Hayling Island

Hayling Island

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Let's hope 2017 is a good one.


So the laptop has died that I use to run LIFUTIL. It started with the diskette drive failing, but quickly became beyond repair when the LCD decided to go dark as well.

I have an older machine in the office, and I found an old diskette drive in the museum box. (that pile of stuff I can't bear to part with). The older machine is a Dell Optiplex 780 desktop, and it has a hole in the front for a diskette drive, so I dug around for a cable, eventually found a power supply cable for it as well, and went inside the Dell.

Couldn't find where to plug the 34-pin cable. Ah, found the site for the cable on the motherboard, but it was not populated in manufacture. Ah.

So, I remember I have yet another machine in the shed - a Lian Li case I bought off eBay with an older motherboard in it. Lian Li cases are lovely - all aluminium, all soft edges that don't cut the fingers and can carry multiple fans, huge power supplies, multiple hard disks and a huge variety of motherboards. Go get it, clean it off, vacuum it out, leave it to warm up and dry out properly before installing diskette drive and applying power.

And nothing happened.

Replaced power supply (temporarily - it doesn't fit, but it does plug in kind of), and something happens. It boots! But, it is booting Windows 7 which won't help with running LIFUTIL, so I create a supposedly bootable Win 98SE CD to put in it. (at this stage I must have done something wrong since the CD didn't turn out to be bootable later)

DVD drive won't eject. It's stuck with an old CD in it. Eventually free it without damaging the drive. The CD, not so much. However, the new CD with Win98 on it won't boot. Hmmm .. however I have the IDE drive from the laptop with Win 98SE already on it .. I could put that on one of those converter things that allow you to plug a laptop drive onto a 40-pin IDE connector. I have one in the museum box. Woo hoo.

Boot machine. It spends an awful lot of time changing its configuration and installing drivers for motherboard chip sets, bridges, IDE controllers .. and then asks me to put the CD in to read something else it needs. Put CD in drive. Wonder why clicking on the continue ... means nothing happens. Click here and there. Nothing. Reboot machine. Nothing. The motherboard has failed.

I go to re-seat the memory DIMM and find one memory chip at a hugely high temperature. I find this with my thumb, which is still stinging. Relegate this beautiful case to the list of Things To Do for the future - buy a new power supply, disks, motherboard, memory and decent display card for a new Office Machine (Hackintosh compatible). Fireball will be relegated to be just the workhorse server she is now, but won't be tampered with by me trying to use it for desktop things any more.

Have now bought another Dell Optiplex GX620 from eBay. It's only 21 quid. Has been tested, has DVD drive, a network port and a diskette drive .. hopefully this will be the last subroutine call before we start working back up the call stack. When it arrives, I will only have to install Windows 98SE, get it on the network, download LIFUTIL and the drivers for the 1G sample/sec scope, create the diskette and off we go.

Friday, December 16, 2016

New board for the HP 16500A

I need a scope to debug the old SM4100 amplifier I have. Noisy on one channel, so it is likely a capacitor has gone a bit south. However, the scope's power supply has failed. It is a bit of a complex thing to fix without a scope. This is an attempt at recursion which I can't support. Physician, heal thyself.

So to satisfy the need for a scope to debug the power supply for the scope, I was lucky enough to find a cheap 1Gs/sec plug in for the HP16500A I have.

And, it arrived from the US! Much excitement from Wifey since she thinks I am buying stuff from the US for Christmas for her.  And I plugged it in - but it is not recognised by the mainframe. That's because the file for the board is not on the boot diskette .. so I need to get the file on to the diskette.

I have the file downloaded from Keysight Technologies (who says there is no such thing as Silicon Heaven?), and I have an old laptop with the LIFUTIL program that writes data in the strange 77-track format that HP needs .. and guess what? The diskette drive in the laptop has ceased to function.

So, I have an amp in need of repair, a dead scope, another scope that needs a software update, and a file to update it with, but now I need to find either a replacement diskette drive for the laptop, or I need to install a diskette drive into one of the desktop machines, fire up Windows 95 or 98 on it, download the files, run LIFUTIL ..

Lots of nested calls here with very few returns.