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Upgrades in the works

HP-8300-usdtI recently acquired a slightly used HP Elite 8300 Ultra-Slim Desktop with an i5-3470S processor. I put a 750GB 7400RPM SATA drive into it and I’m waiting on 16GB of memory for it. My plan for it is to replace my Dell Optiplex 780 as my Windows PC. It will still be an outdated machine but for my purposes, it will do quite nicely. I haven’t yet decided the fate of the 780. I guess I’ll keep it for a while.

I’ve been on the lookout for a newer laptop to replace my Dell Latitude E6500 but I haven’t found anything at a price that appeals to me. I’ve wanted to upgrade it for a while but the DDR2 RAM for it is quite expensive. But very recently I found 8GB of PC2-6400 memory for about $120 Data Memory Systems which is the best price I’ve seen in years. Crucial wants $239 for 8GB. I’ve also ordered a new battery for it.

dell_e6500The plan for the E6500 is to increase the memory from 4GB to 8GB and replace the 160GB hard drive with a 320GB drive then install Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia. I’m currently running Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa on it and I feel it’s about time I brought the OS up to the same level as my other Linux machines. After the upgrades it should serve me well for at least a couple more years.


Time for an Upgrade

Linux Mint has always been a little temperamental on my HP 6005. It may been that some minor compatibility issues between the OS and the AMD architecture, I don’t know. But over the last few days, it had gotten flakier, locking up more often, and I’d see one or two of my CPU cores hitting 100 percent quite regularly. It was getting very frustrating to say the least and I’d already been flirting with the idea of upgrading my system.

Len-M91pI found a good deal at Micro Center for a refurbished Lenovo M91p with a 3.4GHz i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive with Windows 10 pre-installed. I reserved one the other day and today I drove down and picked it up.

I’d begun a back up of the HP this morning and it was still going when I returned so started getting the new PC set up. My wife’s PC is the same model and I’d already installed 24GB of RAM in it so I took her 8GB modules and put in the 4GB modules from the new computer taking her down to 16GB and raising mine to 16GB.

My original intention had been to wipe the drive clean and install Mint 18.1 Serena but while getting the system data I knew I’d need later, I discovered that I had a 2TB drive in it. With that knowledge, I figured that I had enough room for a dual boot system. I gave 1.5 terabytes to Linux and left the rest for Windows.

I installed Mint as well as some my must have applications and utilities. There are still a few that still need to be installed and the usual tweaking. I don’t know how much use I’ll get out of the Windows 10 partition since I’ve never really liked it much. But maybe I can learn to live with it and eventually eliminate having a separate Windows PC.

After my backup was completed, I decided to go ahead and take the 8GB modules out of the HP and put them into the Lenovo, bringing it to 32GB . Lenovo’s documentation says it will only support 16GB but I’d been running 24GB in my wife’s system for over a year without any problems.

A more powerful laptop would be nice but my Dell Latitude (with its Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM, and 160GB drive) still works well for what I do with it — a little web surfing, email, and some writing.


Upgrade gone wrong

I went to update my Dell Optiplex 780 USFF from Mint 17.3 to 18.1. It didn’t really need it but I figured it would be an easy upgrade. I should have known better. I know from years of experience that there are no easy upgrades.

When I tried to boot from my Mint 18.1 Serena Xfce flash drive, I got a kernel panic error on every USB port. Then I attempted to boot to a DVD with Serena with Cinnamon, I got a message saying the device was unavailable. I ran the internal diagnostics which gave me an error code: 2000-0152,”Optical Drive (d): – Incorrect status: (x) (s)”. I was unable to find any of my Dell diagnostic CDs. I pulled the drives out of the other USFF I had lying around, put it in and got the same results. Then the power supply died. I took that as a sign that this upgrade was not to be.

I already had a Dell Latitude E5500 on which I’d already installed Mint 18.1 Xfce so I used it to replace the USFF box. I put it on a docking station, connected it up, and got it running. I’d already installed conky so I just added my Dropbox to it. The primary purpose of the machine will be to have something connected directly to the gateway router for troubleshooting connectivity problems or when I need quick access to a computer at that end of the house. This older laptop will work just fine for that.

I’m still thinking about upgrading my E6500. Hopefully, that will go better. I’m planning to install a larger hard drive so I’ll still have the old drive just in case.

As for the 780s, I’ll donate them, along with a couple of laptops I don’t need any more.

Trying VirtualBox

I’d installed VirtualBox on my HP a few days ago and today I decided to check it out. A friend had told about Peppermint Linux so I figured that might be a good to try on a virtual machine. One of the first things I noticed when setting up the VM was that all of my OS options were 32-bit. When I selected my 64-bit Peppermint ISO and try to install it, the VM would just hang.

I did some research and found the processor needed to support Intel’s VT-x or AMD’s AMD-V hardware extensions in order to support 64-bit operating systems. Further research indicated that my processor, an AMD Pheom II X3 B75 supported AMD-V so it probably needed to be enabled in the BIOS settings. In my HP’s BIOS settings, it wasn’t immediately obvious where to find it. I finally located it under Security -> System Security -> Visualization Technology. It was disabled so I enabled it.

I restarted the computer, opened VirtualBox and my 64-bit OS options were available. I successfully created a Peppermint Linux virtual machine. While in the VM, I installed conky and successfully tested the wget commands to download the .conkyrc and conky.desktop files where I needed them.

I noticed that in the VM I was able to see all the computers on my network but I was only able to access files on Windows shares. On the Linux machines, I could only see the printer shares. I need to look into that. I would think that I should be able to see files on at least the host machine. There was probably a setting I missed in VirtualBox. It’s a learning process and virtual machines are relatively uncharted territory for me.

Keeping the number

The journey to keep the land-line phone number we’ve had for over 20 years was arduous and tumultuous. I had changed my Internet provider from AT&T’s Uverse to Spectrum cable and had set up a new number through Google Voice. Everything was working quite well and I was very happy with it.

But there was pressure to maintain the old number and I discovered that it was possible to also have telephone service through my cable provider and port the number over, so I looked into it. My savings over my old provider would not be as great as they could have been with my original set up after converting back to cable but if it would keep peace, I’d do it.

I changed the plan, picked up the provider’s cable modem that supported the telephone, and installed it. I had to reconfigure my network, changing static IP addresses and default gateway settings but I got everything up and running. The new modem/router/gateway had wireless capability but once I had my WAP configured, I turned off the gateway’s wireless to avoid any potential conflicts. Plus, I didn’t really need wireless coverage in my neighbor’s house. The gateway’s wireless didn’t reach to the other end of my own house.

After waiting a few days for the number to be ported to the new provider, I hooked up a phone to the equipment and got nothing. After spending too much time with tech support and rebooting and resetting the gateway a few times, they scheduled a tech to come out the next day. After doing the hard reset, I had to reconfigure the gateway.

It took a while for the tech to get everything working again. He finally got the phone portion working but I had no Internet access. Then I had Internet access again but no phone. Finally, he closed the work order saying that it might tell the system work properly. After a few minutes, both phone and Internet were up and running.

I also spent quite a bit of time tinkering with the wiring in the phone box on the outside to adapt the house wiring. At this time I don’t know if that’s working since I’m using a set of wireless phones. The main unit is connected to the gateway and the satellite units are on her desk and mine. I’m thinking about moving the VoIP box to my room and connecting the corded phone I have there to it, using the Google Voice number.

Was it worth the trouble and effort? Only time will tell.

Laptop power problem

This evening when I went to install some updates on my laptop, I noticed it had powered down. I pressed the power button and it started to come up but after a couple of seconds it powered down. I unplugged it from the dock, plugged the power cord into it and tried again with the same result.

I decided to try some basic trouble shooting, first removing the battery. Without the battery, it failed to power up at all. It was then that I noticed that the blue ring at the end of the power cord was not illuminated. I traced the cord back to the brick and made sure that the AC cord was firmly inserted, which it was. I traced it back to the power strip which had power.

Figuring that the power brick itself had died (I’ve seen many that have died), I located another power brick and plugged it in. It worked. It’s a good thing I’ve kept a few spares around.

I’m always glad when it’s something simple. I probably should obtain a new battery anyway.

Donated PCs

A couple of days ago I started wiping the hard drives of some excess computers. I also went through my parts tub and filled a couple of large boxes with a lot of outdated parts that I know I will never use. There were a lot of old 3COM NICs, various video cards, some old switches and hubs, and some other junk.

Today, I loaded nine desktop computers, an old IBM laptop (former Windows print server), an old flatbed scanner, an old UPS, and the two boxes of parts into the truck. I took them over to Charitable Recycling on Springfield Street to donate them for Children’s Hospital but the gate was locked with no immediately apparent way to contact them. So I traveled through downtown and made my up to Access Project on Salem Avenue where I’ve donated old computer many times in in the past.

It’s good to have the room they’d once occupied although I had developed feelings of fondness toward a couple of them. I tried to think of possible ways to reuse them but I really couldn’t come up with anything. They were a bit lacking in memory but due to their age, purchasing memory for them is not cost effective.

On the other hand, I did hold on to the last tower that I built. I’m still seriously thinking about turning it into a NAS box by putting three 1-terabyte data drives in a RAID-5 configuration with a smaller system drive running a Linux-based NAS software.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to collect so many computers. I guess I’m a hoarder.

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