Dead Octane

SGI hardware problems, solutions, tips, hacks, etc.
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Dr. Dave
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Dead Octane

Unread postby Dr. Dave » Mon Feb 16, 2004 9:38 pm

Well not completely dead... fans spin up and actually got the red lightbar light to come on once (but only once - I'm at a loss to explain this also!).

Here's the story... just got this Octane and I knew it had a problem, and have been trying to get it to come up. When you plug in the cord to the power supply, the system seems to come on right away, and the diagnostic LED's on the front indicate that all the appropriate cards are plugged in properly. Tried reseating everything and still no luck, also swapping out the CPU with another but no change. I suspect a bad mainboard, or a bad flash PROM, but thought I'd ask here and see if anyone could shed light on the normal bootup sequence for an Octane. What would a system do if the motherboard was bad? Typically on other systems I've got here (O2's and such) when you first plug it in it it actually doesn't power up, just goes into 'power down' state - the behaviour I think I'm seeing is the system is actually bootstrapping it's hardware, but since the motherboard is dead it never gets past this point.

System is an older (0887) mainboard, with SI+TRAM graphics, R10k-195, although I don't think this really makes a difference in this case.

BTW, hi everyone - I'm located in Ottawa, Canada, so at least there's one representative of this country posting here now!

cstar
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Unread postby cstar » Mon Feb 16, 2004 11:50 pm

I have the very same problem with my octane. (note I still use present :).
I guess the compression connectors are getting old and contact is not very good. And it is certainly due to the board, as with another board, my technique was not necessary.
What I do :
0/ unplug the Octane
1/ I push the board till it is seated.
2/ take the back of my screwdriver and hammer the board in. (don't be too violent, but it still needs some energy, it ain't no sissy hardware)
3/ plug the Octane
Watch the screen : if it boots you're in game !
If the Octane does not start up, press the power button, and you should be in game.
If you experience the same behavior, start again at 0/.

Usually takes me a couple of minutes, but I since have started to "feel" my Octane (in a true SGIer fashion :) )

Tell me how it works out for you.

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Dr. Dave
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Unread postby Dr. Dave » Tue Feb 17, 2004 6:41 am

Is there any maintenance/cleaning that can be safely done on the compression connectors to improve their reliability? Box (frontplane) side it looks like gold-plated PCB pads, alcohol should make an improvement there. The other solution is to just get a new motherboard off of E-bay as there's some there now for a reasonable price.

cstar
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Unread postby cstar » Tue Feb 17, 2004 6:52 am

Octane Workstation Owner's manual says "thou shall not touch the connectors".
At your own risk ....
In any case, it's not very expensive to replace, so you can still try.
My MB has the problem, though once it's properly seated, it is as reliable as it gets :)

c*

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ShadeOfBlue
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Unread postby ShadeOfBlue » Tue Feb 17, 2004 6:57 am

Dr. Dave wrote:Is there any maintenance/cleaning that can be safely done on the compression connectors to improve their reliability?


You can use compressed air to clean them, the instructions are in the Octane Owner's Guide on http://techpubs.sgi.com/.
Whatever you do, DO NOT touch the compression connectors!

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shumiyao
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Unread postby shumiyao » Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:14 am

You still have the fan working, at least. Mine does not even spin its fans at all. Its red LED lights up, green LEDs are okay.

It's not because of the keyboard, is it? Did you check the keyboard connection?

The care of the comression connector, as ShadeOfBlue pointed, can be found here:

Appendix B. Care and Cleaning of the Compression Connector

It seems that it is too late for me. I already did the numerous prohibited taboos onto the connector (and perhaps to the motherboard itself) while trying to recover. Now that is guaranteed not to work. I gave up and bought a motherboard from ebay.

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Dr. Dave
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Unread postby Dr. Dave » Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:20 am

I'll have a look, but probably end up doing the Ebay thing...

Question, is the red light on the front of the octane run from the PM directly? That is, there's nothing on the frontplane that would autonomously light the red light? If there isn't, then it's definitely the Ebay thing.

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shumiyao
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Unread postby shumiyao » Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:32 am

I think that we seem to have a similar problem. Please let us know about what happens later on. I will post my result in this thread, too.

In my case, if the motherboard is not present, the RED light and the switch do not work at all.

BTW, does anyone know if removing SCSI devices from SCSI bay (without plugging Octane's cord off an outlet) fry the motherboard? I guess I did that, too.
---
P.S. I got my MB (ip30-1467, up to 8GB of memory version) for about 100 EURO.

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Dr. Dave
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Unread postby Dr. Dave » Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:55 am

Don't quote me (I'm not totally certain of SGI's implementatin), but SCA drives are inherently hot-swap by design, so you're *probably* fine.

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The Keeper
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My observations, having worked with dozens of Octanes...

Unread postby The Keeper » Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:59 am

The first thing I check when working with a misbehaving Octane is the memories. I'll reseat and swap memories a couple times, and if that doesn't help, then I'll swap the mainboard itself. Those two steps fix 95% of all Octane problems I run into.

An Octane will POST (but report errors to the console) if keyboard, mouse, and/or SCSI drive are not installed. So, remove all of these, with the only thing attached to the Octane being the monitor.

You can't kill an Octane to the point where it won't even POST by incorrectly inserting or removing a SCSI drive, so that's not it.

If your 0887 mainboard is 030-0887-003, then that's probably what the problem is. The 0887-003's have a history of being bad, and I've personally seen at least 5 or 6 bad -003's.

If the red LED blinks when you power it on, it's probably a memory problem. Reseat your memories or try others, and try again.

If the system powers on but no LED at all, then it could be the mainboard or the CPU. If you have a spare CPU, try that, but CPU's don't generally go bad unless your vents are clogged with dust and/or you've been tampering with the module. If you have a spare mainboard, try that.

Generally, the frontplane doesn't go bad, and even if it does, you'll usually POST but report errors during diagnostics.

I've heard of people pressing down on the large heatsink in the center of the mainboard with some degree of success, but that's only prolonging the inevitable.

I have a few 0887-005 mainboards available, fully tested and known to work, if all else fails. I have some of the 030-1467 mainboards as well, but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.

The 0887-005 is the most recent revision of the older-style mainboard, and it's pretty rare to see a bad -005, which is why they're more desirable.

Oh, and as a point of reference, I _never_ try to clean the compression connectors with anything but blowing air from my lungs. I've heard way too many horror stories of people messing up their Octanes by trying to use compressed air or some other physical object (i.e. a cloth) that I just stay away from them altogether.

Chris

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shumiyao
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Unread postby shumiyao » Tue Feb 17, 2004 8:16 am

Thank you, The Keeper, for your information.

I will try the new motherboard as soon as it arrives, by following the instruction above.

One more thing, could it not be that I slammed the motherboard into the frontplane, when installing the MB....?

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Dr. Dave
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Unread postby Dr. Dave » Tue Feb 17, 2004 9:32 am

That's about what I thought too. Since the heatsink in the middle of the -003 motherboard spans two chips, any flex to the board would result in shearing forces on the chip mountings, and over time enough damage could be done to kill the motherboard. The 005 solves this by using two heatsinks. That was my thought - and sounds very much like a plan.

I did try swapping/removing/shuffling memory around and no difference, and tried two CPU's, a 195 R10k and a 250 R10k, and no difference. It was basically down to a bad motherboard as the only other possible cause.

I didn't mess with the compression connectors either - looking at it I decided that the physics involved must be precise enough that anything I could do by hand would be like flailing a penguin with a submarine... :D

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Unread postby nekonoko » Tue Feb 17, 2004 9:37 am

shumiyao wrote:One more thing, could it not be that I slammed the motherboard into the frontplane, when installing the MB....?


If you did, you run the risk of bending pins on the frontplane. Examine the frontplane pins using flashlight. Unfortunately if they are in fact bent the only alternative is to install a new frontplane.
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shumiyao
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Unread postby shumiyao » Tue Feb 17, 2004 9:45 am

Thank you, Neko-san!

I checked through the frontplane. I could see no visible damge on the pins.

I am really hoping that the motherboard will solve this problem, otherwise I will end up with buying a series of spare parts...

cstar
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Unread postby cstar » Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:44 am

For the sake of history, I did bend a power pin on my backplane. Slamming it ...
It did POST but stopped saying that there was no hard disk.
The friend I bought the Octane from successfully put the pin back straight.

I still thank him, I must say. It is not something I recommend.
I was used to my indigo, which I slammed many times.


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