Technology: January 2005 Archives

Just a little vane


Another excerpt from Angle of Attack by Mike Gray:

Like all power-plant engineers, the [NASA] Lewis [Research Center] people labored in obscurity; glory in the airplane business went to the pilot or the builder, and nobody ever remembered the guys who designed the engines that made it all possible. One Lewis engineer, Herman Mark, tells the tale of an aviation banquet he attended shortly after World War II where people were asked to say what they did in the war. As other men talked of dogfights over New Guinea and night raids on Schweinfurt, Mark braced himself for the mortification of admitting that he had never left Cleveland. When his turn came, ge stood, embarrassed, and explained that he had been working on engines out at Lewis during the war and all he had really done was to design a little metal vane that redirected the airflow in the B-29 engines and eliminated overheating in the bottom cylinders. He sat down, and the ripple of applause built to a roar as the audience came to their feet. This happened to be a crowd that could fully appreciate the meaning of the term "engine fire."



That's the verdict on my Dell Inspiron 4000 -- the motherboard has failed in some way. They tried swapping everything that could be swapped, but the system continued to freeze during startup.

From Dell's support website, I gather that this freeze-up problem has afflicted many Dell systems, which is why I probably won't make my next system a Dell. And I have to wonder at the problem reasserting itself so quickly and dramatically after I had the laptop in for replacement of the video cable.

I will give Dell credit for one thing -- I have already received my replacement power supply -- less than a week after I learned about the recall. Now if I only had a healthy laptop to plug it into.

Thanks to readers K. A. Hruzer and Steven Roemerman for writing with tips on diagnosing my poor laptop's problems. It was reassuring to see that both had similar thoughts on what could be wrong. I've tried reflashing the BIOS to no avail, as well as disabling everything in the BIOS that I can find to disable. I replaced the memory. It passes Dell's diagnostic suite. The next thing to try is replacing the reserve (CMOS) battery, which powers the clock, the BIOS, and the NVRAM. I will keep you posted.

Dude! You've gone to Dell Hell!


Still battling this freeze-up problem on my Dell laptop. I may do grievous bodily harm to the next person who suggests I just need to reinstall Windows. I am seeing freeze-ups occur when the BIOS is loading, long before Windows is even touched. To prove that Windows could not possibly be involved, I removed the floppy drive, the CD-ROM drive, and the hard drive, and as the BIOS was loading, the thing still froze for several minutes before unfreezing. I'm running Dell diagnostics right now -- it boots to DOS from a floppy -- and it's frozen up six times already, but has only failed one test so far. (The serial port was too speedy, it says.)

In the extended entry, you can see blurry screenshots of the boot screen, where it consistently freezes up -- maybe someone out there can give me a clue:

For whom the Dell boils


I just learned today that the AC adapter for my Dell Inspiron 4000 (vintage 2002) has been recalled. In fact, any Dell laptop shipped between September 1998 and February 2002 may be affected.

Q. What is the issue with the Dell C-Family AC Adapter?

A. The adapters could overheat, which could pose risk of fire or electrical shock.

Q. What are the symptoms of the issue?

A. Customers could experience smoke emitting from the AC adapter. Customers could also experience the housing of the AC adapter melting or, in some cases, a flame.

Dell has set up a special website so you can find out if your adapter needs replacement.

In the meantime:

While awaiting a replacement adapter from Dell, customers should unplug the adapter from the wall electrical outlet when unattended. If an adapter shows any sign of overheating, customers should immediately unplug the adapter at the wall electrical outlet and notify Dell.

It's bad enough having to worry about the AC adapter deciding to execute the deprecated HCF instruction, but my Inspiron has started having seizures again. After several months in remission, which seemed to be the result reinstalling an older version of the video driver, the machine has begun again to freeze, sometimes for a fraction of a second, sometimes for several minutes -- the display remains unchanged, typed keys and mouse movements aren't buffered, and the system clock stops, and does not catch up when things start moving again. The only recent change has been replacement of a video cable, but that happened several days before the seizures began again. This can happen at any time, even before the operating system (Windows XP Home) has started to load.

(By the way, the cable was replaced by Wholesale Computer Supply at 5727 S Garnett -- they got it done quickly and for a reasonable price.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Technology category from January 2005.

Technology: December 2004 is the previous archive.

Technology: February 2005 is the next archive.

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