Nothing a little cardboard won’t fix…

The box that I have been hosting this blog on has been having hardware problems lately, or so it seems. Well, that’s never a fun thing, certainly. It’s been hard-locking periodically for awhile now, enough that I can’t get anything out of it via the “Special Administration Console” (SAC) – the Windows version of a serial console. I can’t even break in with the kernel debugger when it locks up, so I’m fairly sure it is hardware related.

Now, a bit of background; this isn’t exactly a new box, and in fact I got it used (for free), so I can’t really complain too much about it. But, suffice to say it has seen better days. There is only one screw holding down the motherboard (!) and both of the NICs that the box came with, well, suck – a Netgear FA310 (the predecessor to the infamously terrible FA311) that doesn’t even have drivers past NT4, and a VIA NIC that occasionally stopped receiving traffic until reboots. Well, I’ve since replaced the NICs with good ol’ reliable 3COM 3C905C-TX-based cards and that at least stopped the NIC-related problems the box has had. (The box needs two NICs as it is my gateway system that sits in between the cable modem and the rest of my LAN here.)

Anyways, there still remained the problem of the periodic complete system lockups. I tried repositioning the computer a few times (on its side, put it sitting up straight, etc), but nothing really helped. This was getting fairly annoying, as it would die every couple of days, naturally in the middle of some extremely inconvenient situation in which to be disconnected in Wow. Since the box only had one motherboard screw, I suspected that it might be shorting out against something (as is not really very well secured against the case). Unfortunately, I didn’t have any screws compatible with the motherboard/case on hand (my other computers here are laptops). So, I set to looking for other solutions; what I came up with is none other than cardboard. Specifically, I ended up just slipping a chunk of cardboard in between the motherboard and the part of the case that it seemed most likely to be shorting out against.

Ever since, I’ve been lockup-free for at least a couple days now. Hopefully this will tide me over for now until I manage to grab some screws…

6 Responses to “Nothing a little cardboard won’t fix…”

  1. dispensa says:

    Nice. :-)

    I’ve done that before; in fact, I had a box with no case at all running in my dorm room in college. It was an old 5V Pentium 100, too, so it wasn’t exactly cool. Nothing caught on fire though, and the cardboard made it through the semester.

  2. Sean Straw says:

    Inquring minds want to know – are you STILL running the same system, or did you upgrade? Got screws yet, or is the cardboard still doing the job?

    Personally, I find that packages with large flat pieces of plastic make for useful insulators – you know, kids’ (and some big boy) toys that are enveloped in that rigid plastic “window” you have to whip out a chainsaw to extract them from. I set aside larger pieces of this stuff for future projects, but smaller bits have come in handy when fixing a broken bit of plastic on a laptop (a snap-on hinge cover assembly on an HP), where the laptop would suddenly shut off because some PCB component would ground against something the plastic would have kept it from. cut, bend, cram, and no more problem.

    It wasn’t uncommon to screw some components down to a piece of plywood when we’d have a bunch of motherboards used for hardware diagnostic testing (back in the day when you’d deliberatley tie a RAM chip address or data leg down to ground to create a memory failure, and chips were DIP style). back then, the case was an unnecessary expense and was just in the way.

  3. Skywing says:

    Still using the same box, with the same chunk of cardboard sticking out the side. I did get some more screws for the expansion cards so they won’t keep coming loose and hanging the box, though, so that’s an improvement.

  4. […] Well, I just spent the past hour and a half trying to resurrect the box that hosts the blog after it froze again. I finally succeeded in getting it working (cross my fingers…). At this point, though, I think that it’s time to start working on moving the blog to a more reliable location. The current box has locked up a couple times this month already, which is worrisome (not to mention highly annoying, as it also happens to be routing for my apartment LAN, so when it goes down, so does my primary Internet link). The fact that it took about an hour and a half of disassembling it and putting things back together to get it running is definitely something I take as a strong sign that it’s going to take a turn for the worst rather soon. Granted, this box was donated to me, so I suppose I can’t complain too much, but it’s time to get something more reliable. […]

  5. mikegladsz says:

    Hey! I signed up on this forum this week.

    Apologies for being lazy, but I was wondering if anyone could show me any particularly good threads that I should check out first, so I can get involved here?

    Thank you, Michael Gladstone

  6. Skywing says:

    There’s a list of in-depth article series in the “Post Directory” page linked from the side bar; you might start there and see if there is anything that sounds interesting.