Sunday, June 22, 2008

BigBoy is dead. Behold, FatBastard!

Late last night BigBoy, our HTPC (Home Theatre PC) died. Can't say I blame him, not after two and a half years of sitting in the dark beside the TV and never being switched off.

The first symptom was the loss of network connectivity; no guide updates. That's important when you have a couple of hundred channels available, even though I only ever check about a dozen or so on anything like a regular basis.

So I did what any self respecting geek would do, I rebooted him. At which point he stubbornly refused to restart. Ok, I can take a hint, especially since we're having a heatwave and hitting temperatures in the 115 range. Took him apart and blew out the dust and accumulated cat hair. Plugged him back in and nothing.

Long story short I concluded, correctly, that a new motherboard was probably in order. The CPU itself seemed ok so I took a chance and a drive over to Frys for the cheapest MB they had. I'm stingy like that. 60 bucks and an hour later and the new motherboard was installed. Still no reboot but that was expected; you can't change to a different motherboard and expect everything to still work.

Re-install of XP MCE 2005. Sounds simple. 7 hours later it was finally working. Perhaps I should have bitten the bullet and reformatted the boot drive but that's also a backup location for the rest of our PCs so I did an install over the top of the old one. In retrospect it would have been quicker to pop the system drive out, stick it in another PC and copy the backups but that's the benefit of hindsight. If I'd known in 1970 what I now know about what was going to happen to property values in Carlton (Melbourne) I'd be a millionaire today!

The XP MCE 2005 installation itself went smoothly enough, straight off the CD. Even the 'critical' updates (all 99 of them) went well enough. Where it went pear shaped was when it was time to install XP Media Center Update Rollup 2. Unfortunately we needed that for XBox support so's Sonya can watch 'So you think you can dance' whilst I indulge in some obscure Japanese movie. Unfortunately the rollup needed .NET 1.1 plus .NET 1.1 SP1.

And it stubbornly refused to install! At about the 1 hour point I was convinced there was a problem. Ever tried to cancel a .NET 1.1 install? It sits there for a VERY long time pretending to be cancelling but not doing a damn thing. 0% CPU and no disk activity. For as long as you're prepared to wait.

Two or three hours later I finally stumbled on the .NET cleanup tool. Ran it, then ran the .NET 1.1 installer again and finally it consented to finish.

I couldn't resist the idea of renaming the computer to FatBastard. *shrug* After all, he does have a terabyte of hard disks sitting in there! But he's going to be just as neglected as BigBoy was. I follow a simple rule; it's a HTPC and nothing else; it's role in life is to timeshift those obscure Japanese movies that the networks will insist on running at 4AM so I can watch em at a more civlised hour.

I could have thought of better ways of spending my birthday, but on the other hand birthdays are becoming something I'm less and less inclined to celebrate. Another twenty years or so and I'll start being proud of making it past 70 but right now it feels like just another milepost a trifle closer to the end than I'm happy with.

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