Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back from summer holidays

Every time I build a new computer or I rebuild and old one I run into trouble. This time I transfer my old computer to one of my children and I bought a new ASUS Pundit-R with the cheapest Celeron I could find (a 2.4GHz one).

Because my kid wanted to play games I replaced the ATI Rage 128 16MB RAM with a NVIDIA 440MX 64MB RAM I had lying on the drawer. However, I needed to get a new fan before as the old one on the card was making a lot of noise. Once the installation blues was over and the kid started playing he came back telling me that the system was freezing. A quick check-up showed the new fan was not properly fitted, so I removed the card and I re-attached the new fan (with funny LED's by the way). Minutes later, same problem. Ok, over time I've developed the attitude that the best brand of hardware is "brand-new". I was not 100% sure the card was ok so I went to the shop and I bought a non-NVIDIA graphics card. This time it was an ATI Radeon 9250 128MB RAM and it did the job. Since then the system is working non-stop.

Just getting my old harddrive with SuSE 9.3 Linux transferred from the old AMD Athlon-based computer to the new ASUS Pundit was a nightmare. The problem lay in the drivers that need to be loaded on startup. The fact that the grub loader did not understand the keys of Genius SlimPro USB keyboard was not helping at all either. The solution (that did not come as easily as it may sound) was to boot-up from a CD-ROM (Knoppix is always handy) and to change the modules that were loaded before mounting the root filesystem. By the way, do not forget to recreate the initial ramdisk (initrd). To make things worse, the brand new LG DVD-RW 16x that came with the system did not work properly so my attempt to boot-up the system from a Knoppix CD-ROM did fail until I replaced that defective unit (and I thought I was buying quality hardware ...).

However, this was only the beginning of my Pundit blues: Shortly after having my system booting up happily in the new box I discovered the system was freezing to a hardware reset ocassionally. I thought it could be a thermal problem so I ran the system with the fan at maximum speed (this machine is noisy as hell with this settings). It did not help.

RAM memory is my usual suspect whenever a new system does not work properly and memtest86 is a small and free program that some Linux distros include in their boot disks. Memtest86 is just a program that runs over you system without any OS, so it loads fast and it checks your RAM memory. After some minutes of running the program nothing showed up, but I went for lunch and when I returned a lot of red lines indicated memory errors. Ok, time to get that Kingston RAM replaced. This time I got a no-name replacement for my RAM and this time it passes the memory test with flying colors.

I have decided to get back to a PS/2 keyboard for my system as I've learned it works all the time while that Genius USB one was not (however it worked like a charm once the system booted up).

I'm always afraid to replace a working computer with a new one as problems happen quite often. I guess one conclusion is that QA is moving from the factory to the customer home.

All in all, it was not ASUS fault and I can recomend this small Pundit box.


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