Friday, August 31, 2007

The Death and Resurrection Show - part 1

As you may have gathered if you follow this blog, my laptop died a while ago. This prompted the introduction of Berman into the house, and my recanting of all things anti-Mac. The particulars of this Dell Inspiron 8100's death involved nastier and nastier blue-screens until finally nothing would start up. Keep in mind this is a 6 year old computer, and has had its hard drive, DVD drive and monitor replaced in its lifetime. It seemed like its time to go.

Further investigation into the BIOS showed me that the system memory was off (200 MB. Not a power of 2. Problem.). It seemed, then, that the RAM was the source of the problem. Now, RAM can be removed, replaced and upgraded, so once I downloaded the manual for the Inspiron 8100, I was able to get in there, and figure out what chips I needed.

eBay is my friend. I found two 256MB PC133 144pin SODIMMs for a pretty reasonable price (~$50), and within a few days, them arrive. In the meantime, I'd pulled the damage RAM chip, which proved that that was indeed the problem (booted up fine after, but ridiculous slow; that's 128 MB for ya). With all the anti-static precautions I could muster, I put in the new chips, doubling what the RAM used to be, and bringing my old laptop back to life, for at least a little while longer.

Once I make sure I have all the files on it backed up on the server, I'm considering installing Linux on it (now that I know its so easy). Unfortunately, even with doubled RAM, its still not powerful enough to run the Kubuntu LiveCD at any degree of speed. I was able to get it up and running, proving that at least the major drivers worked, but it was very tedious, and I didn't have the time or inclination to do much further testing. More planned for part 1.5.

What I haven't had the time to mention until now is the untimely death of Larkin, the system on which I just installed Kubuntu. I was using it that morning, turned it off, then when I tried to power-on, nothing. Well, the fans started up, but there was no POST (Power-On Self Test, those first beeps before the screen does anything), no BIOS, no signal of any kind to the monitor. Inspection of the innards of thing showed nothing overtly wrong, like a disconnected cable or charred patch. Talking with the system's builder, I was able to determine that it is likely a problem with the motherboard. Fortunately, this is an easy fix, and comparatively cheap. I just need the time to confirm, and then do the disassembly and rebuild. This is planned as part 2.0 of the Death and Resurrection Show. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to the Killing Joke for the title.

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