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  Shuttle PCs...

[June 2021] Keen for more computers to tinker with I spotted an old Shuttle PC on ebay and made an offer on it and ultimately got it for what I consider was a good deal.

I've worked on one of these machines a number of years ago. I vaguely remember it having bulging capacitors on the motherboard and was expecting a similar sign here. My intention was just to use the case and perhaps sell of the innards. Indeed, the seller listed it as "Complete working computer tower but the internal parts will be outdated and could do with modernising."

Actually, I needed to replace the CMOS battery.

However, other than the system being dusty inside and some fans being loud, and hard drive being noisy, all was well. I therefore decided to service the computer, replace the hard drive, increase the RAM and install a light version of Linux on it (Lubuntu perhaps).

The 80mm CPU fan and the little 40mm fan in the power supply seemed to respond well to a couple of drops of light oil [one of the PSU's capacitors also showed signs of failing so I intend to replace that], however, the 40mm fan on the motherboard remained noisy so I ordered a replacement.

I decided to renew the thermal paste on the processor and here I was in for a nice little surprise. I already had an idea of the computer's specification (an AMD Sempron CPU and 1GB RAM etc.) however, when I looked up the processor (a 3000+) and the socket type (462) I found they were commanding quite a high price... almost double what I'd paid for the whole system!

I therefore intend to replace the CPU with a 2800+ as these are available for a fraction of the cost and will not impact the performance all that much. I'll then hopefully sell the original.

AMD Althlon 3200+ CPUs (and later Semprons) were the top of the Socket A/462 range as I recall. They supported a FSB (Front Side Bus) speed (and RAM) of 400MHz, whereas others like mine would be 333MHz or less. These are now rarer than hen's teeth.

Anyway, I have now upgraded the RAM to 2GB and installed an AGP graphics card to provide a DVI socket.

[July Update]

I had intended to install Lubuntu (a light Linux distro based on 486 Ubuntu) on an SSD connected to one of the motherboard's SATA sockets. However, when I tried to do this neither the BIOS nor the install would recognise the SSD.

Some of the BIOS options I've been faced with...

I was trying various things with particular options causing the system to hang at POST and I came to the conclusion that the SATA sockets on the board were old SATA Mode 1.0 types and that the SSD wasn't compatible with this. I therefore opted to order an adapter that had SATA Mode 2.0 compatibility. I found a PCI card for sale and ordered one, but it was coming from China and shortly after I placed the order I was watching a computer tech video which involved an IDE to SATA adapter which seemed to be ideal, so I ordered one of those.

I was pleased to find that the IDE to SATA adapter would indeed fit in the space available as I had considered this might pose a problem.

I wasn't sure if both SATA power and the floppy power socket would need to be connected so I tried only with the latter to begin with. But that didn't seem to work, so I tried it with both. Still nothing. I then discovered that I had pushed the adapter down making contact with pins for the Shuttle case's front panel sockets, oops. Had I caused any damage? I wasn't unsure but I removed the adapter, inspected it (noting where the pins had pressed into the foam backing!), and attached a piece of plastic (there) with double-sided tape to act as a shield.

I also didn't push the adapter so firmly down when installing it. But still nothing. The drive was not recognised in the BIOS nor when I tried to install Lubuntu.

Perhaps the adapter was faulty/damaged, just not compatible, or I needed to try something else in the BIOS.

Upon referring back to the original listing for the order I discovered I had made a mistake; the adapter I had purchased was not like that I had seen in the Youtube video, this one was for connecting to an IDE drive so that THAT could be connected to a SATA socket, NOT for connecting a SATA drive to an IDE socket! D'oh!

It's a shame because the adapter fitted quite well there!

- - - - -

With the PCI to SATA adapter card now arrived and installed I proceeded with my efforts to install a 32-bit variant of Linux.

I had originally been trying Lubuntu and had installed it on an old laptop, however I wasn't entirely happy with it. Mainly I was frustrated that I couldn't simply press the Window key on the keyboard to bring up the 'Start' menu. Furthermore, in the menu itself things seemed somewhat basic (granted this is supposed to be a 'light' distro, but still, I want access to... stuff...) I found instructions online to manually setup a keyboard shortcut since the GUI to do this wouldn't work for the Window Key, but I didn't succeed. This is my main bug-bear with Linux distributions, that something as simple as pressing the Window Key to bring up the menu wouldn't be set up out of the box...

I therefore decided to give Arch Linux 32 a try but this was even worse... The installation process turned out to be one of these 'primitive affairs' that drop you into a command-prompt. As much as Linux boffins worship their command-prompt or shell windows or whatever you want to call it and seemingly and sniff at anyone who likes to simply click on stuff, this is 2021 people; Windows did away with DOS a decade ago, and I'm used to things either working out of the box (and not having to type out lengthy commands), granted Microsoft make you jump through a variety of hoops, but at least I can click my way through them... or being able to double-click on an install icon to, well, install something #rant

I was confused why Arch Linux wasn't just working, until, similar to my Caldera Linux disc from the 1990s, I needed to manually set up partitions... if I wanted to have this level of user experience I'd either continue playing with Caldera from that era, or go and play in DOS...

I have now downloaded the a 32-bit version of Debian...

The problem I found with this was that the download was only the basic install and internet access was required during installation to obtain other things I might take for granted... seemingly a working desktop environment (because Debian, like Caldera) in this form gives you a variety to choose from) let alone applications like LibreOffice.

I prefer to have a 'standard' build in the download so I don't need to re-download everything else each time I might install/try an OS, particularly because my internet connection isn't particularly fast. I gave this basic version of Debian a try but having to wait for packages to download was frustrating... especially if things didn't work the first time and I had to go through the whole process again!

[Package managers and App Stores] As a side note (that's not moved to the side!) Package managers and App Stores annoy me because I've always been in the practice of keeping a copy of the programs I use so that I can reinstall them, or install them on another computer quickly and easily, in the version I'm familiar with, without having to rely on a fresh download every time, especially when versions and features change without you knowing.

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