As I do all-too-often, I must apologize once again for the recent lack of updates. Partly to prove that it’s not just a result of us being lazy – and partly because some of our fellow geeks might get a kick out of it, here’s a description of the hardware related comedy-of-errors that my BeOS machine has been acting out lately. Read on for the details (Update: added a photo).

I’ve been plagued by some rather bad luck with hardware in the last few years – since 2004, my BeOS machine has gone through the various motherboard/CPU combinations: P3 450 on an old Slot1 mobo, upgraded to a P3 600 (socket), which then died and was replaced by a Abit VP6 with 2 P3 1Ghz CPUs, which died (my own fault – slip with a screwdriver while installing a heatsink), replaced by an identical setup which died randomly, and finally upgraded to the current Athlon 2800XP on some generic Asus mobo.

Through all those iterations, however, I’ve kept the same case – which was originally designed for Slot1 processors (P2 and earlier P3 CPUs). Because of that, the location and orientation of the power supply places it directly over the heatsink of a socket processor (pretty much all x86 CPUs in the last 6 or 7 years, at least) – really not good for heat dissipation, especially with CPUs like the 2800XP which run rather hot in the best of circumstances. Because of that, I’ve been running the PC for the past few months with both side panels off the case and the PSU hanging out the back, sitting on top of a small cardboard box.

As luck / Murphy would have it, my city has had a warm spell the last few days at just the same time as I was working away from home for the weekend – which meant returning to a computer that had recently shut off due to overheating (the heatsink was still physically hot). In desperation, I re-applied thermal grease (it had all burnt off) and stuck an old box fan beside the case (illustrated by the above photo). By “box fan,” I mean the type of square fan you would sit in a window to cool a whole room, maybe 2 and 1/4 feet square. It seems to be working – after about half an hour of fear that my video card was fried (because two of the ports on my KVM switched picked the same time to die), the CPU has been running stable at a steady 43 Celcius.

Yes, I know – I really need to invest in a case made after ’99.

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Deej on 2007-05-29 at 12:16 (Reply)
Funny you mention this... the machine that I've had running BeOS for years has had a number of problems lately, from NICs dying to a change in video cards (to support a large res widescreen monitor) that the drivers had problems with.

Over the weekend, I left it on. When I returned Monday night from an out of town trip, the power was on, fans spinning, lights on, etc, but no video. I tried to hit the restart button - no reaction. Pressed the power button. Did not power cycle or shut off. Pulled the power cord. That turned it off. Plugged it back in, and now it won't power on at all. So much for binkyandtheprain. :(

I'll probably work on it over the week, but I'm thinking it's long run at life is over now (this was also the machine that ran as the beunited server for a couple of years). Good thing I just bought that other box.

I feel you bro'.

Stephen B. on 2007-05-29 at 12:27 (Reply)
Hi Deej - have you tried replacing the power supply? I've had a few crashes like that, where a new PSU seemed to do the trick.
Deej on 2007-05-30 at 12:42 (Reply)
That's what I'm thinking it is... but since the machine is so old, and I have another as my primary dev machine (see the post on begroovy), I'll take my time fixing it. That machine was used mainly as binkyandtheprain, and ripped/stored all my mp3s, it's no rush to get it back up. Other than that, I planned on using the Haiku partition on it for testing. I might yank a PS from an older machine in the basement this weekend, but we'll see how busy I am this weekend.

Stephen B. on 2007-05-31 at 14:51 (Reply)
I hear ya, hardware work does have a tendency to turn into a sinkhole for time. "Oh, I'll just spend half an hour working on the computer" - three hours later...
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