Sunday, June 16th, 2002
12:32 pm - Computers  
I have three computers at home that I use with any regularity. Flash is the PII-350 that has been my main machine since I built it in 1998. Slick is my laptop, an AMD K6-300 that I bought in 1999. Speedy is the P4-1.8GHz machine that I built in February replace Flash. I never actually hooked up Speedy as my main machine, mostly out of laziness. I set it up in the living room, hooked it up to the network, and used it on occasion. This was very silly, because Speedy is a far more capable machine than Flash, and I had spent a lot of money and time to build it.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to process the digital video I took at the Buffista F2F party. This was one of the tasks I had in mind when I built Speedy, so I was looking forward to finally having an excuse to set it up as my main machine. I had a couple of choices of how to get the video onto the computer. One, I could connect the analog outputs on the camcorder to the analog inputs on the video card. This involves having the camcorder convert the digital video to analog, then having the video card convert the stream back to digital, with some degree of degradation during both steps. Second, I could connect the camcorder to a firewire port on the computer, and shoot the digital signal over directly. The fact that I didn't actually have a firewire port on any of my computers did not deter me. A quick trip to CompUSA got me an ATI DV card with three ports, along with the required cable. I installed it in Speedy. All went well with the installation, as far as I could tell. The card came with U-Lead's Visual Studio software, and I set that up, too.

I connected the camcorder to the firewire port, started the video capture routine in Visual Studio, and nada. All it showed me was a couple of staticky black lines at the top of the screen. Tried it again. Same thing. Restarted the system, and tried yet again. Still nothing. At that point, I had to run some errands, so I left the computer and camcorder on, and headed out.

Came back to find Speedy completely locked up. Mouse not working, [ctrl][alt][del] not working, nothing. Pushed the hardware reset button. The machine restarted, went through the scandisk sequence, and up popped the login screen. Tried the use the mouse to click 'OK'. Nothing. Hit [Enter] on the keyboard. Nothing. Tried to type a few characters in the 'user name' field. Nothing. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Tried resetting again. Same thing. Unplugged it, checked the connections for the mouse and keyboard, then turned it on again. Still nothing. Tried this a few more times without any success. Removed the firewire card, in case there was some kind of weird problem with that. No joy. Took out the network card. Nope. Tried a different keyboard and mouse. Nuh uh. In fact, somewhere along the line I noticed that the computer wasn't paying attention to the keyboard even before it loaded Win 98. I couldn't get to safe mode. I couldn't get to set up. What the frell? There were no post code beeps, nor were there any error messages. I even disconnected the hard drives, and tried to boot from a floppy, but Speedy continued to ignore the keyboard.

The only thing I could think of was that the motherboard had failed in some bizarre way. So I went to a computer show last week and bought a new one. I was lucky, because I was able to find the same exact board (an ABit BL-7) for about $60 cheaper than I originally paid for it because it's now out of date. Installed it this morning and hey, the keyboard works. I haven't yet connected the hard drives, but hey, the keyboard works! Time for lunch. More later.
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