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Old 06-25-2006, 10:05 PM   #1
iamback's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Default Jinxed, gremlins all over the place

It seems poor old Christiaan is jinxed, somehow - everything I touch to build him into a properly working little server again seems determined to turn into a little disaster.

Like this: old motherboard - I bought him second-hand as a working system, running Win98SE. Never got round to replacing that (though I planned to) but of course now I was forced to so it's Win2000 - quite a relief in itself. But every piece of hardware now needs its own Win2000 driver. The BIOS upgrade was the first adventure - it took a lot of time to sort it all out, but it worked. But Christiaan was awfully silent - apparently Windows did not automatically recognize the sound card. In fact, it didn't even tell me what it was. But if the machine is doing jobs for me while I'm not sitting behind it, I do need it to yell at me when something's wrong - or even just finished.

Good thing I keep logbooks with every machine. Simple little software installs don't get entered, but hardware and system installs do. Sure enough, I find the name of the sound card, so I can go googling for a driver. Great - the manufacturer doesn't exist any more. A driver I find somewhere doesn't do anything at all. It's taken over by another company - which has a lot of drivers on their site; the one seemingly for my sound card installs fine - and totally crashes the machine on reboot.

Later, I find that although the sound card is listed as being on the PCI bus, it's actually an on-board chip. The motherboard manufacturer doesn't have a driver for it though. So, I decide to buy a cheap sound card and put that in. Found one soon enough, for just EUR 9.50. So - sigh - open up the machine once more, find there's only one set of pins on the card to connect a CD drive (OK, I can do with sound from only one - I connect the DVD drive) - and no indication which way around to put on the connector. I always heard that if you put in a sound card in a machine with on-board sound it would just take over, so that will be fine. Close the machine. Reconnect the cables (oops, had to pull a bit hard to get the lead for the speakers farther down to the connector on the card).

Now Windows is nagging me about finding a "Multimedia Audio Controller" - in fact there are now two, both with a yellow exclamation mark. Now go and install the driver - no problem installing, it finds the card all right. Test: Windows tells me "the hardware is not responding". Try uninstalling the other "Multimedia Audio Controller" - on reboot it's right back. Still no sound. Try installing Window's "Sound system compatible" driver fror it (the chip); reboot once more. Now it appears under Sound (etc.) devices - disable, reboot. Still "the hardware is not responding" when I try to play a sound. When I then try to disable the sound card, the "Windows Win MM WDM Audio Compatibility Driver" briefly appears (disabled) and disappears again, all by itself.

OK - so how do I get rid of that damn sound chip? Clearly it's not automatically overruled. Is there (not) a jumper somewhere on the MB? Or, hopefully, something in the BIOS (so I don't have to open the case again). Sure enough, rebooting into the BIOS setup I find an integrated "AC97 Audio" that's enabled. Disable it, reboot. Now the extra Audio device has finally disappeared - no more "new hardware found". Except when I try to play a sound, "the hardware is not responding" - still. Well, the driver install had a number of options - reinstall and try some different ones. No difference. Problem with the card?? Off googling again, maybe I can find a driver for the chip after all. I find five more "AC97" and download them - but their descriptions all indicate other hardware.

Finally I note that at every change I make (enable, diable something), that darn "Windows Win MM WDM Audio Compatibility Driver" briefly appears again. That must be the system driver I installed for the now-disabled sound chip. Finally it appears long enough for me to "catch" it and uninstall it. Let it reboot.

Progress: Windows Media Player no longer complains that the card is "not responding" - apparently it is playing. Except there is no sound. I also have a new mixer thingy now (ensure that levels aren't all set to zero). Sigh. Go to bed.

I wake up to remember that I had had to pull on that cord a bit to reach the sound card... Rob Alan of his speakers (they sound like cardboard anyway) and connect those. Finally, sound! OK, so this little exercise didn't just cost me a sound card, but also a set of speakers (also cheap, but lots better than the ones I have connected now).


That was 5 days ago - it took two days in all just to get sound out of poor Christiaan. I'm so happy, I go get myself a 2nd hand 17" LCD because with al the hours I now spend behind the old screen, I'm getting very tired of the 60Hz flicker that comes with the resolution I find acceptable: 1280x1024. No warranty, but I have seen it working (rejected another one that had a dark "smudge" on the screen - this one has a very light one you barely see). It even has speakers built-in - but I still need to connect (need a special lead for that); if they don't work it's no big deal ut it would be nice to have my "spare" set of speakers back for Alan.

For once, things go as they should. The LCD is from HP and they are very good with drivers - I found one soon enough (though the system recognizes the screen just nice) as well as some utility software and a profile.


That couldn't last, now could it? My next step is to install partitioning software. Free cover CD version, from a reputable firm too. Test it one the USB drive (that's what I wanted it for - my regular partitioning software works only on internal drives.) Well, that causes IO errors on my USB drive (never saw one of those!) - the first one I could recover from, more or less: the logical drive is totally messed up, but I have backups of practically all the data. The second test also stops with an IO error - that one seems to leave the drive in an odd state, showing a partition somewhere else than Windows does. I can still access the data though... At least I had already taken the precaution of temporarily copying the data to the internal drive. OK, reboot.

Now it turns out the damned software changed the MBR (Master boot record) on the internal HD, because its task was "unfinished". I need to restart from its boot floppy. Wha!!?? Install it temporarily on Alan to make a boot floppy. It wants files on a boot floppy I never had on a boot floppy, but I manage to find what it wants at last. One file from a different version, but it seems to work - at least sort of. Now it starts its "DOS version" of the partitioning software so I can "finish" the unfinished task. NOT! Under DOS there is no USB drive. The software doesn't allow me to escape from this either. How brain dead is that? If Windows knows the drive it was working on sits on a USB port, surely the software could know that as well and allow me to boot into Windows instead of forcing me to boot into DOS to finish what I cannot finish from there!! It regularly causes page faults, too - but that might be caused the one file from a different version I had to put on the boot floppy (I don't think so, though...).

From deep in the back of my head pops up the information that the Recovery Console (available from Windows install) has a way to repair the MBR. Off googling again. Try the "fixmbr" command. Reboot - ah, now it boots. Not. It hangs. Try Safe mode. Disable services. Uninstall unneeded drivers - including iomega. iomega buries itself deeply in the Registry, clean some of that out. Too much? Or did the partitioning software butcher something else as well? Now I get a blue-screen STOP error when trying to reboot - even for Safe mode.

That was four days ago.


Lots of tries do a "repair" install I never get a farther than the blue screen with the STOP error. A new install is all that's left. This is almost a week after I first started to put in a new drive...

OK, now I really want a slip-streamed bootable Windows CD. Another endless search for information and software. A stack of not-bootable or dos-bootable or bootable but unusable CDs. Try to boot from floppies and use one of the non-bootable but readable CDs: it wants a file that isn't there or has a line missing. Figure out what it wants and add a line to a file in one of the floppies. Now starts the installation but complains about another file... it's a fatal error. No way I can find around that one.

Yesterday, I finally managed to make a bootable, slipstreamed, Windows CD. And did a fresh install. All hardware drivers installed now, too - at least some steps (like BIOS stuff, and all the googling) didn't have to be repeated. I'm back to where I was a about week ago: a basic Windows 2000 SP4 with all drivers installed (oh, except iomega - I'm reluctant, but I'll have to put that back again to get the data off the ZIP disks...).


In-between al that I had to reset my (new!) modem twice because the connection suddenly disappeared. And reconfigure the firewall yet again, because Christiaan and Alan suddenly had no internet access (apart from ping) when they did before (and after installing the new modem). ZoneAlarm is on the way out...


I probably missed a few things that I didn't rwite down and can't remember now. Didn't I pray enough to Ganesha to remove my obstacles? Surely not. It's just gremlins. Lots and lots of them. All over the place, not just in Christiaan, but in the modem and Alan as well. At least old Grace seems to be relatively unaffected (apart from misbehaving ZoneAlarm).

Except that while typing this, more and more keystrokes did not arrive at the screen. Apparently the batteries were running out. Usually you get a warning but, of course, not this time...


Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
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