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Computer #8a (Son of Franken-Powerspec-stein)


Computer #8a was a mongrel "Frankenstein" machine built using the old motherboard, processor, memory, and power supply from the cannibalized Computer #7. It won't be used as a workstation, it will be used as a replacement for "Buster," the Ballot Box house web server that hosts the BBWW (Ballot Box Wide Web) web site, the motion-detection webcam recording software, the basement temperature sensor monitoring software, and the house music library.

For this "phoenix" (from the ashes) creation, I bought an MSi S-2801BS Mid Tower ATX Computer Case from Microcenter for $17, installed the old 430 Watt power supply and the old Intel DG965WH motherboard with a 2.4 GHz Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad Processor and 4 GB of DDR2 memory from the cannibalized E360, installed an old EIDE CD/DVD-R-RW drive, and a Topower EZ-Rack for Internal SATA Drives (Model TOP-MRA200B).

During software installation for Computer #8 I discovered that I had forgotten to deactivate my Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 license on Computer #7 so that I could reactivate it on Computer #8, so I had an incentive to "re-animate" the spirit of the old Computer #7 to accomplish the forgotten deactivation. That meant firing up the two old 500 GB drives in a RAID-0 configuration one last time, while connected to the internet, to deactivate my copy of Dreamweaver.

The MSI S-2801BS Mid Tower Chassis only comes with 4 stand-offs to mount the motherboard on - the motherboard needs eleven. I called the company on it and they shipped me two additional bags of hardware, so I got twelve standoffs in the end. Good for them.

Once the standoffs were in place and the motherboard bolted in, I attached the power supply connections for the motherboard, connected up the two old 500 GB drives to the SATA connections and the power supply connections, plugged in a spare 19" LCD monitor to the motherboard VGA connector (which had never been used previously) and a USB keyboard and a USB mouse, and fired it up. BEEEP - BEEEP - BEEEP. Three long beeps, an audible error code, and nothing on the monitor; in fact the monitor never came out of standby mode.

Off to the Intel web site to find a copy of the manual for that motherboard (found the "Intel Desktop Board DG965WH Product Guide" in PDF format); on page 73: "...Table 13 lists the BIOS codes ... 3 (long beeps) = No memory..." Huh? The 4 GB of memory is still on the motherboard, untouched! Maybe one of the memory sticks lost contact and needs to be reseated? I pulled the stick in DIMM 0, Channel A socket and put it aside, then proceeded to remove each of the other memory sticks and move it up one slot to reinstall it, effectively reseating each stick in a different socket. Success. Next reboot the monitor came alive and informed me that the chassis fan has been disconnected so boot would not continue to avoid system overheating.

Off again to the Microcenter web site, ordered an Enermax T.B. Silence 120mm Twister Bearing Case Fan for $13. It arrived in the mail a few days later, and I immediately discovered that there are at least two sizes of case fans; 120mm and 92mm. I dug out a ruler and measured the chassis fan opening this time, then went back online to Microcenter and ordered an Antec TriCool 92mm Ball Bearing Case Fan for $8. When will I ever learn??

Fan installed and plugged in, machine booted all the way to the "No bootable media" message, repeatedly, and there wasn't - yet. I shut the machine off and connected up the two 500 GB drives that had been the RAID-0 "Drive C" on that motherboard in Computer #7, and they S-L-O-W-L-Y booted up into Windows 7 - how quickly I had forgotten just how slow that machine had been at the end of its life!

I connected up an Ethernet cable to the house network, got online, deactivated the copy of Dreamweaver CS3, and shut it back down. Then I jumped over to Computer #8 and activated that copy of Dreamweaver CS3. Success! Mission accomplished.

To complete the "Son of Franken-Powerspc-Stein" machine I installed a 500 GB drive C in one of the poorly-designed internal 3.5" drive "bays" (hard to call it a bay, the drive is supported by only two screws on one side with the opposite side unattached and free to cantilever out in thin air) for a boot drive, installed a copy of Windows Home Server 2011, and then installed a 2TB SATA drive in the EZ-Rack for Internal SATA Drives as the data drive D. This allows me to pull the data drive and load it up with a music library (accessible through the Aluratek AIREC01F internet radio in the living room) and the BBWW (Ballot Box Wide Web) internal web site files.

This kluge was brought up to the Ballot Box and installed as the house server over a weekend. It lasted a little over 48 hours, when it crashed hard and froze on Sunday afternoon, as I was just about to head back south. Symptoms pointed to either the power supply or something on the motherboard, but I didn't have the time or the tools to diagnose it up north. I spent an extra three hours re-installing the old server and brought the kluge "Son of Franken-Powerspc-Stein" machine back down south, where I found out it was the CPU. The CPU was almost an antique and would've cost about $250 to replace, so I bought a used Dell Optiplex 755 SFF (Small Form Factor) desktop at auction for $129 and put the 500 GB drive from the kluge into it. When it booted up it took about an hour to get all the drivers re-installed since it was a whole new computer it was dealing with (new display board, new chipset, new Ethernet card, etc.) but it worked like a champ. The 755 was brought back up on the next trip and its been running fine since. The kluge was disassembled and has been given (via the Woburn FreeCycle mailing list) away in pieces to someone who wants to tinker some more.

 

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