Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sharpening the Saw

Today was the day to tackle computer hardware issues.

My trusty power-forward Dell PowerEdge 400SC would hang on a normal boot and would require manual intervention to boot, using the "Boot Logging" option under WS2003. Then Google KeyHole (the earth viewing software) complained about OpenGL (advanced graphics stuff) not being enabled (makes everything faster). This wasn't a big problem, as the system has been rock-solid stable, and I never have to restart unless a new software app requires it.

But I had installed a pretty capable graphics card -- an ATI RADEON 9600 Pro 256 MB -- and I suspected the display driver. I uninstalled all ATI and Omega drivers, then installed only the ATI display driver (not the Catalyst management package). This worked great -- but now the Dell was freezing occasionally after loading the LSI Logic SCSI driver. Hmmm... not especially good.

I investigated the LSI Logic MPT IS BIOS... not especially clear on their web site, but there was a warning about "IS" BIOS: get your upgrades from your vendor (Dell in my case). A search of the Dell site yielded little. But I checked the PowerEdge 400SC downloads and noticed that the current bios (version A05) was out of date (newest is A10). A system BIOS issue could cause any number of boot issues, so I downloaded the update. Trying to install (flash) the new bios, I received the error "Flash access denied". I will save you the gory details, but I had to burn a bootable DOS CD to be able to run the update... thanks to Nero, it was easy. I also installed a new "backplane driver" from Dell that seemed to be out of date.

The result... Success! The PowerEdge is back to booting normally, and the system is taking full advantage of the power of the ATI graphics card. A very satisfying result for that much playing with drivers: usually the going is a lot rougher.

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