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Never stop Grokking

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Using the Samsung SP0802N and ASUS K8V-MX together without lockups

Early this year, I started having hard disk problems (signs of an impending crash), and the decision was to replace my old samsung 40Gig with a new samsung 80Gig. The drive installed was a Samsung SP0802N - since I'd heard mostly good reviews of it. I decided to keep both hard disks connected though, just in case.

A few months ago, the computer started showing signs of corrupted RAM. This isn't something that normally happens on two year old RAM. 2 day old RAM, maybe, 10 year old RAM, maybe, but not 2 year old RAM. Power problems are a possibility, and that's not unexpected in my room. Anyway, the system was checked by a hardware guy, and he said that the motherboard needed to be replaced.

The new motherboard was an ASUS K8V-MX and along with that, we got an AMD Semprom processor.

On my next trip back home, I noticed problems with the system. It was running slower, and was locking up on disk intensive processes. A power cycle was required to get it back, and then there was a high chance that BIOS wouldn't recognise my disk, but would grab grub from my old disk. I didn't have time to look at it back in October or November, but in December, I did.

Three things came to my mind.
- bad power,
- bad hard disk/disk controller
- incompatibility somewhere.

We thought the grounding might be bad throughout the house because the stabiliser and spike buster indicated the same at various outlets. I also read through the motherboard manual. I generally do this before installing a new motherboard, but since I hadn't installed this one, I hadn't read it before. The manual said that a BIOS upgrade was required to function correctly, and that MSDOS and a floppy was required to upgrade the BIOS. I had neither, so ignored that for the moment.

Decided to go get a new hard disk and a UPS, but changed my mind about the hard disk at the last moment, and got just the UPS and some more RAM.

The night before I bought the stuff, I moved the PC to a different room to check (I couldn't get it started in my bedroom), and it started up (which further convinced me that it could have been a power problem). I read through /usr/src/linux/Documentation/kernel-parameters.txt for info on what I could do to stabilise the kernel. That pointed me to other docs, one of which told me that a BIOS upgrade was required for certain ASUS motherboards.

Today, I decided to try upgrading the BIOS. I do not have a floppy drive, or MSDOS, so that was a problem. Booted up from the motherboard CD, which started FreeDOS. FreeDOS, however, only recognises FAT16 partitions, and I had none of those.

Switched back to linux, started fdisk, and tried to create a new FAT16 partition 5MB in size. It created one 16MB in size - I guess it's a least count issue. Had to zero out the first 512 bytes of the partition for DOS to recognise it...

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda11 bs=512 count=1

Then booted back into FreeDOS and formatted the drive:
format c:

Then booted back into linux to copy the ROM image and ROM writing utility to /dev/hda11, and finally, back to FreeDOS to run the utility.

Ran it, and rebooted to get a CMOS checksum error - not entirely unexpected. Went into BIOS setup and reset options that weren't applicable to my box (no floppy drive, no primary slave, boot order, etc.)

Booted into linux and haven't had a problem yet.

Next step - enable ACPI.