This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to fix an old alien

A few years back I wangled an Alienware M9700 to do tests on high end graphics and their impact in UI. This is an insane device- twin SLI video cards, raid0 striped hard drives, HD screen, 64bit processor. A very fetching metalic green too. Absurd, and at the time, for about 3 weeks I think, it was the fastest laptop money could buy.

Today it's still a very grunty machine- perhaps a little low on RAM to be considered truely top flight, and the video cards don't support the latest video formats. Never the less, when it started to cook itse;f and break down, it was well worth trying to fix. I spent weeks downloading various alittle bits of software to get into the temp sensors and see where the problem was- SpeedFan turned out to be a slightly patchy but useful tool, and showed that Elphaba was running hot enough to cook on, and that was why she was conking out after about ten minutes of doing anything complicated.

There is a coda to this inspection- at some point or other I downloaded an inspection tool that infected her with a really nasty 'windows security' virus. And at that point things went south fast. Anti virus software was working so hard and taking so long to hunt down the virus that it would conk out before finishing a scan! Heat, illness, all bad!

So, the first thig to do was to fix the hardware- cue a full heatsink stripdown, clean out and application of Arctic Silver, as described perfectly here! To be honest I was a bit nervous about this process- but the instructions are nice and clear, and after a dry run, the process went pretty well I think. Yesterday I just about managed to get Gimp running some pretty big transforms to push the processor and the temp topped out at 72 degrees, but was well handled by the fans and quickly drawn down again.

Now all that needs to be done is to completely rebuild the software layer, and I'm thinking of trying a 3way multiboot set up with win XP (for reliabilities sake) ubuntu 64bit (though possibly not with Grub2- found that very awkward in the past!) and Windows 7 x64. You know, for giggles! Might upgrade the RAM and disks too. One to ponder. Suggestions for OS's welcome too by the way- always up fro trying something new. Bear in mind though that just to turn on this beast really does need some pretty odd drivers!


Mo said...

Much point in dual-booting with XP vs Win7 when Win7 has a virtualised XP mode anyway?

meeware said...

If win7 works then nope, but evidence available to date suggests that getting win7 running on this beast is a real pain. It's down to drivers, especially for the SLUI video and Raid controller. Win7 is meant to use the Vista drivers, and they are a bit bleugh. So, will probably load up XP, and then stack on Ubuntu and then Win7 in stages.