notes to help me remember

Monthly Archives: January 2012

the SimWelder

So the secretary asked me to go talk to one of the vocational teachers today.  He is not one of those who is fond of his computer, and when he saw me he said something about this thing giving him fits lately.  I assumed he was talking about the computer on his desk, which was comforting because we have several of that model, and they work well, and are generally easy to deal with.  But no, he walked right past that to the corner of the room where sat the SimWelder! I had no idea what a SimWelder was, I couldn’t have told you anything about it, whether it had a processor, or if it had mice running on wheels to power it.  I had previously seen it in action once from across the room, but really had no idea what the heck it was.  I am slightly better informed now.

The SimWelder consists of a Shuttle PC (one of those breadbox shaped PCs), a Pohlemus Patriot sensor thingamajig (connected to a welder simulator and another sensor), and an eMagin Z800 (related to the attached mask with simulator screen).  The teacher reported that he had checked all the connections and had even blown out the PC (very good idea, it tends to get distinctly dirty in that area of the building).  I did notice that there was an envelope leaning against the right side of the Shuttle unit blocking the vents on that side.  The whole unit is in a wood cabinet with two fans on the back.  The Shuttle itself had two case fans and a CPU fan.  Lots of fans.  Must like it cool.

At this point the thing was not starting up, and I really had no idea what it was supposed to do even if it did start up.  It showed a power light on the CPU, but nothing on the display, and it didn’t sound like it was busy with the HDD, though it was a bit noisy to tell.  Looking through some of the materials that came with this contraption, I was pleased to see that it was running Windows XP and that it seemed to have all of its supporting software, drivers, and manuals.  The unit is not connected to the network, or internet, and apparently never has been.  It has a Xeon X3220 2.4 GHz processor with 2 GB RAM.

I tried shutting it down and restarting it once or twice and still got no display.  Next, I disconnected the USB mouse and keyboard, the USB connection to the Patriot, and the video connection to the eMagin.  When I restarted it again, it rebooted into Windows XP.  I checked the Device Manager and discovered that I did not have permissions to update any drivers.  When I checked Documents and Settings I noticed that the Administrator folder was empty.  Huh.  (Guess I will have to explore that another time.)  It showed one USB device not recognized (yellow question mark).  I shut it down, reconnected everything, rebooted (happy so far), and started the SimWelder program.  Mr. Teacher logged in as FJLKSDJF, or something like that, with similar entries for the next couple of fields (guess you can put anything in there) and got to the screen where it checks for the sensor.  It’s called it something else, but I don’t recall what.  The circle on the screen is supposed to go green when it is ready.  It never got ready, it turned red.

After examining the attached components I finally noticed the brightly flashing red light on the front of the Pohlemus Patriot.  OK, so I thought it was on the back, for some reason, probably because it was sitting backwards on the shelf in the cabinet, but the manual informed me that this was, indeed, the front.  I tried shutting down and restarting the Patriot, restarting the Shuttle, and checking the connections, but still got the flashing red light with no connection.  I left to go see what I could find online regarding this hardware.  I was able to find the online manual for the Patriot, read the setup instructions, including a rather specific sequence for setup and connection, and decided to give it another look. 

It turns out I had plugged the USB connector into the slot below the one labeled for it on the Shuttle, so I moved it to the correct spot.  I disconnected one of the sensors, unplugged the power cord at the power strip, and pushed on the power connectors that were covered by a rubber sleeve (apparently covered to keep them connected, seemed a bit loose, but the unit definitely had power).  I started it up and the flashing red light came on, but switched over to a green light in a second or two.  Next I reconnected the second sensor (I think I shut it off first, but not sure) and the green light came on again.

After another reboot everything seemed to be working.  We shall see.

Thought I had this problem…

I thought I had a D630 that was showing no signs of life, and so I googled this issue and came up with an interesting “solution” from

Here’s a simple trick you can try if your computer won’t power on at all.  No sign of life when the power button is pressed.  Have this Dell Latitude D630 that has been work fine with no issues what so ever.  But today when try to turn it on none of the lights will come on, it’s like there’s no power connected to the laptop.

I checked the AC adapter and the light indicator is green meaning it’s getting power from the wall outlet.  I then checked the AC adapter with a multimeter and it’s putting out the correct voltage.  The battery it’s also showing it’s fully charged.   Removed hard drive, DVD drive, PC Cards, memory, and battery but the system still will not power on with just the AC adapter.  At this point I thought it’s got to be a bad systemboard.  But wait,  here’s what I did to get it to power back on again.   Since the only thing attached to the laptop is the AC adapter I unplugged that as well.  Then press and held the power button for like 20secs, plugged the AC adapter back and the laptop is alive again.  All the lights came on and it booted to the Dell logo screen.  Put everything back together and it was back in business.

Sounded like a new tack to try, but when I went to try it the laptop started up.  Then I remembered that it was abruptly shutting down while I was using it, rather than not starting up.  But really, I’m sure I’ve had more than one of either the D610s or the D630s that wouldn’t start up at all.


Slow Speed Chase

Ugh – feeling intelligence challenged again today.  Another “slow” laptop came my way again today.  It is kind of like that illusion where the moon looks larger at the horizon.  An older computer often seems slower.  Sometimes there are definite issues, but other times not so much. 

Anyhow, this laptop WAS incre d ib l y,  s  l   o   w.  So I was off and running to chase down the cause of this semi comatose PC. After patiently starting it up (while running 120+ Windows updates on two other laptops, going through the morning email, and updating some inventory lists), I was able to check to make sure the HDD was running in Ultra DMA Mode (and it was). N e x t  I  (had coffee, and moved several surplus iMacs to the hallway whilst I) defragged the HDD and ran a chkdsk.  Both of these went well enough. The Task Manager showed the CPU usage bottoming out at about 30%.  The bottoming out was quite pronounced, with never a dip below.  FINALLY, when checking the system properties yet again, I noticed that the CPU speed was abysmally slow (something like 384 MHz). A reboot followed by a visit to the BIOS setup revealed the ugly truth that, for whatever reason, this laptop was running a wee bit slow.

I tracked down this post which mentioned resetting the BIOS.  After a quick check into the BIOS I found an option to reload the default settings.  Following a much quicker reboot, the BIOS reported a more welcome clock speed.  It remains to be seen if there is an issue which will again put the brakes on this unit.  But for now, we are off and running again.

Update January 19, 2012: Well, it didn’t take long for it to revert to it’s old ways.  A motherboard problem, I’m guessing.  We will let it slowly fade into the past, and send it off for replacement.