A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to startx

I got up bright and early on Wednesday last in anticipation of performing some computer projects that I had set aside to do.

I sat here at the computer desk with my hot cup of coffee steaming on the desk next to me. I reached out and clicked that ON button on the face of my tower. The buzzing and whirring began just as it always does. My Slackware boots in a relatively short time, so I scratched at myself and picked my nose while waiting. When I glanced up, the monitor was black. Hmm… that’s not good.

To make a long nightmare more enjoyable to read about, it turned out that I had some sort of dirty contact issue with my PCIe graphics card socket. Ain’t that a bitch? Well, I tried a little brush with alcohol. Nope. That didn’t work. I tried some compressed air. Nope. That didn’t fix it either. OK. I disassembled the system and removed my mobo completely. I took it outside to my shop (that’s when you know something’s serious).

I re-soldered all the pins on the socket, in case there was a cold/cracked solder joint. Not to worry, folks. I’m a professional. I spent the better part of my life servicing electronic products to component level. I have the tools and the skills. I don’t recommend you try this at home, though. Those boards are machine soldered (by Chinese machines that run on rice) and can easily be boogered up, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, while I had the mobo on the bench, I got a piece of emery paper and folded it and inserted it into the slot on the socket. I ran it back and forth, cleaning those little metal contacts as I went. I sprayed tuner cleaner in healthy amounts and blew the socket out with compressed air again. I took it back inside the house.

I reassembled the system and booted. YAY! It worked! Let’s hope it continues to do so because I have some more good stuff to tell you about in the next few days. I had a mini-installfest again. I installed Arch Linux (again) and installed Foresight Linux (also, again). I’ll post a bit about my adventures with that project and why it happened in a couple days.



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  • Buffet  On February 13, 2011 at 06:33

    Why was the computer turned off in the first place?

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 13, 2011 at 11:12

      Good question! The answer is that it was off because I’m not a believer in having something sitting around wasting electricity and using up its own component lifetimes when I’m not even there to be using it. My entire computer desk with all its accompanying peripherals (routers, audio systems, printers, scanners, etc.) powers down with one switch. If I’m not using it, it’s OFF in my house. I have an average electric bill of about $65/month. I don’t know many others who can say that. No, I’m not a cheap bastage. I just don’t like waste.

      Thanks for reading/commenting, Buffet. πŸ™‚


  • leftystrat  On February 13, 2011 at 12:10

    YAY for component-level troubleshooting!

    Stop by sometime and help me with some tube amps πŸ™‚

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 13, 2011 at 13:19

      Damn! I’d love to stop by, Lefty. Sadly, you’re a bit too far away at the moment. πŸ˜‰

  • Buffet  On February 13, 2011 at 14:59

    Thanks for the great answer. I’d just always been told by the Supergeeks and authors of books on the subject, it’s best for the machine to leave it on? Congrats on your low electric bill. Mine is usually in the $45-55 range due to my installation of an 18 SEER heat pump and an on demand tankless H2O heater. I clean the inside of my computer with compressed CO2. Izzat acceptable?

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 13, 2011 at 16:33

      HAHA! I occasionally blow the dust and cat hair out of my system, too. I run my tower with an open case. Lots of ventilation, but lots of cat hair, too. πŸ˜‰ Without getting into that never ending debate about what’s better, leaving it on or turning it off; I’ll just say this:

      Common sense will tell you that all components (electronic and mechanical) on your system have lifetimes. If you leave your system on all the time (even when you’re not using it), you are using the lifetimes of those components; and wasting electricity to boot. Does that make sense? To me it doesn’t. I’m old (fashioned). I prefer to turn stuff OFF when I’m not using it. To each their own, though. It’s yall’s stuff, after all. πŸ™‚



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