On the morning of the 20th of January, my desktop decided to die for no obvious reason at all.
Unlike the Windows 10-based laptop that got bricked only about a couple of weeks before, Nanacore simply decided to get stuck in an eternal reboot loop switching back and forth between the updated BIOS (read: UEFI) and the backup BIOS (UEFI) images. The backup BIOS wouldn’t proceed any further than the POST splash screen because of a known compatibility issue with NVIDIA’s more recent cards (GeForce 9XX and above I believe), which is the very reason why I had to update the main BIOS last year when I replaced my old potato card. I spent about two hours removing the GPU, storage devices, and memory modules trying to rule out any potentially faulty peripherals, to no avail. Once the GPU was out of the way, the backup BIOS (UEFI) would attempt to display an error message explaining why it had kicked in, but the attempt would make it immediately crash and reboot — hence I decided “eternal” was an appropriate qualifier for the situation. I reconnected everything that there was to reconnect other than the main motherboard power plug, which was more or less glued to it. I figured trying to pry it off with more force would risk breaking the board, and it looked completely fine to me anyway. There weren’t any burn marks, bent or popped capacitors, or any other visible signs of physical damage whatsoever.
So that’s one chapter of my computing life that has now come to an abrupt and tragic end at the beginning of what’s already proving to be a quite difficult year for me, for reasons I will not discuss here.
R.I.P. Nanacore (October 25th 2012–January 20th 2017)
Suffice to say, I had to spend approximately one week with Reicore, who... isn’t really in the best shape anymore, with some keys falling off, heat issues, and insufficient processing power for pretty much any software or website written in the past 5 years. At least I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that its old Intel GM45 graphics processor can somehow drive two 1920x1080 screens without dying — one on HDMI and the other on VGA, though, because the laptop doesn’t have any other display connectors.
Fortunately, I got someone to help me cover the full costs of purchasing a new desktop, and I was also able to keep my old GPU and disk drives. This latter point leads me to suspect that it wasn’t the PSU failing (thankfully) but rather the motherboard and/or CPU dying from old age. Seeing as how this has been an extremely hot summer so far, and I had been dealing with computer cooling issues all throughout the second half of 2016 because I couldn’t make up my mind about purchasing a new case and CPU+motherboard combo, it was all a foregone conclusion. There is a lesson to be learned from this debacle, I am fairly sure.
I had been contemplating building Hanacore (“flower”, following the Japanese-based naming convention I adopted for Reicore onwards) around October last year, but I postponed making a decision until Q2 2017. The reason for this is that I expected Intel’s Kaby Lake desktop processors to begin shipping worldwide around that time, based on what little I could remember from the Ivy Bridge release cycle. However, it turns out that Intel released them on January 3rd instead, so by the time Nana died, a few Intel Core i7-7700Ks were already in stock here at local retailers in Chile. Yep, only the super-expensive unlocked CPUs. For whatever reason, retailers here don’t seem to ever have the locked counterparts in stock for very long anymore, starting with the Haswell line-up. But whatever, it’s not my money I was about to spend, so I thought I might as well take a YOLO approach for once. The alternative would’ve been to spend months tweeting at less than 20 frames per second. Or spend my own money on a laptop that wouldn’t satisfy all my requirements.
In particular, ever since I switched to a dual-screen setup at the start of December last year, I don’t think I could ever go back to working on a single screen. Most laptops these days seem to have but a single HDMI port. Not to mention that mobile GPUs are obviously inferior to desktops — watching my hard-earned GTX 1060 gathering dirt on a shelf for months would have been devastating for my morale.
|Hanacore||2017||―||Intel Core i7-7700K|
4.2 GHz HT quad core
|32 GiB||512 GB SSD|
3 TB HDD
2 TB HDD
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GiB||Debian testing 2017-01-28 (Stretch)
Windows 10 Home
|Nanacore||2012||2017||Intel Core i7-3770|
3.4 GHz HT quad core
|16 GiB||512 GB SSD|
2 TB HDD
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GiB||Debian testing 2017-01-19 (Stretch)
Windows 10 Home
|Derpycore||???||2017||Intel Core i7-3537U|
2.0 GHz HT dual core
|4 GiB||1 TB SSHD||NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M||Windows 10 Home Single Language|
|Reicore||2010||―||Intel Pentium T4300|
2.1 GHz dual core
|4 GiB||500 GB||Intel GM45||Debian testing (Wheezy)|
|Bluecore||2008||―||AMD Athlon 64 X2 QL-62|
2 GHz dual core
|4 GiB||250 GB||ATI Radeon HD 3200||Debian testing 2012-10-22 (Wheezy)
Windows Vista SP1
|Greycore||2007||2008||AMD Turion 64 MK-38|
|??? GiB||80 GB||ATI Radeon Xpress 1100||Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (Lenny)
|Blackcore||2006||2016||Intel Pentium 4|
2.6 GHz HT
|1 GiB||160 GB||VIA garbage||Windows XP SP3
Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 (Squeeze)
|Unnamed Desktop #2||2002||2006||Intel Celeron|
|256 MiB||40 GB||Intel 810E||openSUSE 10.0
Windows XP SP2
|Unnamed Desktop #1||1997||2016||Intel Pentium w/MMX|
|32 MiB||1.2 GB||S3 Trio64V+||Windows 95 OSR 2.0|
Anyway, long story short, I picked my new desktop from the store on the 28th, it’s been working well so far, and it’s great and this time I picked all components other than the CPU cooler by myself.
The motherboard is an MSI Z170A Gaming M7 — a Skylake chipset, which means it required a firmware update (done during assembly at the store) to be able to drive the Kaby Lake CPU. There weren’t any Kaby Lake motherboards available with onboard sound controllers that were known to work correctly on Linux, unfortunately, and from a quick glance at Wikipedia I couldn’t really find any relevant differences between the Z170 and Z270 other than increased PCI Express bandwidth for use by M.2 SSDs (which I don’t have) and Intel’s proprietary alternative (which I don’t intend to have either). But most importantly, I wanted to avoid the sound controller fiasco I had with Nana where its CA0132 controller never had proper Linux drivers published by Creative — only a very locked-down version for a Chromebook laptop with pin and DSP effect configurations that wouldn’t work correctly with anything else. With that out of the way, I am now able to use any speakers and headphones I want without worrying about them not being recognized or not getting amplified. I’m really looking forward to replacing my 10 years old speakers.
Other than a couple of isolated USB-related incidents that I couldn’t properly attribute to anything (and an apparent compatibility issue between a 3G modem driver and NVIDIA’s stack of all things) I’ve not had any problems with Debian stretch and Linux 4.9 thus far. I also managed to reinstall Windows 10 clean a couple of nights ago. The old 2 TB HDD now holds local backups which I intend to generate in a more frequent, automated basis (compared to my more-or-less bi-weekly external backups); the new 3 TB HDD holds my Linux home dir and Windows install, and the old SSD continues to hold the root filesystem and games and some parts of my user profile (
By the way, I didn’t even need to reinstall anything at all with Debian — I just configured it to use a stock 4.9 kernel instead of the custom configuration I used for Nana. On the Windows side of things, there were some complications because of a thing I did two days before Nana died that rendered it unbootable, but once I got it sorted out, it would strangely boot just fine. I still decided to do a clean install just to safely purge all of Nana’s system-specific drivers (chipset, network, etc.) and start fresh with a larger partition on the new 3 TB drive — around 400 GB instead of 96 GB.
Things have been running so smoothly thus far, in fact, that the CPU averages 35 °C while idle in summer, whereas Nana would average around 46 °C (38 °C in winter). The case and cooler fans produce far less noise than Nana’s too, even under heavy workloads. That said, the comparison might be a little unfair — Nana’s CPU was cooled by a stock fan, and Hana’s is handled by an all-in-one water cooler. Note that I haven’t tried overclocking yet, and in all likelihood, never will.
So yeah. New hardware. Cool.
Oh, and Derpycore from the table above is the bricked Windows 10 (originally 8) laptop I alluded to at the beginning of this post. It was a Sony Vaio that belonged to someone else (who wasn’t using it) which I borrowed last year when I needed a mobile computing device, since Reicore hasn’t been fit for that purpose for about 4 years with its decayed battery and broken and glitchy keyboard and touchpad. After months of semi-regular use for Windows-specific tasks for which a VM wouldn’t suffice, one day last month it just decided to never power up again. No beeping, no blinking LEDs, nada. Kind of like Nanacore afterwards, it died in its sleep after a whole session without issues, the sole difference being that Derpy wouldn’t even try to wake up ever again. Just silent icy death. I figure that’s what i get for not giving it a more adequate name. I should probably make sure to give my next laptop a regal-sounding name so it will last me forever.
Blackcore died last year due to a capacitor malfunction when I was inspecting it for donating it to somebody else. Probably. I am not really sure what happened there, but after several attempts I at least managed to boot it up long enough to clone its (old-style PATA) hard disk and grab what little of value I could find in it. Afterwards it would power up with its fans at full speed and never reach POST. That makes three computer deaths in under 12 months.
Finally, Unnamed Desktop #1 was last spotted outside my house circa August last year in a really poor state, accumulating rust and moss, so I’m fairly positive it’s now legally dead. I feel its loss more than Nanacore, strangely enough. It’s probably because it was my first proper computer ever. Does it count as a fourth death? I’m not sure.