Monday, April 7, 2008

It's been such a long time...

I really need to get my own digital camera so I won't have my pc projects bottlenecked by the presence of wedding paraphenalia on nat's camera.


The good news is that I can post a few screenies of my hard drive bench marks as this weekend conclude the long, drawn out SCSI odyssey which began way back in January.

Once I can get the camera out to upload pics for the actual installation I will indeed but until then content yourself with the following.

For reference the two systems affected by the SCSI Odyssey are my main PC 'Rorschach' and the new only recently completed 'Zaps' Sadly HD TUNE will not recognize the system drive for Zaps to bench mark so no screenies will follow. Instead I will recount the unusual tale of how Zaps came together out of scraps.

Life came to this unique little box from a myriad of sources. The case and mobo were gathering dust in an attic, the RAM tucked neatly away near a burgeoning gunsafe and the CPU/Video card were altogether somewhere else.

So these parts were culled into a seemingly impressive system. Intel server board, 3.2 ghz P4 chip, 2 gigs ram, 128 mb agp card (admittedly weak but better than onboard) all tucked away nicely in a sleek black mid-tower case.

Now there was work to be done aplenty, some retro junk had to be pulled out, screws tightened, fans taken out entirely (the noise was awful) and after much scraping, tooling and cleaning Zaps was coming together nicely. The only problem is that windows would NOT install no matter what I did.

Like any enterprising IT guy I did the obvious. I installed Linux. Kubuntu to be exact, its all there in the last post (look across the months long void to find it) and so it slept happily as I explored the bouncier and bluer world of the KDE.

However not long ago after offloading a surplus pc for a tidy profit I decided to revisit that box and attempt to resolve. However after three different hard drives failed to accept a fresh copy of XP I decided to give up and just use Linux.

However, in a cruel twist of fate, this option no longer presented itself. For in my haste and greed the system had fallen to the wiles of time and my daunting linux box became an omni-amputee. Lamentations fell and scattered. All seemed lost.

And then, what luck! Upon the acquisition of some SCSI drives a la Chad and the Adaptec controller card I was able to finally score some cables and begin the odyssey.

What began proved the strangest twist of all. There was no room in Beebe, the main system was wrapped up with work use and I didn't want pc guts strung out all over my office (any more so than usual!) so I did what I had to do. I dusted off Zaps, slapped in the card, terminated my drives and set them gently inside their cages.

My intention was to play with the RAID setup so that it would be breezy once the time came to migrate to Rorschach. How I was disappointed to learn that raid would be unavailable. Now when faced with a crucial decision I opted to spend my profits from the recent sale to procure some decent hardware. Approximately 100 bucks on ebay afforded me the following.

5x Amphenol Ultra 320 SCSI cables (4 devices per cable, terminator block included) ~20bucks
3x 36 gigabyte Ultra 320 SCSI drives (all working, rails attached)~40 bucks
1x Adaptec Raid card (o and 1 only, but thats all I wanted) ~40bucks

Granted this crushed my profits over the sale but I felt that it would be worth it. Also it allows me to sell the extra cables (possibly) and as you'll discover to offload Zaps onto some lucky soul.

So going back to discovering that the adaptec card Dom gave me was just a controller card I attempted to install windows and IT WORKED!!

I could not believe it. The crazy thing is that I installed XP on a 160 gigabyte IDE drive and not either of the SCSI drives. What luck, I thought. It worked and if I could just do a burn in then I wouldn't have to worry.

Of course removing the two 73 gig SCSI drives crashed the system and no amount of coaxing or prodding would bring windows back. To quote Neal Stephenson: Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

So the whole point of the ebay stuff was to acquire a working card for Rorscach and a dinky little drive to use with the original card so that Zaps could...zap stuff.

Once I went through the painfully tedious task of lowballing some bids for the necessary hardware setting up windows was pretty straightforward. There was a minor glitch because the raid card came with a 2 device cable. I tried unsuccessfully to use it with Zaps but nothing I did could get the drive to recognize. After a half hour of heart ache I made ready to chuck out the whole works when I noticed a potential source of failure. The two-device cable had a single wire broken off from the main strand.

Using a healthy cable instantly solved the first problem. After that the only real issue was fairly trivial. Drivers caused more issues than anything else. Once done XP installed and has gone through the 30 boot run and a few other torture tests (prime 95, 6 units of F@home)

So now my dead system is up and ready for resale once I find a willing bidder.

Pics to follow.

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