Here’s a clarification of my recent Tweet about Diana. Sometime over the weekend Diana, our primary Linux box that serves as the backbone of our home network (DNS, file server, internal Web server, SSH gateway, SVN repository server, etc.), gave up the ghost. I only discovered this yesterday evening, so I haven’t had much time to diagnose the problem. It’s almost certainly a hardware issue. I’m thinking it’s the power supply or the motherboard, as when I try to power her up, nothing happens. The power light comes on, I can watch the CPU fan twitch like it wants to start spinning, but otherwise nothing else visible occurs. No output makes its way to the monitor so there are no error messages to follow.
At this point, I’m not sure of the status of the hard drives. My hope is that they’re fine; the obvious problem appears to be occurring before they even start to spin, as if they’re not getting any power (and that’s why I suspect it’s a power supply issue). The good news is that Demeter, her predecessor, has been sitting idle and collecting dust and has since been rapidly pressed back into service. I should be able to slip Diana’s disks into Demeter, check their integrity, and hopefully recover the data. That’s the core thing right now, getting the data off; hardware is replaceable, data is not. The only hitch is that Demeter is old enough that I’m not sure her BIOS will read Diana’s larger disks. Demeter’s current HD is already larger than her BIOS supports, though, and Linux seems to work fine in this situation, so I’m hoping that won’t be a problem. A worst-case scenario might be to throw a live Linux distro into Athena, our current “alpha” Windows XP desktop, and try to grab the data that way. (Diana’s disks are in ext3, which obviously Windows can’t read.) Both Demeter and Diana have EIDE drives while Athena uses SATA, but I’m almost certain Athena also has legacy EIDE on the motherboard somewhere; if not, I’m hosed there.
Why might this be a concern to you? Well, for one thing, Diana was one of several redundant backup locations for storing my my high-resolution original strips. Fortunately, everything from Year Nine and back has already been backed up to multiple DVDs stored in multiple physical locations, while Year Ten’s files are stored across three redundant drives (two in separate physical machines and one external USB drive). More importantly, Diana was my SVN repository server, housing all the source code for the GPF site. I have working copies of that repository in multiple locations so I’m not hurting there, but with the repository down I’m stuck manually keeping those working copies in sync. The biggest problem that may affect you guys is the humongous time sink this will be for me to repair/replace Diana and get all our internal mechanisms working again. With my day job, two hours of commute, and toddler patrol vying for my time, my comic production schedule is severely squeezed as it is. This is probably going to impact that buffer I was forced to take a hiatus in December to reclaim as I wasn’t able to increase my production, just maintain the status quo.
For those of you who might care, I’ll post updates here when I can. More frequent cries of frustration will likely come through the Twitter feed. If the comic will be severely impacted, you’ll get something in the GPF News. So keep watching those RSS feeds.
Sorry for the quality of the picture. This was taken with my cell phone’s camera, which isn’t the best in quality but all I had available at the time. (I also should have cleaned the screen before taking this. Oopsie.)
As mentioned in Monday’s GPF News post, I’m looking at a number of ways to take GPF completely digital as a way to speed up my process while not taking time away from my family. The history and reasoning behind this transition is pretty well outlined in the News post, so I won’t replicate it here; make sure you read that post to get the gory details. However, I haven’t really discussed the primary tool to implement those changes, which I felt would be more appropriate to talk about here than in the “official” GPF News.
I’d like you to meet Hermes. Hermes, say hello to the nice people. Hermes is a Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC. (For those old timers who may be confused by seeing the name “Lenovo” attached to IBM‘s old flagship ThinkPad notebook PC brand, IBM spun off its PC business in 2005 to Chinese company Lenovo, who had already done most of the manufacturing for IBM’s PCs for several years.)
As mentioned in the above linked News post and in the publicly accessible Behind-the-Scenes page, GPF has been a half-analog, half-digital process since pretty much the beginning. What I’ve apparently failed to mention in (or perhaps it would be better to say that I’ve failed to update) either the public Behind-the-Scenes page or its expanded Keenspot PREMIUM-exclusive counterpart is that I’ve been using a Wacom Intuos3 tablet for several years now. Wacom is probably the best known manufacturer of digital tablets which are used by digital artists, 3D modelers, and CAD architects the world over. Digital tablets are much more intuitive for artists to work with than most other pointing devices (mice, pointing sticks, trackballs, etc.), usually giving you a pen or stylus to manipulate the cursor on the screen. I’ve spoken to many digital artists over the years who swear by their Wacoms who eventually convinced me to splurge and give it a try. The Intuos is their mid-range line for advanced amateurs and frugal professionals; many of the artists at my day job use Intuoses (Intui?). My Intuos has gone a long way in improving the GPF development process, and it’s only with great reluctance that I fall back to the mouse or other pointing device for really high-precision details.
That said, the combination of a tablet and a laptop is a bit… cumbersome. Usually when I do the digital half of a strip, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room with Apollo, our previous “alpha” ThinkPad, in my lap and the Intuos hovering in my hand above the keyboard. This works well enough as long as I don’t need to type anything, but leads to some awkward flipping of the tablet up and down when I have to change certain settings or use a different pointing device. It also leads to some uncomfortable right hand positions as I try to balance the tablet above the keyboard without accidentally hitting keys. But perhaps the most fundamental problem is the disconnect between what the hand does and where the eyes are looking. Many of us have been trained for years to move a mouse with one hand while looking at the moving cursor on the screen. This becomes a little more awkward for an artist who is used to looking at the art beneath the pencil/pen/brush in their fingers. I minimize this somewhat by having the tablet so close to the LCD of the laptop, but it’s still not as intuitive as I would like. If only I could actually draw on the screen….
Wacom has a line of LCD displays with tablet capabilities called the Cintiq. I’ve wistfully mused about one for some time, but didn’t really covet one until I played with on at SIGGRAPH 2007. The large, crisp, bright display combined with the ability to draw directly on the screen was intoxicating, and I had to admit that I began to rationalize the high price tag just to get my hands on one. After all, I haven’t been to a con in a couple years now, so the GPF checking account has reached all-time highs with much more coming in than going out. But the Cintiq would be wholly impractical in my situation, where my digital art is technically a secondary source of income and the return on investment would be minimal. It would also be impractical from a physical standpoint; having seen one now in person, it’s completely unrealistic to sit on the couch with my son playing in the floor while having this massive 20″+, 16+ lb glowing brick in my lap. I’d have to move the digital work to a dedicated location, further isolating me from my family while working on the strip. If only I could have the draw-on-screen power of the Cintiq in a portable form….
It was about then that my wife called my attention to the latest employee purchase options at her work. Whereas I was laid off from IBM back in 2003, she’s still an IBMer and still has access to their employee purchase program. Since Lenovo now produces IBM’s old line of PCs, the two companies undoubtedly have a deal that allows the old IBM employee purchase program to access Lenovo machines at significant discount. And sure enough, Lenovo has recently added a line of Tablet PCs to the ThinkPad brand.
The Tablet PC is an interesting concept, but one I wasn’t very enamored with when I first heard of it. The concept is to apply the idea of a “notebook” further to the “notebook PC” by introducing the ability to write directly onto the computer’s screen. Handwriting recognition software would translate the user’s hand written notes into traditional computer text, making note taking more intuitive for less tech-savvy individuals. The concept, however, has been pretty slow to take off. In some places, the PDA (admittedly a dying breed of technology) continues to be more portable and better at converting handwriting to text. In others, the laptop is so deeply entrenched that the target users have already made the move to typing over writing and returning to a stylus would be a step backward. (How many words per minute can you type versus write by hand?) But there are two places where Tablet PCs have really taken off: replacing the traditional clipboard charts in hospitals and… digital artists on the go.
Let me start off by saying that I’m really impressed by this little guy. The transition from using a mouse to using the Intuos was rough at first, despite the fact that the tablet is more intuitive to an artist. You get used to doing things a certain way and relearning things always introduces a few speed bumps. The transition from the Wacom to the ThinkPad, however, was a lot smoother and I barely noticed the difference in speed. In fact, text entry has been the biggest speed bump so far. Using the on-screen keyboard is a bit clunky and is probably the biggest bottleneck in terms of physical speed. However, since Hermes has more memory and a faster processor than Apollo, any slowdowns from removing the keyboard from the equation are probably negated by the beefier hardware. I did have one problem with losing the touch strips on the Intuos which are usually mapped for zooming; I never realized just how much I used those until I lost them. However, I was able to remap a couple hardware buttons on Hermes’ screen to emulate the mouse wheel (which also does zoom in Paint Shop Pro), eliminating this problem.
The real Achilles heel in this transition, however, is my software. I’m still using my old decrepit copy of Paint Shop Pro 7 that I’ve been using for years now. I’ve been disappointed in both the increasing price of the software and the constant upheaval Jasc (the original developer) caused with each revision of in the interface, so I never bothered to upgrade. Then Jasc was bought out by Corel, and constant complains from our Corel Draw users here at work have convinced me to steer clear of upgrading my beloved PSP from here on out. I’m still too cheap to justify the ridiculous price tag for Adobe Photoshop, which I’m unwilling to switch to anyhow because I don’t really want to relearn a whole new interface. (I always felt that PSP’s interface, at least in versions 4 through 7, was much simpler and easier to use.) And while my long term goal has been to switch to completely free alternatives like the GIMP and/or Inkscape, that’s yet another completely different way of doing things that I’d have to unlearn and relearn, and the reason I’ve never made that transition is that my time is better spent now making comics than learning new software.
Mind you, overall PSP has worked extremely well with the tablet. It’s not an OS/application problem, as Hermes runs Windows XP, just like Apollo did. The problem comes in with one tiny yet critical aspect of the PSP interface and the apparent lack of precision in the tablet stylus. There’s one control on the PSP palette toolbar that controls switching between flat colors, gradients, and patterned fills. The only way to switch between options is to left-click a little black arrow in the tool, which brings up a tiny context menu with the options. Once you’ve chosen a general option, you can left- or right-click the rest of the control to bring up the option dialog (to switch from, say, linear to circular gradients). The problem is, I can’t for the life of me get the stylus to register a click on this tiny little arrow. I’ve literally tried repeatedly to get this click to work to no avail. There is no keyboard shortcut for this action, which in a way makes sense given the nature of the tool, but is completely frustrating because I could easily remap a hardware button to do this if such a shortcut existed. So for now my only option is to stop what I’m doing, flip the screen back around to traditional laptop orientation, use the TrackPoint to click the arrow and choose what option I want, flip the screen back around to tablet mode, and usually rotate the screen around again so it’s back to the orientation I originally wanted. This is brings my process to screeching halt, completely interrupting my work flow and is annoyingly disruptive. The problem might be easily solved by switching to a different image editing program, but that’s an issue I’ve already addressed.
All that said, I’m really loving this new little toy. It has done incredibly well so far, even though all I’ve done is use it in my traditional analog/digital production flow. The real challenge will be when I start making all-digital strips, which I plan to do with the next story, i.e. once To Thine Own Self… is completed.
A couple years ago we replaced our old laptop, Zeus (a ThinkPad A21m), with a newer one, Apollo (a ThinkPad R51). Shortly after we purchased Apollo, Zeus started acting very strangely. While the LCD was definitely beginning to fail (it would occasionally suddenly lose luminance, which would come back intermittently), there was something else that was causing the system to mysteriously crash. The screen would go blank, the system fan (or so I thought) seemed to start making weird pulsating noises, and the keyboard and TrackPoint would go unresponsive. The only way to recover from this crash was to remove all sources of power, including the battery. It seemed to happen predictably after the system had been on for a period of time; the first time after a cold boot it would take about a half-hour to an hour, and on subsequent reboots it would occur within minutes. If I let the system sit overnight and cool down, it would seem to be okay again for an hour, and then the process would restart.
I naturally assumed because of the apparent “warm up” and “cool down” nature of the problem that it may have been something causing the system to overheat. I had encountered a similar (or maybe opposite) problem with my old college desktop, Pandora, where she wouldn’t boot until her main hard drive had warmed up enough for an apparently broken contact to heat up and expand until it connected. Unfortunately, since Zeus had already been replaced, we weren’t exactly in any hurry to repair him. My original plan for Zeus was to turn him into a Linux machine simply to toy around with, but I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to spend a truckload of money to ship him back to IBM and have him repaired out of warranty. So Zeus has spent the last year or two gathering dust on various shelves in various closets. Occasionally I would take him down and boot him up for a while to see if the symptoms persisted, and every now and then even gather the courage to pry open his case (he was, after all, out of warranty) to see if I could identify the problem. However, this became a rarer and rarer occurrence until Zeus was practically all but forgotten.
When we started making the move to West Virginia, we began to clean house on some of our old hardware. Pandora and Minerva, the two oldest desktops, eventually made there way to the Guilford County hazardous waste facility to be recycled. (Old computer hardware should never be simply tossed into the garbage, as it contains numerous toxic and precious materials that should either be safely disposed of or recycled.) This occurred, of course, after both hard drives were securely wiped to prevent the recovery of any personal data. IBM has a very nice “secure data disposal” utility available to its customers that performs up to the DoD recommended seven-pass overwrite to clear the disk. Since Zeus was apparently in no condition to perform this task (which could theoretically take hours), we decided to take him to WV with us until we could safely wipe or dispose of his hard drive. The only way I could think of to accomplish the wipe would be to put Zeus’ hard drive into Apollo, boot using the secure data disposal CD, and let Apollo do the hard part of overwriting the disk. Since this would mean Apollo, my primary Internet lifeline and comic-making workhorse, would be unavailable for potentially up to a full day, it’s obvious to say that finding the time to perform this task has been… difficult.
Well, this weekend was my monthly computer maintenance weekend, where I run the usual gauntlet of tasks to keep all our systems up-to-date: downloading and installing security and software patches, scanning for spyware and viruses, and doing hard drive error checking and optimization. (Some of these tasks, of course, are done more frequently, but they also tend to occur during the monthly batch.) The usual disk maintenance includes running Disk Cleanup, CHKDSK, and Defrag. I run this batch of jobs on all our Windows machines, including my wife’s work laptop, to try and keep everything in tip-top shape.
Saturday morning, I was just finishing up a few maintenance tasks that I had let run overnight. Ben and my wife had both already been up, eaten breakfast, and gone back to bed, so I effectively had the morning to myself. Zeus had drifted back into my consciousness again for some unknown reason and, since it looked like it wouldn’t be a busy day, I decided sacrifice having Apollo for the day to finally take care of wiping that disk. I swapped out Apollo’s drive (something I got rather good at after last year’s crash) and popped in Zeus’. As I started to boot, I immediately noticed that the weird, pulsating “fan noise” I remembered from before was now coming from Apollo. I proceeded with the disk wipe–cringing each time I heard the “click of death” coming from my “good” laptop–and began to wonder if Zeus’ problems were really hard drive related and not heat related.
I rummaged around the office, found my old KNOPPIX CD, and threw it into Zeus’ drive to see what would happen. I immediately found one distinction between these two machines. While I was able to successfully run Apollo last January entirely off the KNOPPIX CD with no hard drive installed, Zeus absolutely refused to boot. There must be something about that particular model (or series of models) where it doesn’t like operating without a hard drive. Curiosity overcame caution as I inserted Apollo’s good drive–with all my mail, Palm backups, comics, GPF-related notes, etc.–into Zeus’ chassis. It took a minute to convince Zeus to boot from the CD instead of the hard drive (which, of course, was filled with Apollo’s drivers that subsequently made Windows XP screech to a halt), but it wasn’t long before the old machine had a new lease on life. He remained up, active, and connected to the wireless network all day; in fact, portions of this blog post were actually typed in from Zeus via a rather old copy of Firefox. Fancy that.
It took Apollo an estimated 15 hours or so to completely wipe that drive, so I checked in on his progress Sunday morning. I swapped the drives back and was quite relieved to see Apollo boot as normal with his old drive returned. Zeus, unfortunately, did not fare as well. Even though his hard drive was returned and the KNOPPIX disc was still in the optical drive, the absence of a formatted hard drive with a valid operating system completely threw him for a loop. The boot order specifically said to look at the CD-ROM before the hard disk, but he wouldn’t go any further than to print a warning that the drive had been successfully wiped with the secure data disposal utility.
Zeus now sits back on his closet shelf, ready to gather dust again. If he won’t boot even from a CD without an OS on the hard drive, it’s unlikely he could be resurrected for anything useful. So now I come to the task of finding somewhere in this area where a computer can be properly disposed of. I really didn’t expect any miracles from this little bit of tinkering, but it’s always good to solve a little mystery every now and then.
For those who are interested, here’s some of the gory details of the hard drive crash mentioned in yesterday’s GPF news item: Probably Monday night, I noticed Apollo’s HD started making a few odd noises. They seemed only incidental, so I wasn’t even sure I was hearing them. Tuesday, I went back to work (Monday being my New Years holiday), and as per my usual custom, Apollo dutifully sat nearby so I could squeeze in some comic time between things popping up on my day job.
The clicking became more obvious and louder. It finally got to the point that it made such a racket it made my stomach churn. There was a time or two that it would crunch over and over trying to read something, effectively slowing down the system to a crawl. By this point, I knew something had to be wrong. I quickly jumped off the wireless network and plugged into the wired, started archiving things like my mail, bookmarks, and the absolutely essential GPF files, and moving them over to Diana, our main XP desktop.
Once I copied over the most important things, I started running a few diagnostics. IBM usually installs software called PC Doctor on all of its machines, so I decided to run those tests first. The SMART Short Self-Test failed, as did the surface scan. When I saw the surface scan results, I decided I should try to run CHKDSK and see if I could recover anything that may have been lost to bad clusters. So, as per XP’s usual way of doing things, the machine shutdown, rebooted, and started the scan. I noticed a few bad clusters show up, but unfortunately I missed the final result details as by then I was busy doing some heavy programming on my work machine. I saw Apollo’s screen go black out of the corner of my eye, and watched him to make sure he rebooted successfully.
Then I saw the four worst words I think I’ve ever seen: “Operating system not found.” I was about ready to throw up.
I went into the BIOS and the drive was still being recognized. As stated in the news item, I threw in a Knoppix CD I just happened to burn a month or so ago when my sister’s HD failed. Knoppix booted beautifully and all the other hardware seemed to be working fine. But whenever I tried to mount the HD, it simply produced the most sickening clicking and grinding noises. I shut him down and he hasn’t been booted since.
All in all, it could certainly be worse. I was able to get the absolutely most critical things off before it died. I haven’t been able to get my mail working yet: I have Thunderbird on Diana, but every time I try to overwrite the default setup there with my stuff from Apollo, it just ends up messing up the entire screen. I’ve probably missed a setting somewhere in the preferences file. I’m currently using my ISP’s Web mail app to keep tabs on my inbox and keep it from overloading with spam, but I’m not replying to anything until I’ve got Thunderbird working again. The strips I was working on were quickly moved over and I’ve already finished and uploaded them. My continuity spreadsheet was already on Diana, but I copied over the most recent version over as well.
While the master copy of my script/timeline for Year Eight was on Apollo’s HD, I also keep a copy on my Palm using Documents To Go. Ergo, I still have my notes, but I can’t back them up in case my Palm dies as well. I was able to back up all my contacts, calendar, etc. from my Palm to Diana, but anything else like my DocsToGo files are stuck until I can get Apollo back up and running. I also lost my local backup of all the low-res GPF strips since Year Four, some Java and Perl code, and other files like some novels and fanfics written by some friends and myself. Although I backed up the settings, my IM was on that machine as well and is currently down.
The good news is that I ordered a new HD Tuesday night, and according to the IBM site it has already shipped, so it should be here in a couple days. I just need to find a reliable data recovery place that can salvage as much as possible from the old disk. Since I know there’s a physical problem with the platters or the drive head, I’m pretty sure I can’t recover it myself. My biggest concern will be that the OS isn’t recoverable; IBM has this annoying habit of storing all the system recovery stuff on a hidden partition on the HD, then giving you a CD that essentially unlocks it if you need to reinstall from scratch. Thus, I don’t have any Windows XP installation disks should the recovery fail. If that happens I’ll have to either go out and buy a new XP install 😛 or finally take the plunge of moving my most essential and used machine totally to Linux. It’s been a goal of mine to take the creation process of GPF to all Open Source software, but this wasn’t the way I intended to do it.
When I mentioned this on the forum in this thread, comments came up about off-site backups. Here’s my process for GPF: Every time I finish a high-res GPF strip, I have an extensive little ritual to keep them safe. For the current year, I keep a copy on two different systems, Diana and my primary Linux box, Demeter. Throughout the year I may make CD-RW snapshots just to be extra safe. Then, once the year has been officially closed, I burn those files to a pair of DVD-Rs. One remains here in my office and readily accessible. The other goes in the safety deposit box at the bank. In over seven years of GPF, I’ve only lost one comic to any sort of data failure, and that comic I was at least able to rescan the original line work and rework so I could replace it (and get it into Book 5… whenever that finally happens).
A few days ago, we bought a new dual-layer DVD±RW drive for Diana, our main desktop. I already had an older single-layer DVD±RW in that machine, which replaced the original CD±RW that came with it. Over the past year or so, I’ve really gotten into the digital video editing scene, including putting some shows & cons footage online for loyal Keenspot PREMIUM Faulties. I’ve grown to find the 4.7GB of the ol’ single-layer discs limiting. With our mammoth 57-inch TV, anything less than the highest quality video encoding looks pretty bad, and you can only squeeze about an hour and a half on a single-layer disc before the compression really starts to show. Dual layers give you twice as much space. Plus, it’s always geek chic to have the latest tech.
Obviously, I’m not all that squeamish about putzing around in the guts of my machines. I consider myself more of a software geek than a hardware one, but I’ve done my share of case cracking over the years. I’ve installed countless memory modules (or “sticks” as they seem to be more popularly called now), optical and hard drives, expansion cards, and other internal doodads. As previously stated, I’ve already swapped this particular drive bay once, and now I was about to put in a third drive into that particular bay. So I went into this with the assumption that this would be a relatively simple procedure. I know what to touch, what not to touch, and what goes where when. Easy enough.
But it’s those little stupid things that get ya.
I’m not sure what possessed IBM to lay things out this way (Diana is a business-style ThinkCentre tower), but there’s very little room to maneuver in there. The way things are positioned, I had to unscrew the power supply from the back of the case and swing it down onto the floor just to give myself enough room to access the back of the old drive to unplug things. I always thought I had small hands for a man, but that’s never been a benefit here. I carefully unscrewed the power supply, placed the screws in a safe place, then delicately removed the screws holding the drive to be removed in place. Pop! And out it comes. Slide the new drive into place, plug everything back in, screw it in place, then return the power supply to its slot, and everything’s finished. Time to install software!
Then I find out we need the serial number to mail in the rebate. Figures. Time to crack the case again.
The serial number, of course, is on the top of the drive, so it has to come completely out so we can read it. I carefully unscrew the power supply, swing it down, put the screws somewhere safe, unscrew the drive, unplug it, pull it out, and write down the serial number. Mission accomplished. Now it’s a simple matter to throw the guts back into the cadaver and sew it back up. I plug the drive back up and start screwing it back into place.
Suddenly, my screwdriver slips, and the screw I have oh so very carefully kept in a safe place to keep it from being lost drops from its hole. Sure enough, the power supply is positioned in just the wrong way so that the large hexagonal grating that provides valuable airflow is facing upward. I’ll give you three guesses where the screw went.
At this point, I’m not sure what to do. I know my way around a motherboard enough to know the CPU from the memory from the hard drive controller. But I’m not about to go cracking the box of a power supply. That’s a dangerous place if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I picked up this blue-gray metal box and listened as the screw tinkled as it slid back and forth inside it. Each merry jingle–not unlike a happy little holiday bell–sent twinges through my stomach. I tried to jostle the power supply around like one of those little games where you try to roll the ball through a maze, hoping the screw would roll back toward the large grating and I could roll it out or at least grab it with one of my mini gripping tools. Eventually, there was nothing but the sound of silence.
By now it was getting late in the evening. We had to go to bed so my wife could get up early. (The poor dear had to work most of Saturday and part of Sunday.) So in hopeful desperation I put the system back together, closed the case, plugged it up, and turned it on. And then there was the most sickening clicking fan noise I had ever heard coming from a computer. I quickly turned it back off and unplugged it. Something was hitting a fan somewhere, and now I didn’t have time to research it. In resignation, I started to get ready for bed. I think it was only the allergy medicine I take nightly that let me sleep.
Saturday, I woke up in a better mood. I went out for a much-needed haircut, then came back determined to cure Diana’s ills. My sweetie was not as busy as she thought she would be, so I was able to crawl back under the desk without disturbing her. I cracked Diana’s case, but left everything plugged up. Hesitantly, I pushed the power button. There it was, that disturbing clicking… but not coming from the power supply. One the power cables to one of the drives had been twisted around during all the shuffling, and was now touching the CPU fan. Sure enough, I powered her down, moved the cable out of the way, hit the power switch again, and the noise was gone. Crisis averted.
Well… for the most part. I never found that stupid screw. It’s still floating around in Diana’s power supply somewhere. However, she’s been running for a few days solid now without incident, and she doesn’t really move around much. With any luck, that screw has tucked itself into a corner somewhere and will never be a problem. Then again, I’ve never been one to believe in luck.