The computer saga continues….
After my motherboard blew, I remembered there were a couple of old boards at the bottom of my Big Box of Computer Bits. I went a looked, and joy, both of them took my processor and memory. One of them, I knew, wasn’t working (don’t ask me why I’d kept it); I was pretty sure the other one was OK. Anyway, guess which one I tried first, spending about two hours wrestling with the heatsink and going squinty-eyed from trying to decipher the inadequate diagrams…? A banana to the gentleman at the back!
Anyway, the second one turned out to be good(ish). It didn’t take the new DDR400 memory that I’d bought, but never mind, the stick of DDR330 memory that had originally been in my machine fitted.
Upon connecting up (nearly) everything and switching it on, all seemed well – it seemed that all I had to do was download and install the board drivers. Then… (yes, there is always a then…) I noticed that I hadn’t attached the CD/DVD drive.
I did so. And everything went tits-up. A big red message on the bootup screen, with enough exclamation marks to earn the envy of any teenage texter, informed me that I needed to turn the CD drive from secondary slave to secondary master before it would proceed any further.
After several frustrating hours of fiddling with the BIOS and consulting online forums, I haven’t got an answer – beyond permanently unplugging the drive’s data cable, so I can’t play CDs or DVDs. The floppy drive was already dead, so the only external storage I now have is my little pen flash drive.
So it looks like I still need a new motherboard. Sigh.

ETA: Fixed it. After hours of swapping cables etc. I looked at the CD drive and had a “D’oh!!” moment. Until then I had never realised that CD drives had jumpers just like hard drives. Resetting the jumper from ‘slave’ to ‘master’ did the trick.
Still got the sound to sort out, but otherwise the system is usable. Now for tea.

I got the PC started up this morning – then, when I went looking for a file on the 2nd hard drive, which I keep for backup – couldn’t find it. The drive, that is. It wasn’t showing up in the BIOS setup either, even after I’d checked all the cabling. But I can feel it spinning.
Which probably means that the drive is kaput – it’s getting power. But it feels very hot, which is not a good sign; it’s a Maxtor, which apparently has a reputation for overheating. It’s also a very old drive, which I’d actually marked as “damaged?” at some point in the dim past for reasons that now escape me. I’ll try changing the cable or just hanging the drive outside the case to keep it cool, but I don’t hold out much hope.
Luckily, I’ve been obsessive about backing up over the last fortnight, so my important stuff is safe.

Another current techie woe of mine is about installing Linux on the laptop. I haven’t managed it so far. Yesterday, the spanking new Ubuntu cd arrived. I looked at the sleeve; it says I need at least 384 meg of RAM to run the Live CD. Which at least explains why I couldn’t get it it run on my laptop with it’s measly 128 meg.
So, I went looking for some another Linux distro. I had only two specifications: 1) it should be able to run on an older system with little RAM; 2) it shouldn’t require a degree-level knowledge of Unix command-line codes.
Fluxbuntu seemed to fit; the nice website and the slick blurb convinced me to download the .iso and burn it onto a CD. Installation started well, with the hard drive formatted and partitioned; then it stalled – it couldn’t load the base kernel files from the CD. I tried again with another CD and got the same response.
So, I went looking again. Damm Small Linux attracted this time; only 48 meg and runs off a pen drive! I download the zip file unzipped it to my flash pen drive and prepared to try it on the laptop. But – I’d forgotten that without an OS, the machine won’t recognise USB devices!
So – next up was Xubuntu – a lightweight version of Ubuntu that promises to run on systems with 128 meg or less of RAM. So, I once more downloaded and burned. Installation went very smoothly – for the first 40 minutes. It began loading program files from the CD, then the screen went blank, with just a blinking cursor. Thinking that this might be part of the installation process, I went and did something else for 20 minutes. But nothing had changed when I returned. I rebooted, started the whole installation all over again. And exactly the same thing happened.
So I’m feeling a bit po’d with Linux at the mo. Its fans keep telling me how much better it is than Windoze, but I had no problems whatsoever at all in installing WinXP Pro onto the laptop, and getting it to run basic browser, email and word-processing programs. It could even run a heavyweight astrology program without complaining. OK, it ran terribly slowly. But it worked as advertised.
I’m reminded of the time, a decade or so ago, when Microsoft came out with an educational program for pre-schoolers. It was a complete failure, largely because the enthusiastic young programmers who produced it hadn’t bothered to get any input from education experts; not all that far from kidhood themselves, they produced a program that appealed to them, rather than something that was of actual use to real children.
Linux, I think, is probably around that same stage of development. With the exception of Ubuntu (which is almost certainly being given some heavy nudges in the right direction by its commercial sponsor), most Linux distros seem to be aimed at other Linux enthusiasts, rather than the average computer user. She doesn’t want to spend days fiddling with code and hardware to get something to run; she just wants to switch on and go. That’s why Windoze is so popular.

But never fear – I haven’t given up completely on Linux. I’m now downloading the .iso version of Damm Small Linux. I’ll see how that goes.

ETA: Well, I’ve just tried installing DSL. I got totally lost in the geek’s orgasm that was purporting to be an install menu (WTF is HDA????) and hit con+alt+del; and now my laptop is frozen halfway through the shutdown process. I cannot switch it off at all. So I’ve unplugged it and I’m waiting for the battery to run down.
And tomorrow I shall reinstall WinXP.