Last night, I finally finished a computer I'd been working on for three days. This all started when a professor in Electronic Media wanted to have a SCSI hard drive put in her Gateway E-3200 so that she could capture analog video with her machine. Okay, this doesn't seem like it should be a big deal, does it? It is.

The slim E-3200 only has room for one hard drive, so I knew I was going to have to yank the 10GB IDE drive she had in favor of the IBM 7200 RPM U2W 18GB drive I was going to put in. So, I checked the termination of the drive, then installed it along with the Adaptec 29160 SCSI card my boss had ordered despite my reccomendation of the Adaptec 2940 U2W. The 29160 is a pretty big card, you can plug cables in to it at four different spots. It would only fit in one of the slots of the E-3200, but when I tried to boot the machine, I kept getting an message about a "ROM Initialization Error". I took every other card out of the machine, still got the error. I updated the BIOS on the machine, as well as that of the card, still no luck. I finally called Adaptec's tech support number (which is not a toll-free number) where I waited on hold for over 20 minutes. I reached a fairly knowlegeable guy on the other end, who said it sounded like the card just plain wouldn't work with that machine. That made me feel better, at least I wasn't doing something wrong.

So, I then decided to just swap machines with her, we had a Gateway E-4200 that had the same specs as her E-3200, so I just started migrating components to that machine. The problem is that where the E-3200 has everything on the motherboard, the E-4200 does not. I filled up all of the slots, got everything seated properly, then turned the machine on, only to get a message that said "PCI Bus Resource Error." I was out of resources for all of the cards! I finally tracked it down to the PCI sound card, a SoundBlaster/Ensoniq card. I swapped that card with an older ISA card, but that required me to swap the existing ISA network card with a PCI network card, which eventually worked.

Okay, I've got the machine happy now, it starts to boot, I pop in the Windows 98 Startup disk. It detects the CD-ROM drive and the CD-RW drive, and boots to DOS. I run fdisk. I get the message "Fixed disk error". Well, that's not helpful, but before I'd put everything back in, I'd already partitioned the disk to make sure everything was going to work. I low-level formatted the disk, no luck there. I pulled the drive out again, looked over the jumpers, tried a different SCSI ID. I started removing expansion cards again, still no luck. What had I done differently the first time??

Then, it hits me! The first time, I'd opted to not load CD-ROM drivers. I rebooted, chose that option again, and I could read the disk fine, something in those drivers screwed up accessing the hard drive. Well, I figured I could probably figure it out, but since Windows 98 was going to be a pain, I'd just install Windows 2000 on the machine.

I did a fairly typical installation of Windows 2000, and all was going well until I attempted to install the drivers for the Pinnacle/Miro DC30 capture card. The card just refused to respond. Well, since I could at least read the CD drive now, I just copied the Windows 98 .cab files to the hard drive, rebooted with the startup disk, wiped out Windows 2000 from the command line and installed Windows 98.

After another 5 hours of re-installing applications, the machine was done! This professor has nearly every program we have on her computer, all of which she had to have. She even printed me a screenshot of her desktop so I could make sure I had all the same icons there. I don't. I don't even know what some of these programs are, no one knows where she got them, so she's on her own. I got everything set up, copied back the 4GB of data I'd copied off her old computer to the server, and started the disk defragmenter running. 5 hours later, it's done! Hooray!

The moral of the story is this. SCSI is evil, and it can't be trusted! No, actually, I do like the speed and low CPU usage of SCSI, I just hate setting it all up. I hate that there are 10 different ways to connect it, meaning that I'm always going to need the type of cable I don't have. I hate that the types of SCSI are confusing, Fast-Narrow-Wide-Ultra-160-SCSI 1, 2, and 3! Why can't these things be numbered logically? SCSI v. 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, etc? I hope they do things right with USB v. 2.0.