23 April, 2010

That machine, part two

Yes, that one

About a week before, I'd received a computer to analyse. It had ... issues. After typing up the article, I tried installing SP2 again, and got a warning that WGA had not been installed on the machine. When I installed WGA, and tried to reinstall SP2, I got a warning that the version of Windows that had been installed, got installed with a Volume Licensing Key that had been subsequently de-allocated (rendering it invalid). As a result, the machine no longer had a Windows install that could have any other updates applied to it, if those updates depended upon WGA. I duly rang owner, and suggested that they either get themselves a valid Windows license and CDROM, or consider the purchase of a new machine. They got back to me, and told me I could (effectively) keep the machine, though they did take the monitor back.

So, that was the end of the line for that install of Windows XP Pro. I nuked the install, copied my wife's copy of Kubuntu to the hard drive, stuck it back inside the machine, and added another memory stick for good measure. Powered it up, and struck the first problem. The machine wouldn't accept more than 512Mb on the motherboard. So, haul out the added memory, powered back up, and down, and up several times while I tried getting the hard drive grubbed, before finally growing a clue and hauling out my Ubuntu 9.04 CD, putting the drive into my main machine, booting the CD, running "Reinstall grub" and so on. Then I pulled out the drive, rinse repeat, into the Compaq. Booted, but was really really slow. I couldn't understand this, because it was a 1.3GHz Celeron, so it should have been faster than my main computer. Also, network was really slow, and only 30% of the packets were getting through. Rapidly realising that the machine wasn't a working one, I put wife's drives back into her original machine, and left her to it, feeling rather cheesed off that my attempt to help out hadn't gone at all well.

Thinking on the problem

Next day, I hauled the hard drive back out, stuck it back in fatty, copied my Windows XP Home installation (which I'd installed less than three days before) over to the drive using gparted (nice tool, by the way), and did the futzing around required to boot Windows. Except it only got so far before stopping. Thinking that it was just Windows playing silly with me, I booted it up again, and got the same reaction... it would only get so far, and then stop. Giving up on that for a moment, I flipped the machine over to boot Linux, and did a speed test on the drive. Unusually, I got some seriously divergent results, from 8Mb per second up to 17Mb per second. I decided to eliminate the cabling, and tested the other three drives, which all varied by less than 0.1%. So, I suspect that not only was the OS giving trouble, but so was the hard disk. I've uhm, retired it.

I think what I'll do with the machine finally, is put a NetBSD drive back into the Compaq computer—which only takes one drive anyhow—and simply use it as a networked NetBSD. I don't know what else to do with a machine with Intel 815 graphics, 512Mb maximum memory, room only for one drive, and a proprietary CDROM which I don't have. So the machine doesn't show much chance for expandability. Ah well, so much for trying to help someone else out—but at least this time I got something for my troubles.

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