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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