Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!"

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amradiofan
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Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!"

Post by amradiofan » Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:46 am

Ever had your automation system "share" a symptom and flake-out on you, but you can't narrow it down to any of the following: 1) malware 2) employees 3) registry or program errors 4) hard drive 5) anything else "normal?"

Our ENCO automation system is run by a Dell dimension tower. Granted, a few years old, but stable, and reliable...until the last 7 days. It was not unusual for our prod person to log-in across the VNC to adjust the playlist/log of the day, for voice-tracking, for changes in commercials, etc...etc...We run an older version that runs rock-solid usually, and we can walk away with confidence that it is stable and operating well! 2-monitor setup, on a basic card (older ENCO doesn't need huge graphics capabilities...just stability.)

Late last week the box locked up during the VNC session from the next-studio! We transferred on-air audio to the prod room, got on the air, ran defrag on the air system's operating drive, closed all non-essential programs including the VNC, and she ran okay....til yesterday....again!

Same problem in the noon hour. Editing a log via the VNC locked up the system. Memory usage critical. (warning sent by monitoring software we have.)....Same Scenario. Sent the prod guy home and worked on the air system.

Fix found by putting symptoms together. Over the weekend, a "block' of odd color showed on the screen but minimizing and re-maximizing fixed it. Operated normal after that til it locked yesterday.

Problem: ONE single cap, bulged and shorted on the video card! Bad! Verified by engineer out of curiosity. Apparently it loaded down a voltage internally enough to kill the whole system, locking the video, stopping audio play, and not even a basic windows command could be executed! Dual output card from about 4 years ago.. looks like there should have been (2) of the caps together on the card, but the manufacturer was cheap, and only put in one, then they used the famous "Chinese bad capacitors" on top of that. Somehow the cap had an effect on a voltage in the tower, locking the whole system! Replaced the card, drivers were found, all is good! Photo is of card with the single cap removed, you can see where (2) should have been used.

BTW.the "bad" card brand is unknown, but..a prominent 82208m/v2 is on the top above the heat sink, and all the larger chips say, "ELIXIR"...if there's an FCC ID number on this thing, I can't find it anywhere. Hope you never run into this, but it can't hurt to KNOW.

It was true years ago, still true today.....maybe more-so as those knock-off caps end their life.....Suspect the caps! And, call your favorite engineer in, ASAP! It may not be software, or even user error!
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Baylink
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Re: Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!

Post by Baylink » Tue Oct 01, 2013 12:07 pm

Ah yes... the Great Electrolytic Capacitor Scare of 2003.

I wrote about that:

http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/22.73.html#subj9

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amradiofan
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Re: Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!

Post by amradiofan » Tue Oct 01, 2013 12:32 pm

Tis true! We "saved' two LCD monitors with our engineer's help for a cap issue, but smaller things like this aren't worth the bother...
still...the "issue" is unversal.

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Bill DeFelice
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Re: Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!

Post by Bill DeFelice » Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:04 pm

At my regular 9-to5 we've thrown out more than 500 Dell computers along with their monitors, thanks to the bad capacitor issue. Dell was none too helpful until push came to shove. We ended up swapping out all the motherboard on them and, like clockwork, they began to fail after the warranty period ended, We'll never buy another Dell product ever again, mostly due to their lack of support.

We haven't had any problem with the Hewlett Packard systems.
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Baylink
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Re: Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!

Post by Baylink » Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:08 pm

As I understood it, Dell knew pretty well which models and years of PCs were affected, and if you pressed them, they'd make it right for you, but you did have to hammer them. I know the Optiplex GX520 was in the range; I had one die. Though only just last year; longer than I'd expect would be this particular problem.

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amradiofan
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Re: Thank God for Good Engineers---and "Damn the Capacitors!

Post by amradiofan » Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:59 pm

Our issue was actually IN a Dell, but caused by a non-original video board but, from the same era.
I suspect there's plenty of failing caps out there ready to strike when you least expect it!

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