On Sunday, I tried to do a case transplant of one of my machines, from an ordinary ATX case to a fancy Thermaltake case, in the hopes that in the Thermaltake case I'd be able to run the machine without the side off and a table fan blowing on the guts at full power. The transplant per se went OK, in that all the hardware arrived safely in the new case and the machine was able to boot. However, it's not clear whether the new case will keep the CPU cool enough. So far, the CPU (an Athlon XP2200+) has been observed at 55 degrees C, which is higher than I'd hoped for, only a few degrees below the point where it gets heatstroke. That's very frustrating. At this point, the only thing left to replace is the CPU heatsink and fan itself, which is a fancy copper Thermaltake heatsink and should be fine. However, given that this isn't a very exotic CPU, I can't believe that it's not possible to run it without an exotic cooling system. If Athlon XPs really generated so much heat that you couldn't run them, nobody would be buying them.
Meanwhile, I installed the new RAM on the motherboard, boosting it up to three gigabytes. Guess what? When you install three gigabytes on this motherboard, the AGP system stops working! It stops working because it wants to use a memory range which now conflicts with system memory. Specifically, out of those three gigabytes, the AGP system stomps on the top five megabytes! I bought this motherboard because I thought that VIA had finally gotten their act together and was producing decent chipsets, but obviously I was mistaken. This is about the third time that VIA has burned me, so I will not be buying any VIA-based motherboard again. (In fact, as I think about it, the only trouble-free motherboards I've encountered have been based on Intel chipsets. For future AMD purchases, I will be looking at AMD chipsets, which are supposed to be good. I may also consider NVidia chipsets, which I've heard a lot of favorable reports about. But no more VIA, no more SiS, and absolutely no PCchips.) Anyway, in the process of trying to iron this out, I ended up installing new AGP drivers which did not resolve the problem but which did prevent ATI's installer from even finding their video card, even when I backed the memory down.
So I need to completely strip the machine and reinstall from scratch with only two and a half gigs of RAM, after getting a new cooling fan. If a new CPU cooler doesn't do the trick, I'm giving up. I have looked at the prices of high-end active cooling systems and determined that it would actually be cheaper to buy a P4 Celeron and a new motherboard to go with. I don't especially like P4's -- the one that I have now has never really lived up to my performance expectations, and a Celeron just makes it weaker -- but a machine which you can turn on and run has infinitely higher performance than a machine which just sits there in pieces.
Meanwhile meanwhile, I was reaching the point where I really needed my CD and DVD burners, which were mounted in the nonrunnable machine. It's going to be weeks yet before I have time to make another attempt at that machine, and I can't wait that long. Aha, I said! I'll buy an external USB2 case and put my DVD burner (which can also do CDs, but not as fast as my CD-only burner) in it. Then I can attach it to my main machine and do burns as needed. And when the other machine is up, I can think about where I need it, or even switch it back and forth at my convenience! Nifty!
So I bought an external USB2 5.25-inch case. Despite its $70 price tag, its construction screams "cheap". I was vaguely surprised that it worked at all, and in fact the first time I plugged it in to my main machine it wasn't even detected. I had better luck when I tried again. I was able to read CDs from it and even play a DVD. So I tried a DVD burn. Oops! SCSI/IDE command aborted! But not until after it had already started writing, turning a still-expensive DVD-R blank into a coaster. I tried again, with a CD blank this time, since they're cheap enough that I don't care about failures. Same problem: the drive will read fine but not write. So now I've spent $70 on something which, at best, I have no use for. I know that the DVD-R drive works fine, since I've used it before.
But I still needed to do those burns, so this morning I opened up my main machine and swapped the DVD-R drive for the DVD drive which was already there. I could have done that for free... damn.
Then I drove to work. This proved to be another mistake, since by the time I reached work the "Service Engine Soon" light was on, and I had to shift to neutral and give the engine gas when stopped at a light in order to keep it running. This makes the third or fourth time my truck has done this same thing to me, and I have to say that I'm looking forward to replacing it in a couple months. Assuming I can afford to, since I keep losing the money that I was saving for a down payment to repairs instead. And I don't really have time to deal with car repairs right now, but oh well... It was still having trouble when I started for home, but by the time I got there it was fine again. It's done that to me before, too. This time, I'm taking it in anyway since I have to make a long trip on Sunday.
My cable internet installation is supposed to happen next Monday. I'm not going to have time to configure the machine that I wanted to use as a firewall/NAT gateway, and my existing gateway doesn't have a second ethernet port nor any slots available. However, I do have a USB ethernet thingy which in theory I should be able to plug in to the existing gateway, do a little configuration, and have it routing packets to and from the cable modem instead of the analog modem. But with my recent track record at touching machines, I'm beginning to be a bit worried...