Every parent knows those crushingly exciting and exhausting times. The family welcomes the cute little new member; a wonder bundle of pure joy. There is no greater satisfaction knowing there is the next generation who will carry on your good legacy + fallicies into the future. This joy includes spending many a subsequent night answering to the ring for first class room service, and the test of marriage is brought to trial as debates between husband and wife about division of labour abound. But I digress.
The point is, ushering in a new baby is a delicate matter. Parents need to really pamper and attend to their child with great care. Somehow it seems like computing hardware I introduce into my home exhibits similar patterns. After much consideration about my existing lineup of home machines I decided it was time to get a spanking new development desktop (currently #2 on the list), with intention to run the latest and greatest 64-bit Windows Vista and put the 4GB hole behind me.
I had the assembled machine collected by evening but left it to attend my aunt's birthday dinner. I planned to get Windows Vista installed after that, so I can slowly schedule for tomorrow all the tedious software Microsoft makes us install (cross-version IDEs, anyone?). Vista is a minimalist when it comes to setup; asking the fewest number of questions before it goes ahead for an almost unattended installation. WIth that in mind, I picked that blazing Raptor disk for Setup to pile the files into, and went to bathe. With peace of mind. Expecting the user setup screen to greet me once I come back.
What I saw on return were twin monitors with synchronised blinking underscore cursors.
It wouldn't respond at all. Finally, a chance to press the reset button for the first time! Within half an hour of first use! What more can I ask? So the system cycled itself back into Windows Setup this time, but it didn't last long - STOP error (aka Blue Screen of Death) and even black-coloured error screens appeared. Retrying a number of times, even on the other hard disk, yield similar pattern of hateful results. Come on now, baby, stop crying.....
Is it approaching 3AM yet?
Seems like WinVista does not like installing from a DVD drive that is SATA-based. I plugged in an old PATA DVD driver and the installation was smooth as silk. But now it seems the monitor that is connected via DVI cable has flickering artifacts on complex images (like photos). Looks like I have heck alot of nursing to commit to in the near future.
UPDATE 3rd June, daytime:
Yup there is something fishy happening with that DVD drive. After installation, I tested the drive again by installing SQL Server 2005 through it along with its OEM Nero 7 and Acronis True Image. Just when I thought it was probably stable, the reboot sequence ends up in
STOP error 0x0000007E (0xFFFFFFFFC0000005, 0xFFFFF80000185E251, 0xFFFFF980000C115E58, 0xFFFFF98000C15830)
there was simply no way pass the drive to get to the OS, except to disconnect it off the system entirely. I do not know if these blue screens of death had resulted in some disk corruption, but upon re-entry into Windows my first backup attempt with True Image blew up with sector reading errors in my second disk. Waiting to disk scan a 100GB partition, nice.....
UPDATE 3rd June, post-lunch time, but not eaten lunch yet:
4KB of sweet bad sectors. Ah, the nostalgic days. When Norton Utilities' Disk Doctor was so vital to safe, corrupt-free disk operations. With shock tolerance in excess of 100G these days, I guess it must be Magneto who is playing the evilectromagnetic influence on my disk.
UPDATE 3rd June, back from Sim Lim:
Interesting plot twists. Putting in a replacement DVD drive yielded the same blue screen. Certainly two drives can't be coincidentally bad together? Well, it has happened to me before. Or more likely a model incompatibility problem with either the motherboard or Windows. Actually I would have been thankful if it was simply the DVD drive, but that was not the case so I couldn't carry out a quick swap-and-just-back-home manoeuvre. The shop assistant tried another power supply, and for a moment it seemed like his hunch was correct. But that only delayed the appearance of the blue screen. Nice try. Later on he plugged out two of the four RAM DIMMs and Windows magically booted properly. So if I fit in the PATA DVD drive, the RAM worked (which did pass Windows' own memory diagnostic tool). If I fit in the SATA drive, it or the RAM wouldn't work until some are amputated. Who's backstabbing who? I left it to the assistant to troubleshoot and will hear the news tomorrow. Today? Wasted + fuel + parking doing things other than the things I really needed to dig in. And I have to turn over the damaged disk (bought at PC Show) to the distributor during lunch tomorrow too.....
UPDATE 4th June, after work:
It is time to show my appreciation to my parents for tirelessly attending to my requests for logistics support, time and again letting me borrow the car or shipping the hardware to and fro. Unfortunately, I'd hate to tell them their numerous efforts were in vain.
So the shop assistant told me the RAM's indeed fine; as per my own diagnostic check. It is just some ultra queer conversations happening between the DVD drive, motherboard, and 4 slabs of memory modules. I wonder what beer they have been drinking. In the end we inserted an LG drive - also SATA - and it booted right up to Windows logon screen. Does it look safe?
On returning home, it loaded up the blue screen on first power up.
So I tried the memory card-shuffling trick, re-arranging the DIMMs and the DVD drive's SATA port like a gambler hoping to deceive the dealer's eyes. And it worked. I proceeded to use the drive to install some additional 64-bit drivers and let it restart the system. Except, it did not restart, just like the previous time. What happened next? Like a sharp dealer who zeroes in on a cheater playing the same old card tricks, it flashed me the blue screen again.
Enough is enough.
The retailers won't be able to help me more on this one. I bit the cloth and extracted the PATA DVD-ROM drive out of my server and said to it, "Rejoice, beloved servant, you who are good and faithful; you have shown faithfulness of a few things. Here is your reward; I will make you caretaker of greater things", and gave it massive DVD-RAM Double-layer-writing love and hugs. To the new prodigal son of an Athlon64 X2 I said, "You fool! Your punkish and reckless ways with your neighbours have incurred many a blue screens. Therefore take the Burning Rights from him, and give it to the one who has ten times the Power & Edge."
UPDATE 5th June, past midnight:
What is the mark of a true sinner? One who does not repent. Dissatisfied with losing my favour, this new machine now throws visible tantrums, by making the system "invisible" on reboots. Windows Vista initiates the final restart sequence and exits - to permanently blank screens. Not even the reset button works. I have to power down completely in order to revive the wild beast. What is causing this? AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet feature. Looks like the machine prefers to be Screeching 'n' Hot.
You thought that was the end? Hell no. The mark of a great sinner is one who commits travesty in even more unexplored areas, just for the fun of it. I plug in my headphones to the front audio panel. The left channel is silent. Pry open the case, again. Whoopie, we have a broken left channel cable! The good news is, the cable is detachable so I do not have to lug the entire casing with me again tomorrow. But wait a minute..... I'm going back to Sim Lim again???
UPDATE 6th June, past midnight:
Ever had that fabulous dish you were cooking? Only then to have it messed up due to a mis-application an ingredient or mis-timing of steps? Inedible, fit for the trash bin only. Tonight I was just about to hammer my keyboard to pieces so i can fit it into the trash bin too. While trying to install Microsoft Office, the product key wouldn't validate. And it took me a moment to realise because some letters in my keyboard were not responding. Too tired to write a creative anecdote now, but suffice to say I was eventually forced to dismantle the keyboard to perform tissue surgery to the underlying keyboard membrane.
I wonder if the mouse will fail me tomorrow.... or the monitors.... ooohh the suspense just kills me.
UPDATE 7th June, twilight zone:
so I finally got back the RMA disk, and proceeded with the installation of Office Ultimate - the previous night's installation failed due to read error from the CD I initially burnt - from a mounted ISO image with Daemon Tools. This one installed ok, but I did it blindfolded. What happened? While installing, I decided to watch a video, using Zoomplayer (courtesy of CCCP). I resized the video window and the entire visual desktop hung. All processes were still running though, just that I could not see them. Nothing I did, even RDC from another machine, could kick out the "frozen screenshot" on my monitors. I had to perform some keyboarding guesswork to shut it down.
Looks like WOW still does not handle such 32-bit programs well enough. While Zoomplayer could at least play videos without resizing, Windows Media Player Classic couldn't even load the video; it just stalls in the opening of the file. And the modern WMP simply states there is "a problem" with my video card. Ah... how helpful. Verdict? Windows Vista x64 is not for entertainment uses. At all. Only use it for work/development.
On the Global Climate lobby, I had to take a long route of legacy floppy disks to boot up in DOS to flash the BIOS with the latest version. Unfortunately, Windows still cannot restart the machine when Cool 'n' Quiet is enabled. Don't blame me for global warming. Or room warming. Blame ASUS and AMD.
UPDATE 9th June, weekend burns:
So i got used to tolerating the idea that once I started playing a video in Zoomplayer (Media Player Classic simply cannot show up video with any overlay renderer), I cannot alter video/window size anymore lest I invoke the denial-of-service-via-frame-freeze blinding exploit documented above. that ain't too bad, so as long as nobody else uses my computer. Well, it seems there is a larger problem with my graphic chipset that is contributing to this ultra-undesirable behaviour.
I run alot of virtual machines, so it was natural that i installed Virtual PC 2007 (x64 woot!) here. The problem is the same frame-freeze phenomenon happened when i launched Virtual PC while watching a video. I definitely did not alter the video window. A reboot later, and I think Virtual PC is making use of similar overlay techniques to present the virtual guest OS display. Why? Because all I see is a black blank screen, with resolution changes and all, while the little preview window does show the visual content! Virtual PC 2007 has a new "Hardware Virtualization" option, but either way it does not work. So what do I have to do? I have work on the guest OS via RDC. How stupid can it get....
The answer? Drop Virtual PC 2007 altogether and just use Virtual Server 2005 R2. It took me a little figuring and prompting from Ken Schaefer to realise that IIS 7 (Virtual Server works off a web interface) does not come installed with the CGI module by default, which led to me downloading the VSWebApp.exe program rather than having it execute server side. But once that was done, I have Virtual Server running and operating my guest OS. At least for now.
UPDATE 10th June:
This is the third ocassion I have unscrewed the plastic housing for my keyboard. The 'H' key has yet again gone MIA and I have to conduct another search and rescue mission. This time round, I don't think I want to re-drill the 14 screws back. Did I mention this keyboard is less than six months old?
UPDATE 15th June:
I have no idea what game this machine is trying to play with me, but not only has the machine ceased to be rebootable again, the BIOS cannot detect my USB keyboard and thus refuses me entry to set it up. So glad I am "burdened" with older machines and legacy hardware to bypass its "security features". Whoever said PS/2 is dead?
UPDATE 16th June:
I was advised by ASUS techsupport to obtain nVidia's latest drivers instead of the one published at the ASUS site. Glad to state that the 1st June release has allowed Zoomplayer to resize videos without desktop hijacking. Windows Media Player still reports the same error though, and Media Player Classic remains unrenderable. Still a relief nonetheless, at least I don't need another machine to gain control of this one.
UPDATE (i can't even remember when i worked on these):
I finally got the machine to reboot consistently. By setting my monitors' refresh rates to 60Hz. Yes, with AMD Cool 'n' Quiet, I need to make my monitors redraw 60 times per second. Using, say 75Hz, is complete major felony.
And it looks like Windows Media Player and Media Player Classic need more than 32MB of video RAM allocated. Video can be rendered when I upped it to 64MB. However I haven't figured just what part of the rendering process is causing "ghosting" of colours in the video playback - 32MB vidoe playback in Zoomplayer was blocky and un-anti-aliased, but had proper colour rendering. Using 128MB does not help.
UPDATE 15th July:
Found there is a Noise Reduction feature in the nVidia control panel. By default it is skewed all the way to 100%. Sliding it down to 0% appears to have eliminated the colour trail effect.