Saturday, April 09, 2005

I Dub Thee Athena, Gentoo Goddess of the LAN

So, it's been a whole week, and I seemed to have crawled down a hole and not bothered to tell anyone about it. Well, I promised pictures, and here they are. It took me a while to get them up, because, well, I was messing with my computer. More on that later (quite a bit, I'm afraid).

This happened last Wednesday night.

All Laid Out

This is the "before" picture. This is what I had when I started putting things together. The graphics card is on the left, at 9 o'clock. at 10, there's the motherboard, at 5 is the RAM, the CPU is in the center right, next to the DVD burner, and on the right, of course, is the case, with my free T-shirt. Newegg, in their infinite wisdom, thought that I would be a willingly unpaid human billboard for them. They are, of course, correct. I just have to find the appropriate occasion to wear something bright orange...

So, without further ado:

Motherboard with CPU installed and fan mounted

Sorry, I forgot to take the picture of the motherboard outside of the box, but before the CPU installation, or of the CPU at all for that matter. I was a bit giddy; at least this way I didn't get any drool on the microprocessor.

Tangental story: This way at least I warned you so you can skip the boring parts (or maybe these are the only interesting parts--either way, everything is offered, nothing is guaranteed). On Thursday, I mentioned to RFH over IM at work that I had put the conputer together. He asked me if I had remembered to put the coolant gel between the CPU and its cooling fan. I was shocked, and a bit embarassed, plus, this is not the kind of thing he just lets slide. He was right about something, and would lose no opportunity to lord it over me, and make sure I knew that had it not been for his warning, I would have embarassingly fried a CPU and possibly the motherboard as well, setting me back $300. Following this impeccable logic, I would forever "owe" him for this computer.
But, there is a God, and He is merciful. He does not wish to damn his children to hell, even if they do live with RFH0. The reason it startled me so much when he brougt it up, was that I was quite sure that I had meticulously followed the instructions--oh yes, when Tim knows that he doesn't know what he's doing, he actually reads the instructions. So, when he got home that night, he promptly barged into my room and practically demanded that I disgorge my computer. I was just as eager for a verdict, and so I obliged. Sure enough, I had, in fact, followed the instructions, leaving nothing out. *Whew* /Tangent

Another angle

The Box, with just the DVD burner installed

It looks so neat and clean, but that was not to be.

Motherboard installed

...Motherboard and DVD wired

Quite the tangeld mess, despite my efforts and even though the IDE cables (which are usually ribbon-shaped) are tightly contained in their yellow wrappings. I'm glad I got a SATA hard drive: one fewer IDE cable to get in the way. Although, the SATA coused me a bit of grief. The fact that RFH claimed that it was impossible to boot Linux from an IDE drive didn't make it any easier. He kept insisting that I should install Windows on it to get it up and running (which, for me, would take some of the fun out of it). But that's nothing compared to the floppy drive. SATA boots Linux Kernel 2.6 just fine, by the way.

Graphics Card & Floppy

Speaking of which, the floppy drive doesn't work. Or didn't. Well, I suppose it still doesn't work, but that won't hurt anything at the dump. I bought this one at the surplus store for four dollars. It had been gutted from some other computer, but it looked clean, and was only manufactured 4 years ago. A trip to the local computer store and $12 solved that problem. I could have gotten a white one for $8, but I want her to look pretty.

Oh, and speaking of 'her,' I renamed my computer (as you may have guessed from the title of this post). When I finally got the OS installed and it was time to enter a name I thought it more appropriate and also more original, given that she's an Athlon64 system, and Athena being the name of a goddess. Plus, it's far easier/more fun to endearingly/fondly/protectively/admiringly refer to a 'she' than an 'it.' This being a relatively powerful system running optimized code, the name also does justice to her sleekness: power and elegant prowess. Well, she will be elegant when I've got everything installed correctly. But I wouldn't have it any other way. If I wanted her to soar right out of the box(es) I would have used a stage 3, or just gone to Best Buy and picked out a Media Center PC (*yawn*).

Naked goddess

Back, guts.

The hard drive was, of course, the last item to arrive, which means I had to wait to do anything except mess with the BIOS settings. It was sitting at the FedEx office, or out for delivery (normally the Leasing Office at my complex accepts non-USPS parcels, but they seemed to have been out when the deliveries came on Thursday and Friday). The FedEx office, as it turns out, is two blocks from my worksite. Had I known that, I might have dropped by on my way home Thursday, but as it was, I picked it up Saturday afternoon after Bible study.

Trying to install Gentoo...

They seem to play nice together

Covers on

Covers, back

Compiling, futilly

...aaaaand CRAAASH!1

At least this freeze looks pretty

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
"Go on..."
"I have broken the first commandment."
"You kill somebody?"
"No, Father! That is not the first commandment."
"Of course not! In what way have you broken the first commandment?"

--or something like that.

And now we come to yet another reason that 'athena' is the perfect name for my computer. It's my own little ironic way of reminding myself where my priorities should be. This Sunday was daylight savings, where we "Spring forward," so I lost an hour of sleep. Actually, I lost quite a bit more than that. I went out to play poker with some friends. $5 buy-in, lost my shirt2, and at least I didn't lose everything and then buy back in twice, like somebody I know. Anyway, when I lost, Caleb and I went to go see Sarah, who, for the record, is not a crazy old lady, although she is an old lady. I got home at like 3:00, and since tuxbox (as it was still then called) had finished its compilation job, I set off the next command that should keep it busy for the next few hours, set my alarm so that I could be at church by 11:00, and went to bed. I got up on time. I was fully aware of the time change. I was a bit tired, but I had plenty of time. I just wasted it. I was 15 minutes late.

I thought I would be able to boot into the operating system off of the hard drive. Just once, what could it hurt? Well, it turned out there was a slight problem. It wouldn't boot again. I had only actually gotten it to successfully boot once after numerous tries. It kept freezing up, and I wasn't sure what the problem was: faulty RAM, motherboard, bad graphics card. It turns out, the LORD had retroactively smitten my motherboard with a bad BIOS (the software that runs on the motherboard). On top of that, the memory was also bad, as it failed the startup test about half the time. Shutting off the power at the power strip for half a minute seems to help the RAM to pass, but that doesn't always work.

Anyway, the BIOS was, at this point, my biggest worry. I went to MSI's website on my laptop and got the utility to flash the BIOS, which I wrote to a bootable floppy, and stuck it into tuxbox. I set the BIOS to boot from the Floppy, and viola: nothing. It booted from the CD, which was the 2nd boot device. Drat. On my roommate's advice, I made a DOS bootable floppy. Same [non]effect. So, I figured God didn't want me to boot that day lest I forget having begged His forgiveness, and gave up for the night. On Monday after work, I bought the $12 black floppy drive and flashed the BIOS. Presto! It worked perfectly. Well, about 90% perfectly. It still froze up on boot occasionally because of the RAM.

Despite the RAM issue, I was able to get the operating system installed, and spent a few evenings this week emerging and configuring various utilities.

Actual compiling (I had moved from my room to the living room, where I hooked up both the monitor and my projector, which isn't as glorious in this shot, bacause there are lights shining on it and the screen is mostly dark blue and black.)

I still haven't gotten Gnome to build. Not sure what's causing it. I can only see the bottom of the compilation output, and it's not much good. Since I'm not in a graphical environment, I can't just scroll up, and if I pipe the output to a file, it only redirects stdout, while stderr prints to the screen. Still, I haven't tried that hard to solve that problem just yet. I managed to get the nVidia drivers installed (at least the 64-bit versions: it complains when it tries to install the 32-bit drivers because the libraries (that it just installed in 64-bit) are already there--the readmy said something about a manual setting for the 32-bit driver direcrtories that almost everyone wansn't supposed to mess with--maybe I'm special) and installed Xorg and Samba, as well as various other utilities.

Right now my RAM is sitting in a box on my desk. I'm going to send it back to Newegg and hopefully they'll send me some DIMMs that work all of the time. Meanwhile I'll be out a computer, hence the fact that I suddenly have time to blog:)

Not that I've been totally ignoring the other aspects of my life. I do tend to absorb myself in whatever I'm doing3. This friday I went to a housewarming for one of the guys on my volleyball team. It was a really great time and I got to meet a lot of enjoyable people.

0 'Roommate From Hell' --yes, I know, not very complimentary. But so, so very appropriate. I should make a note that he offered to loan me 512KB of functional RAM from his box until I got some that worked, but my BIOS wouldn't even show up with his DIMM in. He didn't even do it so I would be grateful either. Just being nice, it seemed.

1 The screen isn't all blank. There's that one little line, plus a blue streak,

2 No, not my orange Newegg shirt, my figurative one. Sorry to have gotten your hopes up.

3 Typically one thing at a time, like reading a book for five hours at a sitting. I can't even chat properly and surf the Internet at the same time. Maybe you've noticed:) I think the worst is when I'm blogging and someone IMs me. I either have to drop one thing and do the other, or do both poorly (or very slowly). Reminds me of a quote I read: Better, Faster, Cheaper: Pick two.


  1. Ha. Remember that nerd test? (Or what is a geek test?) Regardless, you're both. I'm very impressed by all the stuff I don't understand. =)

  2. The devil has informed computers are his. I also like to see you worshiping idols. We do that in the catholic church as well. Athena Godess of the Lan I dub thee saint.