December 27, 2003

Murphy Hates Me

Here's something that especially Moore and Ardith should appreciate:

You know how some days things are going well and you can do nothing wrong? Today was one of those days that nothing that I did went right. Well... not everything, just anything related to fixing this one computer.

So Tim's dad has a computer that he uses for work. Thusly, when he got it, he wanted to buy it OEM and thus have a warantee and the whole mess (he owns his own business.) So this is about the summer before my Senior year in HS. Now, 3 years later, it sucks. He tries to play newer games, and the on-board video overheats and kills itself. So he comes to us, complaining about his computer restarting itself and making funny noises (way too much dust in there, starts to make bearings in fans creak.)

This was several days ago... we took things apart, used compressed air to dust them, and went and bought a new PCI video card (no AGP port, onboard video) - an ATI 9000 PCI. That, along with a fresh format/reinstall for the first time in 3 years seemed to fix things. But apparently, there were issues (it's a 3-year-old computer, what do you expect?) So, today we were going to transplant a motherboard, processor and RAM to fix things.

Tim just "happens" (as many good nerds do) to have an Intel board and a corresponding Celeron 2.2 Ghz sitting around for a rainy day overclocking project. And since Tim's dad is willing to buy them off of him, we go off and get a 256 stick of PC2100 RAM to get the stupid thing up and running and decide to wait and see if it needs anything more for the tasks it handles. Bear in mind that up until this point the project has gone fairly well and taken only a moderate amount of time considering the tasks undertaken.

After a bit of other token shopping, Tim and I rolled back to his house and got started on the whole business of rectifying matters. We got about 3 minutes of deconstruction in when I noted, "Tim, you didn't tell me this IBM was an Athlon!" "So?" "It's OEM Tim, $10 says this power supply hasn't got Intel P4 support." What? And thus, after being at Tim's for about 5 minutes, we recessed to go get a new power supply of the modern variety. Closest place was CompUSA, so we ran there and back.

Now, we take old power supply out. It is at this point that I note that the new power supply is about 2 inches longer than the old. My rapid-fire and increasingly-creative cursing soon drew Tim's attention and he joined in with a few choice epithets. Fortunately, Tim had another computer that he had bought off of a friend's family for $20 a month or 6 back that he hadn't bothered to strip down for parts yet. So he ran to get this and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out this particular variety of Compaq OEM case. After opening this case we noted another essential thing: this case had at least .25 inches of dust on everything. If not more. And we had just used the last can of compressed air up on Craig's (tim's dad hates being referred to by "mister") computer...

So off to RadioShack, which is only 5 minutes versus 15 but has compressed air for $6 a can. Tightwad, overpriced bastards and their $6 can of compressed air... But we were now 20 minutes from CompUSA and wanted to get back, so we bought their compressed air and went back. We then dragged the case outside and blasted all of the dust off of it (used up the entire can) and went back in to strip the thing. But when the dust settled, we found another interesting dilemma: this power supply had been special-made for Compaq and was a mirror image of every other power supply, thus the case's rear cut-out had the plug on the wrong side, and it even lined up wrong flipped.

However, at this point rage set in and it was time to stop buying new shit and start making things happen. First up: saber-saw the hole to the size we need it. And finding said saw takes us up to the Finding Nemo interlude with Tim's family, complete with steak dinner. After dinner, we located said saw and carved the hole. After some filing and the arrival of our buddy Dan, it was time to finally start mounting components. So with a bit of coaxing, the power supply went into it's newly-carved position and all was well. Now time to mount the motherboard. Oops, the little aluminum cover won't fit on quite. Just a tad too snug a fit. Not really worth mentioning except that Tim managed to slice his finger open in this process and while he was gone, Dan and I filed the opening a bit and got things working right.

So Tim returns to the motherboard snugly in place, shielding installed, and the power supply still looing pretty. Next goes the RAM and then the video card (note, this mobo has an AGP slot, rendering the special hunt for the good PCI video card that took the most time on the first run a general waste.) Now to power up... ooops. OEM case with special power button wiring. "Damnit, let's test POST anyways..." I exlaimed, grabbing the front of the old case, dragging it over and connecting the power button to get it to go. Well, POST is fine... but it's beginning to look like time for a new case. More cursing ensued from the 3 of us, while I sat and wracked the brain for a solution. And then Dan found it... because this OEM button rack actually just had a power button and two LED's, all on one strip.

And it just so happened that the power switch was the last two pins on one end
of this little connector and we could connect it to the mobo if we did it right. And thus, Dan saved the case.

After that, I finally got things back in order and started bossing people around, espcially after one of my two flunkies tried to tell me that jumpers and master/slave don't matter and they could just connect things up. Prompt smacks and beatings removed their insolence mostly, but it wasn't until I allowed them to see what would happen their way that they listened. And thusly, at 10:30 PM EST, we finally started the installation of WinXP. At this point I am noting 2 things: 1) I am sick and I am getting tired... I should go home 2) if I go home, I can talk to Anna on IM. Thus, I was driven home by the crew (the new machine is good, but the cd drive for the moment is a 4x burner b/c tim is too lazy to pull a good optical drive from his computer for the job) while they waited for the install to finish. Oh, it is now nearly 3AM EST and word has it that things still aren't done.

The sad thing is usually things go much better than this. Granted, I am the resident software specialist (if you can make cracked copies of shit work, you can make just about anything work) and not there for the software... but this day has just been cursed. Little to nothing went right, from the beginning of physical installation through to the end of software install. It was just amazing. I
guess everyone has one of those days sooner or later.

Morals of the story:
1) Avoid factory-built systems
2) Custom-built OEM shit sucks
3) Know what you're getting into at the start and research this
4) Saber saws fix a lot

Disturbed Link of the Day: Online Cemetary
Days Since I Saw Anna: 10

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at December 27, 2003 01:20 AM