So I have a nice new storage array going for my home using the Sans Digital ESATA case, 4 WD Greenpower drives, and the Silicon Image ESATA card that came with the Sans Digital enclosure. The card comes with software called SATARAID5 that appears to mostly work just fine- it was easy to setup a RAID5 array with my 4 disks, and while I can’t dynamically add more disks too it (it looks like there is some other newer software that supports that kind of thing), overall it works well with one major exception. Before I mention that I should add that I’m just looking for some good reliable mass storage. This isn’t a “backup”, it doesn’t need the highest performance storage possible (although faster is always better), and all that. I’ve tested yanking a hard drive out of the array in mid-file copy and putting it back in later and it rebuilds (takes about 24 hours) but is fine.
The big catch is that everytime I reboot my system it does a rebuild- the management app has a nice UI that says that “Group 0 Volume A was not shutdown properly”, and it kicks off the rebuild which takes a very long time. So far those rebuilds have worked great but its really annoying to have degraded performance and reliability after every reboot.
Anyone have any experience with this stuff or ideas? Is there some way to manually shutdown the volume before I reboot? Some bug fix version that fixes this issue (I’m running SATARAID5 version 18.104.22.168 on Vista 32-bit).
posted in Storage, Technology, Vista |
Yesterday I wrote about problems installing Vista SP1 on this machine. Running the “download and run it yourself” installer worked fine with one little glitch. The issue was that I first downloaded the SP1 setup that only contained 5 languages, thinking “hey, I only really actually care about English”. The catch is that it won’t run if you have any languages other than those 5 installed. I had previously installed a ton of languages since they were just check boxes in Windows Update.
Uninstalling languages turned out to be a nightmare. First of all, you can’t uninstall from “Programs and Features”, you have to go into “Regional and Language Options”, go into the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click a button, click another button. Then most of my attempts to remove languages would fail (after sitting doing something to my computer for what seemed like 30 minutes), PLUS it requires a reboot after each one (even though I’m uninstalling languages I’ve never ever used).
So the solution ended up being downloading the “all languages” version of the Vista SP1 package. The 20 minutes the download took was way faster than uninstalling the languages. Upgrade felt like it took a long time- I could be wrong but it feels slower than initial setup (which does make some sense since initial setup can just write an image down on your disk while upgrade is presumably doing more real work).
All is well now and so far the machine is running smoothly.
posted in Microsoft, Technology, Vista |
I’m having a problem installing Vista SP1 on my main workstation. Microsoft Update keeps throwing a Code 80070570 error which has no real description. The best hint I can find searching the net is that it might be related to some disk issues, but running a CHKDSK to fix errors didn’t make the problem go away.
My next attempt is to download the standalone upgrade- its possible the problem I’m experiencing is with Microsoft Update rather than the service pack itself.
posted in Microsoft, Software, Technology, Vista |
I wanted to post some first impressions playing with the new Microsoft Mesh. Unfortunately I’ve barely been able to use it. Many of my friends I’m sure will complain about the lack of Mac support so far, but for me the lack of Windows support is worse.
It doesn’t work on my Vista machines- for some reason at this point it requires User Account Control (UAC) to be “on” (but of course won’t run on an account that doesn’t have admin privileges. I’m not going to rant too much about this yet since I’m hoping its just because its an early release. But this one is really confusing unless its something some wacko did to try to push UAC (EVIL!) on people. There is really nothing you can do with UAC on that won’t work with it off. Again, I’m hoping this is just one of those wacky bugs that got punted at the last minute for this early release…
It also doesn’t work on Server. So one of the more useful machines for me to sync to- the server box that I keep all my important data on, can’t play. This isn’t a normal “home” scenario, except that Microsoft is trying to push Home Server (I’m not running Home Server, but the install error pertty clearly said XP SP2 and Vista only). Again, I’m hoping this is just early release stuff.
Then one of my XP machines has Firefox as its default browser. The Mesh client bits keep poping URLs, but since Firefox can’t run the ActiveX associated with them, it fails. Here I feel some sympathy with Microsoft. The ideal solution would be if your UI requires Internet Explorer, launch IE directly instead of the machines configured “default browser”. However given the wacky government regulation of Microsoft they would likely get in trouble for doing this sensible thing, and so its yet another aspect that doesn’t really run correctly for me.
So, someday I hope to report on Mesh itself, but its not going to happen yet.
posted in Software, Technology, Vista |
About a week ago I switched the Media Center from the old machine running the XP version to a new Vista machine. As I’ve mentioned before this is a new machine I built in a nice Zalman HTPC case, a quad-core 2.4ghz process (Q6600), the Gigabyte Silentpipe 8600GTS video card and an AverMedia dual-tuner card. The parts all follow my usual theory when building my own PCs- stick with the top quality name brand stuff.
I’ve been running the machine for a couple of months now as a workstation and its been running great. So I reinstalled Vista, installed the minimum of stuff I needed for its new role as a TV, unplugged the old media PC and plugged it in. The old Media PC is not getting touched until its clear that the new one is really working 100%. Part of what is so tough about penetrating this market is that you really rely on your TV. It sucks to reboot a PC ever, but rebooting your TV in the middle of a program sucks even more. And having your TV fail recording the football game right before the big ending is even worse.
So far the results are so-so. Overall the new user interface is nice, with two big flaws. The new 3-row UI for finding programs is a disappointment. I remember seeing this a long time ago when it was in development and thinking about how cool it looked. In particular it should be a much better use of the screen on wide-screen displays (like I have). It does look cool, but I find it fairly clumsy for finding things. Its even worse when for my video collections it shows the thumbnails for everything so finding an item with a given name is really hard. I think we figured out how to switch to a “list” interface, but its only somewhat better.
The other big issue is the video libraries. It now integrates with the Windows Media Player notion of libraries and scans directories for videos, pictures and music. The old one just let you browse directories to find the videos you wanted. Now, the new approach should be better but so far its not working very well so I go to my video directories and see nothing.
As for reliability, so far no general system crashes. But it has mysteriously failed to record a few programs in the middle of the night. Since I’ve got the cable plugged directly into the tuner there are now cable boxes to screw things up now, so something is clearly failing in the box. So far its been old Star Trek episodes so no big deal, but it would be really annoying if we started missing the new episode of something (once there are new episodes of something back on TV at all).
But I’ve had three incidents now that were even worse. In the middle of recording a program it has screwed something up in the file that causes playback to freak out skipping in a crazy way playing sounds like nails on chalkboard. It actually can corrupt it so badly that it caused the whole machine to lockup at 100% CPU for like an hour. It is not just the Media Center playback, playing the recorded file on another machine in Media Player does the same thing. I’ve never seen something so screwed up.
I do wonder if the bug is in the drivers for the video tuner card (since in theory lots of the encoding happens in hardware) or in Vista itself. I am tempted to try my older Hauppauge tuner to see if it makes a difference, although of course I don’t have a consistent repro case.
posted in TV, Technology, Vista |
I’m getting this error message a bunch when copying fairly large (~1gb) media files over the network in between two Vista computers. When it gets in this state it says there until I reboot the machine where I was doing the copy. After the reboot it works for awhile.
Any idea what is causing it? Is it going to get fixed? What resources are running out?
posted in Technology, Vista |
I had this “bright” idea to use RAID1 for my boot disk on my new workstation. In theory its all handled by the Intel chipset, should be high performance. As RAID1 writes aren’t any faster, but reads should be twice as fast, so running Windows, my page file, and other key stuff on there should help give me great performance. Plus I figured my time is very valuable, and not having to worry about rebuilding my whole machine if I have a drive failure sounds like a great idea, right?
It was a TERRIBLE IDEA. It was terrible. A complete mistake.
The catch is that for your boot drive, RAID1 makes it way less reliable. Partly because its controlled by all these BIOS settings, and I’ve had times when it reset and then the machine started up with the drives not in RAID mode. Which was fine until I tried to put it back into RAID mode. Then it wouldn’t boot and I couldn’t get the Windows repair utilities to touch it. Faced with the possibility of having to reinstall Windows I switched RAID mode off and now I just have a normal system disk.
The other thing I didn’t realize is that as a RAID disk, if anything happens to the system like a crash or whatnot, it is going to have to rebuild it. Of course rebuilding the disk when you are trying to boot from it is a bad thing, and as far as I can tell the controller can’t really do a rebuild until the system is done rebooting.
Plus it needs special drivers that aren’t built into Vista (or most other operating systems) so anytime you are trying to install/do system maintenance you are back to installing these extra drivers, which is just a mess.
So the RAID is gone. I’ll probably just use the 2nd disk for my page file and maybe move my VM data over there…
posted in Software, Technology, Vista |
For some reason when I install Windows components on my new workstation there is an app called TrustedInstaller.exe that runs incredibly slow. It takes 30+ minutes of (one core) CPU time per component to install- language packs, the .NET Framework 3.5, etc.
This seems like its an obvious bug and I haven’t seen it on any of my other Vista machines. I wonder if its some interaction with some Penryn feature where Windows is trying to do some wacko-fancy “trusted” thing that doesn’t actually gain anything real.
posted in Software, Technology, Vista |
The other application I should mention is Media Center with several XBox 360s remoted. Each remote XBox creates a whole new login for Windows with another set of the the Media Center apps + most of the basic system stuff. With the XP 2005 version its only about an extra 100mb for this extra stuff and the base system (for me) is only about 900mb on a non-memory constrained system, so 2gb should be plenty. Of course so far my experience with Vista is that it needs about twice as much memory for everything and I don’t see why this would be an exception- maybe its one of those better safe than sorry things to just get the 2×2gb memory instead of the 2×1gb ones since its only about twice as much ($210 vs about $100).
posted in Hardware, Technology, Vista |
You know, I thought I understood this stuff but I think I’ve maybe been making a mistake in my thinking about 32-bit vs. 64-bit.
With 32-bit Windows by default each application is limited to a 2gb user address space. The other 2gb is available to various kernel things. It is possible to adjust this ratio to give more address space to the application, but limiting the kernel can have some really bad effects.
So what happens when you have 4gb or 6gb of RAM in a 32-bit system? Can you use it? Granted, each application can only use 2gb (by default). But if your goal is not about some one monster app but rather to have a smoothly running multitasking system (IE- plenty of resources for those 4-cores you can buy now) can one app use 2gb, another app use 2gb and the rest split of the remaining 2gb (+ of course system caches)?
Part of my goal is to have a system that can run a few VMs smoothly. So far my experience isn’t great. The performance inside a VM is much better but running VMs (given that the things I run in VMs sometimes needs lots of memory) both leaves my base OS with very little memory, plus I tend to get lots of hanging in other applications. For a developer that wants to run Orcas betas in one VM, an IE6 image in another and linux in a 3rd, a fast quad-core system with 6gb of RAM seems pretty useful, as long as the OS can VM software can take advantage of it.
I’m also curious if this is one of the differences between the free and paid VMWare solutions / Microsoft Virtual PC / Parallels? I’d love to see some reviews that really compare how efficient and flexible they each are.
posted in Hardware, Technology, Vista |