Sunday, August 16, 2009

Plan B

The trip to Goodwill Computer Works was disappointing. I probably would have fared better if I'd been looking for a specific part, but for actual boxes, the prices weren't low enough to dissuade me from other options. From here, I can go in one of two directions:
  • Buy a secondhand refurbished box from a reseller.
  • Buy a barebones kit and assemble it myself.
Regarding the first option, many of these boxes are lease returns and the like. If the reseller is any good, they test these boxes thoroughly and offer their own guarantees when selling the box to you. It's like the certified used cars that some dealerships offer--you get a little more certainty than you would buying something "as is." As you may have guessed, I happen to know of such a reseller. My network administrator dad does a lot of business with them, and he is one happy customer.

The major downside of going that way is that these are generally proprietary boxes. This means I would have very limited options for upgrading and modifying the system as I see fit. So just like now, if something went out on the motherboard, I'd be hosed. Or at the very least, I'd be locked into parts from that one manufacturer, which are often more expensive.

My other option is to buy a barebones kit and assemble it. This way I wouldn't be locked into a proprietary system, and you tend to get a bit more machine for your money. I'd also get the learning experience of putting my own computer together all by myself! The downside of going that route is that I wouldn't have the security of being able to call a single phone number. Also, individual manufacturers might try to weasel out of their warranty by placing the blame on a part they don't make. And as anyone who's worked with computers for a while, the quality of a company's customer service is not a trivial matter.

Strangely enough, both options cost roughly the same for what I'm looking for. So we're looking at a philosophical difference here. Not sure which way I'll go, but of course, I'll keep you posted!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My options

In my last post I mentioned how Lazarus is spontaneously turning on even after completely shutting him down. I did a little research on the matter, and the general consensus is that first you need to check your BIOS settings to see if "Wake on LAN" is enabled. This seems to fix the problem for most people, but in my case, the setting is already disabled. Looking through the BIOS reveals no other "Wake on" settings.

The next step is to check for viruses/adware/spyware/malware. I think I can safely rule that out, since I'm running Linux. Besides, I've done complete wipes and reloads just trying out different distros, and the problem persists, so I'm pretty sure it's not a virus problem.

This seems to point to an issue with the motherboard. For those whose Ethernet is hardwired in, there's a cable you can disconnect. However, I have a separate network card, so that isn't an option for me. Other people who have gotten to this point have had some luck actually tinkering with the power button mechanism. I think it might be interesting to try that just to see if it works, but I'm still thinking that an upgrade will probably be in the works.

Since everything with eMachines (and many other manufacturers, to be fair) is proprietary, I can't mix and match with cases and motherboards. In other words, I can't just replace the current motherboard with a newer, more standard one. But I don't want to just head to Wal-Mart and plop down a few hundred bucks for the cheapie box of the moment. I definitely want to stay true to the spirit of Operation Lazarus in that I want to maximize my computing capability with minimal resources (both technical and financial).

First order of business will be to check out the Goodwill Computer Works store in my area this weekend. I know that's a crapshoot, but I really admire Goodwill's mission, and I think this is the most logical first step in staying true to the original intent of this project. And for those of you who aren't aware of this and haven't made other provisions for recycling your old computer hardware, Goodwill does a lot of work with that, too. Even if I have to buy my major parts via retail channels, I'll probably donate what I can't salvage of Lazarus to Goodwill.

Next time I'll tell you how the shopping trip went and discuss options for people who don't have access to places like Goodwill Computer Works.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm back!

A lot has happened since I've posted last, but the important thing is that I'm ready to get cracking again. In previous posts I'd mentioned wanting to try bare-bones versions of other distros on Lazarus, so you should see information about that pretty soon.

One major change is that Lazarus now has his own peripherals, so no more messing with the KVM switch. Actually, I've had the keyboard and mouse (both PS/2) that came with Lazarus the whole time but lacked the room for them. This is no longer an issue. When setting it up, I was reminded that on these computers it actually matters which PS/2 port you plug the cables into (hence the color coding, I suppose). I accidentally plugged the mouse into the keyboard port and vice versa, and the system wouldn't recognize either one when booting up until I fixed it!

Also, I'm looking at hardware upgrades. Sure, I could buy a ready-made box for a reasonable price, but that's no fun, is it? Right now my biggest limitation is the CPU. One could argue that the RAM is a greater limitation, but I could upgrade that easily. However, the CPU is about as fast as the current motherboard supports. All sources indicate that 533 MHz is the fastest processing you can have on this motherboard, and I'm already at 500. So we're probably talking a new case, motherboard, and CPU in the near future. Maybe that will also fix Lazarus's weird habit of spontaneously powering on.