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Solved! Weird Graphic Problem in Lucid, But Not in Slacko
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Javelin Dan

Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 117
Location: Akron, Ohio

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb 2013, 15:02    Post_subject:  Solved! Weird Graphic Problem in Lucid, But Not in Slacko
Sub_title: Xorg crashes in Lucid 5.28 and Precise, but so far, not in Slacko
 

Running Slacko 5.3 on Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop, Pentium III processor (750 MHz), 20 GB hard drive, 512 MB RAM


I’ve suddenly developed a graphics problem on this box that I’ve never had before. Lately I have been running Lucid 5.2.8 and Puppy Precise on this computer, but more recently (in the last two weeks) whenever I would either start the Xorg wizard or shut the computer down, the LCD screen would start to bloom a purple-ish color, spread and blot out all the graphics on the screen and essentially crash the system. This happens almost every, but not quite every single time. I ran both commands “pfix=ram” and “pfix=purge” from the live CD with no effect, and I even ran D-Ban to wipe the hard drive. I also ran an Ubuntu live CD and ran the “repair disk” option and it showed no errors. On a desperate hunch, I installed Slacko 5.3 just to see if the problem was consistent, and so far (after about 5 different sessions and shut down) it hasn’t recurred. I also installed Lubuntu on it briefly before that and I didn’t see the problem there either. I have three questions:


1.) What the heck is going on when (I assume) Xorg crashes and why?

2.) Is there anything I can do to fix or prevent it or is this old box slowly on its way to the scrap heap?

3.) Why hasn’t it happened, at least so far, with Slacko or Ubuntu?


I just realized that someone is going to want to know which graphics card I have, and I honestly don’t know. If it’s important please let me know and I’ll get that info for you after work tonight. Thanks in advance.

Edited_times_total
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Hogweed

Joined: 12 Feb 2011
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb 2013, 15:26    Post_subject:  

It's an NVidia GeForce2 according to a quick web search. One thing to note is that when a graphics card fails it may still work perfectly in basic mode but fall over if any drivers try to use more advanced features. Hopefully that's not your problem.

First question is are you using the same drivers each time. For nvida there are 4 different possible drivers, vesa (universal), nv, nouveau or official nvidia. Question is what driver seems ok in the working configurations. You can check with report-video if you have it (script in /usr/sbin-report-video )
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starhawk

Joined: 22 Nov 2010
Posts: 2940
Location: Everybody knows this is nowhere...

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:30    Post_subject:  

Sounds to me (hardware dude here) like you have a graphics chip that's got one foot in the grave.

FWIW, the ThinkPad T4* series has an issue that may be shared by your Dell -- the bottom of the laptop isn't strong enough, and when there's any flex to it (such as when resting a laptop on your knee) it flexes the motherboard. Half-rips the graphic chip off the board. If you have a ThinkPad T4* that displays lots of meaningless blocks of junk upon powerup, now you know why Wink

Also, overheating can be an issue -- if you know how to open your laptop correctly, do so and clean the insides with a can of compressed air.

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Javelin Dan

Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 117
Location: Akron, Ohio

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb 2013, 22:52    Post_subject:  

Hogweed -

I understand (sort of) but is there a way to log in under Xvesa only in Puppy? I've had to do that when trying WattOS, Zorin Lite, and Bodhi - otherwise I get a 3-layered split screen. I seem to remember in older versions of Puppy you had a choice of Xorg or Xvesa in the wizard. Not so anymore, correct?


Starhawk -

I hear ya', but this thing always sits flat on a solid wood table top.I don't THINK overheating is a problem as there's nothing blocking airflow, and the fans only cycle occasionally.
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Atle

Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 283
Location: Oslo, Norway

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 00:11    Post_subject:  

I am not sure if its the same machine, but it sound like the same i just fixed just a few weeks ago.

The card just died and I took it out, I used a "heat gun", sort of a very strong "hair dryer" that is used for removing paint, and did a proper resoldering of the card and it worked perfectly.

Resoldering or "hardware cooking" is not unknown and can make ANY chip come alive again, be it a mobile phone or whatever. As long as it DOES NOT WORK and its a soldered chip, one can "Heat Treat" it and it MIGHT come back to live again.

Sound like your card is dying to me and rescue from the scrapyard might be this method if it dies of for real.

I think this PC also just showed weird lines no matter what you tried and the entire operation took me like one hour to complete.

atle
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starhawk

Joined: 22 Nov 2010
Posts: 2940
Location: Everybody knows this is nowhere...

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 02:20    Post_subject:  

Atle, the term for that, at least that I've heard, is "baking" -- because it's usually done in an oven -- and, as it's essentially a poor man's solder reflow gimmick, it only works sometimes -- and even then only when the problem is when a chip's connections to the board become damaged.

That sort of situation only happens when either (a) the chip gets so hot that it melts half the solder off its pins, or (b) it gets partly ripped off the board, (for example, a T4* thinkpad that is perpetually on someone's knee).

I really don't see that helping here, as we've eliminated both chassis flex (and therefore motherboard flex) and heat as likely issues.

It's either a driver conflict or the chip is dying from some other problem.

...although it does occur to me that heat could come into play with one other problem.

There is a bit of "thermal interface material" (TIM for short, manufacturers usually use a wax pad) in between the graphics chip and whatever cools it (usually at least a heatsink). After a few years of transferring heat from surface to surface, that TIM becomes "baked" to a solid, non-thermally-conductive lump. I've actually needed a screwdriver to get the stuff off (this is NOT recommended!) in at least one extreme case where a plastic paint-scraper wasn't strong enough... but that was on The Infernal Dell, which had been in some form of use basically since 1999 Wink also, that system's processor only pulls 15 watts of power (!) -- even if it vents 90% of that as heat, it's not going to need a terribly efficient cooling system...

Javelin Dan, if you have disassembled this laptop before, enough to know your way around its insides, you might consider replacing the TIM. You don't have to pull the processor, but you do have to pull the heatsink(s) on it and the graphics chip... the disassembly and later reassembly are the hardest parts Wink putting on replacement TIM is easy.

Basically, to replace the TIM, what I do is to clean both processor and heatsink (and graphics chip, in this case) with Arctic Silver Arcticlean. It's a two-stage process. You need the Arcticlean (of course) and a static-free, lint-free cloth or cloth-like substance (coffee filters, oddly enough, are perfect for this! use the triangular ones that fold open, and no, brand doesn't matter). Pour a few drops from bottle #1 onto the processor, rub it around with a coffee filter. Repeat until there's no TIM left. Then get another filter. Put some drops from bottle #2 on, rub it around. That processor should look really shiny now! Repeat for the heatsink, and graphics chip.

Then you'll need replacement TIM. I recommend this stuff right here. I know, it's eBay -- but I just bought some, and it's really good stuff. Put a small lump on, about the size of a grain of rice, on each chip, and plunk down the heatsink(s). Put everything back together and you're done!

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Atle

Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 283
Location: Oslo, Norway

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 03:40    Post_subject:  

Using heatgun is way more successful than baking a entire chipset in a oven.A oven can't aim JUST at the suspected problem. If a thing is dead, its dead and then you try this. Yet, his chip is not dead, but dying, so thermal paste is the way to go. I personally felt mentally rich as the last working piece of "been failing" hardware left my hands... working..

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starhawk

Joined: 22 Nov 2010
Posts: 2940
Location: Everybody knows this is nowhere...

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 13:02    Post_subject:  

The other problem is that DIY solder reflows tend to last six months or so -- if it lasts a whole year, then you are a very, very, very lucky person.
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Atle

Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 283
Location: Oslo, Norway

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 13:28    Post_subject:  

Consider doing your hardware in the oven version 1.0

Consider doing it with a heat gun an improvment. An overall improvment.
Call it resoldering 2.0 the ultimate edition...

Gimmicks can not give life back to old and dead hardware.ReSoldering 2.0 with a heat gun can.

And by all means... there is no law in physics that says that hardware will work for 6 months only as its actually being physically resoldered, just as if you did normal soldering... It melts and then goes hard...

This with 6 to 12 months is just a myth.

Some hardware is failing all at the same time like some models of Dell Laptops. And other dubious makes. Since resoldering actually sometimes works, its better to try that and have a working piece of hardware for whatever amount of months, rather than to buy a new one.

Its also environmental friendly, fights the throw and buy society and if not the most important... When you fix such a complex thing as a motherboard or whatever... Your can be sure it gives a good feeling to beat the labs...
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starhawk

Joined: 22 Nov 2010
Posts: 2940
Location: Everybody knows this is nowhere...

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 15:19    Post_subject:  

While I have not myself baked any electronics (the idea of getting not-exactly-lead-free solder fumes in my oven is a little spooky to me)...

My other forum has many threads on the subject, being a computer enthusiast forum. I did a search there (I don't think I can share that, due to user permissions and such) and there were a lot of people that I saw, noting that it was a temporary fix.

If you want to read the closest thing to a definitive sticky on the subject, that would be this thread here --> http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1421792

That thread (the one I linked to, here) links to a thread on Overclockers[dot]com -- this thread here. Note the text in red in the first post, both the shouty huge text about halfway through AND the smaller text at the bottom.

I would recommend a TIM change LONG before I recommend shoving a motherboard in the oven -- one, a TIM change is easier; two, baking is risky; and three, baking is very much riskier if you don't know what the @$%!! you're doing. If Javelin Dan has never even disassembled his laptop before, I wouldn't even recommend he do a TIM change -- laptops are insanely difficult to get apart and back together working in comparison to desktops. That said, I've taken apart multiple laptops myself (I've probably done it a dozen times; I know the laptops in my house quite well Wink ) and I've done TIM changes more times than I can count (but the vast majority were on desktop chips...).

TL;DR: we need to know what Javelin Dan's skills are before we randomly encourage him to go mucking around with his hardware. I can't speak for you, Atle, but I do NOT want to be the reason that his laptop will never work again. (or at least until he saves up for a new motherboard.)

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Javelin Dan

Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 117
Location: Akron, Ohio

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 15:41    Post_subject:  

OK folks, here’s where I’m at:

I’ve had my fat fingers inside several computers to change hard drives and such, but the only time I’ve had this laptop open at all was to swap some memory. My motto is “Discovery begins when you throw away the instruction manual” but to be honest resoldering anything on a circuit board would be a little beyond my pay grade. I could “rebake” something with a heat gun (already have one of those), but I would need a picture and a little more instruction to know what I was aiming at. I am familiar with at least one type of heat sink putty, I work in the HVAC industry and we’ve used it to isolate the heat from solder joints away from adjacent service valves. This box has no large amount of value to me other than it’s been a test mule since I got into Linux. If it dies, it dies, but if at all possible within my limitations, I’d like to keep it going.

If I could, I’d like to revisit my previous question. If in fact it doesn’t act up when the graphics aren’t overly excited, wouldn’t it be prudent to run it out of Xvesa rather than Xorg? If so, is there a way to do this with a newer version of Puppy that doesn’t have the option in the video config wizard? And I’m still wondering why I haven’t had any problems with Slacko so far (have booted in and out of it at least three more times since my original post)…

Did I hear one of you guys offer to by me a new ibook if this goes south?!! (LOL)
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starhawk

Joined: 22 Nov 2010
Posts: 2940
Location: Everybody knows this is nowhere...

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 17:51    Post_subject:  

Javelin Dan, based on what you've just posted -- I would strongly recommend avoiding both the TIM change and any sort of reflow effort, be it with a heat gun or an oven.

Actually, if you could PM me -- I've been having trouble with my heat pump. If you can tell me what's wrong and how to fix it, I'll send you a similarly specced replacement laptop from here in NC -- it will be a Dell C600-series (I *think* it's a C610). I need to replace the internal BIOS battery and then it will be all yours. Arrives priority mail. I'll ask you to pay postage (should be just over $12 for a Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box), but the laptop itself will be free.

I've done similar things for others on this forum before -- if you need a reference, PM musher0. I did my first shipment ever to Canada for him.

EDIT: It is a Dell C600. I can tell you that it's a Pentium 3 that's inside, but I can't give you the speed until I fix the battery issue. It has 192MB RAM at the moment (128+64). If you want to upgrade it, you will want to know that it takes PC100. It has no networking capability at present -- and a very strange scheme for connecting wireless antennas. I'll attempt to put a wireless card in there once I've received the missing parts (the BIOS battery, a particularly unusual cable for wireless cards, and a hard drive caddy). I'll ask you to pay me $20, so that I can get the repair parts I need. (The battery and caddy are insanely cheap -- I might have the caddy, need to check -- but the cable is going to run me nearly $10 by itself, and the wireless will not work without it!)

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Atle

Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 283
Location: Oslo, Norway

PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb 2013, 10:00    Post_subject:  

I'll stand up here and give the final few words until someone take that away from me Laughing

1) Putting hardware in the oven has never been a good idea, but heat gun is.

2) Doing resoldering by heat gun is a last resort solution as the card either goes into a permanent mode where it has just weird lines or dead.

3) TIM will only help if the card is actually working fine. If already showing weird lines(permanent), it will not help to TIM as the card is cold at boot
anyway.

4) If you do find yourself in the situation where some chipset, mobile phone or powersupply is failing and you feel a urge to draw your heat gun in order to brute force life into it(with about 50% chance of success), make sure the part you treat/repair is on a steady ground so nothing can slide out of position, such as connectors and other "innocent", but "treated" parts. Wait rather 15 minutes for the chipset to cool down. Its stays WARM very long inside parts and movements can burn fingers and ruin your project.

5) Heat guns has been available almost since electricity came. Never listen to hardware tips from people that puts it into the oven. Its brutal, primitive and very dangerous. Its even a technical mess as you harm the entire board, fill up your family with led for weeks to come and also not surprisingly can give a life span time limit to a certain categories of parts in the specific chipset being baked.

WARNING... Heat guns should not be used for fixing things that are blood and breath based technologies, such as animals and humans. Usage of heat guns on hardware can be highly addictive and might lead to


Atle
Proud owner of TWO heatguns...

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Javelin Dan

Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 117
Location: Akron, Ohio

PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb 2013, 12:00    Post_subject:  

Atle –

You crack me up! But be careful or the “New World Order” people will crack down and put an international ban on heat guns. Then the only way to put shrink sleeves on my bottles of homemade wine will be to use a much safer propane torch!
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Javelin Dan

Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 117
Location: Akron, Ohio

PostPosted: Mon 25 Feb 2013, 12:28    Post_subject:  

I’m going to mark this as “Solved” even though I haven’t definitively identified my hardware problem. At the point where I was convinced by others that this old box was probably failing, my only focus on that point was to see if I could boot Lucid 5.2.8 into Vesa graphics mode and see how long it lasts. I actually found what I was looking for on another thread submitted by member “canbyte” (here: http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?search_id=1085849402&t=84525) and answered by “bigpup”. His solution for booting into Vesa mode is as follows:

Quote:
“Try this:
Boot with the Live CD.
At the boot screen hit F2.
Add the command puppy pfix=nox
This will get you to a prompt.
Type xorgwizard at the prompt.
Select the vesa driver.
set resolution.
run test to see if it works.
finish xorgwizard.
back at prompt.
Type xwin
should see desktop.

You can also try one of these boot options:

puppy pfix=ram i915.modeset=0
puppy pfix=ram radeon.modeset=0
puppy pfix=ram nouveau.modeset=0

depending on your graphics card of course.
NB:
i915 is for intel
radeon is for radeon
nouveau is for nvidia”


Worked perfectly for me (first option). I’m going to experiment with this and see if Lucid will run without issue in Vesa. If not, I’ll fall back to Slacko 5.3 which has worked without any problems so far. The only reason to change back at all is that for whatever reason, Lucid plays Youtube videos better than Slacko ( or anything else I’ve tried for that matter). Thanks to all who weighed in.
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