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stability problem; Asus M2N-MX mobo AMD 64; etch; is it hardware or software?

I've had this problem for a while, and I can't seem to solve or even fully 
diagnose what's wrong. The 2 most common symptoms are:
1) random segmentation faults during compiling. It's most apparent (and 
annoying) during long compiles. There's sometimes an assembler message 
instead, complaining about unknown variables or junk at end of line. In the 
error message it's often apparent that something got corrupted by one 
character. The file is usually a header and it isn't corrupted on disk.

2) occasionally the system goes wild and thrashing, sucking up nearly all cpu. 
Sometimes it causes the machine to lock up, but usually I can kill the 
process that triggered the problem and everything settles down after 10 
seconds or so. If I restart the process, sometimes everything's okay, 
sometimes it goes wild again.

Is this a familiar problem? Is it the mobo or ram? Or is it a software issue 
messing up virtual memory? My bios is updated, and I've tried several kernels 
in the 2.6 line, including a couple of custom compiles. The problem exists 
even in single-user mode, so it doesn't have anything to do with the 
windowing system. I'm currently using kernel 2.6.21, etch amd-64, ext3 fs, 
and sata disk (WD Cavalier, I think).

Please help  :(

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