Hardware Woes

More geeking today. One of our PCs just died yesterday. And, of course, it’s one of the newer, nicer ones (only 4 years old). It was fine Monday night, but when Sam got up the next morning and turned it on—nothing. It gets power, but can’t do a thing. I took it all apart and the CPU area has a nasty, burnt smell. Dead dead dead. We had hoped to get a new PC shortly so that Sam would have a reasonable one, I’d have a good one, and the kids would have a nice one to share and the okay-but-older ones to use when they didn’t need the processing power of the newer machine. Now we’ll have to get two new ones to make that happen, and I don’t know when we can responsibly do that.

Sam thinks we can get one for $150, but I don’t think he’s factoring in money for RAM and a hard drive and at least one more decent monitor—just the motherboard, CPU, case, and power supply. Just the RAM for what he wants is going to be $150 or so (it’ll take 512MB, at least, to really make him happy). Another 40GB hard drive is $100 if we don’t need to get a controller for it. It would make more sense to get an 80GB because the machine we use for MP3s is almost totally out of disk space, and that’s more like $130 to $150. Another monitor, another $100. Oh, he wants a better video card, too. That can run anywhere from $50 to over $200. The sound card he loves? (Okay, that we both lust after) $200 or so. The motherboard we’re considering has integrated sound and video—but the integrated stuff is never as cool as the latest and greatest cards, and for a gaming machine that’s important. And you know, I’d really like him to have a really, really nice box for once, a machine that’s just his. He’s never had one and he definitely deserves some spoiling.

One of the discarded machines someone gave us recently may be able to be rebuilt into a not-perfect-but-far-better-than-nothing machine for the interim. I had to put the IDE controller from the recently deceased machine into her and she does, at least, boot and sees her hard drive now. She’s been abused, though—the previous users were just kicking this machine many times a day “because that’s how you have to make this one work.” You know how DIMM slots have little tabs on each end? This machine has had one of those tabs broken off. I have never, ever seen that before. And some of the framework inside the case is bent a little. That makes me leery of trusting this hardware much—what other physical damage is lurking unseen? She isn’t going to be the gaming dream machine Sam wants. But she’s much better than nothing, and she should work okay for what I actually need.

The newer PC we got a nice deal on a short while back (used) runs great—as a Linux box. It’s grossly unstable under any version of Windows no matter what I do to it. I mean, more unstable than Windows is known to be normally. It experiences a hard freeze every hour or so—more frequently if you try to actually push it to do much. This is pretty weird on a machine designed by IBM to be a Windows workstation, but there you go. It happens consistently under Win98SE, WinMe, and Win2000. It isn’t a hardware issue, or the problem would show up under Linux as well. But no, it’ll chug along perkily for a week or more running Linux. Go figure. IBM says “Never heard of that, can’t help you—reinstall the OS again.” What’s really weird to me is that it’s stable and peppy with 128MB less memory than it had when running Windows! (I took out a chip and stuck it in another box).

That one is our Samba server now, serving files and one of the printers and authenticating network logons. The only downside to that box being a server is that physically, it’s very small. It can handle three drives in the case—CD, one hard drive, and one something else. Period. No more. And to get it run a hard drive larger than 20GB, we’ll need to put in a new IDE controller.

Sam is getting more and more addicted to the stability of Linux. To be honest, so am I. I have a fundamental aversion to anyone working directly on a server, though, and he really wants his games, so while he likes working on the Samba server he needs a separate machine. So when we get him the dream gaming box, I have a feeling it’ll be a dual boot machine.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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