the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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Does not compute

I've had "update LJ/DW" on my to-do list since the start of July, but I am both busy and lazy.

I think the last time I posted about it here, the plan was for me to retire on the first of September, so by that schedule I would have been in my pre-retirement vacation time by now.

After much wheedling, negotiating and shameless begging, my director convinced me to stay until the end of the year. On the one hand it would have been nice to start my retirement while it was still summer, but there is a benefit to completing a full year. Even if I don't (and I won't) get a decent bonus this year, the pay raise I got at the start will make this my highest-paid year with the company, and will have a direct impact on my pension (which is based on best-five years).

[personal profile] atara's computer blew up the day before her birthday. When I say it blew up, what I mean is that it went to sleep and never woke up. A mushroom cloud of blue smoke out the top would have been a more satisfying way for it to end, but I guess it decided it was time. That computer had a spotty start, and a bit of mid-life trouble as well, so I am surprised that it lasted for as many years as it did. When I was building it, I let some of the blue smoke out of the motherboard when I accidentally plugged her CPU cooler into one of the USB receptacles (seriously guys, why would you make the plugs the same?). Fortunately she had enough working USB plugs remaining for all external ports, and other than that one presumably no longer working, the machine seemed otherwise fine (other than smelling bad for the first week or so).

Her water pump malfunctioned a couple of weeks shy of its warranty period. Her machine had begun behaving erratically, and occasionally blue-screening for no reason. All of her fans were working, and the water cooler was clearly running, but the behaviour really gave the vibe of a CPU that was overheating. I had her install a program to display the core temperatures, and then I immediately shut off the computer because the CPU's temperature gauge was cranked up to 11. I removed the cooler, cleaned off all the old thermal grease (it looked fine to me) and reapplied a fresh layer. When we fired it back up, the water pump audibly fired up, and the computer overheated again the moment she tried to do anything that stressed it.

We took it in for repairs, and the tech immediately identified that the pump had gone bad based on the sound. Fortunately it still had a few days left on its warranty period, so he replaced it with the closest match they had in stock and it worked fine ever after.

I suspect that my questionable build job, and the overheating took their toll on the machine. The day before her birthday, it refused to wake up from sleep. The status number that the motherboard displayed suggested that it was a memory issue, but no amount of removing/replacing/rearranging the sticks had any effect. The computer simply got itself into a cycle of power-up-down-up-down, displaying the same error most of the time. A few on-line resources suggested that under powering the motherboard could cause that error as well, so we got a new power supply and tried that, but other than half-booting into Windows before blue-screening and lapsing back into the power up-down-up cycle, we saw no appreciable difference.

My suspicion is that the CPU went bad after enduring abuse over the years.

We hadn't really planned on getting [personal profile] atara anything fancy for her birthday, but in the end she got a new computer for her birthday. We drove down to our favourite computer repository, ordered all of the parts, and then paid them to assemble it for us.

And then because I am not one to leave well-enough alone, I decided that I maybe it was time to break my own computer.

The first thing I did was scavenge the memory out of [personal profile] atara's old computer. It won't work in her new one, but it was compatible with mine. It's not the same brand as the memory that I have, but it's the same style and clock speed, so I assumed it would probably work. It did. I figured that while I was doing that, I should probably check on a few other computer issues. I checked the state of all my drivers, removed a few pointless things from the auto-start list, and did some general clean-up. Finally I checked the version of my BIOS...

... and discovered that it was still running on the original version that came with the motherboard back in 2012. I checked with ASUS and discovered that there had been a few dozen revisions over the next couple of years to address a number of issues. I am always a bit nervous about flashing the BIOS, but I've never had it go wrong so I decided to play the odds. I downloaded the most recent stable version, copied it to a USB stick, booted up into the BIOS and followed the instructions from there.

They had repeated warnings as I went along. "Are you sure you want to do this?" "Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?" -- Yes, it actually did that. Naturally I said "Yes" to all prompts, and then things went south from there. It spent a couple of minutes copying up the new BIOS from the USB and then restarted.

That is, it tried to restart, but what it did was come up with a blank screen and sit there with no activity. No lights, no fans, no activity. I left it for a minute or two until I was pretty sure it was genuinely not responding and then I did a forced re-start. Again, it just sat there with no activity. I wondered if maybe it was having a problem with the default monitor, so I swapped plugs with no effect.

On a whim, I powered it down and then unplugged it from the power for a few seconds. When I plugged it back in, it started the power-up process and then finally displayed a message on the main monitor that it was now flashing the BIOS, and that I was strongly advised not to shut it off during that process. I guess a hard power cycle was what it had needed all along.

The fact that I am typing this from that computer lets you know that I got it working again. In fact, at the moment it's working like new. Maybe it's just my imagination, but between the added memory and the new BIOS, it seems more responsive than ever.
Tags: computer
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