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Antisocial Hardware? 94

87C751 asks: "Over the weekend, I happened upon a deal: 10/100 PCI NICs for $1.99. I bought two and installed one in my Linux box. The box came up to POST, and the new NIC started looking for a DHCP server (which I thought was cute, if useless). Once that timed out, boot sequence continued to the message "NTLDR not found"! In an attempt to do a PXE net boot, the new NIC had -rewritten my boot sector!- Granted, a few minutes with a GRUB boot floppy set things right again, but why in the world is J. Random piece of hardware arrogant enough to frob my disc? Has anyone else been bitten by antisocial hardware?"
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Antisocial Hardware?

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  • by fredrikj ( 629833 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:50PM (#5533021) Homepage
    If by 'antisocial' you'd mean hardware that detracts you from a social life, then, yes, I have plenty of antisocial hardware.
    • But that hardware at least keeps you doing something other than just sitting in a room and staring at the walls or watching the garbage broadcast on television. I wouldn't have much of a social life with or without the hardware, but the hardware keeps me from going insane.

  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:51PM (#5533030)
    The NIC did not eat your boot sector. I'm very familiar with the design that appears on the web page you posted and there's no way that the NIC could have done it. It has NO way of storing executable code onboard unless there's a flash or EPROM chip installed.

    I don't know how your boot sector got trashed, but it wasn't the NIC hardware.

    • I'll second this. I've got 3 or 4 machines that have this hardware in them, they run no problem. I don't do NT. I'm doubting very highly, they completely screw up Windows NT, but run just fine under Linux. I only have Linux, and they run like champs. I get them in the pre-assembled white box place that has cheap PC's locally. It's the only network card they have pre-installed. They work just fine. The poster might have one that's all screwed up, but that line of hardware runs fine.


    • It has NO way of storing executable code onboard unless there's a flash or EPROM chip installed.

      Are you sure? Because when the BIOS went a-callin for a PXE boot device, something on the network card had to answer with a BOOTP attempt, and my guess is that it is an onboard EPROM. They sell those cards with and without them, and from his description, it sounds like there was one installed.

      Unless it was built into an overzealous motherboard BIOS (assumed it could find an NE2000 compatible card?)... but I hi
    • I think I agree. That ahs to be a pretty big flash chip to have an NT boot loader in it. Either that or it's so smart it looks for NT on the network.

    • by rf0 ( 159958 ) <> on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:17PM (#5533217) Homepage
      Could it be that it did actually find a Windows server and tried to boot off that? Its the only thing I can think of as to actually build the MBR to know about NTDLR from a NIC. Nah can't see it happening

    • To add to this, the card in question uses the Realtek 8139 chipset (looking at the picture anyway), which is the '8139too' driver in the linux kernel.

      AFAIK those cards do NOT come with a EPROM slot at all, and the realtek drivers with the cards are first rate.

      The only way anything even remotely like what you describe could have happened would be if your winblows OS was subject to something else nasty.

      It's windows, I wouldn't put it above doing this being the way that it is (but maybe we should ask those
    • I am wondering if the PXE boot actually got some response from the network, but only a partial one in that it was told in the PXE response what file to load, but then the file did not exist on the server.

      You should try it with a network sniffer running...or else try it with the network cable disconnected and see if it behaves the same way.

      Also if it happens again, check if the boot sector really has changed. I also doubt that the PXE ROM would have an NT boot sector sitting somewhere that it could burn

      • Yes, I'm quite sure (Score:3, Informative)

        by 87C751 ( 205250 )
        No PXE server on my network. Just a Netgear RM356 and a SMC Barricade WAP router that the new card was plugged into. And yes, the boot sector was actually changed. I had to reinstall GRUB to get the machine to boot again, and this box has never had NT installed. (it's dual-boot, but Win98 is the other OS)

        I still have another NIC, so I could repeat the experiment. I might, too, just to try to dissect the mechanism at work.

    • I don't know how your boot sector got trashed, but it wasn't the NIC hardware.

      I'm *not* familiar with the design that appears on the web page, and I *still* could have told the guy that "the NIC ate my boot sector" is definitely the most improbable diagnosis I've ever heard.
  • No Surprise (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 )

    With the way that the functionality of hardware and software is being exchanged, I'm not surprised to see this.

    On the one hand you have Winmodems using cheapo crippled hardware with software performing functions that used to be in hardware.

    On the other hand, you have modern network cards ready to offload TCP/IP processing from the OS and to do DMA.

    • Look, Winmodems aren't unique, and considering the power of modern CPUs, they are a very good thing in abstract. If there was an open-source software modem core along with linux support for all of the common soft-modem codecs, I can't see any reason to keep a modem around.

      The interface to most modems is a holdover to a time when they were typically hooked up to dumb terminals (hence the onboard command interpreter), and the signal processing required could not be done at any cost except with dedicated har
  • Ever run into a piece of hardware that was OS specific? The most notorious of these, for me, has been the Winmodem, but I have heard that there are Windoze specific printers and other stuff as well. I was bitten once, and ever since then, if they can't tell me if it works on a Mac as well as Windoze, if not specifically Linux, I won't touch the thing!

    Second to this, for me, is hardware that is marketed by the chipset, as, for me, these have been typically difficult to find drivers for. Related to this
    • 2 cases of windows-specifism I've had to deal with.

      The Xerox WC385 I got from work (funny thing that, since my job at the time was with a Linux server appliance company that has since been consumed) was windows only. Absolutely no non-Windows drivers and no support for standard printer protocols.

      The Adaptec 7902 has drivers for many OSes, but they have a special hardware RAID mode (RAID 0 or 1 only, but often good enough) that they only support in their Windows driver. A real pain since the product we are
      • We have an aging Intervoice [] IVR system running on an original IBM PS/2 [] model 95 - still running OS/2. (Extremely stable, I might add; the only reason we upgraded from OS/2 2.1 to OS/2 Warp 3 was because of Y2K. Less than an hour downtime in the last six months. On hardware from the early 90s.) Not only are the telephone line cards inside it MCA, therefore OS/2 specific; there is an expansion box that supports additional line cards, connected to the PS/2 by an MCA card.

        (Okay, you can probably run Linux or

        • I hope you have a few of these machines laying around as spares. I ran into problems once on software that had timing issues ... wouldn't run on anything faster than a 386DX-33.

          I can't imagine trying to find a reliable source for replacement parts for a clone 386DX-33 (or slower) so I would hate to ponder the logistics for your MCA box :)
    • That NIC is certainly not OS specific.

      It's got the Realtek 8139 chip, which is probably the most supported Ethernet chip on the planet, which is good since it's on something like 80% of NICs sold. It's well supported under Linux, Win9x drivers are easy to find, and when I put a few of them in some Win2k machines a while back I didn't even have to install them, they just worked without even a "Windows has found new hardware" message or anything.

      This is one case where generic is good.

    • The reason generic video drivers will only give you 640x480x16 colors is that's a sort of "universal language" for video cards. While some video cards will choke on even 800x600, anything that speaks VGA (that is, pretty much all PC graphics hardware) will run on that standard. The idea is for your system to get to a point to where you can get drivers installed that support all its features.

      After all, if your display drivers defaulted to 1024x768x32-bit color, a lot of older video cards would choke and on

      • I understand about the need for the basic VGA type driver that will give you enough video to troubleshoot and install the correct driver. But what Windows does with cards it can't detect is to install another generic driver e.g. Generic PCI Display Adapter that will go up to 1024*768 but not at more than 16 colours. This isn't in any sort of emergency mode. Seems to me that, if they're going to do that sort of thing, they do need to take it a little bit further.
        • The problem isn't the card... its the monitor. If Windows defaulted at a high res/refresh rate that would toast someones ancient Packard-Bell moniton, Slashdot headlines would scream "MS Software destroys monitors!"
  • "Has anyone else been bitten by antisocial hardware?"

    Yup. Two(ish) words:


  • There weren't many details about the network the guy was on, but where did the NIC load the nt boot loader from? Did this thing find and install it from a server somewhere?
  • by Pathwalker ( 103 ) <> on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:20PM (#5533239) Homepage Journal
    Once I picked up a couple of really cheap no-brand 10/100 cards that had the same MAC address.

    No way to change it either - I guess someone missed the point that MACs are supposed to be unique.
    • Yes, but there's no centralized MAC address authority. I've heard of others who have come across identical MACs on a network.

      And yes, if you have an OS like Linux (probably *BSD, etc) you can tell the driver to change your MAC address. A pain, but possible. My 802.11b+ethernet router comes with a web interface that lets you do the same (they call it "MAC cloning") so that if you have registered your MAC with your ISP (many broadband ISPs bind to your MAC before allowing traffic from your IP) you can change
      • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:46PM (#5533400)
        "Yes, but there's no centralized MAC address authority"

        Of course there is. It's the IEEE. I know because I shelled out 1600 hard earned dollars for 2^24 MAC numbers. Need their URL?

        • I've been polishing up on my network skills lately, but I don't underrstand the need for IP addresses if all MACs are different. Why don't we just route according to MAC and forget about IPv4 and 6 ? That's probably a naive question, so why not ? Is it only because the routers/DNS would have to remember every single MAC under them ?
          • Okay, I'm not a networking expert but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night(and am taking a class in networking). Here's my somewhat quick explanation:

            IP adresses exist so that you can abstract away the hardware on the network. For example, let's say you have a Linux box with IP of and MAC address of XXXX. You can take that box out, and replace it with a Win2k box of IP and MAC address of YYYY. Anything that needed to talk to, can still do so without worring ab
      • I guess the IEEE does not count ? Yes, you too can go [] and get your UNIQUE address space
      • OS's like windows also allow you to change your mac address. I think you can do it w/ macs through the open firmware thing. Depending on your windows driver, you can do it through advanced driver settings, or you may have to poke in the registry.
    • Once I picked up a couple of really cheap no-brand 10/100 cards that had the same MAC address..

      I've seen this three times. Twice with some no-name tulip clones and once with a couple of really old Macs with built-in ethernet.

      If you keep the machines on separate subnets, you'll never know about it (unless you record MAC addresses). However, once you put them on the same subnet, mighty strange things start hapenning - one machine works while the other doesn't - seemingly random intermittent behaviou

      • The ones I saw didn't have a valid prefix. they both had the same hex digit for all values in the mac address - I think it was EF:EF:EF:EF:EF:EF or some other odd value like that.

        I think it may have been a marker, to indicate where the MAC should go in the actual production run, but whoever made the cards skipped that step.

        Now that I think about it, there is another part to the story.

        There was a dos utility that came with them that claimed to do diagnostics, and let you change the MAC address. When
  • es1370 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moncyb ( 456490 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:27PM (#5533292) Journal

    I bought an es1370 PCI sound card for $20 to replace my ISA one. Works great in Linux, but the Windows drivers cleared the boot sector and erased my BIOS. Is this a new trend for hardware? ;-)

    This sucks because my VIA based motherboard has a bug which causes lockups during heavy DMA activity when a ISA sound card is installed. If you have the Linux kernel source, look in Documentation/ sound/ VIA-chipset for more info about this problem.

    Took me a while to figure it out. At first I thought it was a problem with a new hard drive--stress testing it would lock up the machine. Once I figured it out, it was obvious. I tested the situtation thoroughly. With ISA sound, lockups, without, no lockups. Who would've thought a sound card can cause problems with your hard drive?

    • Hrm, I'm trying to remember the card (I think it was an es1371), but I've had a sound card which would reliably lock up Win98 on bootup. I ended up ditching that card & getting a new one using a different chipset.
    • One time, I installed a Lian Li removable HDD bay into my machine. It was physically quite excellent, except that it made the hard drive inside it act like it was doing acid. Every file on the drive that was accessed when the drive was in that drive bay was corrupted, including my PGP private keyring (which fortunately I had saved to a ZIP disk.)

      It also messed up that entire IDE channel. The DVD drive on the slave setting was messed up. The BIOS detected it with a garbled name.

      After taking that bay

  • i bought a promise ide card to add another ide channel to my system and it just shut everything down. i could not boot into anything and removing the device made things no better

    caused so many problems that i eventually just removed the card and reinstalled my os

    i made sure that my newest mb had the multiple channels for raid built in :)

  • Evil Memory (Score:5, Funny)

    by riclewis ( 617546 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:54PM (#5533449)
    There was a 128MB stick of SDRAM I had once that killed every motherboard I ever put it in. Lost three before I figured it out, and after that I kept it around just to kill old boards.

    Anybody want some cheap RAM?

  • I guess you know why now.
    • It's the price.....It does not matter if it's manufactured by Beer Belly Bob Inc. and made out of cardboard. As long as it's $1.99 you HAVE to buy it.
  • Power supplies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:53PM (#5533701) Journal
    Few people seem to realize it, but if you have a computer that seems cursed, suspect the power supply.

    My (now) wife's computer was toasting everything over a period of years. It didn't stop until I replaced the case, and thus the power supply in passing.

    Nobody ever seems to suspect the power supply if the computer is running, but I suspect that ill-formed power can toast modern electronics.
  • ARGH! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MarvinMouse ( 323641 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:11PM (#5533799) Homepage Journal
    I am understand by obscure acronyms!

    GRUB, NIC, SIB, USA, NOB, FSCK, .... !

    Will someone please think of the children!
  • by penguinboy ( 35085 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:59PM (#5534045)

    Once that timed out, boot sequence continued to the message "NTLDR not found"! In an attempt to do a PXE net boot, the new NIC had -rewritten my boot sector!-

    And you know this how, exactly? Did you try rebooting the machine with the card removed? I had a similar problem with an Intel NIC that wanted to netboot, but fixing the problem was a simple matter of telling the card not to netboot in its BIOS setup. Obviously it wouldn't be impossible for a NIC to rewrite your boot sector (since it's running unrestricted code when the system BIOS initializes it) but it's extremely unlikely.

    • "Obviously it wouldn't be impossible for a NIC to rewrite your boot sector"

      Obviously you didn't even bother to read a few posts before yours...

      The NIC can't run anything. There's no flash or EPROM on it. There's no way for it to force the CPU to execute code. I't can't do a damn thing but perform I/O instructions.

      Perhaps you're confusing a piece of hardware with driver software.

  • Are you sure that you didn't accidentally leave the driver disk in the floppy drive that was at the top of the boot order?

    Back in my younger, unwiser days, I kept wondering why NT 4.0 wouldn't start after I installed the driver (and had to reboot). I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what NTLDR too.

    Don't worry. It happens to the best of us. ;-)
    • Are you sure that you didn't accidentally leave the driver disk in the floppy drive that was at the top of the boot order?

      This sounds vaguely familiar. I went apeshit nuts for the better part of a morning trying to figure out why a SuSe 8.1 P3 450 in the lab was trying to execute NTLDR (and failing)... until I remembered the driver diskette for the framebuffer in the damn floppy drive. D'OH!

      Microsoft OSs: productivity killers even if you don't run them.

      But, of course, this doesn't solve the reported re

  • X-Cable (Score:5, Funny)

    by jsse ( 254124 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:06PM (#5534080) Homepage Journal
    Once I got severe electric shock when plugging a parallel cable to a pretty old computer. I believe I saw a flash of lighting between the plug and the socket before I was bounced back.

    The cable has 'changed' internally but no one could tell until one tries to plug it into a live computer - and gets the same shocking experience I had. I didn't throw it away, but mark it with 'X' instead. It becomes 'X-Cable' as in 'X-Men' - it's now possessing super-power after the disaster.

    Spare parallel cable? Sure!
  • Well, since I'm doing some kind of family/friend IS/IT support, [] people turns to me when they want to get rid of their now nearly useless stuff.

    So I got this good-looking 8X IDE CD-ROM, which did really stange things on every machine I did try it, whith every possible jumpers settings.

    Eventually, I went googling, to find out with the model ID that this beast, even if it had and very-IDE-looking interface, was actually talking MKE, not IDE.

    Anybody has a cheap MKE controller around ?

    • MKE stands for Matsushitu Kotobuko Electronics (or something similar to that). Also known as Panasonic. Plug it into the Panasonic interface on any old multi-CD sound card, like the Sound Blaster 16 MCD or possibly Sound Blaster 16 IDE. I've also seen Aztec and ESS sound cards with the Panasonic 40-pin interface. These drives were frequently rebranded as Creative. Sometimes, if plugged into an IDE port, they will randomly eject and close their tray, flash the light, and possibly cause hardware damage o
      • Kewewewewl !!!

        Now that you say that it's true, I've got that old ESS ISA sound card with all those stange interface.

        Hmmm, let's recompile the kernel with OLD_CD_SUPPORT.

        No, really, thank you, I did figure out that MKE was some Panasonic proprietary shmucky, but I did not link that to those old CD farts !

  • I met a power supply once that didn't play nice. When we placed components into the case, the machine would boot and I could install NT or Mandrake, but neither would boot after. After trying just about everything else, I put all the parts into an identical case with an identical power supply. Magically, everything worked. I then put everything back into the other case. Bam. Nadda. I am guessing that it was supplying good enough power to run OS installers, but once it got to loading up the full OS and start
  • I saw a post earlier that the card couldn't have the ability to wipe your boot record but did you install drivers with it or anything? In the past I am after installing some software on my computer and it screwed my bootsector royally. Check out this old article [] on slashdot about TurboTax writing to your boot sector. There is some very antisocial software out there and it's not always the hardwares fault :)
  • I bought a new NIC (realtek chip) to slot into a spare computer, when I installed it I couldn't get either Windows or Linux to install it correctly (the supplied drivers always failed), the strange thing was that after trying pretty much everything I could think of I put a NIC which had been working flawlessly earlier into the same PCI slot and none of the operating systems would recognise install it correctly.

    After sticking it into a couple of slots in both my spare computer and everyday desktop with the
  • TV special (Score:4, Funny)

    by valkraider ( 611225 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @04:46PM (#5539212) Journal
    I can see it now. FOX joins hands with TechTV to start an entirely new line of reality shows:


    "World's scariest hardware installs!"

    "Who wants to install a million NICs?"

    "American CPU idle"

    "Overclocking Island"

    "The weakest SCSI device"

    and of course, their obligatory sequals, and finally:

    "The Torvalds'" ("TOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!")
  • ...I have to nominate a few models, specifically the machines that were built around the Power Mac 7100, Power Mac 8100, or Power Mac 9500 chassis. With any of those machines, you had to take the whole goddamned thing apart just to upgrade the RAM.

    Same with the first few revisions of the iMac before they designed in the easy-access trap door, but the machines above were worse-- I never worked under the hood of one of them without bleeding.

  • friend and I were diagnosing aunt's PC that wouldn't POST (had just changed MB/CPU/mem 3 months ago because it had popped some famous capacitors). He reaches into computer desk to hold it up and disconnect the cables so that we can pull it out. Drops it. I yell at him "why the hell did you drop it?!?!" He says "because it just shocked the crap out of me!".

    Into the garbage with that power supply. New power supply in, pc works great. New parts not fried (luckily). My jaw not broken (luckily).
  • I had an old AT case (don't laugh... ok laugh) and it had abig fat two state dpdt switch on the front. (remember those?)

    i was doing something that required that i remove the wires from it, noting their postion on the switch with a color coded diagram...

    somewhere after unplugging the switch and before pluging it back in (about ten minutes later) the diagram i made got rotated by 90 degrees.

    I hooked the switch back up and turned it on... bam, all the light in the house go off. I think I heared myself say a
  • you have to tell BIOS not to try to boot from the network. Why did it rewrite something, I have no idea, probably you had a server on your network that PXE found.
  • I had someone give me a case w/ a nice KX450 based PPro motherboard. It has an odd NVRAM error with it. Other than that it works fine. After upgrading my 8KTA3 (KT133A) with a newer DDR capable board, I stuck the 8KTA3 in that case, when the board was on the motherboard tray, it acted like something was shorting, I couldn't see anything shorting, double checked the standoff placement 20 times. Remove it, it works.... with the exception of the POST code feature. That's now dead. But like the 450KX board, ev

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel