Well it definitely looks like our computer "Fire" is dead, and dead for good. Carolyn gave it a bad IP address and didn't change it back last summer, which in theory contributed to the death of that machine's webserver, shortly followed by TCP/IP stack death and/or total OS death. It sat for a few months during this construction detente and finally we needed the space back bad enough that we started trying to fix it -- in January. (Yes, a few months passed by, and I really needed some of the data on the 160G that lived on that machine.!)
We tried Win2K. We tried TinyXp. We tried Linux -- both Ubuntu and VectorLinux. No go. Nothing installed.
Then we took the 17G out, and moved it to Carolyn's computer "Magic". Our newer computers (Hell, Magic) have SATA cards and all SATA harddrives. But Magic is our oldest new computer (if that makes sense), so it had both SATA and EIDE ports. So we moved Fire's old old 17G harddrive (the oldest harddrive still in use in the house: we use 17G, 25G, 80G, 80G, 80G, 120G, 120G, 120G, 160G, maybe a 200G, 250G, maybe a 300G, 400G). We use so many harddrives I can't rememeber them all but the total storage is about 2.2 terabytes.
So anyway we move 17G over to Magic, map it on the network, and I finally recover many files I've needed for about 6 months. After a couple hours I've moved everything over to my main computer ("Storm"). Now we have an EMPTY 17G drive. We tried Ubuntu Linux and Vector Linux and TinyXP again. No go.
I thought, "What if the installs are failing because the cd-drive is reading the disc improperly?" Very improbably, but I hunteded down the old computers people had given me, found one, and gutted it, gaining a floppy drive, a cd drive, and 2 EIDE cables. The 90W power supply was utterly useless and the 8G drive was too hard to unscrew (A drive screwed directly into a case? What the fuck were they thinking back in the Pentium-II days?!?!).
Tried the new cd drive and lo and behold, the thing doesn't even eject. Okay, we got to stress test the cd tray at least. "If I kick this, will it really break off?" Findings indicate cd drive eject trays don't break as easily as one would expect. Still, "It's fun to smash stuff" as Homer says to Marge.
Is "Fire" dead? I think so.
But I'm still going to try 2 more installs. One with half my ram in, one with the other half of my ram in. Maybe I have some bad RAM.
And I'm going to set the bios to failsafe. Sure, I enjoyed overclocking my P3-450 to 558mHz all these years, but if it's making it a non-computer, it's not worth it.
If all that fails, I'll gut it for the cd, floppy, network, sound, and video cards and it will be on my curb.
Someday, I'll have a web and ftp server again.