Desktop Status – All Clear (Mostly)

Good Grief, I forgot how long it takes to generate one of these custom CDs (or now, in my case, DVD, as I started placing other software on it – like Ghost).

Anyway, everything important (for work) appears to be back up and happy. Fun gotchas included the lack of a current network driver; Gigabyte’s driver page did not show one, so I figured it was merged into the chipset driver file – NOT, and I should know better. I ended up pulling that off the previous CD, then letting Windows Update fix it to current.

One interesting gotcha involves Ghost migrations of very large partitions (say, a video/VCD/ISO/’misc stuff’ collection). Generating the image dump (92 gig compressed) was fine, but migrating it from the new WinXP install back to my new (larger) partition gave an ‘out of memory’ error. So I fired up the Recovery CD (I got Ghost 14 over the weekend as the recovery disk is now Vista-based), and finally got the new partition migrated.

The video card drivers got a severe makeover too; Latest Nvidia driver (combined with this card model – 8800 GT) now has PhysX hardware support through the GPU. Too bad that I don’t have anything just now that required the hardware (and not likely to have any just now). Nice bonus though…

I’m still doing some spot recoveries from the backup images (i.e. my FireFox settings), but overall I’m up and running well. Webmail (Exchange) at work is once again responsive, despite its requirement for IE (at least if you want a decent interactive experience *sigh*). Still need to connect to the VPN (and from there the work desktop and/or PuTTY), but I suspect it should be fine now.

No games or other stuff installed yet. I’m dreading the re-install and re-download of my Steam collection (which got rather impressive). And there’s stuff like Oblivion, that I’m pondering not re-adding just yet. Maybe I’ll pull out some old stuff first, like SimCity 4, or *shudder* Riven.

Have Fun y’all,

Desktop Woes Again

Well, from the looks of things, something bad has been happening with the desktop. Or, more accurately, Win-XP. But to most folks reading MystBlogs that’s probably not surprising. :-P

In my case that’s a bit exasperated by the install method itself, which was through a heavily nLite-modified CD. I just spent the past several hours reviewing what I did, and am likely to re-do this quite differently:

1) Slipstream of XP-SP3 (and hope my key does not get eaten again, as it did when I slipped SP2 onto an original-release CD *sigh*).

2) No slipping/adding of hotfixes after SP3, or of really wild things like Media Player 11. First of all, the steps were complicated. Second, I can’t find any info as to how I did any of it. And lastly, I’d rather have M$ deal with the problem, despite the need for multiple reboots (just fewer with SP3 in).

3) Do NOT go hog-wild in removing things from XP. My biggest regret so far has been removing Calculator (which in hindsight was also not worth the space savings). I’m probably just going to remove the 2-3 things that are vastly annoying or have severe holes, like Messenger. And as much as I’d like to ‘get rid’ of IE, its going to be difficult when and Steam both use core parts of it.

4) On the same note, do NOT to hog-wild on *adding* things either through nLite. My mantra in creating these CDs has always been ‘Back to Work.’ As this is now the only Windows PC I have (both notebooks went 100% Linux), its become even more imperative. So PuTTY is immediately on the list, along with one or two other things that can speed up my bootstrap (OpenOffice, FireFox, status stuff). Again I made mistakes here on the last CD, this is a good time to correct that.

4) I *will* go nuts this time with services (since they can be rolled back if a mistake was made). I’ve been waiting on SP3 registry files from BlackViper, and *cheer* they’re now available. That’s at least a start, and an excellent reference site (he even has Reg Tweak files for Windows 7!). I highly recommend looking over the site, just be prepared to lose an hour or two reading. ;)

5) In the hardware department, get a new gigabit card as a spare (preferably using PCIe-1x). Something absolutely screwy has been occurring on the one my motherboard has (probably weird drivers), and my only ‘spare’ is an ancient Intel 100Pro card (ordinary PCI no less). It had issues with how I ‘connected’ to my work desktop; Then again, it could be Windows, but better safe than sorry.


I’m also strongly considering a dual-boot with Linux, finally. Just too many stories recently by Myst-ers with crashed Windows installs, and their Linux boot saving the day. If that becomes the case, I’ll probably ‘test-drive’ the CentOS version since that’s what got installed on a couple systems at work (and may be our future variant there). OpenSolaris would be nice, but its not playing nice with the VPN (missing packages).

Right, onwards. We’ll see how this pans out…


Upgrades, Part 2

Two good pieces of news in the notebook front:

-> Pulled out the 40 gig from its little case (the one I’ve been using to make it my Debian Slug disk) and looked up the part number on Toshiba’s site. It’s a 5400 RPM, and is the same size as the old Sager and HP disks. I can live with the 100 Meg/sec spec as given, that’s more than I’ll normally draw in most instances, other than installs. The 16 Meg buffer is a *very* nice plus though!

-> Debian ‘lenny 2’ installed just as beautifully as Etch did, with the added bonus of a working wireless card (after getting the firmware setup of course – for which a link to the appropriate instructions was included in the ‘dmesg’ boot sequence). That is a first for me and Linux, and doubly pleased when I discovered that in Linux, I had more hotspots mapped out and with better strengths than in WinXP (most locked though, good move in an apartment building ;) ).

So, new plans:

1) Put 40 gig disk in HP, re-install ‘Lenny 2′ and get wireless up again.

2) 60 gig disk goes in the external case (which is USB-2 and FireWire), re-format with ext3 and FAT16 partitions. Probably 40/20, respectively.

3) Drop a VirtualBox Guest OS (WinXP) on the external disk. See if I can get the old Half-Life games running on it, plus a couple other things that are needed for work (and is only in, or works better with, Windows – like the Exchange webmail, that is a damn sight better to use in IE).

The eventual goal – if this all works – is to look into converting the desktop to Linux, or a Linux/WinXP dual-boot (the latter by dropping in a new SATA disk just for Linux). It will be nice to finally use all 4G of the current system’s memory; It can hold 8G IIRC but I’d have to consider a dual-boot with Vista instead of XP to make that upgrade a more viable reality.

The only major issues I see in the games department are Oblivion (’nuff said) and perhaps Uru (though the CC variant I believe will run on Wine OK). Hence the sad need for a dual-boot – I don’t know if even a Quad-Core will be able to run something like Oblivion in a VM well.


PS – As so the NSLU2 ‘Slug’ body, its been put away again. Once I’m happy with Linux on the HP, it can sit on the table when not ‘on duty’ and be used as the long-duration login system. Lord, I did not realize how much I depended on UNIX console access until I actually tried a system without one…

Findings on Recent SL Issues (1.20 v 1.19 & earlier)

Well, purely by accident I’ve discovered a primary factor in my high-CPU usage. It was unbelievably simple – Dual Monitors.

Last Friday I caved in and bought a 24″ monitor as an upgrade to my two existing LCD workhorses – a Dell 20″ widescreen and a Dell 19″ – which were still doing OK but had intermittent problems due to age (and both had flaws when I got them anyway). Getting to the store in question that evening is another story, but I’ll just say it took 4x longer than it should have (at least I had fun dealing with the car’s nav again)…

As for this monitor, other than two stuck pixels it appears to be running happily (which is more than I could say for the two its replacing anyway). I’ll give it another week before going for the rebate that went with it.

So, of course, the first thing I did after calibrating it for my use was to fire up Second Life. The first couple of tries was problematic, as I was still tweaking the monitor for my eyes. But when I was *really* ready, I fired up the Task Manager and started recording CPU history.

Result? Originally, I was using an average of 25-30% CPU when in background (TaskMan or some other app displaying) and over 40% CPU when it was active. This is on a Quad-Core, so it was spread amongst the various cores, but this does not sound right to me; Upgrading the video card did not help either. But dropping back to one monitor dropped the CPU use to reasonable levels – 9-10% idle and 20% or so in foreground – despite having *more* screen space available. This is now directly on-par with Craig’s system, which is using the same CPU, monitor size, and class of video card (he has an original 8800 series). So, scratch one problem; However, this is an issue that Michi Lumin has been talking about since 2005 – I’d have thought this was fixed by now!

As for memory, it appears that a couple issue IDs on LL’s P-Jira summaries this (I will update this post with the IDs later). One discussed the OpenGL Vertex Buffers (which apparently is buggy atm); That should be turned off. The second outlined a memory leak related to high amounts of memory set aside for video card pre-buffering; The workaround (as presented by Nicholaz) was to keep the card memory setting (in the ‘Advanced’ submenu) to 256 or less. This makes rezzing and texture resolving slower, but I can go for very long amounts of time without crashing again.

So, for now, I’ve got SL working again to a point that I could be a regular again – *if* I’m willing to be a regular again. Like dealing with MO:RE and the Age Building stuff, I now have RL things in priority, so my online time is rather throttled nowadays. We shall see… ;-)