-than-straightforward process.

For a bare metal restore, the process is actually not too bad.  To be specific, you can pretty much just copy over the registry files with backups (which is pretty much every file in %systemroot%\system32\config) then rebooting before doing anything else.

More specifically, you want these files:

security, software, system, default, sam

It gets a little weirder from there if you need registry elements from the user hives and security hives, which is conveniently spread out into places like “Documents and Settings\NetworkService\NTUSER.DAT”, “Documents and Settings\LocalService\NTUSER.DAT” and helpfully named things like “UsrClass.dat” spread all over creation.

It wasn’t really my purpose to delineate all these things, so I’ll move on:  instead, my purpose was to point out that what, after losing a drive and reinstalling the operating system, you decide that you don’t want to inherit all the cruft that was lurking in your “old” registry, but instead would like to pull over just a few select keys?

On the plus side, there’s a way to do it.  On the minus side, doing so is about as convoluted as the registry itself.

First, the keys you’re looking for are most likely to be housed in the file “software” or “system,” depending on whether you want some keys describing installed software or hardware, respectively — so restore these files somewhere.  The location doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t put them on top of their current locations.

Second, fire up the registry editor (“regedit” or “regedt32”) which will give you a view of your current registry.  Click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, which will then make the menu option File->Load Hive available.

Go ahead and pick the “software” file you restored, and you’re immediately prompted for “Key Name.”  This is the key name to mount the hive under, so pick something that’s not a hive already in use.  (In other words, do NOT pick “software” or “hardware” and so on.)  It’s handy, if possible, to pick something absolutely guaranteed not to be in use as a key or value anywhere in the registry, but really anything will do.

Now you can browse the hierarchy of the registry from the file you loaded.  Note that none of these keys are really “in” the registry, but now you can get to them, to select what you need out of the original registry — in my case, it’s almost universally nit picking serial numbers from software I installed long ago and I have an easier time finding the CD than I do where the original serial numbers went.  Once you’ve selected the key, File->Export will allow you to extract it in text form.

Unfortunately, registry exports store the absolute path of whatever you’re exporting, so you’ll have to edit the file to get it back in.  N.B.:  Regedit is notoriously picky about the format of this file, and it will refuse to import a file that isn’t perfect, right down to white space, so you don’t want to edit it with anything that’s going to touch anything but the text (yes, I’m looking at you, TextPad.)  I recommend Notepad with word wrap OFF.

The exported registry file will be littered with references like:


Your job, of course, is to change every single “MY_HIVE_KEY” to “SOFTWARE” (or whatever hive you’re trying to get the key back into, while leaving everything else alone.  If you were clever about the hive name you selected, this can be a global search-and-replace.

Save the file, then use File->Import to bring the key(s) back in to the actual registry.  When you’re done with this procedure, click on your hive with the crazy name, and select File->Unload Hive to be rid of it.  There’s no “save” in the registry editor, so you’re done at this point.