What brought this up was attempting to run nVidia's Fairy demo. This is supposed to demonstrate just how amazingly good the latest nVidia graphics card technology is, but some MIT hackers have provided an emulation patch that supposedly allows it to run with the ATI cards as well - and faster. However, it didn't work for me. Some poking around led me to the conclusion that the T-Bird was lacking the requisite SSE instructions.
OK, time for an update.
What I'm running here at work is a dual Athlon MP 1600 machine. Dual processor machines are really quite nice for running Windows - when something gets into a tight loop and attempts to make the machine seize solid, there's a whole other processor there still running the GUI, able to respond to the Ctrl-Alt-Del, able to let you use the Task Manager to shut the perp down.
So, Friday lunchtime, off to World of Computers in Cambridge. An hour later, I'm back at my desk, with a dual AMD MP 2200 motherboard, its twin processors winking provocatively at me.
In the evening, into my home PC it goes.
Bloody thing won't boot. The SCSI card is reporting the drive, but the PC won't boot.
Aarrgghh. Poke around in the garage, find an old 2.5 GB IDE drive, put that in, OK, we have boot.
Install Windows 2000 onto one partition (just enough space) - still can't see the SCSI drive. In fact, on startup, it complains about the disc being unexpectedly unmounted.
Eventually, the problem comes to light - I've managed to bend over one pin on the SCSI cable. So the adaptor can see it, and identify it, but when it comes to actually trying to read it, total failure.
I reset (what is the past tense of 'reset'?) the machine, get it booting from the SCSI drive again, feed it various updated drivers, finally track down the reason that the OS won't see the second processor, and get it (mostly) working.
However, changing the motherboard, chipset and processor count under a copy of Windows 2000 is, though possible, not something it really likes, and it felt distinctly unhappy. Also, various drivers were still stuck on the system (such as the previous graphics card drivers - refusing to go). Time for a clean install, I felt. But not on this tiny old ATA 33 IDE drive, and the SCSI drive was a bit full, too. Also, the benchmark programs were showing stunning slow hard disk performance. So, Sunday afternoon, I wandered off to Sawbridgeworth to go buy an 80 GB hard drive.
So far, so expensive.
And all of a sudden, I had the win. The air conditioning unit in my Audi, which has not been working since spring last year and for which I was quoted £700 (before labour) for a replacement compressor, suddenly started working again.
And after all the PC rebuilding, I now have a nicely quick and responsive machine, and yes, the Fairy demo now works. Very impressively - realtime skin tones that make the Toy Story animations look slightly sad.