March 12

MY QUAD CORE PROCESSOR WAS RACING

“I WAS SHOCKED”

All 4 cores of my new Processor were running 60-80% capacity with the PC at rest!

cpu

There I was, poised ready and waiting….a Computer I’d been preparing to run in our bedroom with a new 50 inch flat screen TV  was assembled and booting up for its first time. The installed CPU was an almost new (2 months of use) Intel Core 2 Quad processor I’d recently bought on e-bay and it was about to be tested; as for all remaining hardware, well, it was mostly used and basically proven reliable, or so I thought.

First thing after  post,  a BIOS configuration screen popped up and with it a case intrusion alert. I went through the BIOS and set everything, pretty much to defaults, also disabling that pesky “intrusion alert.”  Next I saved the new settings and rebooted, this time  continuing  on to the Linux Mint 14 boot screen.

After pressing F2 for further options, I choose compatibility mode and the Live DVD proceeded to load. Once to the Linux Mint live desktop an install was  initiated, and a half hour later, the install done, we were ready to boot into our new system.

At this point, after reboot, everything seemed OK so I went ahead and did all the system updates. Next I used the Mint backup Tool to install all the same software I have on our living room PC; all this took about an hour.

While waiting,  I decided to check out the new hard drive partitions with Gparted. I like to set my partition file system checks pretty close together, (they don’t take very long and are cheap insurance). I wanted to be sure of the partition names, and Gparted lets you quickly see the necessary partition info for setting changes.

Menu to Gparted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the menu launcher under Administration and clicked….Gparted’s  GUI (Graphical User Interface) came up, grayed out, saying it was searching out devices. When after about a minute it still had not finished I knew something was wrong so I shut it down. (the startup process should have finished in about 5 seconds)

“This is odd” I thought….maybe something went wrong with the Gparted  installation. Opening up Synaptic Package Manager I did a complete UN-install and  RE-install of Gparted. Unfortunately, this provided the same results.

OK,  maybe there is a  hardware problem, like say my new processor is bad.

(The system did seem to be struggling at simple tasks.)

I started up Mints tool “System Monitor” and clicked on the Resources tab. Unbelievably, I found that all 4 cores were running at 60-80% capacity, with nothing running BUT system monitor!

WHAT WAS GOING ON, HAD I INADVERTENTLY INSTALLED VISTA?

Literally, I scratched my head a moment, then booted up from the Linux Mint 14 “Cinnamon” live DVD  and once again hit F2 for additional boot options. From there I choose a media integrity test………….and it failed, NOT EVEN COMPLETING THE TEST. This was even more confusing as I’m sure  I’d installed from this same DVD several times with no problems, including the current install on the living room PC.

What should I do?

Well, I grabbed a Linux Mint 14 XFCE install disk and booted from that…this time an integrity test  completed successfully. A reboot went on to the desktop where I found Mints system monitor was still showing excessive Processor use at idle, though not quite as much.

(This made sense because XFCE is designed to run on older slower hardware)

So, not knowing what was wrong, hoping my newly purchased processor was NOT the problem, I decided to let things set a couple of days. I had a few other things to do so this could wait on a back burner a short while.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Relaxing

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Upon  returning to the project, my first thought was  to  swap Motherboards. You see, I have 2 identical ASUS P5N-MX boards and I was considering perhaps the board was a problem. I’d  used parts from  the other P5N-MX  PC  to build this one. A hard drive, ram and Power Supply were the parts needed. The only different parts were the video card, processor and case.

 

My troubleshooting choices seemed to be……

*Swap Motherboards

*Swap Processors

*change Video Card

 

Now, I remember that  right after buying the installed video card I had troubles with it. Linux Mint 13 would install but when rebooted I got a screen split diagonally from the top right to the bottom left. I researched the problem but unfortunately, after several failed attempts to update the driver or change the right files I was forced to pull the card.  I had bought it looking for an HDMI output and its having a big heat-sink instead of a fan was a plus.  (ASUS model ENGT520)

ASUS model ENGT520Several months after this, a friend needed her PC repaired so I, wanting to hook it up to a TV, put the ASUS card in and installed Mint 14. Well, I was pleasantly surprised when after the install I found a usable desktop instead of that split screen from before.

(I did not noticed any excessive processor activity at the time.)

You can see then why the card ended up in this Computer I was building for our new TV. Its my newest card and I wanted the best parts available installed. And, apparently Linux Mint 14 supported it.

So, I found myself needing to do something to figure this problem out. The easiest test would be swapping Video cards, then the Next choice, believe it or not would have been swapping motherboards…just moving a hard drive, power supply, ram and processor to another board.

(OK, a little bit of trouble, but, I really did not want to disturb my other machine with the Core 2 Quad Processor as it was doing great)

Anyway, before swapping  Motherboards I thought, Hey, why not swap this Video Card for something else first and see if that makes a difference.

After powering down Linux Mint, I pulled the PC power cord from the back,  removed the card in question and replaced it with another card I knew had no problems.

I also burned another install DVD for  re-installing linux Mint…..I do recall having my first mint 14 DVD  burn fail.

(why had I not thrown  it away?)  :-(

motherboard batteryAnyway, when rebooted, the BIOS configuration screen popped up again, including the case intrusion alarm. This board had set for a couple of years and  was not holding the BIOS info when unplugged, so, I once again set the BIOS.

(looks like it’s time for a new motherboard battery)

After a successful install disk integrity check I rebooted, re-installed and then  booted into the new system.  I immediately  fired up system monitor and :-) happily :-) found that all 4  processors were now running at or below 5%; apparently my work was done…..almost.

 

CPU at idle

 

Once    again     I    installed    all   new  updates for Linux Mint 14 and then restored from backup all my favorite software applications, then did system updates again so we were completely up to date.

Next I fired up Virtual Box and installed XP Pro so I could run Microsoft’s Silverlight with Firefox to view Netflix.

(XP PRO because it is supported by Microsoft till 2020)

Then I set my hard drive partition’s file system checks  (fsck) at boot using tune2fs. After that I added the finishing touches to the desktop by placing programs icons in the bottom panel; also I changed the theme and desktop picture to suit me. The Computer was now ready to move into our bedroom. But first, a new motherboard battery from the local hardware store and then  reconfigure the BIOS once more.

Yup, I just gotta say, a job well done paul :-)

Now, I can sit in bed and work on my blog, or watch Netflix, or pay bills or read books on our 50″ flat screen, or……well, the list goes on.

I think though that soon I will need to find or make a backrest pillow for my wife and I so we can sit “COMFORTABLY” and watch TV because, if I lay down and watch TV, in no time at all, I’m out.

Sweet dreams y’all

Paul&Dorothy

 

 

 

 

 

February 22

HOW A SIMPLE FAN SUPERCHARGED MY GAMING EXPERINCE

fan

I use my computer for all sorts of things, from writing blogs just like this one to staying on top of my finances with spreadsheets  and  visiting  sites  to  comparing  Office Insurance and the like.
Recently, though, I thought I’d have a go at doing some gaming on my PC. There have been a lot of highly reviewed games released lately, and I’m not always in the mood to play on a home console, so gaming on my PC seemed like the natural choice.

I went out and purchased one of the best selling games of last year, Crysis 2. It’s a science fiction first person
shooter based in a future version of New York which is under siege by an
alien force. It’s not exactly prize winning stuff in terms of story, but it
was very well received by critics and I’d heard the graphics were gorgeous.

My first time playing Crysis2

Now, my computer – generally speaking – is pretty up-to-date, and the
graphics card in it is only around a year old. It’s an Nvidia card which
supports all the latest bells and whistles, including Direct X 11,
tessellation, soft shadows, and so on. All in all, it’s a solid card which
should be able to run pretty much anything you throw at it. Now, I’ve
reliably been informed that the Crysis series is renowned for being an
absolute dog to run – even the first game, which came out in 2007, is still
incredibly hard on PC gaming rigs – even those built yesterday! Crysis 2,
however, was also designed for consoles, and my PC is definitely faster
than those, so I thought I’d have no trouble. How wrong I was. I installed
the game (which took quite some time), fired it up, and sat back ready to
enjoy the best that modern gaming could throw at me. I let the game decide
on the best settings for me, and changed only the resolution to match my
monitor. I chose to start a new game, watched the intro, and the game
began. The only word I can use to describe it is: slide show. I was getting
15 – 20 frames per second, tops. Most games run at 60!

Desperately seeking a solution

Not best pleased, I hit the web to see how I could solve the problem. I
altered settings, changed resolutions, the works – but nothing worked. I
was about to give up when I noticed a slight electrical smell coming from
my PC tower. Intrigued, I opened it up: the heat pouring out was
phenomenal! This set me thinking: could my PC simply be overheating? I
fired up a temperature monitor called MSI Afterburner and ran the game.
After just five minutes, my PC graphics card was running at over ninety
degrees… Celsius! You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that
that’s way too high. This convinced me that overheating was the issue.

I headed to my local PC store and picked up a regular case fan, completely
run of the mill, and very low cost. I’d never considered that I needed
another fan so was relying on the PSU fan up until this point. I got home,
installed the fan, secured it to my case in just a few minutes, and crossed
my fingers. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure it would make a real difference;
usually getting things like this fixed can cost, big time. But I was
pleasantly surprised.

Problem solved!

Fan in place, I once again launched Crysis 2 and started a new game.The difference was like *night and day*! It was amazing. I felt like someone had switched my computer for a brand new one!

The game went from being choppy and unplayable to buttery smooth – and all it took was one cheap
fan! From the 20 fps slide show I went to a
minimum of 50 fps at all times-more than playable.

I couldn’t believe it; I’d never really considered
the effects of a poorly ventilated case, but this was a real eye-opener.

So if you’re having trouble with your PC running slowly, especially during gaming, make sure that
you check your case ventilation – it could be as
simple a fix as mine was.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the game is great.

ps…here is a quick tutorial on case ventilation you may want to  check out.

Keep cool everyone!

posted by paul

written by  I. R.

 

November 16

REPAIRING A BIG SCREEN MITSUBISHI

paul

It was an interesting week at best. Our big screen Mitsubishi TV had once again failed. I walked into the living room to find the TV off and my wife siting in the dark; this seemed kinda ODD so I had to ask “How come the TV is off?”

She said “It shut itself off and I couldn’t get it back on”!

We had just watched a movie with her  brother; he’d left and I was returning from the restroom; not much time had elapsed.

I tried  the Remote, and then walked over and used the manual buttons.

SHE WAS RIGHT……IT WOULD NOT START!

My first thought was, OH NO……NOT THE BULB AGAIN!

This was a Big Screen PROJECTION TV and its first failure 2 years previous was due to the PROJECTION BULB . Fortunately the cost THAT time was nothing out of MY pocket as we had opted for a 4 YEAR EXTENDED WARRANTY PACKAGE at purchase time.

Then, I noticed a bright red Panel Light to the right of the TV’s manual controls. Above the light was written “BULB”. I tried starting the TV again and walked around back to see if the Projection Bulb was on; it was not….good thing we had that extended warranty.

I got out the TV’S User Manual and the Warranty paperwork to find a repair call number.

[This was somewhat of a disappointment]

We were 2 weeks beyond our extended warranty’s termination.

Oh boy!

That meant I would be paying for a new bulb, and perhaps other repairs, MYSELF!

Thinking back I recalled looking for a bulb On-Line last time and the cheapest one found was right at $200.00. THAT had almost made me happy about the extended warranty.

Now however, no friendly, PRE-PAID, Technician would be arriving at our door to fix this. It would be ME doing repairs OR a big chunk of CASH would move from my pockets to another.

An old joke ran through my head “Say mister, have you got change for a $20?”  “Yes; from your hand to mine”.

All I could think was………

 

HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?

 

Putting  on a Headlamp I grabbed  a Phillips Screwdriver; then, I unplugged the TV. Behind it, on the right side at the bottom there was a cover. Behind the cover was the Bulb. I removed a screw holding the cover and 2 screws holding the bulb housing. Next I slid the bulb assembly out of the TV.

It was not broken……..it did not rattle…..it didn’t look burnt; this bulb did not appear defective.

But, what do I know, right?

The next day at work, I showed it to an electrician. He said it looked like a type of gas bulb since there was no wire element. During break he looked in an electrical supply book thinking perhaps we could figure out how to test it if we knew what it was, but he could find nothing comparable.

That evening I got On-Line again and did a search. Fortunately, it appeared that prices had dropped. The best value I found was $67.00, including free shipping at Amazon.com; this was Wednesday night.

After that, taking the Make & Model of our TV I successfully located AND downloaded its service manual. Turns out there were a set of buttons I could hold down for 5 seconds and it  would then give me an ERROR CODE sequence.

[I put the bulb back in for this this test]

Unfortunately, having already removed the bulb after it’s failure  the error code was not what I had hoped. It did not say bulb failure…instead it said “Bulb not making contact, or no bulb” An error code directly after system failure should have pointed me to the bulb having failed.

[Had I known about the error codes when it happened, I could have gotten them before removing the bulb]

Was or wasn’t the Bulb bad? I really didn’t know for sure.

Still, I felt comfortable enough with the Bulb being a problem to buy another. So I placed the order Thursday night at Amazon.com.

Friday evening I looked around back, inside the TV. There were 2 fans that looked plugged with dust. In the service manual I found directions for removing the back panel, and then next the Optical Engine. Once again, I got out my Phillips…[I was already wearing the Headlamp.] After removing the  panel I found many wires connecting  the Optical Engine Assembly to the TV. But each one was unique so I figured it should be easy to hook them all back up correctly; no need to tag wires or take pictures.

It was not much later I stood staring at the Optical Engine where I’d set it on a table. Closer observation found a third plugged fan and a very clogged heat-sink.

I have many times cleaned out fans on various computers. The secret is to stick something in them so they don’t spin up under air power, as this COULD  damage the fan.

I stepped out to the garage first and cut the Air Compressor  on so that I would have the Optical Engine out in the cold the shortest time possible.

I suspected cleaning the optical lens before reassembly would be smart; I sealed the lens and Optical Eye in plastic to keep them at least as clean as they were.; I did not want them to become another worry.

There was a cover over the heat sink that housed one of the fans so I separated that from the whole assemble to facilitate cleaning.

I next carefully carried the Optical Engine assembly to the garage for cleaning. Being the heart of this TV I’d hate to think what dropping it might cost me. This would probably border on a “NEW TV” event.

I set the assembly down in the garage and grabbed a small screwdriver and the air hose. Within minutes the fans and heat sink had lost their 4 year coating of dust.

Once again inside I removed the protective plastic and carefully cleaned the lens and Optical Eye with Warm water, then dabbing the surfaces dry. After this, I wiped them with an Eyeglass Cleaning Cloth.

Next I walked back to the TV and looked into its back where the optical engine slips in. It was really dusty back there so I got out the vacuum and cleaned that too.

The actual TV electrical chassis did not appear to house any fans. It had one really big heat-sink but it was not at all clogged. I concluded there was no maintenance needed in that area.

I reinstalled the Optical engine, and hooked up all its wires. Then, the TV’s back panel was put back on.

Since the Bulb had not arrived yet I went On-Line to track its whereabouts and found it was on the way but still one state away. Delivery was guessed to be Monday by 4pm……….

IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG WEEKEND!

So, we waited.

Saturday afternoon I dug out my old  Home Network/Server  Internet-Gateway PC. I thought perhaps we could use it to watch movies on our ancient 32 inch Samsung Television.

[we bought that one in 1993]

After loading Linux mint 11, I moved the PC and old Samsung  together, and hooked them up.

The TV and computer did not at first create a usable video as the screen rolled and rolled……. and rolled. So, I returned to my workshop and changed its video driver. Once again I tried the 2 together and this time the video was good, but the sound was scratchy.

Installing a sound card did not help. Then I swapped the Audio inputs on the old TV:  that fixed the sound, so we were set for movies and TV till the bulb arrived.

Monday, after work, there on the front porch sat a box….THE BOX, I HOPED!  Carefully, I opened and examined its contents.

There I sat, old Bulb in one hand, new Bulb in the other.

Yes, this WAS the correct bulb!

I looked over at my wife and she looked at me.

“WELL,” she said….”WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR……….FIX IT!”

I certainly had nothing more important on MY mind then fixing that TV. All that was left was to reinstall the bulb and replace its cover.; and, it didn’t take very long.

Done with that I plugged the TV back into its Surge Protector Power Strip and walked directly to the TV remote, and pushed the power button.

SUCCESS!!!

Our Big Screen Mitsubishi came BLAZING back to life in all its glory.

My wife smiled…I smiled……What a relief…and, best of all, I had not needed to spend big bucks on the repair.

Years ago, my dad was trained in TV repair, back when it really took some trouble-shooting skills. He told me once that Most TV repairs now days were just a components exchange. It was cheaper to throw away and replace with new then to repair the broken parts. I can see how true that statement was.

It is the same today with PC components. Nobody repairs a modem or video card…they throw it away and just buy another.

I am glad that this repair was so easy. But I am wondering if having a new bulb on the shelf is a better choice then waiting till THE problem occurs AGAIN.

Prices went DOWN, over the past 2 years, NOT up. Still, a whole week without our TV might have been avoided.

Anyway, I can honestly say my PC REPAIR ADVENTURES made this TV’S fix an easier process. Had I not worked on all those computers I may not have braved our TV. I think all those previous experiences made me a little smarter about this one.

I guess I’ll keep repairing things, for now. Maybe if I win the lottery I might start hiring it out. I don’t know though…I really do enjoy the little victories.

Probably I’d add a little more to this article. But, its time for the SIMPSONS….and TRUST ME, they are VERY impressive on our Big Screen Mitsubishi!

I REALLY don’t want to miss THAT!

later

paul