Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Technical - Using A Refrigerator To Repair A Graphics Card

It has been a rather unproductive couple of weeks re-building PC's. What started as a decision to rationalize the equipment lying around the Haunt turned into major upgrade and replacement sessions.

The results are good - two Pentium 4 3Ghz units with new motherboards, and the moving of my main PC, a 2Ghz Pentium 4 built in 2002, to a new motherboard as well.

All three PC's are now running on ASUS P4P800-E Deluxe motherboards. After the disappointments with my Gigabyte boards mounted to the point of pain, I decided to move everything to the same model motherboard, and to use a different manufacturer. The requisite research and local availability led me to ASUS.

One of the last niggling chores was an ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder 8500 DV graphics card that had a cooling fan that had eaten its bearings. After surviving the endless demolition noise from across the street for the past 6 months, it was the final straw when the PC began making tortured metal noises.

With my recently acquired knowledge of PC heatsinks and cooling, it was a simple task to find a replacement heatsink/fan combo (HSF) to replace the failed unit. Except for a seemingly small problem - how to get the existing HSF off the ATI GPU chip?

I tried Googling for an answer, and fired off a ticket to ATI tech support. Guess which route produced the right answer...

It turns out that you need a refrigerator, or more precisely, a freezer. Place the offending graphics card in a plastic freezer bag (to prevent ice build-up from humidity) and leave in the freezer for 24 hours. (You really do need to leave it to freeze solid BTW, just cold won't do.)

With a suitably frozen card in hand, it was now time to pry the HSF off the chip. This is a delicate operation because it is easy to
accidentally damage the board . I used a chip pry tool left over from some previous upgrade project and started applying pressure. After a few seconds, the HSF just popped off.

It turns out that ATI uses some sort of thermal glue to hold the HSF. This left a residue that takes some scrapping and alcohol to remove. With a fully cleaned off surface, it was now possible to mount the new HSF on the GPU. I used a Cooler Master Blue Ice HSF as the replacement unit. It is the same size as the ATI GPU, and just sticks on.

The final detail was to connect the power lead for the fan. The original HSF used a 2 pin, 5V connector on the card to power the fan. The new unit was 12 volt, and luckily, a fan connector was still free on the motherboard. I connected the new HSF to this point, and now have the benefit of being able to monitor the fan speed through the ASUS monitoring software.

Oh, and ATI tech support?

I have explained. ATI does not offer end user replaceable parts on ATI cards. I cannot assist you with this. ATI does not support or recomend end user repairs to ATI cards."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Book Recommendation - Woken Furies

The strange and compelling world created by Richard Morgan has been expanded with the release of Woken Furies.

Featuring his protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, Morgan has delivered another satisfying installment of a future in which one's existence is separated from flesh. This simple device, the technology to remove, store, and implant a person's conciousness, allows truly wonderful plots and twists. As a storyteller, Morgan does a great job of keeping the reader's interest and delivering surprises.

Highly recommended.

Singapore - We Don't Need No Stinkin' Election

In a move that would be familiar to Iran's mullahs, Singapore has decided it does not need an election for President.

This somewhat predictable outcome was managed by the nomination commission deciding that no Singaporean was qualified to run against the incumbent.

The lone individual crazy enough to have tried to run as a candidate has seen his life trashed by the ever efficient combination of forces brought to bear by the state. Although a member of the ruling party for the past decade, he has now "voluntarily" decided to give up his membership.

One wonders about the future of a country that does not have sufficient talent to permit a presidential election every 6 years.

Perhaps a new ministry should be created to look into the problem.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Singapore-style Elections

The inability of Singapore's ruling elite to permit an election to take place without determining the winner in advance is once again on display.

The post of President has been described as "largely ceremonial", yet one would be excused from drawing the conclusion that the very future of the Republic was at stake. The current incumbent is 81 years old and has been coy about "running" again.

Rather than leave the election to the vagaries of random chance, the nomination procedure was tweaked to ensure that only the right people could even run. The requirements for a candidate are so specific that they result in only a handful of people being eligible. Ironically, the original group of individuals who created Singapore would not qualify.

Having raised the bar high enough to exclude most Singaporeans, there must have been considerable disquiet when an individual actually came forward and filed to run. This spilled into the newspaper on Saturday with a piece that can only be described as a crude attempt at character assasination. Using thinly veiled innuendo, the Straits Times manages to imply that this individual is unfit to run. They even manage to dig up a former collegue who dislikes the individual, as if that in itself made him unfit. This has been followed by articles on subsequent days hinting at dark and unspecified character flaws.

One would have thought that the purpose of elections was to allow voters to draw their own conclusions based on the candidates record and platform. But in Singapore it seems, elections are to crown those pre-selected as suitable.