Sunday evening, my motherboard died. I didn’t mind quite so much, the mobo/ram/cpu combo had been a thorn in my side since I built this system. So if I was going to buy parts, I was going to buy matching parts this time. But just in the process of checking out my existing parts, I scraped knuckles, tore the skin over finger joints and gouged a deep hole into my index finger, causing blood to spurt out all over the components inside the case. Ugh.

Building a box… I just don’t want to do it anymore. Sure it’s cheaper, if you count out the cost of neosporin and bandaids and carpet cleaner.

I sized up an Alienware system, but Gophur talked me out of “wasting” my money (ok, the fact that they wouldn’t even ship it for another 8 days kinda helped). While I was matching parts, based on the AW spec, I decided on-spec replacement was out of the question. Intel i7 2.66Ghz, EVGA x58 SLI x3, EVGA GeForce 285 1Gb DDR3 SC and 6GB of DDR3 1600. A few scratches and scrapes gotta be worth that. Oh and hell, I’ll fork out the $70 for overnight.

So, the frustration started with the Fedex guy arriving a couple of minutes too early for the front door, and the guy at Fedex on the phone telling me that they’d try to redeliver sometime the next day. Fortunately, the Fedex guy dropped by around 4pm. Yay! Parts!

Problem 1. My Coolermaster case has lots of cable guides in it. Which presented issues getting the motherboard even into the case. Four cuts, countless scratches, some horrible snapping and banging sounds, and the motherboard was seated. Only, now it was impossible to seat the CPU (a few more scratches to discover that) and the CPU fan. Remove motherboard.

Place CPU. It doesn’t seem to fit *into* the socket, just sort of sits on top of it. Ok – the way the socket works, that makes sense – after some inspection. But hold on, the cover that locks it into place has tiny little flanges that seem to get in the way. To close the little lever, it requires near breaking-force pressure. The motherboard makes an unpleasant “p’ting” during this process. But the CPU is seated. It takes me a minute or two of fiddling with the fan to realize there’s a knack to locking the wings into place and its made the more difficult – and more nerve wracking – by not being able to do this with it mounted nicely in the case. Ugh.

I connect up the board’s power and give it a quick test. It shuts itself down instantly. Uh oh. I didn’t put any paste on the cpu or fan. I check to see if I was misremembering that there was some there from Intel. Nope – but it hasn’t distributed evenly and half the CPU is pasteless. Remove motherboard.

After pasting and reassembling, another power check shows things have progressed. Ok. Insert stick of RAM. A little fiddly, with the location and the heat sinks and such. But done. Lets try the graphics card. It’s huge. Hmm. It barely clears some of the cooling surfaces on the motherboard, and I have to snap out some of the cable guides to get it to fit, which involves… Removing motherboard.

Memory seated, graphics card in and power to motherboard and video connected. Power on. F3. F6 (reports the little on-board LED display indicating what the board is doing). POP. F3. F6. POP. F3. F6. Pop. Powerdown.

Erh. Not good. After a half hour of experimentation, I call their help line.

Firstly, the motherboard had had a sticker over the RAM sockets depicting which slots to use for single sticks of RAM. Noddy here had followed the sticker. Of course, the sticker on my case was upside down.

But still with the F3. F6. POP. Ugh. “It’s your power supply”. I call it a night – I need to reapply bandages and neosporin.

Thursday morning. On a whim, I try powering up. Same deal, but I don’t reach for the power when it appears to power down. A quick reseat of everything and one more try. F3. F6. POP. F3. F6. F3. F6. <Nothing>. I move my legs and knock the video cable out. Reconnecting it, I decide to try the *other* port of the two on the card. My monitor clicks. WE HAVE SIGNAL.

In bliss, I reconnect everything, earning more cuts, stabs, pokes and scrapes. But this has to be it.

I power up… The F3 F6 sequence repeats but it seems to be normal. It posts… It detects drives… It checks the RAID configuration and … Doesn’t see it.

On my old, nForce based board, I had made the decision to go with an nVRaid striped configuration for performance. This is an Intel board that doesn’t understand nVRaid. Sure, I could install drivers for it… If it could boot from the raid configuration.

Trying to move the SATA connectors around proves problematic because my case has a bottom-mounted power supply which means all the cables get in the way of all the connectors down there. Ugh. 2 more motherboard remounts and lots more bleeding and I realize it’s way past time to be in work. I call in, Killer is rebooting some beta boxes and I get him to pick me and my box up. I have one of my own machines in the office which I know has an nForce board.

So while I’m busy working on code to translate strat names on the host for the Chinese project, I slowly try out a long painful sequence of reboots to try and recognize the drives or install an operating system. Windows 7 RC1 that Gophur gave me wants a DVD driver (bad DVD burn, apparently); Windows Vista blue screens during install (I think that’s because I had the BIOS set to AHCI at that point); Windows XP doesn’t like the disks (it shows me two disks, one of 1Tb and one of 500Mb and it won’t touch either).

Finally, I plug the array into my older-old box (the one at the office), find a 160Gb SATA 2 drive of mine lying around and back up my “shared” partition (with all my code, data, games, etc). But I still can’t get anything to touch the 500gb drives on the new box. I use the nVRaid BIOS features to delete the raid configuration and that seems to help, but still no dice. Time to go home.

I try Vista 32, Vista 64, Windows 7 RC1 32, Windows 7 RC1 64 and still no dice. I watch Smallville and a plan hatches.

I scuttle back to the machine and insert a Fedora Core 9 live CD. It can see two drives, but it notices they don’t look right. That’s fine. I wipe them using fdisk. Then I dig up an ancient and dusty Windows 95 CD. I boot it, it struggles along, but it’s enough to get to a dos prompt where I can fdisk /mbr the two disks. I reboot and install Windows XP. It won’t actually run, won’t see the DVD and has other issues, but it’s enough to let me partition the drive. Reboot into Windows 7 Beta 1 64 installer. It sees disks! I tell it to just go ahead and use the whole of Disk 1. It proceeds. It installs. It boots! I go into disk manager and shrink the disk 1 partition, I delete the partitions from Disk 2 and create a 500Gb single “data” partition. Yay! I reboot, I install drivers…

Now I can download Windows 7 RC1 64 and burn it slowly… So hopefully tomorrow night a) I’ll get to go see Star Trek, b) I’ll be able to install Windows 7 RC1.

Then I just have to spend the weekend reinstalling all my software… Ventrilla, Camtasia, Battleground Europe and the open beta, Visual Studio, Intel’s C/C++ compiler, putty, Chrome, … Well, I’m nearly there.

I couldn’t get our game running tonight but I tried World of Warcraft and it performed like a dream in “Ultra” giving me 60fps and not even kicking the graphics’ cards fan into high mode.

But my hands ache. They look like I’ve been fighting on gravel or something.

NEXT TIME… I buy the damn machine.


Next time buy a case that doesn’t suck. :P


*shakes head sadly*

I would’ve thought you’d have learnt by now, I mean – really?! It’s not as if a) you’ve not done it before and b) seen enough other people bleed over computers

*thwaps you upside the head*

Man did I ever lol and lol reading this. Oh boy. Thanks Oli.

Buy a Mac dude. Save your fingers for writing code!

Huh? I thought the bleeding was part of the ritual to please the machine gods?

Always worked for me.

Gawd, I still remember that huge ass beastie you built for EQ multiboxing and raiding, Laccy… And the smell of burning cpu… :(

Correction: I found an old Windows 98 CD, not Windows 95, which I used to fdisk /mbr and so coax Vista and Win7 back into believing there were drives.

Which is sort of funny – now I know how to prevent Vista from seeing (and so futzing with) a drive that I want to have Linux on.

ROFL, funny read.

Building a PC realy isn’t THAT hard, even for a coder!

Heck,I may have to building/re-build over 250 PC’s this summer!

But I am sure case designers leave all those razor sharp edges in there just to make sure you WILL cut yourself on one of them.

As for issues with RAID drives and OS’s, you had remembered that certain ones require you to press F6 and install your Raid drivers when your loading them?

Does it make me gay if I tell you I’ve missed you?

Pressing F6 would suggest that something is running to detect the key press. When I put the nVRaid drives into the Intel-based motherboard version of my box, all it saw was two drives, explicitly stating:

Drive 1: 500Gb. Non-raid disk.
Drive 2: 500Gb. Non-raid disk.

Then it would complete the POST, ask if I wanted to boot from CD/DVD, and then
a/ If the drives were connected out of order, report “Disk boot error. Press ctrl+alt+del”.
b/ If the drives were connected in order, the access would flash for an instant and then nothing else would happen. I waited 15 minutes and nothing happened.

If you have a non-raided drive to boot from, you can probably get them to read nvidia striped raids… But I didn’t have a boot.

Riad array controlers vary Mobo to Mobo.

Some will let you get into the config program by just pressing a certain key when you PC posts, others require you to run a program of a boot floppy/disks to config them.

Then even when you have configed the Raid array to get the OS to see the Raid controller, and thus the arry, many Windows OS’s require you to press F6 whilst the OS is loading from the CD/DVD which then allows you to load the driver for the controller.

Next time just send the parts to me and I will take care of all those little details KFS1 It’s what I do for a living and would be happy to assy it for you :) PS Bable says Hi

[quote]I couldn’t get our game running tonight[/quote]

Battleground Europe Does Not Support Windows 7.

Heh :)


We have a 7 page thread in out forums, and according to that you should get BE running in Win7 in Vista compability mode, running as administrator and only with some specific ATI drives — didn’t notice anything about Nvidia drivers.

I’m reminded, not that I need it as I have the scars on my knuckles to show for it, that I will never, ever, build a machine again. My last frankenpc is gathering dust, not having been turned on in over a year.

It doesn’t hurt that Apple went the intel route. So I can just buy one hoss machine and be done with it. Sure, I’ll pay more, but I like OS/X anyway, so it’s value to me.

I have come to your blog via Kingfisher Software, and I came to kfs seeking a website that held a hypertext version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/tlph.html). That Tractatus website was a work of simple genius and historically important, but it has gone. Do you know how I can chase it?

Hi, Bob. I forgot to set up the ~ directories when I relocated kfs.org recently. You should find that Jonathan’s Wittgenstein is back online. (Although, I don’t know if the same is still true for Mr Laventhol :)

I have been away on holiday, hence delay. I tried the site again, but no go. Each of the links from the first page of the site results in a “500 – internal server error”. See, for instance, http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/ten.html Thanks so much for paying attention to this. I do hope you can make it work.

Bob, click the small OK at the bottom right of the page: http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/

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