Chinacat Upgrade

I flashed a BIOS upgrade, but that didn't address the problems. So, I thought I'd try an upgrade on the motherboard. The processor was a bit old, but I could live with it. It was the lack of memory that was killing me. I wasn't sure I'd be happy with just a motherboard upgrade, but for under fifty bucks it was worth a try.

I ordered an ECS K8M800-M2. The upgrade, unfortunately, failed. I probably damaged the processor getting it out of the old motherboard. You know the scene from Blues Brothers where Elwood sprays glue on the accelerator pedal of the Good Old Boys' van? ("This is glue. Strong stuff.") I think the thermal paste that layers between the processor and the heat sink could have done just as good a job.

So, I ran down to Fry's and picked up an ASUS A8N-VM motherboard and new AMD Athlon 64 3500+ Venice (2.2GHz) processor. I gave some thought to one of the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors, but the increased cost (in both dollars and BTUs) was more than I wanted.

The only difficulty with the upgrade was that the power supply in chinacat had a 20-pin ATX connector, but the ASUS board needed a 24-pin ATX2.0 power supply. So, it was back to Fry's. Rather than replace the power supply (a reasonably OK Antec 350W unit), I got a cable adapter jig for the power connector.

The system built and booted fine. First time through, I booted into maintenance mode to reconfigure the X server, with:

	dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

Unfortunately, the Nvidia GeForce 6100 built onto the motherboard was not recognized. I set it to the "vesa" frame buffer. Later, I installed the nvidia-glx Ubuntu module and then switched to the "nvidia" display driver.

But before I could do that I needed to resolve another problem: the network wasn't working. ITurns out that the system did configure the onboard NIC (with the forcedeth driver), but it appeared as eth1 instead of the typical eth0. I'm a bit perplexed why that would happen. Still, a quick edit to the /etc/network/interfaces file and I was ready to go.

I ran memtest for a couple of passes yesterday, and then left it running Linux overnight. Today, it's doing just fine. It's running with both first bank memory sockets populated. And I can enable DMA for the DVD drive. One added surprise is the greatly improved display performance of the on-board video controller (as compared to the Radeon 7000 AGP card I was using before).

So far, I've only noticed two problems with the system. First, the display is running at 75Hz refresh, and I wish I could get it to run at the native 60Hz rate of my Dell 1907FP display. I manually changed the refresh rate in my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file from:

	VertRefresh     50-75


	VertRefresh     60

but that didn't seem to make a difference.

The second problem is that although most sounds are working fine, Flash-based sound is not. This clearly needs to be resolved, so that I can get my daily YouTube fix.

Those issues aside, the ASUS A8N-VM plus AMD Athlon 64 3500+ seem like a great combination for an affordable Linux workstation.

7:06p.m. update: Looks like lm-sensors is busted:

$ sensors
Adapter: ISA adapter
Case Fan: 1125 RPM  (min = 1205 RPM, div = 8)
CPU Fan:     0 RPM  (min = 1757 RPM, div = 128)
fan3:     2008 RPM  (min =    0 RPM, div = 4)
fan4:        0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM, div = 128)
Sys Temp:    +36°C  (high =   +45°C, hyst =   +40°C)
CPU Temp:  +32.0°C  (high = +45.0°C, hyst = +40.0°C)
temp3:     +32.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, hyst = +75.0°C)

For comparison, BIOS setup was reporting about 2-3000 RPM for CPU fan, 1200 for chassis fan, 36-40°C for CPU and 36°C for case. I suspect the fan speeds are correct, just labeed wrong, but the temperature readings don't make sense to me.This is not a critical functional issue since the system is running so cool, but I wish I could monitor it.

July 24 update: Boy, does my timing suck. Today AMD announced a big price drop on their CPUs. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ dual core processor that was $300 yesterday is on sale at NewEgg for $169 today.


Comments have been closed for this entry.

re: Chinacat Upgrade

Ouch. That does stink. I suppose dismantling it, returning the CPU to Fry's and buying it at the new price is out of the question?

re: Chinacat Upgrade

The default sensors.conf for the w83627ehf is for an Asus P5P800, so it needs some tuning for the A8N CSM. The reason the ethernet is eth1 is because the eth1394 driver gets loaded before forcedeath, so your firewire gets eth0.

re: Chinacat Upgrade

You can fix your refresh rate in Ubuntu (or any xorg-based distro) by adding ModeLines to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file like this.

For the good of All Humanity, here are the 60hz refresh rate modelines I generated for my LCD monitor:

# 60-hz modelines generated from
# 1600x1200 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 74.52 kHz; pclk: 160.96 MHz
Modeline "1600x1200_60" 160.96 1600 1704 1880 2160 1200 1201 1204 1242 -HSync +Vsync
# 1280x1024 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 63.60 kHz; pclk: 108.88 MHz
Modeline "1280x1024_60" 108.88 1280 1360 1496 1712 1024 1025 1028 1060 -HSync +Vsync
# 1024x768 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 47.70 kHz; pclk: 64.11 MHz
Modeline "1024x768_60" 64.11 1024 1080 1184 1344 768 769 772 795 -HSync +Vsync
# 800x600 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 37.32 kHz; pclk: 38.22 MHz
Modeline "800x600_60" 38.22 800 832 912 1024 600 601 604 622 -HSync +Vsync
# 640x480 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 29.82 kHz; pclk: 23.86 MHz
Modeline "640x480_60" 23.86 640 656 720 800 480 481 484 497 -HSync +Vsync
# 320x240 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 14.94 kHz; pclk: 5.26 MHz
Modeline "320x240_60" 5.26 320 304 336 352 240 241 244 249 -HSync +Vsync

Man, why does xorg still make people deal with this Modeline crap, like it was still 1993?