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I'm having a bit of problem... at the children's hospital where I work (Beit Cure Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi), we're using a 4 year old Dell PowerEdge 1800 tower server. About two years ago, we started getting scrambled lines down the screen. Tried new cables and monitor, but that didn't help at all. Apparently it's the graphics chip going bad. About two months ago, it got a lot worse, to the point that you can barely do anything on the server.

I spoke with Dell US support and they said that the BIOS disables any PCI-X or PCI graphics cards upon booting. Is this true? Should I just buy a card to see if it works? I've got AGP cards, but not PCI.

I've been using Remote Desktop up to now, but if I need to change anything in the BIOS, I'm stuck. Someone mentioned a DRAC, but I don't know if the server has one installed.

Any suggestions?



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Try the video card first, then you could look at getting a DRAC card for it or an IP KVM from another manufacturer. – gravyface Oct 21 '10 at 15:28
@gravyface: Most IP KVMs just digitize the output of the video card, so the video anomalies would probably just come with it. – Evan Anderson Oct 21 '10 at 16:06
Doh, yeah you're right. – gravyface Oct 21 '10 at 16:29
Does the hospital have some sort of PayPal account or similar where I can donate a little money? – pauska Oct 21 '10 at 16:32
I might have a lead on a poweredge 1800 mobo if you want it. Would just have to confirm first that it's coming into my possession, and I'd have to have some way to contact you, @umiwangu. – Bart Silverstrim Oct 21 '10 at 18:44

I'm seeing PowerEdge 1800 motherboards on eBay for reasonable prices. You might want to find an eBay or other used seller who is willing to ship to your locality, or find someone who can broker the sale for you. A like-for-like motherboard swap would cause you the least headaches re: the operating system.

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Hi Evan, this is a very good idea. I'll check to see if Bart has any leads on a mobo, otherwise, we'll try to get one shipped out from eBay. Thanks! – umiwangu Oct 23 '10 at 14:03

Rummaging through my box o' parts in my trunk this morning, I ran across this which would work:

I used to use them for users who wanted a second monitor on the cheap and didn't have room for another video card. You'd likely need to set it up as your primary display (or possibly disable the current primary adapter).

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When would a USB video card be initialized? During boot or after the OS is started up? It would be nice to have the possibility to get into the BIOs... – umiwangu Oct 23 '10 at 14:04
Good question. Tell you what: I'll hook one up to a workstation and let you know if I can get into the BIOS or not; it'll be a Wintel box. – gravyface Oct 23 '10 at 22:15
Thanks, that'll be a huge help. – umiwangu Oct 24 '10 at 21:43

Try one of those funky USB to VGA or DVI dongles.

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While that might work; a PCI VGA card is going to be substantially cheaper and will probably work despite Dell claiming otherwise. – Chris S Oct 21 '10 at 19:16
So Chris, you think a PCI card will work anyway? – umiwangu Oct 23 '10 at 14:04

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