The Looney Field Effect – via …

The Looney Field Effect – via IRC, hehe.

Update 7 years later in 2009. The domain is showing a default Apache site but thanks to the wayback machine, here’s the Looney Effect:

The Looney Field Effect

I know John Looney AKA Kate AKA Valen quite well. A nice chap, if a little too fond of edged weapons. Like many of you who hang out on #linux on I’ve often heard mention of the Looney Field Effect when Kate was having a problem with something, usually mentioned by one of his former colleagues from the late lamented Ante Facto.

I sort of assumed, as I’m sure most of you did, that this was a little bit of friendly ribbing. But no – it exists, and I now have laboratory proof of it. I had (note the tense of the verb) a Dell Dimension XPS Pro 200n which I intended to use as an NFS server for a little while on a customer site.
Wasn’t going to be as fast as a very fast thing, but the bottleneck in this application wasn’t going to be the NFS server so that didn’t matter.

However, there was a blank 5.25″ position in the box from where I had finagled a CD drive for something else and I didn’t have a blanking plate. I didn’t want to put the box on site with a gaping hole so I asked around to see if anyone had an old CD-ROM drive, which didn’t have to be working (it’s not going to be used in this application anyway) to fill the gap. Kate volunteered one.

I called to his house to collect it. Alarm bells should have sounded when he told me that the rattling noise was from bits of the CD which had exploded in the drive. (In fairness, I have seen this happen before with no involvement from John {though mind you, that incident was in Lucan too} ).
But I took it home anyway.

Further alarm bells should have sounded when I tried to take the IDE connector from the back of a drive in the box – the top pulled off it and the cable pulled out of the connector, leaving it in the drive. This happens, especially with cheap cables with no strain relief, but it doesn’t happen very often. The butchered connector took a few bites out of my fingers while I was getting it out, to add insult to injury.

So that was sorted – it was time to install the CD drive. This isn’t difficult in that Dimension box – not as hard as with some big name machine, but not as easy as most clones. You have to remove the drive cage (because there’s no access to one side when it’s in situ) and install the drive and replace the cage. No big deal. So I did that, replaced the cage, turned on the box which had been working perfectly and NADA – nothing – rien – zilch. Not a beep, nothing on the screen. The only sign of life was a LED on front of the box which was blinking pathetically. So I did all the usual things – re-seated everything, checked voltages, tried a different video card – everything. But no joy. The Looney Field Effect, captured in
the dodgy CD-ROM drive, had killed the Dimension stone cold dead.

This was about 10.30 at night. I won’t go into the saga of getting a replacement box prepared that night (because it had to go on site at 10.00 the following morning) – suffice it to say that Paul Kelly’s (ILUG’s resident owl) assistance was much appreciated in the small hours of the

So there you have it – next time you see someone mention the Looney Field Effect, know that it is real, terribly real.

P.S. The carcass of the Dimension is in the bin. If anyone has any need of a Pentium Pro 200 with 256K cache or 80MB of 72 pin SIMMs drop me a note.

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Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

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