Vendors who should know better (a server nightmare)

Gigzbyte and AMD, I’M TALKING TO YOU!!!

I need a new server for JupyterHub, and since I do like building servers and such things, I decided to do some research and buy a decent lower-cost “server-as-parts”.

I found from many reviews that the Gigabyte B450M DS3G motherboard, paird with the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 CPU was a killer low-cost solution. I added appropriate speed (3000MHz) Corsair DDR4 memory (16GB to start) and a M.2 250GB SSD, all to go into a 2 rack-space case with an EVGA 500W power supply.

After all the bits came, I carefully assembled it and tried the first “smoke test”. It ran, but immediately gave a set of BIOS “error beeps”. Specifically “long-short-short” which means NO VIDEO for this BIOS.

Sure enough, plugging in either known good HDMI or DVI cables to a working monitor gave nothing.

Searching on the internet proved this to be a VERY common problem, known since at least Nov 2018. Essentially, the motherboard is shipped with the wrong BIOS version. It’s early and doesn’t know about the new CPU with on-board video.

The solution is to flash a new BIOS… but how? With no video, you can’t see what’s going on to flash a BIOS. Very expensive motherboards have “Qflash+” which lets you put the bios on a data key in a special USB slot and it “just flashes”. My motherboard, the less expensive one, doesn’t have that feature. It can update from USB key (Qflash) but not “the plus”.

AMD’s solution is to have you request “a boot kit”. They send you a lesser (older) CPU “on loan” to fire up the motherboard, flash the bios and then send back. However, it was instantly obvious they have zero intention of doing this – you must “prove” you own the chip by taking a photo of the CPU clearly showing the serial number and model. PROBLEM: these are now covered with opaque white thermal compound if you’ve installed the supplied CPU cooling fan as any intelligent builder would do. So AMD wants you to scrape off the thermal compound and take the photo, then use ??? (what???) when you finally put it all back together. Well, I’m not stupid so I’m not running a CPU “dry”. Which means I can’t take the obligatory photo, so I can’t have the “boot kit”. What a bunch of idiots. (and I told them so by reply email and in an on-line review).

Next idea: put in a PCIE graphics card into one of the PCIE slots and boot graphics that way. I was able to score a very old PCIE VGA/DVI card from a local computer company’s scrap bin, and sure enough, it WORKED!!!

It sits an inch higher than the case, so it’s not a permanent solution, but it worked and I had VGA to see the BIOS screen.

After reading the BIOS update procedures, I carefully updated the BIOS to the latest version. Everything works… EXCEPT STILL NO VIDEO!!!

I’ve got a second trouble ticket in with Gigabyte, but who knows when they’ll answer.

Since this is a server I could buy a $50 shorter PCI graphics card and just use it to install Ubuntu, as the server will actually never be connected to a video monitor unless there’s a problem.

BUT WHAT WERE THESE IDIOTS THINKING – SELLING STUFF THAT DOESN’T WORK AND THEN HAVING ABYSMAL CUSTOMER SUPPORT (and the latest BIOS still doesn’t work).

If this was ‘bleeding edge’ like a game machine, I could see this as a typical issue, but this isn’t bleeding edge stuff – or shouldn’t be.

WORST CASE, BOTH CHIP AND MOTHERBOARD GET RETURNED IN MARCH.

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