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Good Weekend? June 26, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in computers.

Did everyone have a good weekend? Me? Glad you asked. No.

Well, there were definitely some good things that happened this weekend. Had a lot of fun at Jerry’s 40th birthday party. But my big plans this weekend were to get my students going on some new projects, try out a new toy, and get the picture display computer up and running.

That last one should have been the easiest. But, hey, it is a computer. I should have known. I was up until 5:30 on Saturday morning fighting with it, and again to 2:30 am on Sunday morning. At what point should I have chucked it and just gotten a new computer? At what point should I have paid attention to everything else that is on my plate? And, finally, don’t I need to take the weekend to rest?

You want gory details? This piece of crap is a Shuttle ST20G5 – an AMD x64. I think it is about 2 years old. After my first Shuttle box, many years ago, it was a huge disappointment. When I first got it the 64-bit drivers were a mess and caused constant crashes. Once I got it up in 32 bit mode it was relatively quiet except for one annoying thing: I could never turn it off. If I did, I couldn’t turn it back on! I think the only way to turn it back on was to unplug it, disconnect the internal drives, reset the bios, and pray. Once installed, I managed to survive this way for 2 years. I never shut the computer off. I’d put it into hibernation/sleep – which was fine – but never shut it off. My friend Toby has a similar model and has the same problem – though he doesn’t have to go as far as resetting the BIOS or disconnecting internal drives.

Well, after almost 7 years, the computer that was running the picture display in our living room gave out (my first Shuttle), so my office machine, this Shuttle, was to get moved. That meant turning it off… Of course, it has been two years so I’d totally forgotten the pain. Oh, the pain. It is just a bit of inanimate electronics. I can beat it! We wrestled late into the night. I’d get it to boot, and each time I’d think I’d gotten its number: the black magic sequence of things to get it to start-up. Each time it would fool me. I finally got so frustrated that I gave up trying to figure out a way of getting it restarted. I just took any boot time I could get to install.

Of course, after it was up and ready, I had to shut it down to move it into the pantry where it will set. Getting it to start! Well, that was when I gave up at 2:30 am last night. This evening, I thought I’d give it another quick try before giving up on it as junk. Foom! It started. I will not turn it off for another two years.

BTW, I installed the Windows VISTA beta 2 on it. My wife, a big Mac fan, looked at it and said “Hey – looks like a Mac!” She’s cute, isn’t she? Actually, its interface does look a bit more like Mac now, what with windows fading in and out. It is clearly a still a beta (the GUI crashes, but the OS itself hasn’t crashed once yet). Since I’m not going to install it on one of the computers I use daily yet, I won’t really be exploring it. But the media interface is nice.

And it is cool to have pictures in our living room again after a 2 month hiatus. With my luck there will be a power outage tomorrow.



1. Matt B. - June 26, 2006

This might be a long shot, but are the hard drives in the machine set to cable select on the jumpers? If so, maybe setting them to master/slave would help… or vice versa.

Just an idea.

2. gordonwatts - June 27, 2006

They are serial ATA drives, so I hope that isn’t a problem! But at this point I’m so frustrated I’d try anything. Except that would mean turning off the machine… No way that is happening on purpose!

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