...making Linux just a little more fun!
By Mike ("Iron") Orr
Here's what happened to me a few years ago when computers were not so cheap and a group of 5 very old machines were worth saving from a flood.
I was working in a Laboratory at the time. We had a room with 2 big microscopes and 5 old Macs used for image analysis. The room ended up flooded during the night after an autoclave (kind of big pressure cooker that biologically-inclined geeks use to sterilize things) broke down. Although the microscopes were safe, the table with the Macs got hit. All the machine ended up covered with a muddy rusty water.
The next morning, I decided to bring the Macs to the lab to dismantle them. By chance the drives and power supply were dry but the motherboards were in really bad shape.
I washed all the cards in distilled water and then in alcohol. I then put them in an oven at 40 degrees Celsius for a day.
Everyone was smiling at me until I rebuilt the Mac and got them running again. At the time, I did not know that it was the way electronic boards were washed in fact, and I was not really sure of the result before it came.
In the meantime, the machines got reimbursed by the insurance that did not consider worth getting the old one back, so we doubled our investment in the computers.
Once upon a time (maybe 4-5 years ago), I had a 80286 case for old timess sake. But its floppy drive wasn't working. So I decided to use my Pentium II' s floppy with it. I was trying to install a DOS 6.22 system on it think. But i wasn't able to take the floppy out of its original case. A bit acrobaticly I put the cases in parallel and with a long cable connected the floppy to 286. Everything was OK.
But there was something wrong. (Did I metioned the pentium was where my father did his civil-engineering tasks?) The floppy's LED was on continuoussly. I was in a hurry and didn't think the cable was wrongly plugged. The PC didn't boot. The system was down. It should be the doom. I got angry and started to hit the floppy drive with a hammer. After that I got the idea of the cable. HIT! Everything seemed to be ok then. But i got a damaged HDD. The HDD was below the floppy.. The real doom :) But the good thing was that I had that drive backed up.
So never work without backups and hammers when working inside the case.
Probably the most expensive learning experience in my history was hooking up a second drive, a used 20mb Miniscribe SCSI 3.5" as the second in a chain to my Amiga 2000 years ago. I didn't know about SCSI termination, and back then, it was real important. I watched in dazed amazement as a single wire on the cable smoked and burnt down toward the first drive, like the black powder burning toward the weapons room in a Looney Toons featuring Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam as the pirate. At probably the last possible second, I broke the trance and lunged forward, groping around the back of the machine for the power switch. I got it just in time. I only lost the 20mb SCSI.
About a year later, I got a job at a used retail computer store, and found a dead miniscribe 20mb among the waste products. I removed the controller card, swapped it out with the controller on my drive, and brought life back to my drive. That evening, it was resting on the corner of a desk, and a co-worker bumped it and it fell onto the concrete floor. That was the end of that drive.
I think I paid $200 for the drive, used. Needless to say, I shortly became an expert in proper termination of SCSI chains. :)
Years ago now (about 1989 or so) I was the grateful recipient of an old XT that no one wanted. I hadn't had much to do with computers up until then on the hardware side - but this one came in pieces, so it was a matter of getting my sleeves rolled up an' putting it all together.
It was great - a complete change to the ol' Commodore 64 and plus 4 that I'd played with before. But I kept getting this wierd problem. The hard drive ( a monster and a half) -- all of twenty megabytes, and in a double-height casing (so it weighed a ton) -- was connected to the IDE controller card, which in turn was seated into the motherboard). When switching on the computer everything was fine. The old XT booted up with its old (DOS 3 I think) OS and worked fine. But whenever I tried to format or delete any of the old stuff on it it seemed fine until next reboot, when everything was still there. Wierd.
So I took it along to a computer shop with a workshop and admitted to being completely baffled by the phenomenon. The techie took one look at the ribbon cable connecting the hard drive to the IDE controller and unplugged it and plugged it so that it was seated over BOTH rows of pins. I had plugged the cable in so that one whole row of pins had been missed.
Needless to say, I was one really embarrassed teenager! Needless to say as well that it has never happened again - some mistakes are just too stupid to repeat!
[If you have a story about something foolish or ingenious you did to your computer, send it to email@example.com. -Iron.]