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A Blogger's Work Is Never Done

I'm back in CA. We didn't make as much progress unpacking as I'd hoped, and Patricia's computer didn't survive the trip to Florida. It arrived sufficiently addled that, upon boot, it shows a crazed scattering of phosphor trails across the screen, though which one can barely make out the Award logo of the BIOS, after which it attempts to load Windows, and then bluescreens with obscure messages in various dialects of Greek and hex. My machine came up OK, but we don't yet have an internet connection there, or even phone service, so I've been cut off from civilization (or, at least, the blogosphere) all weekend. Thanks to Andrew for keeping the ball rolling with some interesting posts.

Because I was away, some of the lowest forms of life imaginable managed to attack my comments section with spam of the most vile nature on Sunday, most of which involved websites hawking variants on b3stiality, r@pe and inc3st, sometimes in varying combinations. Normally, I catch these after the first two or three, after which they're banned, but my absence gave them free rein for hours and days, and for some reason, MT Blacklist doesn't seem to remove all comments with banned URLs (at least for me)--it only deletes them one at a time, so I spent the first hour back on line cleaning up the mess. (By the way, Andrew, I don't get emails of comments to your posts, so you should keep an eye out as well, as they age like fine wine and thus become more attractive to the scumbuckets. If you get one, let me know, and I'll show you the drill.)

If anyone has any suggestions as to what may have gone astray with the computer, let me know. I'm guessing it's a MB problem. I've had problems in the past while moving equipment in which cables came loose, but it's hard to imagine how that would cause a weird screen display even before POST.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 01, 2004 02:41 PM
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Make sure the video card is properly seated, and if it is, try swapping it out before going on to the motherboard.

Posted by eli at June 1, 2004 03:58 PM

Moving is such fun, unpacking doubly so. You never make as much progress as you hope.

On the PC, make sure all cards, cables (double check the drive cables) and RAM are well seated. Use a grounding strap, of course, with power off. If the mobo is very dusty, try carefully blowing the dust and reseating cards and DIMMs.

A very slight socket connection problem especially on the video card or DIMMs could cause problems like this.

Posted by VR at June 1, 2004 04:38 PM

Would that I had a video card to check for looseness, but it's on board...

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 1, 2004 04:42 PM

This is perhaps the equivalent of "Oh Artoo, they're dying! Shut them down! Shut them ALL down!"... If you've no video card to reseat, then reseat EVERYTHING you *do* have. DIMMs, power and drive cables, any socketed chips, etc. Unless you were getting your U-Haul airborne over every speed bump you saw, this should take care of things. However, if it was really hot on your trip and the temp in the back was elevated for an extended time, then something could've been damaged.

Or not... ;-)

- Eric.

Posted by Eric Strobel at June 1, 2004 05:20 PM

Hot? In the back of an unrefrigerated moving van traveling from Los Angeles to south Florida at the end of May, through the desert southwest, south Texas and the Gulf Coast?

Surely you jest.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 1, 2004 05:26 PM

That's not all that hot compared to normal operating temperatures. It is most likely something that worked loose A LITTLE. More than that and it wouldn't work at all. If it is the mobo, it would likely be an invisible crack in a conductor. But that isn't that likely. The hard drive would be the most likely damaged part of the computer, but even those are pretty tough when not running. An amazing amount of the time it turns out to be something that just got a little loose, sometimes a little dust getting worked in too.

Posted by VR at June 1, 2004 05:54 PM

I've seen lots of failures, but I've never seen one that was a result of a peripheral that resulted in the kind of hash on a boot screen that I saw. It seems to me that it's either the Mobo or the BIOS (or a failure in the display, but that's equivalent to a Mobo failure in this case...)

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 1, 2004 06:11 PM

Sounds like the best thing to do then is start deducing where the fault lies by removing all non-essential cards and peripherals, then taking out all the DIMMs bar the minimum necessary.

If it boots OK, then add the cards/peripherals back in one by one. Otherwise, if it still doesn't boot, swap the DIMM with another one. If no change you might want to try taking out your HD and swapping in an old crappy one, then installing windows on it. If that works, then it's probably and issue with your HD.

Posted by Kevin Parkin at June 1, 2004 07:41 PM

I second the make sure the video card is seated comment.

I shuffle desktops around sometimes and that is a common thing.

1) Remove Power

2) remove cover

3) Ground thyself.

4) Give all the cards and connectors a little push to make sure they are seated properly.

This is what Occam tells me to tell you.

Posted by Mike Puckett at June 1, 2004 07:42 PM

Oh, and I forgot to mention to suspect the HD cable as well. If you have one from another computer, try that one instead.

Posted by Kevin Parkin at June 1, 2004 07:44 PM

Yea its for problems like this where its nice to have a POST diagnostic board to give you the POST halt code. Then, you would know exactly which ever hardware subsystem that failed to initialize needs to be stabbed visciously with a phillips head screw driver. Otherwise, one has to rely upon the audio POST codes that identify which component is failing. Long beep short beep, long beep (err I think that was a long beep). One thing I would try is to disconnect the monitor and keyboard completely from the computer and turn it on and see if it beeps at all at you. The very first thing the BIOS checks for is to see if the monitor and keyboard is plugged in. If it starts beeping like crazy or real long and loud then you know its at least trying to do something. My first thought was, of course, the same as everyone's else that the video card had popped out. But since its an integrated video card I wouldn't let that stop you from grabbing a cheap video card, or borrow one from another computer you know that works, and pop that into one of your expansion ports and hook the monitor up to that card and see what the video display looks like. I've hung onto a collection of 1MB Trident VGA cards just for these occasions. Alas, the ISA interface just wasn't meant to last.

Last thought, try flashing the CMOS by pulling the BIOS battery jumper on the mainboard. Some mainboard manufacturers call this the diagnostic jumper.

Posted by Hefty at June 1, 2004 08:10 PM

Last thought, try flashing the CMOS by pulling the BIOS battery jumper on the mainboard.

That last thought was a new one, and simple. I'll definitely try that. I was considering upgrading the BIOS, but just getting it back to stock may be a solution, if that's the problem, and there's nothing to lose.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 1, 2004 08:17 PM

I'm reasonably sure that at this point it would be singularly unhelpful to tell how I got my computer from Alaska to Georgia without a single problem.

I didn't let the movers touch it -- rode it down in my truck with me.

Yeah, like I thought: no help at all.

Here's hoping the problem with yours is quickly repaired, Rand.

Posted by McGehee at June 2, 2004 05:33 AM

Giving it a quick think, your video card might be malfed. In my experience, blue screens are typially caused by RAM or video card issues.

Component - fault isolation seems to be in order.

Posted by Brian at June 2, 2004 07:46 AM

Giving it a quick think, your video card might be malfed.

Too quick a think (and read). Once again, I do not have a video card. If the "video card" is malfed, the mobo is malfed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 2, 2004 08:19 AM

Yeah, I guess I blew that temp thing if you've got an Intel processor in your machine. A sealed U-Haul in Death Valley would seem like a pleasant respite... :-)

- Eric.

Posted by Eric Strobel at June 2, 2004 07:10 PM

It isn't OUR fault you don't have a video card ... Seriously, one more thought. You could be looking at two independent problems: A vid. cable or monitor problem and a hard drive problem. If you have another monitor and video cable, try those. If not, at least check the pins on the cable and make sure to tighten well after reconnecting, then wiggle the cable when you turn the machine on. See if the flashes vary, which would indicate a cable problem.

Then see how far the machine goes. If you can see the screen, watch if it gets through POST and attempts to boot (it sounds like it was). If the problem is at the boot stage, attempt to boot off a floppy or CD. (Even if you have XP, go ahead and boot off of a DOS floppy if you have one, just to see if it will work.) If it will boot, the next step, depending on the OS, is to run disk diagnostics.

Posted by VR at June 2, 2004 11:56 PM

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