Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can you hear me now?

Alright, so I got the sound working (check 1-2-3) and the video working alright so that leaves one piece to try and fix; the modem.

As mentioned before, the modem appearted to be stuck in the open position which makes a mess of things.

Swapping out the modem with an unidentified modem from some other machine I could only hope the system could figure out what it is better than me.

During the bootup it ran through hardware detection like it should and no big surprise it didn't instinctively find the drivers for it. Not knowing what make of the modem it is, let alone the model, tried to install it as a generic modem. The system seemed to take that and required a reboot.

To check the modem I switched the dial-up internet connections to the new modem and fired it up. Unfortunately it did not work.

I don't know if it is a hardware problem with the actual modem or if it is a driver issue. I know the internet connection settings are working properly because after a while I plugged in the USRobotics external 56k modem and have been using that to connect to the internet since.


I have to admit I know NOTHING about networking! I think I want a peer-to-peer connection between the Workstation and the Desktop.

I don't even know if I have a usable crossover network cable! I wonder if this will be any easier in Linux than Windows?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Got Video?

Finally was able to get the video drivers necessary. With research and a healthy dose of Google I finally found a driver for the S3 Trio 3D/2x, an older video card that even the manufacturer says is "obsolete" and doesn't provide any support or drivers for this video card and most of the drivers found are for Windows98 and earlier.

I kept looking and eventually found a listing at a for driver,, which I downloaded and unzipped. Going into My Computer's Hardware Manager I updated the drivers pointing them into the unzipped folder and reboot.

After reboot, I went into the display properties and was very happy to find a full range of screen sizes and up to 24bit color which sure beats 16 colors (not 16bit... 16 colors)!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Video and Sound

The three things not working before was
  1. video card
  2. modem
  3. sound
At least one out of the three is working.

Going to Dell's Driver Download page for the Dimension 4100 was able to pull up the Analog Devices AD1885 Integrated Audio drivers.

Once installed it still didn't work, until I (e-hem...) turned the volume on the speakers up to an audible level. At least it is working!

The modem should be easily fixed with switching out with another modem from an older, weaker system (166MHz.. not a pretty sight). Modem technology, while it has changed, hasn't changed all THAT much and I don't suspect it will anymore with the advent of Broadband connections.

In the meantime I have plugged and external USRobotics modem in which is working out for now. At least I can get online for downloading drivers and programs directly to the system.

Originally I did not want to be spending so much time with Windows since the system is slated for a Linux life. At work right now we are working on a remote-access system at work, and this may require Windows for the programs. If it works with Linux, then great!

That leaves the video card (and the headache). Turns out I was looking for the wrong drivers for the card.

Pulling the physical card out of the machine was the only way to figure out what kind it is, which is an S3 Trio 3D/2x, a card that is labeled as "obsolete" by the maker! And if that isn't enough, they don't even offer drivers for them even for older systems! This I find very annoying. (**editorial note : not everybody is on the Microsoft "new OS = new compuer" purchase plan**)

Afer putting it back together, the system was not booting and no video was displaying until I reseated the Video card. Before that I was assualted with a series of beeps during bootup (long-short-short)

I feared I shorted out the video card. I do not want to spend any more money than necessary to get this system up and running. Otherwise I would just buy brand-spanking new and not worry about any of this (until Longhorn comes out.. but that's another story).

A quick look on Google provides some links to Windows 9x drivers, but nothing for 2000 or XP. Seems a list of people looking for this just like me. I'm beginning to wonder if any of the Linux distros will detect it properly or will this be an issue there as well.

On a fun, positive note though I was able to install the Nero software which came with the DVD burner and in further inspection discovered I got a CD-RW/DVD-RW when I thought I got just a DVD-RW! Very handy, considering the CD burner in the Sony has not been working.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Windows 2000

Like a kid with a new toy, I just couldn't leave the desktop computer alone, with it's virgin hard drive and greater ram and clock speed than the Sony.

With boot up I realized that there was no media in the CD-Rom which leads me to believe that those beeps I heard in the morning were from the system going from floppy.. to media... to hard drive and finding nothing bootable. Once I pushed in the Windows98 recovery floppy (it was there and I was feeling lazy) it booted up with no problems.

Time to install Windows2000.

Booting up with the CD in the drive, everything looked fine until it tried to scan the hard drive and found none! None?!? It showed up in the bios when in the listing for Primary and Secondary Master/Slave as a Primary master.

Then I noticed that the Primary master was set as CD-Rom from when I was having problems getting the system to boot the first time. Changing it back and retrying it, the process detected the hard drive without any problems. Then comes up to the Partition options.

I wanted to set aside 20GB for Windows and the other 60GB for the Linux and files.

I was able to select the whole disk, but it did not let me change how big it was in any way. I tried a couple times thinking maybe it is the keyboard, but everything else with the keyboard worked so that wasn't the culprit.

Deciding to let the Linux distro fix the partitions since Linux is usually more friendly about sharing a PC with another OS (unlike self-centered Windows!).

I let it convert the entire 80GB hard drive to NTFS and install Windows2000 Professional. Everything went very smooth and straight forward. It actually took less time than I expected but family duties kept me from knowing exactly when it was complete.

So Windows2000 is up and running ... mostly. Seems the drivers need to be updated/installed:

  • Video doesn't go further than 800x600 and 16 bit colors
    ATI 32MB Radeon

  • Nothing is coming out of the sound
    ADI 198X Integrated Audio?

  • Modem seems to be stuck in "on"
    I do have another one I'm gonig to swap out

I am looking at Dell's site to see about downloading the drivers in hopes that this works.

The system does read my USB flash drive so I have been able to download from the Sony, put it on the USB drive, switch it over to the Dell and install.

My goal here is to get the Dell running a relatively basic system. I want Windows2000 to be able to work from home (handy with Connecticut winters). I am thinking about getting a laptop in the near future (this year or next) for the "adults", at which point that becomes my primary remote-working system

Espeically if I get it wirelessly hooked up so I can work in the bathroom (hey! how many of YOU do your best thinking in the bathroom?!)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hardware setup

[ Hardware ]

The purpose of this project is to take the family's existing computer system and reworking it so as to provide modern, stable systems for all memebers of the family to use.

There are 2 CPUs; a five year old Sony Vaio desktop and a recently acquired Dell Dimension 4100, both Pentium IIIs.

The Dell is the more powerful computer and despite initial ideas of hoarding the more powerful one for myself and letting the family use the Sony, I decided I was going to provide the more powerful one for the family and utilize the sole-control capabilities of the Sony for testing, development and server settings.

Throughout this blog I will use “workstation” to denote the Sony since I will be using it for more technical applications and uses, and the Dell “desktop” will be geared more toward general day-to-day use.

To make things somewhat easier, I am using a KVM switch to eliminate redundant keyboards, mice (meese?) and monitor. Phone lines are going to be passed through the Sony “workstation” and into the Dell “desktop” because I haven’t had a problem with signals going through the Sony.

The first step in this project is getting the hardware which I was surprised to have gotten so quickly but am happy to get them none-the-less.

Yesterday I managed to get the RAM, Hard Drive and DVD-RW drive which I installed in the Dell (somewhat so I don’t have to worry about anybody getting their hands on them or losing them on me).

The Dell had a 2 connection cable for the Media drives, and a 2 connection cable for the Hard Drives. So I plugged everything in and tried that out. I wanted to just make sure it would boot up and then call it a night since it was getting late (and I have to get up around 5:45am to get ready for work).

I put a live CD into each of the disk drives figuring if either of them boots up I’d be able to tell which one was successful. On the bootup it asked for a boot disk to be put in the A: over and over. It wasn’t even getting to the media drives.

So I rebooted and went into the bios setup to make sure it saw all of the ram, and that the bootup sequence was working. I checked that power was making it to each of the drives but it still wouldn’t boot. I even tried removing the floppy drive from the boot sequence, but I still got the same error.

I was, however, able to put a Windows98 rescue floppy in and have it boot. It allowed me to dir the floppy, and the files it put on the hard drive but nothing else. That should have been one (of many) clues that the media drives were the culprit.

I want on back-and-forth for a while until I was pulled away for family duties. While holding my daughter in the bathroom so that we are breathing steam to help alleviate the Croup cough she’s acquired recently, it came to me.

I figured the issue was with the 2 media drives and their master/slave settings. Now I’m not sure if the master and slave settings on the back of the media drives have to match the cable, where one connection is labeled 1 and the other 2, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

I also took this time to switch the hard drive’s and the media drive’s cable connection on the motherboard. During a previous time of running a LiveCD on the Dell system I remember being surprised to find the hard drive was located at /dev/hdc instead of ../hda. So by switching them I hope to put the hard drive(s) on …/hda and the media drives on ../hdc as I would expect them.

On the first reboot, I went into the bios and was happy to see all of the drives showing up, and in their proper locations; hard drive as primary master, CD-Rom as secondary master and DVD burner as secondary slave.

With a little prayer, I booted up and ‘lo and behold it booted up to DSL (Damn Small Linux)! Woo Hoo! Knoppix never worked before ( I think it’s a bad CD) but I figured I would give it a try anyway. No change, doesn’t work.

I went to bed after midnight mostly happy. I should have let well enough alone though.

This morning I figured what the heck, I would boot it up just to see it boot. Well nothing came up on the screen, not even the basic boot text. It also didn’t sound like the LiveCD was booting either, only a beep code which I will have to look up later. I hope it is just the KVM switch or the monitor connector is loose. Either way, though, I didn’t have the time to check it out so I made sure the KVM was set for the Sony (the current family computer) and shut down to go get ready for work.

System InformationSony
Amount of Ram
(both systems maxed out)
256 MB512MB
OS-Hard Drive20GB80GB
USB ports2 USB 1.12 USB 1.1
Firewire (400)1 of each type of connectorNone
>Networking1 winmodem ~1 NIC1 modem ^2 NICs
Writable MediaCD-RW **DVD-RW
ROM MediaDVD **CD-Rom

** denotes system is currently not working
^ denotes need to swap out because there seems to be an error
~ denotes does not work in Linux without significant time and tweaking

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


This is just the beginning of a possible future "column" of sorts, reflecting the experiences of trying to move from a Windows- based home PC system to a Linux-based on. The interesting part will be the different sides of the story, from the "new user" point of view from my wife, to my "lightly-experienced" point of view from myself in not only setting up but maintaining the system and handling issues, questions and comments as they come up.

This could be interesting and if successful will move us from proprietary to open source. If it fails then I will be forced to install whatever Windows software is current at the time.

Wish me luck.