Saturday, September 26, 2009

The DeanBear Chronicles - September 26, 2009

Welcome back to The DeanBear Chronicles. It's been a while, so let's jump right into it...




Hardware Follies – Fall 2009 – NSFW

Well, I am now back on the air with my YouTube Channel, and it’s been a struggle. The main reason?


My Gateway system finally shit the bed. Bye bye motherboard. The system had been dicey at best, given that it was only a 1.5 Ghz system, and had an IBM DeathStar (aka DeskStar) hard drive. (People kept saying avoid IBM and Hitachi hard drives, and they were right.) So basically I had to fall back on my old CyberPower Athlon XP 2000+ system to get back online, but that wasn’t much better. Random crashes kept pissing me off, and bringing video into the system was a major crapshoot. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it came from an unlikely source.

A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I stopped at the Salvation Army store on my way to work. I naturally headed to the electronics section to see if there was anything that would pique my interest. There was. An IBM (now Lenovo) ThinkCentre. I cracked it open to see what was in it. It was pretty basic, 512 MB of RAM, CD drive, onboard video, audio, and Ethernet, floppy, and no hard drive. I figured I could scavenge parts from it. It was only 15 dollars. So in the TrailBlazer it went, and I would mess with it when I got home from work.

The next day, I got home and got it out of the TrailBlazer, and brought it into my office. Just for shits and giggles, I hooked it up and checked to see if it would power up. Sure enough, it did. I got a very nice surprise out of it…it has a Pentium 4 2.66 GHz CPU! (I knew it had a P4, but I didn’t know how fast it was.) So I went online and looked up the specs of the system. (IBM makes it easy, they put the model number on a small sticker on the front of the system.) Sure enough, I found that I had a smokin’ system. But I wasn’t sure that it would hold up, so I had to test it. I have old hard drives all over the place, so I popped one into it (an 8 Gb Samsung that I had kicking around.) An install of Win2K to see if it would work, and sure enough, it did. Now it was “shits and giggles” time again, so I downloaded the latest distro of Ubuntu Linux (the Kubuntu variant, because I like the K desktop,) burned the image to a CD, and did an install.

I was pretty fuckin’ impressed. Kubuntu installed pretty easily. It found all the hardware and installed the relevant drivers, and it worked pretty fuckin’ good. But I had bigger plans for this at this point.

For this to work, I needed to do some upgrades at this point. Windows XP was a given at this point. The other was more memory, even though XP can run on 64Mb of memory. A bigger hard disk is a must (you can never have enough hard drive space.) Video? I have an nVidia GeForce FX 5500 with 256Mb of DDR memory. Very fast and very slick. Audio? SoundBlaster Audigy ZS2. (The sound card is essential because it has an IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) port so I can bring video in using my Canon MiniDV camera, not to mention that I could set up my system for Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.) USB 2.0 ports? Not a problem, it has 6 of them built in (four on the backplane, two on the front plus two legacy USB 1.0 ports on the backplane.) Optical drive? I have a Sony DVD burner that I borrowed from our ex-roomie (and she is bothering me to return, which I will when I get the double-layer, Lightscribe DVD burner that I want.)

First, the hard drive issue. I went to the Regional Market Sunday flea market, because I know of a couple of vendors who have components that I need. (I got the Audigy and GeForce cards there.) The vendor that I got the GeForce card from has a lot of hard drives. So I bought a 320Gb Western Digital and a 250Gb Samsung from him. Had a couple of surprises when I got home. First, the WD was a Serial ATA drive. Not a problem, the computer has two SATA connections on the motherboard, plus the corresponding power connects. The problem is I DIDN’T HAVE A SATA DRIVE CABLE! (Damnit.) So I put the Samsung in and the goddamn thing didn’t work. The fuckin’ thing wouldn’t be recognized by the IBM BIOS, and it just clicked when I powered up. Okay. Shit happens, I bought a bum drive. So I stopped at that point, put the Ubuntu drive back in, and called it a day.

The next day, at work, I was talking with Scotty, our maintenance man (and who happens to be a bigger computer geek than I am) and told him about the problems. He said that he had some SATA cables kicking around at home, and would bring a couple in. He forgot them the next day, but he brought them in the day after. When I asked him how much he wanted for them, he said forget it. (What a guy!)

Okay, that problem was solved, so once I got home, being the geek that I am, I had to try it out. So out came the Ubuntu drive and the SATA drive went in. Power and interface cable installed, and I was ready to see what I had wrought. Sure enough, the BIOS saw the drive, and it booted. (There was a previous install of XP on the drive, which had to go.) At this point, I was pretty stoked, so out came the XP install disk, and I proceeded to reformat the WD drive and do an XP install. Let me tell you, it TAKES FUCKIN’ FOREVER TO FORMAT A 320GB DRIVE! But once that was done, the install went without a hitch. Now the trick was to get it to hook up to the net. A quick visit to Lenovo’s website, and I had the on-board LAN driver downloaded to a flash drive. Now the fun began. After doing the LAN driver install, it was time to update XP. 53 fuckin’ updates. So I just let Windows do it’s thing, and let it install everything that it needed.

At this point, I was going to hold off on moving all the components over until Friday morning, (the only thing that I installed was my GeForce 2 32Mb video card, because the onboard video just doesn’t cut it.)

Friday rolls around, and I ready to get fuckin’ serious. First off, installing the applications that I need. Firefox (I fuckin’ hate Internet Explorer,) the free version of AVG Anti-Virus (always a good thing,) and Windows Defender (having an active anti-spyware program is also a good thing.) Now that I have the core protection, it’s time to get the hardware in. First up, yank the 512Mb of memory that is in the system and put in the 1Gb memory module from my Cyberpower system, and put the 512 in the Cyberpower (I have plans for it.) Next, swap the GeForce cards. Then pull the Audigy card and put it in the ThinkCentre. The Cyberpower is going to use the onboard AC’97 sound since I don’t plan on doing anything heavy with it. Finally, swap over the DVD and CD drives, and I am all set to go.

Now comes the heavy lifting. Power all my shit down, start unplugging everything, and move all my shit. Move the iMac from the stand where I have it to the metal keyboard drawer, move the 17 inch CRT over to the printer stand that I use as a second computer desk (with the under desk keyboard drawer.) Move the stand over a bit so I can fit the Cyberpower’s tower next to it. Hook up the Acer keyboard, GE optical mouse, Altec Lansing ACS90 speakers, and the LAN cable to it. Power up, edit the BIOS settings and test, and I am back online.

Now the hard part…putting the ThinkCentre on my normal computer desk…the only bitch is hooking all the cabling back up, but I accomplish that is short order. Now comes the real acid test…power up and hope for the best.

SUCCESS! The FX 5000 was recognized right off, all the hardware works! Now I am at the point where I finally have the system that I have always wanted. Fast enough to run all the apps that I use (Sony Vegas, Nero 9, Microsoft Office) but not expensive. Installed all my software that I needed, the games that I like to play.

Now that I have a really decent system, one of the first things that I did was load in some video that I shot for my YouTube channel and start editing. Sure enough, everything worked out for the better.

One of the final things that I had to do was recover all my data from when the Gateway shit the bed. So into the IBM went the 120Gb DeathStar that I had, and I decided to try something. Nero 9 has a shitload of tools that are installed (I bought it maily for that reason.) One of them is called Nero Rescue. I thought that it might help and sure as hell it did! I was able to recover all my photos, video, and Vegas templates. So that was a load off my mind. I was so scared that I had lost pretty much everything, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it ain’t an oncoming train.

The DeanBear Chronicles - Episode 4: Stream Of Consciousness In The Kitchen

Well, this is what I wanted to do, but since all my hardware was dicey at the time when I taped it, it isn’t until now that I was able to post it to my YouTube channel. I’m not going to say much about it, I’m just going to let you judge it for yourself.

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