A busy week

Last week I finally decided to get to work on my gaming computer.  For some time now it has been running for a while and then shutting down suddenly.  It was very hard to pin down exactly why this was happening.  Sometimes I could let it just sit there for a day – powered up – and come back from shopping and it would be powered down or completely frozen.  Other times it would freeze almost immediately.

When it froze, I could see what was on the screen but none of the controls, keyboard, mouse, or anything else worked.  Since the screen was displaying exactly what was happening when the computer froze, That meant (generally) that the graphics card was still working.  It had to be something else.  The only way I could regain control was to hold the power button down and wait for it to go off.  This, of course, made XP very angry and caused all the discs to be checked on power-up.  When you have three hard drives, and the smallest is 175Gb, this takes a while.

So, finally, last weekend I dragged out my testing equipment and went to work.  I hung all sorts of monitors, gauges, and other devices wherever I could and started exercising all my CPU/GPU dependent software.  I ran Flight Simulator X, Trainz 2009, and a couple of other programs that were memory intensive.  No problems noted, but sometimes the mouse would lose connectivity for a couple of seconds.

Then, after I added a recording oscilloscope to the mix I found that my power supply fan was running at half speed.  This, along with power demands, would cause the +12v and -12v rails to drop to around +/-9.5 volts or so.  This would, in turn, force the DVD drives (and all the hard drives) to slow down slightly.  When this happened, the various programs would start acting up.  As soon as one of them would stop responding (usually after a request for data from a drive, or a write request).  This froze the computer.

As things turned out, I found a toasted transistor in the power supply and replaced it.  The fan came back up to speed and, apparently, my troubles are over.  I have been flying with my friend Pete now for several days for varying amouts of time and haven’t had a single problem.

This computer will need to be replaced next I think.  I’ve replaced my primary development desktop with a Vista machine, and have seen ads for computers with as much as 6Gb of RAM and Terabyte drives for as little as $600.  The gaming computer has been with me now for almost 5 years but it’s getting long in the tooth.  I don’t even have a USB2.0 version on it, only 1.5.

My front yard has been sparsely populated for a while.  Given the very hot weather, coupled with an occasional huge thunderstorm, my families of squirrels have given up and remained in the trees.  I did manage to sneak up on one squirrel who, when I popped around the tree and surprised him, ran towards my front porch.  As I pursured, he goe excited and ran up the side of my brick house and shot completely across the front of the house and leapt for a tree near the corner.  I’ve never seen a squirrel do that – run up a vertical wall and then scamper across it.  If I’d had my camera I could have shot some neat pictures.

I have also been unable to capture a picture of my chipmunk.  He still darts out from time to time and grabs a mouthful of seeds spilled on the grass, but I’m never in a position to take a picture.

So, that’s all that’s been going on over here.