Releasing the magic smoke

I've figured out about how much it costs me to be lazy. It's approximately $100 per minute. That's how much it cost me for 6 minutes of unabashed laziness when it came to my computer over Memorial Day weekend. It's a lesson that's hard-won, and I'd like to share it with you so you can benefit from the "I do the dumb things so you don't have to" mantra that I seem to be effective at practicing.

On Saturday I was a productivity powerhouse. We managed to get Pixel to the vet, I mowed the lawn, and we did some afternoon shopping for some essentials. I was on fire, so my next productivity task was to take care of the power supply that was making noise (the fan was making a scraping sound, and while it went away before, this seemed as good a time as any to get rid of the problem once and for all). So a quick trip to Microcenter, and I had a brand new modular power supply from Thermaltake. I like the modular power supplies because there's not as much loose cables laying around the case, which means less things to try to tie off inside the case. Since my previous power supply(Antec) was also modular, I thought "gee, I won't have to re-run cables in the case. This will be great!" So I disconnected the old power supply, and connected the new power supply; reusing the old cables wherever possible.

Total time: about 6 minutes.

Pleased with how clever I was, I left the machine on it's side with everything exposed, and proceeded to flip the switch.

Almost instantly a little cloud of white smoke formed around the modular connectors. My hand raced to the back of the machine to flip the switch on the power supply off, all the while smelling the familiar and unwelcome smell of frying electronics.

Within seconds my brilliant idea went up in smoke.

Panicked at the thought that I completely fried everything in my machine, I pulled out the new power supply and replaced the old power supply back to it's previous duties. My hope was that the power supply had tripped some fail-safe, and I was only out the power supply. My fear was that it took the connected hard drives and fried them.

I hit the power switch. Nothing.

I cycled the power supply, and hit the switch again. Nothing. Only three lonely lights on the Leopold keyboard greeted me.


I bolted for the storage area to get a spare machine to see if I could ascertain what the damage was and rebuild. I hooked the drives up, and prayed. Thankfully they all spun up, and the familiar (but incredibly slow. The spare machine is rather old and not known for being a speed demon.) Ubuntu screens greeted me. Thankfully the drives weren't toast.

That meant the motherboard likely got the brunt of whatever happened. I wondered if anything was salvageable. I've had this particular motherboard / CPU combo since 2008, so an upgrade was definitely in the works, but I wasn't sure what was out there, and what it would cost. Also I wasn't sure what other cards on the machine were toast. My video card is relatively inexpensive (ASUS ATI Radeon 5450) so if that didn't work I could get another from Microcenter. But I needed to figure out what motherboard and CPU would work.

After a brief look at Microcenter's page via my laptop, I decided on the AMD FX8350 / ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 combo, with 8GB of DDR3 1600 RAM. It seemed like the best price / performance sweet-spot, and I was in a hurry. I also picked up a replacement power supply of the one that I picked up earlier that day. Almost as an afterthought I asked Ben (the awesome associate at Microcenter) if he knew if the motehrboard worked under Ubuntu. He didn't know for certain, but apparently he runs Ubuntu under VirtualBox on his Windows machine, so that was nice to find out. My phone Google-fu was a little quicker than his, and it appeared everything was in order for me to run Ubuntu on this setup with no problems. After a relatively quick foray into the Microcenter checkout queue, I was on my way.

the computer-gods were smiling on me, because everything about this install went very smoothly. The motherboard installed into the case with no problems, and everything seems to be running smoothly. Were it not for the absolute panic that I had before heading back to Microcenter, one might say that I had planned it all along to get a comptuer upgrade. I'm thankful I didn't lose any data that I'm aware of, and I'm grateful that Microcenter had exactly what I needed to upgrade my machine quickly and efficiently.

Moral of the story: just because it fits doesn't mean it'll work, and whnever it comes to power supplies make sure you use the cables that come with it. Laziness is not a virtue when it comes to hardware.

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