I figured out (belatedly) why things were so dodgy on my system. (Hard lockups and miscellaneous browser crashes were the norm for a bit there.) The fix was simple. Make sure it’s not too hot where my PC is. I also have removed some front fascia and the plastic side door (with the window) so it gets a bit more air. The downside to that is the machine now needs more TLC from dust (but it needed that anyway, since it is always on and not sleeping. I know most people think it’s silly not to have a sealed (with fan flow and/or liquid cooling) case. I know it’s not the best solution, but until I can figure out a way to really keep the ambient temperature steady (it’s the south side of the house, and consequently the afternoon heat on the west wall is atrociously bad.)
The upside is, the case is more open. 🙂 And the CPU/case fans do not ramp up and down constantly (probably due to strange readings inside the case.) I just need to keep a more ample supply of compressed air and a mini vacuum cleaner so I don’t create a dust bunny the size of a T-Rex. I need this PC to last as long as my last Athlon (dual core), which was 6 years without fail (except for a replacement power supply and video card upgrade, the machine worked great.) I never thought a Dell could be as rock-solid as my old Dell PII-400.
So now I just need to adjust some junk around so I can start my Debian 4GB Dell I got for $5. 🙂