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HW: Salvage a smoked hard disk

I admit. I have old PCs hanging around. I know it’s hoarding, but you may need something from it, some day! Like the one with Windows 2000. I recently decided to get rid of it. But, I wanted to move the programs and data from the hard disk to a new one, so I can use it in a machine. The drive was an old Maxtor 80GB hard drive. It had old Windows 2000, so I didn’t bother with the OS files. I just wanted to copy the documents and other files (may be even some programs I wrote) to my new computer. This drive used the old PATA technology.

I normally get a external hard drive enclosure, so I could attach it as an external USB drive and copy files from it. This time I got a little adventurous (cheap?) and went for a SATA/PATA hard drive adapter, something like this. Essentially, it’s open ended cable with SATA or PATA pins available to plugin the hard drive. There is no safeguard compared to a hard disk enclosure.

I got my PATA drive hooked up to my computer via USB using this adapter. Everything was going well. Except, it is not hot-swappable – meaning you can’t plug and unplug while the thing was on. I did that and the next thing I know, the inevitable happened! I smelled smoke and surely, the drive was fried.

I thought it was gone. I researched a bit about data recovery and all. Sounded so expensive. Then I landed on this site called PCB Solutions.  According to this site, apparently when you smell smoke on a hard drive, chances are it’s only the PCB circuit that sits on tops that’s fried, not the disk or the platter. So, in theory, if you can replace this PCB board, you can salvage any drive. Really? I’ve worked with SCSI hard drives for a while, when I worked for a SCSI software company in the past. Never knew those things came off like that.

2013-12-22 13_56_01-2013-12-22 12.59.19

It’s the L-shaped circuit board (in green with chips) that comes off the top of the drive.

The site offers really good service. First the identifying/matching service. Lets you enter a few codes/numbers and matches the PCB needed for your drive. Once you pay and order it, it arrived within a week or so. The package comes with a kit – a small screw driver included. So, anyone can remove the old plate and replace it with the new one. Voila!! That worked!

It was that simple. I’ve done some hardware stuff, but I can’t claim to be an expert in that area. I was able to do this easily. Great service, great support. I highly recommend this for anyone at a loss of their precious hard drive. This service can save you 100’s if not thousands. You just need some patience and some caution. (Like don’t touch the circuit part, not to zap it by accident etc).

Netgear Router issue

I’ve been having issue with the router on and off. It’s a decent router: Netgear WNDR3400. It used to work fine with Charter earlier. Since we recently moved and started using Time Warner cable service, we have had a strange issue.

The computer would connect to Internet fine, if I connected it directly to Modem. The moment I connect it through the router, it couldn’t connect to the Internet. It could connect to the local area network, but not beyond that. Few times, I was able to reset the router after everything is connected but even that failed many times.

When I called Time Warner, the technician said, he could see my modem fine, but there was a hiccup while connecting through router. He was very helpful, but didn’t give me a permanent solution. After patiently getting me connect/disconnect modem and router several times, he was able to get me connected. Only to be kicked out a few weeks later… I was on the verge of buying a new router, then decided to give it one last go. This time I set out to find a more permanent solution with the help from trusty Google.

To troubleshoot and change any settings for a Netgear router, you can use routerlogin.net in the browser. This normally opens up the settings page for the router. Unfortunately, when I had the issue, I was not able to connect to it in the browser. But, I was able to ping to it, proving there was a local connection. Then it occurred to me, may be the it wasn’t able to resolve the named address for some reason. I tried (the default gateway) in browser and it worked!!

After researching a bit, I found the solution. It’s the MAC address used by the router. Since the ISP was able to see my machine, but not the router, decided to change the settings for the router to use Computer’s MAC address instead of it’s own. I logged into Routerlogin.net (or the ip address) in browser and changed the router settings. In Basic settings I found the option called “Router MAC address”.  This had 3 choices:

  • Use Default Address
  • Use Computer MAC Address
  • Use This MAC Address (hard coded)

By default, it was set to “Use Default Address”. I changed this to “Use Computer MAC Address”. Voila!! It worked!!! Seems they tied it to my computer’s mac address for some reason!! May be, the technician that installed it, set it up that way.

Update 12/22

Then I read on this page that this may not be a good thing, security wise. The router actually acts as a shield blocking any intruders come into our PCs directly. I will research some more on this and post back. But, to reduce the risk, always change the default password for your router. This link is for linksys routers, but I think it applies to any router in general.


Linux: Netdisk on Ubuntu

Update 05/12/2016:

For anyone coming to this post looking for solutions on IOCELL Net Disk, I am sorry. The company seems to have folded and is no longer hosting any of the links I mentioned here. It’s a great product and mine worked on Ubuntu with the instructions here, but my disk failed (hardware) and thus I am not able to experiment with it anymore. If you find any updates outside of this blog, please feel free to post in comments below. Thanks. -Sam


Last week, my Windows PC stopped working. (I have to look into it later). At the moment, I am working with my taxes and I needed some files from the old machine, desperately. Luckily, I’ve iocell_ndasbeen backing up. For this, I use IOCell Networks (also Ximeta)1, NetDisk. NetDisk is a Network Direct Attached Storage (NDAS) device. This seems to be a combination of Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Direct Attached Storage (DAS). As a device, NetDisk is really an external hard disk enclosure that is network enabled and you add hard disk (I added a 1TB drive to it). The difference from other external drive enclosures is that this is network enabled, so once plugged into Ethernet, it can be accessed from any PC on the network. And Direct Access because, you can just plug in the device directly to Ethernet, not through any computer or server.  To add security, they have added a software layer (IOCell/Ximeta NDAS) that you need to install on each PC to access the drive. You will have to register the software with the specific serial # of the NetDisk. Thus, only specific PCs with the right software and serial # register can access the drive. I had installed this software on my Vista machine and that worked like a charm. (This post relates only to the Linux version of this software. If you need help with Windows version, please refer to their user manual).

Now, at this critical moment, when I needed to access the back up, I couldn’t. My main (Vista) PC is dead. My wife’s laptop runs Windows 7 and is not capable of running Ximeta NDAS software (It freezes – even the version 2.72 they suggest to fix the issue). Then my other PC, where I am typing this from, is running Ubuntu 12.04 for which Ximeta does not have a driver or programs for NDisk. At least, not any installation binaries!

But there was hope. Luckily, Ximeta provides (open source) source code at https://github.com/iocellnetworks/ndas4linux/tree/master/ for Linux. Downloaded the source code (If you go to zip tab in the above page, it will download a file named ndas4linux-master.zip. The source directory has several versions. Which version to use depends on your kernel version. (To find your kernel’s version, you can use uname -r on linux terminal). For Ubuntu 12.04, I used version 3.2.0. Though I work with large systems at work, I never venture to compile big programs at home. This time, it’s different. Desperate situation require desperate measures. I ventured on compiling the driver for Linux myself. I was amazed. Huge sets of files got compiled while I watched, without major issues. Once the source code is compiled, we need to install and load it. Here is a list of things to do from their documents:

  1. Download a source tarball.
  2. Unpack
  3. CD into the right folder and run make
  4. Change to root or sudo make install
  5. Start ndas as root
  6. As root, or by sudo, register and enable ndas devices with ndasadmin
 Apart from the documents provided, each directory inside the main folder has a README. Read these for instructions on how and where to compile. Here is a little better instructions on how to build it.
Because their instructions are spread across different documents, I’ve gathered and summarized the steps here for the newcomer.
Building the software
This is really confusing, as there are many directories and many make files. To do this correctly, you need to be in the right directory. Change to ndas4linux-master/3.2.0/doc (I use 3.2.0; change to the right version) and read
how_to_export.txt first. Here is the summary of how to compile:
cd ndas4linux-master/3.2.0
make linux-rel
This creates a new directory, ndas4linux-master/3.2.0/build_x86_linux. linux-rel is one of the options. This is the final version. But, you can also build dev or debug versions. Take a look at the doc files.
Installing the software
Once you compiled, you need to install the driver and start it. Below commands do that. This step actually builds the ndasadmin program and installs it.
cd ndas4linux-master/3.2.0/build_x86_linux/ndas-3.2.0.x86
The make command compiles so many files and actually builds ndasadmin and “installs” in /usr/sbin. This is the command we will use to work with (mount, dismount etc) NetDisk.
ndasadmin has several options. To run this command, you need to be root or use sudo. If you just type sudo ndasadmin on command prompt, it will display various options available.

Starting ndas Driver

After building and installing the driver software, you need to start the driver before you can use the device.

sudo ndasadmin start
Mounting the Device

You also need to register the device serial #, before you can mount the device volumes. The readme file, how_to_use_ndasadmin.txt inside the version folder (3.2.0 in my case) lists the steps to install and run NDAS software. To register the device, you need to find the serial number (and write key) of the NetDisk device. These are available at the bottom of the Netdisk box.

sudo ndasadmin register <SERIAL_NUMBER> -n NetDisk1
sudo ndasadmin enable -s 1 -o r
brings up the NetDisk volumes. NetDisk1 is just name I gave to the device. This can be anything. Also, register option have a slight variation with Serial # and Write key. See the readme file mentioned above.

First, I didn’t see them come up. Then I found them listed in “Places” option in Gnome desktop menu. To see the device listing, you can use the following command:

cat /proc/ndas/devs

To disable/unmount the device, use the following commands:

sudo ndasadmin unregister  -n NetDisk1
sudo ndasadmin disable -s 1 -o r
Further Help
Like I said earlier, the doc folder inside the version you are working with (ndas4linux-master/3.2.0/doc) actually contains all the instructions. Here are some of the files in that directory.
Note that the software seems to be constantly evolving, so it may not support all the functionalities, the actual device can support. And if you need more help, here are some links if you want to learn more about Iocell Ximeta on Linux.
  1. http://ndas4linux.iocellnetworks.com/
  2. https://github.com/iocellnetworks/ndas4linux/wiki/How-to-export-NDAS-source-for-different-architectures
  3. http://ndas4linux.iocellnetworks.com/trac/index.cgi/browser/ndas4linux/release
  4. http://ndas4linux.iocellnetworks.com/kermit/index.cgi/wiki/Usage
  5. http://ndas4linux.iocellnetworks.com/kermit/index.cgi/wiki/HowToBuildDEB

1 IOCell acquired Ximeta’s NDAS; so you will see the names used interchangeably here and the web. See here

Fixing an old computer!

My neighbor brought his computer to me about a month ago! First, I thought it was just the video card. So, I bought one through e-bay. Nop. Then I am on to CPU. I refuse to accept it may be the motherboard! This particular model doesn’t have a model #. Only a serial #. Compaq/HP online support was so good. He was able to find out the details of the machine. From there I learned more and more about it.
I gathered it was 1.1 GHz celeron processor. So, I set out to work. I ordered, again on ebay, a CPU that looked similar. Least I knew, not all 1.1 GHZ celeron processors were the same. They looked the same (green top and all), but since I had not looked into the CPU before, I assumed all were alike.

The new CPU arrived last week. I finally removed the clip on the heat sink. This was interesting. I hit the mother board a few times with the screwdriver. I hope I didn’t damage it. The clip was to be pushed down and twisted to pull it out the plastic tab holding it.

So, I set out to go Fry’s electronics yesterday. I bought a few things:

1. Anti static arm band
2. Antistatic gloves
3. thermal grease remover, cleaner
4. thermal paste, anatec silver

This is becoming an expensive affair.

The following websites were really useful in finding out more about celeron cpu’s in general and about removing/replacing cpu/heat sink or fan.

Celeron models: There are differences!!!

Removing and applying thermal paste:

And there is even names for these Pentium 3/Celeron sockets:
coppermine (PGA ) and Tualatin (PGA2)
There is even a socket to put the new chip in the old socket!!




This video was helpful too: