[plug] interesting hardware? oddity

Denis Brown dsbrown at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Wed Apr 9 11:39:50 WST 2008

Hello PLUG list members,

One for the memoires I suspect :-)

An old IBM chassis Pentium 4 with previously reliable hardware.   Nuked it 
and loaded openSuSE 10.3 for use as a dhcp server.  Bare bones - just ssh, 
dhcp and little else.   BIOS set to allow it to run headless.

All seemed fine for a while but it then started to "reject" ssh 
attempts.   By "reject" I mean that it presented the "logon as:" prompt and 
accepted and displayed the (valid) username and a newline.   But it then 
"froze" and did not present the password request.   At this time, direct 
console access was also inoperative - no amount of key pressing would get 
it to "wake up" nor were any kernel panic light patterns present on the 

I faffed around with it for a while, made sure updates were A-Okay, 
etc.   There were no outward signs of distress and nothing in the logs to 
indicate unhappiness.

Distro unhappy with the hardware for some reason??   Nuked it and loaded 
Debian Etch.   This time I added Apache as much for PHP experimentation as 
anything else.

Lo and behold, after about 12 hours the same deal - ssh logons present 
username request, echo the typed characters but no subsequent password 
request.   I could, however, get Apache to show its test "It works!" 
page.   And a small script running phpinfo also runs.

I must have gotten to this one "early enough" in the failure mode because 
the keyboard was active.  Able to log on (as root) and found I was able to 
do df, ps but - wait for it! - not top.   Nothing that I can see is flaky 
in the logs.

I have grabbed the latest memtest86 (inspired by several threads on memory 
here recently) and will hit it with that but it does not "feel" to me like 
a memory fault.   Especially because Apache/PHP are active.

Why would "top" not run, I wonder?????

Suggestions appreciated.   Maybe I'll just toss this one in the dumpster, 
but I am intrigued.   CPU failure of some bizarre nature?


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