up to my elbows in geekery

Posted on Wednesday 23 May 2007

sense :: taste // peanut butter rave cake

wait i'll fix it

A couple of weeks ago, my beloved Draco bit the bullet. Draco had been my home theatre box, shoutcast server, file server, and backup machine since…well. A long time. It’s been years since Draco was my main computer, probably my first outside of the cruddy old Dell Optiplex GX110 that I picked up while I was in college for a steal. I painted the case with black sprawypaint myself when I decided that I wanted a black computer, after a heart to heart with my old roomie Rob about how you should live your dreams now, live that life you see inside your head, especially if even the smallest things are within reach. I wanted a black computer, and wanted a cool desk with sleek looking peripherals. I didn’t have the dough to build a new machine, but I did have the cash for a can of black spray paint (which I still own) and the time to paint the case myself. So, just like we discussed, I made it happen. Live the life you create inside your head.

So Draco finally bit the bullet. It was a long time coming, he was an old man when he was new, sporting an AMD Athlon Thunderbird 1GHz processor with 768MB of RAM in it. It wasn’t the most powerful box in the house, but it was definitely the most reliable. Even old Polaris, my old main computer before I built Ankaa, had her pouty bouts. So Draco was all but dead, and I thought at first it was the video card, but using VNC to get to the box yielded no success, and he wouldn’t boot when restarted. Bad news. So I brought him upstairs and waited until I had time to open him up and try to troubleshoot the problem. Last weekend, last Friday specifically, before I headed up to PA to visit my parents. So I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed my screwdriver, turned on my task light, and went to work. Thinking the problem was with the motherboard, my plan was to remove the hard drives and mount them into Polaris, who had been sitting idle as my test machine. I did that, and transplanted the soundcard with all the right ports for recording my mixes and the video card with TV-out so I could play video on the twin 250GB hard drives in the machine on the TV in the living room. After transplanting all of the parts, suddenly Polaris wouldn’t boot. I knew the hard drives were good, so my suspicions went back to the original questionable component: the video card. I pulled it out, and lo and behold, Polaris booted.

So it was the video card the whole time. I felt kind of silly, because had I just swapped out the video card for another with TV out (I have tons of them around the house – video cards with and without TV out) in Draco in the first place, I might not have had the problem to begin with. Even so, it was an upgrade – Polaris is sporting an Athlon XP 3200+ overclocked to 2.8GHz and a full 1GB of RAM. Definitely an improvement over Draco, which is why I built her. New problem, though. The power supply in Polaris was whining up a storm – I needed more juice for this transplant. Draco’s power supply would work just fine- it was a full 150W more powerful than the one in Polaris; so I transplanted it. Draco’s looking like an empty husk at this point – no PCI cards, no hard drives, no power supply, no RAM, nothing.

Then I had a realization.

What did I need this husk for? Sure, I could transplant a new motherboard into Draco, in fact, I have one. I could install new RAM, a new processor (I have a pair of spare AMD Athlon Thunderbirds, at 900MHz and 1GHz), but what would I do with Draco? Sure, I could do lots of things – use him as a test machine, install Linux, try out other operating systems, try to hack into him, test my know-how and use him as a sandbox for other cool projects, but I actually won an old (but not as old as Draco) Dell in a surplus lottery at my old job that’s more suited as a test machine and sandbox. So what would I do with Draco? Or any of the other aging cases I have? I just don’t have the time – or the up-to-date electrical wiring in the house – to play with all of those computers without causing a fire, and it won’t be a while until I move somewhere with the wiring that could make that test lab a reality (by then, I’ll want newer gear anyway). So, I found a new home for them, minus the useful parts, of course.

All in all, Draco is now Polaris, Polaris is my home theatre box, shoutcast server, and all the rest, without so much as a reinstall of Windows or even a driver update – I slapped the hard drives into the new case and Polaris fired right up. It’s odd though, this is the first time I’ve had a chance in a while to really roll up my sleeves and get int the nitty gritty, swapping out components and cards, power supplies and the rest, for a long time. I did some of it at my old job, but a lot of those repairs wound up having to be serviced offsite or by the manufacturer just for protocol’s sake. It was good to get back into it, makes me wonder when I should think about building yet another new machine.

Add into this that I just ordered last week and installed over the weekend a 1GB RAM upgrade for Io, my MacBook pro, and the 2GB RAM kit that I bought for Ankaa (and installed yesterday), and you can tell I’ve been geekalicious lately. It’s actually rather refreshing.

I could get back to being used to this. I mean, I don’t get to get hands on at the office terribly often, but it’s fun when I have the chance. And admittedly, I’d rather it be at home than anywhere else. My dad used to explain to me that as soon as I found a job that didn’t require me to be super-geeky at the office, I’d enjoy it more at home, and he’s absolutely right.

Now, if only I could find a copy of Vista to install on my test machine.

1 Comment for 'up to my elbows in geekery'

    June 3, 2007 | 3:58 am

    […] « up to my elbows in geekery firing on all cylinders […]

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