Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hardware upgrade during a flu

To anyone who might have been wondering about my absence from irc and web forums, the blog not being updated, and my being unresponsive to email: I ain't dead, but bad flu and a broken computer at home were sure a bad combination.

On the brighter side, I finally understood what people mean when they talk about muscle aches during a flu. On Monday I felt hung over in spite of not having drunk anything on Sunday, and all my muscles hurt, especially the ass and lower back. By Tuesday afternoon I realized that I have spent most of the day in bed without having done anything about the computer hardware upgrade in progress, which in my book doesn't even count as sick, but rather as dead and buried.

But anyway, now I am mostly up from the dead, but tired and sleepy and my nose is bright red. The computer works, though, and I also assembled another one from the extra parts. I've always dreamed of having a computer in the toilet; probably should buy a monitor.

The motherboard that my father has sent me (ECS NForce 570 Slit-A) turned out to be deader than Lenin. You know there is something wrong when the thing doesn't even say "beep" on bootup and rotates the fans at the wrong moments. So I bought a Asus P5K Intel P35, which beeped and generally behaved.

Note to self: next time, before you take the old computer apart, use it to create an installation CD. More particularly, make sure that the installation CD you have just burned actually works. Mine turned out to be corrupted.

I had another installation CD, made during the dark times when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and cavemen beat each other over the heads with AMD Socket 939 motherboards. It was too ancient to recognize my dvd drive. The damn thing had a hell of a nerve, telling me that I don't have a CD drive while sitting in that drive. Ugh.

Finally I got an installation CD, the newest Debian stable (I am not gonna tell you whether I had to sell my soul to the devil for that, or my body to the entire Debian project, or to assemble yet another computer).

The first install (and several others) failed, apparently because Debian is not fond of small partitions nowadays. The disk had 5Gb for /, 15 Gb for /usr and another 5Gb for /var, and the install kept trying to write past the end of the partitions. Once I combined them all into one 25Gb partition the thing started working.

Then it turned out not to have any drivers for the onboard LAN. I have a large collection of PCI Ethernet cards around the place, so I just stuck one in. It utterly and completely refused to work on account of IRQ conflicts. IRQ conflicts are a sort of black magic to me, so I performed all kinds of rain dances known to me, setting kernel options to noapic and noacpi, trying to reassign the irq, etc. Nothing worked. Then I remembered that I have an ancient laptop and a USB stick, and simply downloaded a newer kernel (2.6.22-3). Worked like a charm, the onboard LAN started working, and we lived almost happily ever after. "Almost", because the motherfuckingboard had no PS/2 connector for a mouse, and the separate connector I had was evil. I bought a new USB mouse and everything started working fine, except that it glows bright blue for no apparent reason.

I am usually very suspicious of NVidia video cards (my father sent me one of those too) and their drivers, but this one (GeForce 7300 GT) worked with the nv driver with no trouble at all.

No comments: