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I know better

I went to polish up my video last night–it needed a soundtrack and some title screens, and a couple of scenes flickered so I needed to fix that–and I found a nice black Plextor 40X CD burner sitting on the Darth Vader-colored Dell workstation we use to edit tape.
I’ll bet you already know how this story ends.

I got sick of punching through samples of corny background muzak, so I shut down and popped open the case. I seem to remember reading in some hardware book–probably Mark Minasi’s standout effort–that Dells use the cable select setting. So I set the Plextor to that setting, bolted it in, cabled it, went into Setup and set the secondary slave channel to auto-detect, and the result was a system that wouldn’t boot. Fabulous.

I know better than to do a hardware upgrade during an important project. I really do.

I futzed around for a while, and the only conclusion I could come to was that maybe this particular Dell doesn’t use cable select. Eventually I figured out that the system would boot, but when you set Intel motherboards to auto-detect–at least this particular Intel board–auto-detecting nothing isn’t an option. (I’m so spoiled by Asus boards.) The system waits a week, finally times out, then boots Windows in a wacky and confused state. What, you wanted to use the keyboard? Whatever for?

Finally, I just unplugged the drive and kicked back into Setup and set things back the way they were. I’m sure it would have taken me five minutes to put the drive alone on the other IDE channel (this system has SCSI hard drives), jumpered as master, with the standard IDE cable that came in the box, and then all I’d have to do is go into setup and configure the primary master drive.

I’m sure it would take five minutes. Especially if I pulled the CD-ROM drive and looked at how it was jumpered to confirm how this particular Dell does business. But after losing the better part of an hour to what’s supposed to be a simple task, I decided I’d take five minutes to get the installation right after my new creation is finished.

So I booted up and finished my canned soundtrack. It sounds like an infomercial, but it’s better than listening to tape hiss.

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2 thoughts on “I know better”

  1. Man, Dell desktops are just screwy. I suppose you’ve already heard the commotion about their non-standard “standard” ATX power supplies ? If you checkout the PC Power and Cooling site, you’ll note they have a separate path through their power supply selector page for (at least some models of) Dell machines…

  2. Oh yeah. When there was the big brouhaha over at The Inquirer, Mike Magee published my mail on the topic. I won’t say I was the first to notice this, but I blew up a motherboard in late 1998 when I tried to swap out a board in an old Dell P166 with something newer (and I know the board worked because it was a board I’d pulled from a working, non-Dell system).

    Interestingly, at the time none of the Daynoters I e-mailed about it (I wasn’t doing it yet) were interested. Oh well.

    You can find adapters for standard ATX power supplies so they’ll work in Dells, if you’re careful where you look.

    I disagree with Dell’s use of nonstandard ATX components, but in the case of using cable select, they’re on the right track because it actually simplifies things–when it works. You’re right, Dell does things a bit differently. Compaq and IBM were guilty of the same thing when they were king of the hill.

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