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

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