I seem to be out of the hardware woods, at last. After my old box died, I thought carefully about its replacement. My computer has, among other things, become my chief music library and source; it’s also where I edit family videos. The old computer, an Athlon system I’d rebuilt twice and extended with far too many expansion boards and IDE devices, whirred and hummed like a dilapidated helicopter. This time, I thought, let’s get something quiet. (I know, ye Mac fans, Steve Jobs has promoted silent computing for decades! If it didn’t mean moving 8 years of data and investing in an entire new set of software applications, I’d have switched.)
So I ordered a system from EndPCNoise.com, whose site impressed me as a source of reasonably honest and detailed information about “silent PC” products. I paid a little more money than I’d have spent on a vanilla box, but after my experience with the slow decay of my Athlon system, that seemed a reasonable trade-off for higher-quality components.
I had only one problem: after I installed my old sound card, an M-Audio Delta, the new system seized up with the fast-four-beep distress signal on boot. I did what I knew how to do, which was to roll the system back by removing everything I’d added; no good. I knew enough to pop out the CMOS battery, which should have allowed the motherboard to return to its default settings; no good. I began to fear that I needed to return the system, but a brief conversation with the folks at EndPCNoise solved the problem: to reset the CMOS on my particular motherboard, you have to move a jumper. That, along with a few reboots and trips into the BIOS configuration, did it — everything worked again. (It turns out that this particular kind of professional sound card is highly picky about which of the five PCI slots you put it in. Or I guess it’s the motherboard that is picky. Or the software that configures the interrupts. Anyway, it’s a bit of a Russian roulette game with your system until you find a slot that works.)
I find it highly amusing that, almost 25 years since I first messed with jumpers on a PC motherboard, I’m still at it. Plus ca change… On the other hand, for under $1000 today, I have a system with a gigabyte of RAM, hundreds of gigs of disk space, and more processor speed than most of my applications know what to do with. Now I can get back to work!
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