Just a short note: I installed Ubuntu 8.04 on the guest VAIO I’m “repairing” — the one with the working but invisible screen. I have enough of an image to read faint system messages, and since I’ve installed 8.04 about 40 times now, I have an idea where it is in the setup sequence.
So I blanked the drive and installed 8.04, and it seems to be working fine, hardware faults aside. The video card in that machine is a Geforce 420 Go, which is the sister card to the one I have in my Inspiron, so I was prepared for the lack of video output that follows the installation of the nvidia-glx package. (The fix is a quick addition of
Option "UseDisplayDevice" "DFP"
to the device section of the xorg.conf file.) And I didn’t take the time to troubleshoot the wireless card, mostly because that would have required more work than I could afford with a whacked out screen. I think the desktop effects are working well — I can see some transitions and blurs in the afterimage. And otherwise I think all the hardware is working okay, so I’m willing to call this one a success too.
As a side note, when I installed my own 440 graphics card in this Inspiron, a couple of years ago, I never thought I’d see its counterpart in a 2.6Ghz machine. I always had it in my head that the 440 was analogous to the high end of the Pentium III video generation, but this 420 apparently came stock for this model (in other words, I don’t think the owner has changed it out from something else … I think that would be beyond him). So I feel kind of proud that my favorite machine has a high-end graphics card in it. Sort of.
But for now the repair session is on hold while the owner orders parts. I made it clear I would do the work but I would not arrange or pay for parts; that’s his responsibility. If something goes wrong or the parts prove defective, I don’t want to handle returns or refunds or anything like that. I am strictly the mechanic here, not the project manager. Sometimes less responsibility is a good thing.
P.S.: Tip for other backyard PC mechanics: Get permission from someone to blank the hard drive if the machine is going to be in your possession for any period of time. In this day and age, I don’t want to know what’s on someone’s system. And since a lot of goofy PC behavior can be traced to bungled system software, I usually demand that someone take their personal files and settings off a machine before I troubleshoot it. It’s a safety measure, but it also means you can start clean if you want.