Had a mini Christmas party at the office on Friday. Among other things, we had an auction of old company computers and notebooks. The proceeds of the auction would go to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
I bid for, won and paid RM225.00 for an aging Dell OptiPlex GX1 machine with the following specs:
- PIII 600 MHz
- 512MB RAM
- 13GB HD
- 52x CD-ROM
- 8MB ATI graphics card
- NEC MultiSync V700 17″ monitor
The main draw for me were the 512MB RAM. I didn’t know what the configuration was but was hoping it would be a single module such that I can upgrade and maximise my current home PC’s memory. Turns out the machine came with 2 x 256MB 100MHz SDRAM. Not too bad. I swapped out my old memory to the DELL machine and ended up with 640MB (2 x 256MB and 1 x 128MB). My home machine (Intel Celeron 1.1GHz) is running much faster and smoother now with the extra memory.
On the side, I also have a ‘new’ server to host my experiments on. I installed Linux Red Hat 8.0 on the machine. It took me a while to get it working. I had to reinstall Linux twice. The first time round, the machine rebooted with a “Regulator Failure” error message when I was testing the display resolution at 1024 x 800. Upon rebooting the machine again, it complained that IDE-0 and IDE-1 could not be detected. To say that my heart sank would have been an understatement.
Regulator failure is a known and common fault with the GX1 machine. It is an electrical fault and the usual advice is to check/replace the power supply or motherboard. However, since the machine is no longer in production and out of warranty, that wasn’t really an option.
Instead, I double checked the cable connections, CPU mounting, and RAM seating. Everything checked out fine but still nothing when rebooting. The problem was finally resolved by going into the BIOS setup and changing/resetting the configuration. Upon saving and exit, the machine booted up easily and I was able to get Linux installed without further problems.
If you’re having regulator problems on an old DELL GX1 machine, the easiest way out is to minimise graphics hardware acceleration (e.g. graphics editing or trying a resolution beyond what is supported). The problem arises when the machine tries to push information on the BUS between the CPU and RAM too quickly. If it does happen and you can’t get your machine to boot up correctly or recognise the connected drives, reset the BIOS settings.
Thankfully for me, the server is now up and running. I’ll drop in some source control (probably Concurrent Versions System [CVS] or use CSSC that comes with RedHat) later on and use the server for backup, storage and development work.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my acquisition. The money I paid for it would go to a good cause is just an added bonus. All’s well in the world.