So, as usual, I haven’t blogged lately.
Well, stuff has been on my mind.
Last month, my gaming PC “Mazinkaiser” had issues. It started with a weird thing where whenever I would install games it would suddenly give me a rather terrifying Blue Screen indicating that it could not write to the C:\ drive. For the non-computer literate… the C:\ drive is where the operating system is, and its very much the Windows PC equivalent of an NES blinking because it can’t locate the cartridge, except if it did that in the middle of active use (which I’ve seen NESes do that and that’s when I break out the screwdriver…)
After looking into it and asking on Vogons, the best answer anyone could come up with was that the board’s capacitors were going bad. I wanted to fix this myself, but I have… hand issues. Especially anything involving precision. My nerves are known to suddenly give way and I’ll just lose my grip, which is not something I wanna do while holding a soldering iron.
So I sent the board (Along with a duplicate which was in even worse condition) off to badcaps.org to be repaired. It’ll be costly but I’d rather do this than take a chance that another mobo off ebay will just develop the same problem.
… then I got another mobo off ebay anyway, except this one specifically said it had been recapped prior to being put up for sale.
This new motherboard is a Dell GX260, it came pre-equipped with an intel Pentium 4 2.80ghz processor an 512mb of ram (in the form of two 256mb sticks). From what I’ve read, this mobo’s max capacity is two gigabytes of RAM, which I’m thinking of updating it to, but… well, anyway…
So I stuck a Geforce 4 ti 4200 in this baby, and a Soundblaster Audigy 2… and first installed Windows XP on it.
It was no time at all before I was running XP and honestly, for someone who is so used to using a laptop to do things like watch anime, there’s almost something amazing about seeing a desktop do it.
But I’m jumping ahead of myself. See, before I installed any OS at all there were weird issues because unfortunately I hadn’t known that Dell likes to make their stuff proprietary. While this motherboard works with standard power supplies, it has a unique front panel connector. Fortunately I had visited my dad that week and he happened to have parts from a similar Dell model that he was able to just toss at me, mainly just a bit cable of all the front panel stuff–most importantly an on-off switch.
The other thing is this board is designed for a specific case, so if you want to use a different case you gotta do some work. Right now I have the mobo just sitting naked and in the open, with an actual desk fan pointing at the heat sink (this, however, hasn’t prevented occasional overheating).
But I decided before I case it up, I see its capabilities. Since Windows XP worked fine, it was time to test Windows 98SE for the potential of dual-booting.
This, of course, was where I ran into hiccups.
My first problem was that Windows 98 wouldn’t let me install my Geforce’s drivers–even before I did, it would report that there was a resource conflict with the ACPI BIOS. Essentially they wanted to use the same I/O range… whatever that is.
Someone at Vogons gave me a solution that worked. It required a reinstall of windows, but when running setup (which in this case I have to run from a command prompt and not from a CD-boot, which fortunately Win98 makes easy to do) to use a command switch. So the command I should run is:
setup /p i
(This is, of course, Windows 98 SECOND Edition. Why would I run first edition? That’s just more headaches waiting to happen).
Anyway, this prevents windows from even looking at the Advanced Power Whatsit, so no resource conflict.
The next deal was installing my sound card drivers. I had one Audigy 2 install CD ISO (you can find these either at VOGONS or at Archive.org) but you couldn’t install drivers direct from the autorun. Instead you have to navigate to a directory called Audio\Drivers and run a program called ctzapxx.exe (or something like that).
I installed one set of drivers and they worked… kind of. The first I installed were WDM drivers, which I had seen a Phil’s Computer Lab video that mentioned these and noted they could cause compatibility issues and sound hiccups. Which, as soon as I installed and ran Unreal Tournament, I got an example of this.
Okay, Unreal Tournament (the original, no 2004 or Part III… though this IS the Game of the Year edition, the version included in the “Totally Unreal” pack) has this opening intro where after a moment, a lady narrates about how these corporations started a tournament.
On Mazinkaiser’s Sound Blaster 16 in Windows 98SE, this played fine.
On this very same Audigy 2 on my new comp on Windows XP, it played fine.
On this same comp but on Windows 98SE but with these Audigy 2 WDM drivers? The voice either never starts, or is just static.
So I went to try and find a way to get VXD Drivers.
Turns out, I just needed a different disc.
Again, Vogons provided the answer–their driver library featured something labeled the “Audigy 2 Installation and Application CD,” which at first seemed no different from the ISO I already had… but this one let me install VXD drivers using the same ctzapxx program (the other didn’t give me the choice).
Since then, stuff has worked mostly fine. I once had an issue of no sound coming from one of the speakers but it was fixed after a reboot, and other times the comp overheated (a problem its only had in Windows 98SE). Just now, the comp weirdly powered on by itself when I was on the other side of the room… even though I checked the bios and had specifically disabled its ability to do that… (I mean, I guess it’s just eager to get back to Unreal Tournament).
The only real difficulty left is that as this is a Dell motherboard, it was all proprietary and thus designed specifically for a Dell case. I might be able to modify another style of case to fix this, but otherwise its looking like I might need to hunt down the kind of case actually meant for an Optiplex GX260.
My only other concern is, again, heating. My dad had a Dell fan meant for this kind of comp and he let me have it, and so the processor overheats. For the Geforce card I’mma looking into custom heat sinks.
And finally, there’s the name…
I haven’t finalized what I’ll call this comp yet. I previously thought of calling it Megazord, to go with the “Giant Robot” theme Mazinkaiser started, but since its a Dell I thought of also calling it Michel Delving. Or I could call it Gundam.
Eh, if anyone’s reading I’ll leave it to a vote in the comments.