Breaking news

The new CPU means that Corey is now fast enough to play CBC.ca/sports HD hockey stream full screen, at 27 inches. This is a huge change from the postage stamps I had when I first started watching streaming hockey.

To bad Ottawa is being blown away by Pittsburg.

I need more power!

I upgraded Corey again. This time with a brand-new used CPU. I require Corey to be fanless. This means I can't use the most advanced CPU out there. High end CPUs get far to hot, even for my massive heat sink. The advantage of this, though, is that I got the CPU off eBay for a fraction of the cost of something new. The previous CPU was an LE-1100 and had a thermal design of 45W. I could have gotten a 2 core CPU with a thermal design of 65W but I was afraid of overheating. I got an LE-1660, still 45W but 47% faster then the previous CPU.

Anyway, it arrived today. And instead of working, I installed it. This was a bit of an adventure. This CPU didn't exist when my motherboard was built, so while it booted, Linux was showing the CPU ID as "unidentified" which was disconcerting. I decided to upgrade the BIOS. Which is where our adventure begins.

ASUS provides a BIOS flashing utility for DOS. When was the last time you booted DOS? I have some DOS floppies... but that way lies pain. How about booting DOS from a USB key? With a little farting around, here is what I discovered.

First off, my USB key is already formatted with one partition, FAT32. It is /dev/sdb on my system.

yum upgrade syslinux # just in case
sudo syslinux -f /dev/sdb1
# This next command is so non-obvious the developers should be shot!
# Why isn't this integrated into syslinux?
sudo dd conv=notrunc bs=440 count=1 if=/usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin of=/dev/sdb
sudo mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt
wget http://goebelmeier.de/bootstick/bootstick.zip
unzip bootstick.zip 
cd BootStick/
sudo rsync -av usb-root/ /mnt/ # ignore the permission warnings
cd ..
unzip AFUDOS236.zip
sudo cp AFU236U.exe /mnt/flash/afu.exe
unzip M2NSE501.zip
sudo cp M2NSE501.ROM /mnt/flash/

Now reboot from the USB key. For me, this involves hitting F8 inside a 5 second window. Type ENTER twice when DOS asks for time and date. Then

AFU /O0308.ROM 
The first AFU command saves the current ROM. The second one flashes with the new ROM. It takes a tense 2 minutes for it to complete. Tense because I realized to late the computer wasn't plugged into a UPS. A black out during ROM flashing means a bricked motherboard.

Of course, flashing a new ROM means all BIOS config is reset to annoying factory defaults.

What's more, this new BIOS will not boot Linux without noapic. But with only one core, I don't really care. I turned the APIC off in the BIOS.

So, was it worth it? Subjectively Corey feels a lot faster. And hotter; when Corey was lying flat on the test bench, the heat sink was almost to hot to touch. CPU temp was 59C! Now with Corey upright, CPU temp is 51C. Given that the max operating temp is 65C, I wonder if it can survive the next heatwave. What's more, the new CPU has virtualization instructions, so I can run KVM on my desktop!