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Nik-
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:37 am    Post subject: Can installing Gentoo corrupt BIOS? Reply with quote

Basically I have an old Sony Vaio laptop where I decided to install Gentoo. It was my first time trying to do so, so the laptop was a good target to try out. I followed the guide and installed from non-gentoo live cd. Everything worked without problem, apart from installing genkernel which said it conflicted with systemd (due to plasma systemd profile chosen) and had to install genkernel-next, so I did that instead. Anyway, after everything seemingly done, including manual compilation of kernel where default settings were left and I did only minimal settings mentioned in the guide (checked CPU and network stuff and file systems as well) I had to reboot to see the result...
...immediately after reboot I saw no BIOS splash screen, no nothing. The screen only lit up to see the lit-black of the screen and thats it. No bios splash, no grub, nothing. Though, hdd led was blinking and num lock was turning led on/off, but pressing F2 for bios settings didn't change the display at all. Changing the SSD with the old HDD that used to be on the laptop with another OS didn't change a thing.
So I'm asking, could've somehow installing Gentoo (strictly following the guide) corrupt bios to not load display or something that would cause no screen being displayed?
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lexflex
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Nik,

This sounds very unlikely to me.
( that is, the bios can get corrupted but this is more likely to happen when actually writing to/updating the bios. ).
You might be able to reset it by completely unplugging power and battery ( but this you can try to google for your specific laptop).

The bios should also be available with for example the disk disconnected. This is maybe also something to try.

Alex.
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Roman_Gruber
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

laptops are prone to broken lvds cables. (responsible for teh displays. Usuall you have one or two depending on your screen)

Sony is not that best brand anyway regarding quality for notebooks.


a) any beeps after you turned it on?
b) turn on the notebook.
Is the power button active? usually white blue lights on notebooks?
Is the charger recognzied? plug on / plug off. you should see the speical charger led to have changed

c) any output on the external screen => connect an external screen + switch the output with special keyboard keys
d) have you checked with a flashlight if the screen backlight is dead after you have turned it on? I have had that recently wiht one of my TV sets.

e) remove the battery, the power cable, the backup battery. leave the device for a few hours. put ni the backup battery and the ac cord and try again.

I suppose its more likely a hardware defect

--

I put a lot of love and maintenance in my notebooks. Cleaning regularly hole dust in the device. Cleaning on the outside. Changing thermal paste regularly. Changing drives regularly.

--

To come back to your initial question about BIOS.

A bios has to be written with special software. Linux does not do that.
Usually bios are signed. so you can not write something to the bios when the signature is wrong.
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Nik-
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed it sounds unlikely to happen when I haven't used any program to write to BIOS.

As to answer your questions:
1. No beeps when turning on pc.
2. All leds are working totally fine, from power/charge/hdd led to even num lock led.
3. External screen does not recognize a video source when plugged to the laptop.
4. As a 10 year old laptop, the backlit was already dead and I had to replace it a month ago with a new one. I can see the difference on the light levels when I try to start the pc and this is the only indication from the screen I get that tells me its active. So I don't think its backlit, because it gets lit pretty noticeable.
5. I've removed the battery and power cord for few minutes while keep pressing the power button on the laptop. I did not see any cmos battery on the motherboard to remove, but I guess I need to check some guide on how to reset cmos.

There are however, some other issues that could've caused the problem. One of them was that for quite some time I was getting "Corrupted low memory" error. Most Linux distros afaik when they check memory, they skip the corrupted part and they change the kernel starting point automatically. As far as I read on the internet, they say its some memory that is being used by BIOS and should generally be skipped when kernel starts. When I was installing Gentoo, I stumbled upon an option to change the address where the kernel starts from 0x1000000 (seven digits, not eight) to something else, but I decided to not play around too much and skipped changing that. What could have possibly happened is that kernel on the first boot tried to use and change that part of the memory, but still, are bioses that badly designed to depend on place on the ram that can get changed at any time?
The second issue is more weird. Has been there for years, and didn't bother much. Basically text during boot is scrambled. Take a look here when laptop tries to network boot: http://i.imgur.com/gYze6aY.jpg Its one of the weirdest problems I've ever seen on a pc. Some letters appear with offset of 2 chars while others are fine. This problem however did not bother the BIOS settings menu, splash screen or any other screen besides pre-boot. I guess that is caused due to already corrupted bios, but I have no idea, because it didn't bother much for years.
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saboya
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Could" as "is it remotely possible"? I guess so. But it's incredibly unlikely, there's nothing in the Gentoo installation that messes up with the BIOS.
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Logicien
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Can installing Gentoo corrupt BIOS? Reply with quote

Nik- wrote:
I followed the guide and installed from non-gentoo live cd.

What was this non-gentoo live cd you where using as the host of the Gentoo installation? Because if possible, this is this live cd and not Gentoo who can have change something in the Bios and create the problem if not something else.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nik-,

Your image shows what happens when a region of RAM is written by one thing and read by another but the read addresses are corrupted on the way to the RAM.
You get different manifestations for different regions of RAM.

To display the BIOS screen, the CPU draws the required image in a piece of the video RAM and the GPU uses it to refresh the screen.
This is all in real mode under control of the VESA BIOS.

Once the kernel starts, for the VGA text mode console, the same region of RAM is used, once the switch to a framebuffer console is made, a whole new region of RAM is used.
For completeness, Xorg has its own pixel buffer, in a different location again too. Lets leave Xorg out of this for now.

One way or anther, for the BIOS, VGA Text Console and Framebuffer Console, the CPU draws the image in the pixel buffer and the GPU reads it out.
If CPU address generation was broken, lots of things would fail. So, for now, I'll suggest that the CPU and RAM are OK but stop short of going into why.

Lets assume that a single GPU address pin has come unstuck from the motherboard. The RAM will see it always as a high bit.
If it doesn't affect the actual address presented to RAM, you won't notice. Now it gets more complex. Lets assume its a low bit so it matters.

Bit 2 stuck,

Code:
Want Get
000  010
001  011
010  010
100  110
101  111
110  110
111  111
So what appears on the screen is the symbol two characters ahead in the pixel buffer of the symbol you wanted.

You can have similar errors with the data content too.

Laptops thermal cycle their GPUs fairly hard and lead free ball grid array sold joints are notorious for failing under such conditions.
It appears that you have been accumulating these failures for some time.
Its possible the your GPU no longer passes the POST.
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Regards,

NeddySeagoon

Computer users fall into two groups:-
those that do backups
those that have never had a hard drive fail.
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Roman_Gruber
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you see

Quote:
2. All leds are working totally fine, from power/charge/hdd led to even num lock led.


the numlock led, means the box is over the bios barrier. Basically no screen output. But box is running. The box should be able to start up an operating system when it is correctly configured, and than you could "ping" it via network and see a response. That needs a lot of knowledge because you do not get a screen output.

you said the external monitor is not recognized / does not show a picture => try that again. some vga monitors do not work that well with vga connector. i have one used one which says out of range on some mainboards, another hp tft works fine via vga.

if you get nothing than its probably gpu related. Dead gpu, bad cable, bad backlight. you arleady mentioned you replaced the backlight.

--

well you claim corrupt memory. when there are two modules, remove one and try again. than replace that module with the removed one and try again.
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Nik-
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your detailed analysis.

I will start with the question of the liveCD used. Its a pxe network boot of archlinux which I've used for quite some time, and I like it a lot because of the available tools and general usefulness. Before installing Gentoo, the laptop was running on this archlinux with xorg server without problems, except that it played videos with very low, nearly unwatchable FPS. Testing with weston run resulted in the top half being black and the bottom half of the screen being like the screen of the TV when you take out the NES cartridge (something close to this: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/kSKzc_YVG8A/hqdefault.jpg). Some of the dmesg messages included an error of "ib ring test filed (-35)" related to the gpu I guess, along with some other kind of errors.

I would like to point out that I did a memory test for few hours some days ago and resulted in no RAM problems at all. I also removed one or the other ram stick and the scrambled text problem was still present. So RAM isn't the issue.

I've also consulted with my friend who fixed the backlight of the LCD screen, and he said that it could be as a result of the long exposure to heat of the GPU. I was still baffled by this because if a GPU is going to kick the bucket, wouldn't that happen instantly? But he assured me that few of the soldered pins could get unsticked without me noticing any effects, so this also is confirmed by what @NeddySeagoon said, it made me understand the problem from a programmer's perspective. It really does make sense because some letters are moved by 2 chars and some are fine. Most likely it is some pin on the GPU that is failing and quite possible under the 8 hours of compiling Gentoo, the GPU failed even further. I do remember at some point, while compiling, the screen went to sleep, but it turned black for a second, and after that completely white and stayed in that state until I press a button on the keyboard to "unsleep" the screen. I don't know if thats related as well. But to sum it up, its a 10 year old laptop, it has been used quite a lot and currently the most possible case is overly heat exposed gpu pins getting unsoldered. This means that the laptop is pretty much at its last breath, some say putting the gpu (mobo in this case) in the oven could temporarily fix the problem, but its not a guarantee at all.

Well, its good to learn something new out of this problem. So its unlikely as you could get for an installation of Gentoo to ruin BIOS, after all, everything else apart from the screen appears to be working. So its a bad trail of events that caused all this.
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Roman_Gruber
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you reflow yourself hte gpu in an oven than the notebook is basically scrap.

Do NOT reflow yorself in an ordinary oven the pcb for gpu issues.

Just fixes the issue for one - two weeks.

One wrong myth of some fools and many try that approach.

---

when the box is really 10 years old. they are cheap. i sold several notebooks for a bargain in my area which were just 6 years old. maybe worth an investment.

at some age of the notebookts its just unfixable or not worth. i mostly had keyboard issues with my notebooks. second issue is always the screen cable, aka lvds cable. 3rd issue is always overheating because of worn out thermal paste and dust in the system. 4th issue are bad usb 2.0 connectors
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Nik-
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn't going to reflow it myself anyway, since my friend can do that in a much more professional way with laser heating. But he said its not worth the money... I've already spent enough for a new backlight, I won't spend any much more. Its not just what I mentioned here, keyboard and touchpad issues are present, USB ports disconnect and re-connect from time to time due to bad wiring... and the list can go on. One thing is sure and its that laptops are not as immortal as desktop PCs are.
Thanks a lot everyone for the help and clearing things out.
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cwr
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you aren't getting the POST beeps to identify the failure something is seriously
wrong at a very low level in the hardware; I can't see Gentoo messing with the
BIOS, but it looks as if there's been some sort of hardware/firmware failure.

I'd be inclined to look for a replacement on Ebay.

Will
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