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The IBM T41 laptop returns fully repaired and restores normalcy

 

My IBM T41 has returned from it's trip to IBM. One new system board later, it is functioning perfectly. VMware complained when it came up about needing a new system ID, which I told it to generate, and that was it.

 

It is utterly scary how much I missed this little computer though. I had my business continuance plan of course: It got a complete workout during the last week. I work in Houston, which meant I was one of the lucky two million people that headed for the hills.

 

Normally, I would have had the T41 with me. To stay connected to the office, I would have brought up MS Windows XP as a guest of Linux, and used that to VPN in and stay in touch with the status of our shuttered office. I do this because our current VPN client is MS Windows only. The new one is supposed to be multi-platform. I can't wait....

 

But, this was not normal. The T41 was gone, along with what felt like most of my brain, and instead I had my personal emachines 5312. Normally it runs Linux too, but can dual boot over to XP if need be. Normally I only boot it over there when I want to apply Windows patches or Firefox/OpenOffice application updates. But to run VPN I had to be native on MS Windows for nearly a week. It was very disconcerting, but not in an obvious way. I bounce from OS to OS often enough that dealing with MS Windows ideosyncracies was not a problem. It was that the CPU fan would never turn off. Not that loud really. Just this constant white noise that I can't quite put out of my realm of attention.

 

I have come across this before: I had just forgotten it. When Linux boots on the 5312, it notes that the BIOS PST (I think this means Processor Status Table) does not have an entry for the CPU that is installed (An AMD 2400+), and that this indicates a broken BIOS. The /etc/init.d/cpuspeed daemon then works around this, and throttles the CPU so that most of the time, it idles along at just over 500 Mhz, and the fan turns off. The emachines laptop forums are full of commentary about this particular BIOS issue, but I have not yet found a vendor supported BIOS update to fix it.  Oddly, another emachines laptop we have: a 5309, with a AMD Athelon 2500+ does cycle off in MS Windows. I don't understand everything I know about this: but even on the 5309, the fan runs far more under MS Windows than it does Linux, so it is a question of degree to some extent.

 

I have applied the Powernow patch to XP. I have run through services and shut down all the things that do not need to run using  Scott Lowe's cheat sheet (found at http://www.louisville.edu/~rkgill01/images/XPservices.pdf). I do not think the CPU is running full speed all the time: the air coming out of the fan vent is not hot out most of the time when MS Windows is running.

 

Unlike Linux, I can't peek at /proc/cpuinfo to see what is happening on the CPU, which makes me feel half blind.  And for those of you with 5312's and know of the heat issue: yes I have applied the Arctic Silver paste to the CPU heat sink. So I have no idea why MS Windows does this. If I unplug from the AC power, then fan turns off and only cycles on when needed. But there are no settings in Settings / Control Panel / Power Options that let me control the fan. I did set it for "maximum power saving" even when on AC, but that did not help. Maybe there is a registry hack someplace...

 

The T41 is back, so I don't have to deal with it anymore. The 5312 is back to Linux, the fan is off most of the time, and MS Windows is back to being a VMware guest on the T41 for doing those few things that I have not been able to work around any other way. I think for business continuance, I'll upgrade the memory in the 5312, and use my personal copy of VMware there to be able to run XP as the guest OS, and get past all this. But with the new system board on the T41, hopefully, I'm not going to have to use the backup plan.

 

But I didn't plan on having to run away from Houston either: Always good to have a fallback position. Preferably one that is not noisy.