Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Computer Down!

Shortly after moving to Seattle I was given a laptop, tcong by someone that didn't want it anymore. It wasn't hard to see why; the laptop was a bulky desktop replacement, and its screen had a defect, where it would intermittently show red lines across the screen. It was annoying but usable, so when I went out to Mountain View for my first week at Google I took it with me. On the way home, laden with my much nicer work laptop, I put tcong in my checked bag, surrounded by lots of nice fluffy dirty laundry.

Now its display seems to have bitten the dust completely. Not only does its own screen show no data (the backlight works, but the screen just shows white all the time), but it doesn't seem to output anything over the external VGA port either (a monitor attached to that always shows black). It also has an S-Video output, but I can't test it (I don't currently have any displays that accept S-Video). I managed to blindly turn on sshd, so I can connect to it remotely and verify that the rest of the system works fine. In fact, Xorg starts, finds the GPU, and correctly polls both the built-in display and an external monitor's EDID.

It seems weird to me that physical damage would cause video signals to fail both on the built-in display and the external VGA port without causing any other problems, but that appears to be the case. So another second-hand laptop bites the dust due to, apparently, physical failure. Assuming I deem tcong pretty much useless, it will become the fourth member of my computer graveyard (consisting of all my named computers that have died for some reason).

  • flytrap, used from 2004-2007, was a third-hand PIII laptop that I bought from John because he didn't like it. It ran FreeBSD and served hard duty in my backpack and bike basket around campus, where I used it to write papers and display remote X programs running on UIUC's Big Iron. Its CD drive fell out, in a bank (!), shortly after I moved to Santa Clara, and I think the power supply failed in early 2007. I stupidly bought a PC Card network adapter for it shortly before it died; now that's something with no resale value!
  • montana, used from 2005-2007, was a cobbled-together PIII desktop with an enormous case. I initially ran FreeBSD on it. I don't think I ever even installed X; it had a severe RAM shortage, so running anything significant meant lots o' swapping. For some reason I lugged it around campus once for a class project, which was hilarious and dumb. In Santa Clara I used it as a general-purpose Plan 9 server. It hit the recyclery before I moved back to Chicago because it was obsolete, not useful, and huge.
  • talkingcookie, used from 2002-2009, was my main desktop computer, running Gentoo Linux, from the start of college until its power supply died. At that point, its major components were obsolete and flaky, so I replaced it with impulse as, well, a random impulse.
  • tcong, used from 2010-2011, was given to me by one of Jess' friends before he moved, because it was enormous and sort-of broken. It ran Ubuntu, and its most notable use was handling audio and video for Seattle's RPM 2011 listening party.

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