Friday, December 23, 2005

Used Computers, Pt.2

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We apply power to the system and suddenly, we have a problem. I think I would have been more surprised if there were not a problem or two.

Even though I had correctly installed that wonderful 20 GB hard drive, including the Master/Slave/Cable Select jumper the drive was not identified by the system! After a lot of additional research and a fair amount to testing, I discovered the awful truth! The 20 GB hard drive was too big! Yes, that is correct. The system would not accept a drive much bigger than 10 GB. Time for a BIOS upgrade since the Dell systems allow BIOS Flashing. It is time to download an appropriate BIOS load for the system. However, when I try to apply the load, it is not accepted! Something about a “Banff” flash load would not overlay on a “Durango” BIOS! I am going to have to check that out later.

Moving on I decide to install a 10-Gb drive I had in the spares box. The system starts fine and, after running fdisk to set the partitioning done and formatting the drive, Windows 98SE is installing while I do some thinking and head scratching. I wonder what else I am going to find that needs attention?

When the install completes, I decide to disconnect my network from the system and, sure enough, I find another problem. The system tells me, during boot up, that a cable is missing and needs to be connected. The system has network interface with PXE! Go to ‘setup’ and disable the networking until I get ready to connect things up. The system boots up fine now without the network so I can see what else I am going to need. I will come back to the network problem later.

I notice the screen is display looks a bit strange. Graphics is not right and it is set for 640X480. Well, I know how to fix that! Open properties and change the settings, which are set for 16 colors, 640X480. However, I cannot change the settings. I only have the one display mode available. (I am starting to get grumpy by this time.)

A little more searching and I find a download for the ATI Graphic Interface that is an integral part of the system. The package is applied and “TADA!” I have all sorts of colors and a selection of screen resolutions. Now things are looking better.

Now, for the network stuff! I check the specifications for the system and find that the integrated network interface is one from 3Com. In fact, it is a 3C905B-TX! The 3Com folks, like the Dell folks, have a very fine web site that has driver downloads for most anything they make. I download the full driver set and I’m ready to get networking going. I apply the new drivers to the system, turn on the network interface that I shut down earlier and connect the cable from my network. After quickly configuring the system to accept daddress information from my router, we are communicating to the world.

I have a real system and it is working fine, or is it. No, it isn’t. I have one last task to perform before I can load software. I need to get all of Microsoft’s Critical and Recommended updates for Windows 98 SE! (Yes, they are available.) This process is long and boring. After 75 minutes of work, most of it waiting for completion of either download or installation processes, the system is finally ready for use. Since it is connected to the internet, I download OpenOffice 2 (which I’ve talked about before) and a fresh copy of Adaware. I also found the Abexo Free Registry Cleaner.

It is finished! I call the woman and tell her that the system is ready for her to give to her husband. There is dancing in the streets and joy abounds everywhere. Christmas will be joyous in her household.

As for the Computerist, a glow of satisfaction and the knowledge that he will not be forgotten. Yes, that’s right. First time that computer has a problem, who do you think that family is going to call? I’ll give you three guesses. Ha! I’ll hear from them again, I’m sure. Like the Old Sage said,” No good deed goes unpunished!” I don’t mind though. I had fun working on the system and the couple are friends! It’s all worth it!

HAVE FUN! Happy Holidays!