Letting Off Steam

What would usually be exciting and tons of fun for me turned into a total disaster this weekend. It all began with the purchase of a few computer parts to resuscitate a dead computer. This is what would normally have been very exciting. I picked up an Athlon64 X2 and a motherboard. You see, I just love fiddling around with new hardware, benchmarking, testing, and comparing. I got to do about 30 minutes of that this time around. I’ve built quite a few computers and so I would say I’m pretty competent. Allow me to guide you through this nightmare of a rebuild process.

Perhaps the main issue was the sheer amount of computer hardware I was surrounded with. At times, I felt like I didn’t have enough room to put everything down. Let’s see now, I had 3 CPUs, 3 motherboards, 2 cases, 4 optical drives, 3 hard drives, 2 video cards, 4 sticks of RAM, a sound card, and a TV tuner. Because I was essentially installing two computers at the same time, I would get quite mixed up as to which part was going into which case. I tried installing both at the same time in and effort to be more efficient. In the end I think I just confused myself a great deal.

One of the computers didn’t really need that much done to it, basically just a switch of a case, so I didn’t have to reformat or anything. That wasn’t the computer I had the problems with. It seemed like the problems just wouldn’t stop with the other one. Let’s list them here in chronological order.

  1. I have a couple pretty nice after-market heatsinks, so clearly I wanted to use them instead of the stock ones. Unfortunately, with third party heatsinks come third party mounting brackets, which I could not find for the life of me. After about ¾ of an hour of searching through boxes, I gave up and miraculously found that the bracket for the P4 system would work with the Athlon64 one. Unfortunately, the Athlon64 is slightly thicker than the P4 and as a result, there was a lot of pressure being exerted by the heatsink. I was afraid the whole bracket would rip out under the stress.
  2. The hard drives were being switched between the computers and I couldn’t find enough screws for one of the case’s mounting mechanism. As a result, I had to make do with two screws per hard drive instead of the normal four.
  3. With the new motherboard (ASRock 939Dual-SATA2) the PATA connectors are near the bottom of the motherboard. As a result, the rounded cables I had couldn’t quite reach the optical drives at the top of the case. I ended up moving the optical drives down a couple slots.
  4. During the formatting process, I neglected to pay attention to the order in which I partitioned the hard drives. As a result, about half way through installing all the drivers, I noticed that my Windows drive was actually D: instead of C:. At this point, it was getting pretty late (1am or so) and my mind was turning to muck. I decided to leave it for the night and fall unconscious (on my bed).

Somewhere between problems 3 and 4, I went in search of the manual for one of the other motherboards. Lo and behold, the heatsink bracket I had spent all that time looking for popped up.

The night’s sleep didn’t mean an end for my problems. Let’s start another list for the problems I had today.

  1. I decided it would be a good idea to reformat the computer which had Windows installed on D: as a precaution. Since I wouldn’t be the main user of this system, I thought it safest to have the system in the most common configuration I could make it. So the hour spent the previous night installing Windows and accompanying drivers was for naught.
  2. After about another hour and a half spent installing Windows, drivers, and then SP2, I decide it would be a good idea to update the BIOS to the latest version. I thus go in the search of a trusty floppy drive. I find one lying around and a floppy to use. Oops, no go. The floppy doesn’t want to be formatted into a bootable one. I find a couple other diskettes only to discover I’m faced with the same error. Windows is unable to complete the format. Okay, well, the floppy drive’s busted no doubt.
  3. Next idea is to make a bootable USB flash drive. I spend the next hour trying to find the necessary files to create a bootable USB drive. For anyone who’s tried this, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s a very simple process… assuming you have the right files or know where they are. It seemed like the whole internet was clueless about this. So after hunting through numerous dead links and broken solutions, I find the necessary files and flash the BIOS.
  4. At this point, it’s around 2pm and I’m hungering for some Oblivion that I had been playing two night ago. I install it on the computer. During my wait as the 4.5GB game is installed, I notice that I don’t have the drivers for the TV tuner. I go to the ATI website in my search. Okay, I’m not even exaggerating at this point when I say that the Oblivion installation is at like 99%. And this is the part where something happens and my computer spontaneously reboots itself. I half want to punch my hand through the monitor, half want to cry. After some testing, I find the curious problem. The ATI website causes my computer to restart!
  5. Okay, so I know when the problem occurs, but what could possibly be the cause. I had been to the ATI website to get drivers during the previous night’s install. Hmmm… perhaps it was the new BIOS. I flash the original one with no luck. I flash all sorts of different BIOSes, all with no effect. I decide to uninstall the ATI drivers. Bingo! No more reboots. But, this wasn’t going to be acceptable. No video drivers?! I install some previous versions of the driver with the same problem. Ugh. Guess the folks will have to avoid the ATI website.
  6. This computer was going downstairs with the hi-def TV. So to access the internet connection, it has to use a USB wireless dongle. I install the drivers. Nothing happens. I reinstall the drivers. Once again, nothing. Okay, I was installing the drivers from the US site. I grab the drivers from the Canadian sites and it works. Uhhhhh…..
  7. Remember back to the part where Oblivion was cut off. Just to make absolutely sure the install didn’t complete, I try loading up the game (even the shortcut had been made on the desktop). As suspected, I was greeted with a nice error message that essentially said screw off, I didn’t get installed properly. I try uninstalling but see only another error message. Alright, time to install over the previous installation. Maybe there’s a repair function or something. And indeed there is! As I had said previously, I had literally 1% left to install. A couple file names flashed by and it seemed like the game was good to go. Oh, but wait. The installation hangs after it seems like it’s done installing. The only solution is a hard reset. I try the game and again, I get the same error message as before. Fine, I do a manual delete of the game and its registry. The reinstallation goes much smoother. It is now around 6:30pm, an hour before I have to leave to head back to the university and I hadn’t even packed.

I end up playing Oblivion for about 20 minutes before I had to shower, pack and clean up the mess I had made the past two days. In the end, the reboot from the ATI page actually seems like it exists on more than just that site, although visiting ATI seems like the only guaranteed reboot. I have to go back and reformat that computer next weekend. Basically two whole days wasted on my part.

Sorry for the extremely long and boring post, but I had to get something off my shoulders. It was absolutely killing me. I was supposed to get a good start on my work report this past weekend too. That clearly didn’t happen. And if you’ve made it all the way to here without closing your browser, hoping my problems are contagious or something, you’ll be glad to know that I haven’t solved my iPod issues either. I rebuilt the iTunes database and I got the error again today. So clearly, that wasn’t it. I’m still searching for the solution, although I found a few more ideas to try.

What an Easter weekend. 😐

[tags]computers, windows, oblivion, ipod[/tags]

6 thoughts on “Letting Off Steam”

  1. So…Sounds like me. I pretty much have no luck with computers, but in your case, you actually end up fixing them 🙂

    So…The big question here, is how do you like Oblivion now that you’ve tried it out for yourself?

  2. Yeah, I haven’t fixed it yet, but this next weekend. Oh it’ll be fixed, I’ll see to it.

    As for Oblivion, well, how do I say this, it seems like an awesome game, but maybe it’s my lack of understanding of RPGs, but it seems sort of slow in spots. That’s not to mention that with the new CPU and the rest of the system (A64 X2 3800 , 1GB RAM, X800XT PE), it gets chunky at parts. I think I’ll need to lower some of the settings, although I’d think I should be okay with the resolution of 1280×720 to fit the HDTV.

    Let me tell you though, it’s so gorgeous on that big screen TV. 😉 You would definitely have a heart attack. It’s amazing to look across the river and actually see trees and stuff on the other bank. I’m currently just running around randomly killing stuff trying to gain some experience or whatever it is. I have so little gold too. I can’t buy like anything, although I’m not really sure what to buy either… I really need to sit down for hours on end and just play. The 15-30 minutes at a time just doesn’t cut it.

  3. Well…As you know, instead of using my hours of free time for playing Oblivion, I have been reading, and it seems the easiest way to get money is to steal it. There are also some glitches you can take advantage of. If you aren’t a theif class, just walk into someone’s home, slaughter them, and take their money 🙂

    It’s actually chunky on that? I don’t know what chance I’m going to have on my piece of poop 🙂 What are the settings at?

    And, finally being able to question someone who has played Oblivion, how annoying are the bugs?

  4. Yeah, I’m definitely not a thief class. I didn’t have a sweet clue what to be (my RPG n00bness) so I decided on being a crappy combination of like everything, but a slight emphasis on magic.

    It’s not chunky for the most part, only in certain areas outside. For example I was chasing this deer across the fields and it would get chunky once in a while. My settings were 1280×720 with most of the bars in the middle except grass distance was more like 3/4 and far lands was on (which means view distance is at max). Bloom was also on (like a fake HDR so lighting’s a little nicer). I’m going to have to try a few different settings to see what’s taxing my system so much. I couldn’t believe it was slightly chunky at 1280×720 with a X800XT PE and good details…

    Bugs… Ummm I probably haven’t played enough or something because I haven’t noticed any problems so far… One thing I haven’t figured out is how to drop stuff without leaving them with a body. I got overencumbered a couple times so I had to just sit there and eat my food…

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