It’s been about two weeks since I took the blind Thinkpad to the repair shop for a professional eye transplant. For that period, the job of downloading torrents has been relegated to the Pentium, a task which it has proven capable of handling, in spite of such low system specs.
Sort of. Lately there seems to be some sort of ghost in the machine, causing system lockups or network drops and making me wonder if something in my configuration is causing it to hiccup.
Hardware failures on this machine are not unheard of, although since the weather turned warmer and stayed warmer, the flaky power switch I described there seems to be behaving itself.
But occasionally, after a long period unattended, the terminal won’t return from its power saving setting, or the network falls off completely, or the system locks with the drive light activated and no sign of breaking free short of cutting the power. And of course, for the week that I used it alone, I had no problems of this sort.
Personally I believe the issue might be:
- A workload beyond its ability. These little breakdowns seem to happen after long periods of torrent activity, or if the machine has to manage more than two or three torrents at a time. It’s altogether possible I’m just overwhelming the machine, and need to back down.
- Flaky network card. I have been using this with a 500-yen PCMCIA-to-LAN card I got in a secondhand store a year ago, and while the card was shrink-wrapped and unopened, I still have had some rather … skittish … behavior with it, on more than one machine.
- Wacky system configuration. It’s always possible that I adjusted the system in such a way that the jobs of managing torrents and acting as file transfer host and updating ports for the household … are just too much. I already caught myself once using a secondhand configuration file that I copied in from another machine, and had set the swappiness to nothing. That, of course, is a major no-no on a machine with only 16Mb of memory to work with.
And of course it’s possible one or more of those things are happening at the same time. I hate that when it happens.
In the way of troubleshooting, I’ve tried removing any and all framebuffer support, swapping the wired network card for a wireless one, rebuilding the system from absolute scratch (which doesn’t take long when there’s nothing aside from core packages on it), tweaking the network speeds for the system, tweaking the network speeds within rtorrent, reducing its workload and even just micromanaging every little option that’s available for the system.
No one thing seems to work, although reducing its workload overall (in other words, not downloading 12 ISO-sized torrents at one time) and adjusting the networks speeds have proven somewhat effective.
In all it’s a little disappointing, but hardly a show-stopper. In a few days the Thinkpad should be back, and if it stays in the long run I’ll be moving the Pentium out of this role. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably be switching things around anyway, and something else will pick up that job.
So it’s a puzzle, but nothing that needs to be solved. Those are the best kind.