May. 7th, 2017 03:59 pm
plonq: (Please Sir May I have Some More)
The basement file server has been driving me to drink lately. It was rock solid when I was running it under Windows 7, but when I upgraded it to 10 (to try and address some network issues between it and the upstairs machines), it became unreliable. The networking is rock solid now, but the basement machine has issues.

It would run for about a week at a time before locking up and requiring a power cycle. I did some clean-up and repair, and got it to the stage where it could go for about two weeks at a time, but unless it was restarted in that time, it would eventually die again.

One of the last fixes I did was to set up a reboot script to restart the machine every Sunday morning. Yesterday the machine was working fine, and this morning I had to trek down to the basement to restart it. When I checked the logs, I saw that it had not restarted this morning like it was supposed to. I checked the schedule I had set up, and I caught my mistake there - I had not given it sufficient permissions to run when nobody is logged into the machine. I changed the settings, and I'll look in on it again next Sunday.

The issue seems to be one of resource exhaustion. A small handful of services are slowly chewing up the system resources until it does not have enough left to create a login session. I did a bit more Googling this morning, and I discovered that the swUSB process I had assumed was a Windows process is actually part of the drivers for the RealTEK LAN device I'd had hooked up to the machine when we first set it up. I was using that device until sometime after the swap to Windows 10, and I am thinking its drivers did not like the update.

I replaced it with a better ASUS device awhile back, but I guess I neglected to uninstall the RealTEK drivers. A couple of sources I read mentioned that their driver had a serious memory leak, and since it is one of the culprits that always comes up when the system runs out of resources, it was an easy hit.
Resource Exhaustion

Another process that keeps coming up in the list of resource-hogs is SMSvcHost.exe. It is a legitimate service (I checked to make sure it hadn't been replaced by a Trojan), but when I poked around at what it does, it did not seem especially critical. I have disabled the service for now to see what kind of an impact that has, but so far I have not noticed any difference. If I start seeing errors and warnings in the system logs about it, I'll turn it back on.

On a completely unrelated note, while I was puttering around the house this morning, I got to mulling on old friends I had in the Lion King fandom community back in the day, and it occurred to me that I have lost touch with all but a few of them. Some of them were very talented writers, and we would often bounce our stories off each other for comments and critique. One writer was a giant in the community, whose fan fictions spawned a whole genre of fan fictions of their own. When I say "he", it was actually a collaborative team. This one writer did most of the work, but he often paired up with others in the fandom to produce the stories.

I was never a huge fan of his work, but I was also not his target audience. They were very popular with the 13-21 age group, in part because each of his stories was as much an emotional roller-coaster as it was a tale. While I admired his work, and never really begrudged him his popularity... well, ok. Maybe a bit, but who isn't a bit jealous of the popular kids now and then? Anyway, I always felt that his writing was top quality, but I also found it to be somewhat manipulative. He was a master of wresting emotion out of his readers.

Anyway, he started on a fairly ambitious writing project with a mutual friend, and as he went, he often sent me chapters to review. For some reason he respected my opinion. For the most part I did not have much feedback, other than pointing out areas where the prose became a bit too purple, or minor issues like confused attributions and the like.

Then there was the chapter.

He sent me several chapters to read through, and I dutifully read through them, making minor notes, suggesting small revisions, and rolling my eyes at obvious emotional tugs here and there. Then I got to the chapter where he excruciatingly killed off one of the main characters in a very long, emotional orgy of sadness. I could tell that he had poured a lot into this chapter, because it really stood out from the others he had written. He had obviously given it a lot of thought. It looked like the chapter he had been waiting to write.

The problem was that it did not fit. It seemed to have no place in the story other than to make the readers sad. Other than that character falling out of the story from that point forward, nothing changed. It did not inspire any action on any of the others in the story, nor did it even affect the overall plot. Everybody else in the story continued on as if nothing had happened, other than expressing their sadness that the character's passing once or twice in the next couple of chapters.

When I gave him feedback, I fear that I may have been a bit too ruthless. I told him that the chapter was wonderfully written, but that it was just an interlude of pointless pathos. I asked him to explain its purpose in the story, and pointed out that if the chapter did not exist, the story would not actually change at all. He offered up some justifications for the chapter, and I pulled out the passive-aggressive card and said, "Well, it's your story; include or exclude it as you choose. You asked for my opinion, and I gave it."

In the end, he removed the chapter, but I think it hurt him to do it. I do feel a bit bad about that in retrospect, since it didn't really hurt anything by being in there, and I can't help thinking that I overstepped a bit by calling him on it. He stopped sending me stories for feedback after that. I guess I can't really blame him.
plonq: (Insane Mood)
Our basement server has not been serving very reliably of late. It was pretty solid when I first set it up, but over the past few months it has been getting more and more unstable. Some time back I tweaked its monthly restart script to reboot it once a week, and that helped a lot. It was good for weeks at a time, but over time it started to degrade again. I upped the schedule to reboot three times a week, and that kept it happy again for a few more months.

Lately it seemed to be down more than up. It seemed that every time I wanted to use it for something, I would have to drag myself downstairs and perform a hard reboot because the login process had quit working.

After I had to restart it again on Saturday, I called up the reboot script and set it to daily.

Then I thought, "If I am having to reboot this thing daily, I should really look into seeing why it is becoming so unstable."

I knew that it had some issues because its system log was a sea of red and yellow errors and warnings every time I checked.

I plugged a couple of the more frequent error codes into Google, and it led me to a discussion board where somebody had been experiencing similar problems. The responses were unhelpful, but he edited his post to say that he had managed to fix it on his own, and he outlined the steps he'd taken. He ran a couple of internal diagnostic and repair jobs in Windows, and then manually re-enabled one of the network services that had somehow been disabled.

I followed the same steps that he outlined, restarted the machine, and it has been stable ever since. I still had it set to reboot daily, but I cut the frequency to Sun/Wed/Fri again this evening to see how it goes. If it doesn't seem to be having any issues, then I will cut it to just Sunday restarts, and ultimately go back to the monthly schedule that I originally had it on before I upped it to weekly.


plonq: (Challenging Mood)
All you need is...
20130311 - All you need is
I think I may have mentioned at the start of the year that I would not always be posting a picture on the day when it was taken - though in this case I am being a bit obvious about it by posting yesterday's picture with tomorrow's date.

We met my brother and his wife for dinner today, and he mentioned on the phone that I should bring my camera if I wanted to capture a picture of discarded love. We forgot about the picture until after dinner, and by the time we got back to the photo opportunity, the sun was long since a memory.

Even though we were a ways back, the 35mm lens did not quite give me enough field of view for a good shot, so I swapped to the slower zoom lens and shot this at 18mm, using the flash. In retrospect, I think I would have done a couple of things differently if I could go back and take this picture again. I would have selected a higher ISO setting, opened up the aperture a bit more, used the flash diffuser and pointed the flash slightly off-centre. Or taken the picture before it got dark.

My new keyboard is much glowier than my previous one, but at least it has mechanical keys with a satisfying "tick" when I type.
23130310 - Keys
There is a new computer attached to this keyboard (not pictured here) that I will be spending the next few days configuring. It is almost depressing when I think on how much I need to install and set up on the new machine to get it up to speed. On the other hand, new computer! (Squee!)

I was going to put Windows 7 on it, but I decided to bite the bullet and go with 8. I often end up as the go-to guy for help with these things, and I figured I may as well learn my way around it.

From what I have been reading, once you get past all "different is bad" noise, the consensus seems to be that it is all-around better and faster than 7. My original intention was to do whatever hack was necessary to bring back the start button/menu, but after about ten minutes of playing, I decided that I probably won't bother. I was not having much difficulty navigating my way around without it.


Jul. 10th, 2012 11:06 pm
plonq: (Hipster Mood)
First, and slightly unrelated, I ran a full clear of Dragon Soul in Looking For Raid with a few guild mates last night, and amused then when I tossed out the term "paint lickers" to describe some of the players from the Mal'Ganis server. They had heard of window lickers, but the thought of these pimply PVP kids licking lead paint tickled them greatly.

Anyway, on to the main point of my post.

We had technology failure, and then success over the past couple of days. [ profile] atara commented on the weekend that it would be nice to sit out back in the afternoon with her notebook computer so that she could browse sites like Reddit, Boing Boing and Videosift without having to endure the oven-like heat of our computer room. The problem is that due to the layout of our house, the thickness of the walls, and many layers of lead-based paint on various surfaces in the house, the signal from our wireless router does not reach to the back yard.

To me this sounded like an invitation to buy one of the ranger extenders I have been thinking about buying for some time. I wandered up to Staples yesterday and grabbed one from D-Link; that is the brand of our router, so it seemed like a good fit. They were selling it for the same price as everyone else, and it had been getting middling to decent reviews. I hooked it up to my notebook last night, configured it to connect to our router, and then [ profile] atara found a space for it in the back change room where it could do some good.

Unfortunate, even though our mobile devices could see it, none of them would connect. I finally decided that I must have configured it wrong, and I brought it back to the front of the house to redo its settings. Somewhere between the back room and the front room, it quit working entirely. It went from being a wireless range extender to being a paper weight. My hunch is that the power brick was defective, but regardless of the cause, the device was stone dead.

I returned it this morning, informing them that it was DOA (much to the mirth of the girl at the return counter who had never heard that term used to describe a piece of electronics) and I asked to swap it for one that worked. They did a bit of searching in the front and back of the store before concluding that I had completely cleaned out their stock of D-Link range extenders. Hmph. They offered two alternatives; a Linksys for about the same price (if the answer "no" does not work for you, I can offer up a hearty "fuck off") and a Netgear one for a few dollars more.

I hesitated over the Netgear extender because I was not sure how much I wanted to spend on this little project, but after reading a few ragingly tepid on-line reviews ("It works. After a fashion. I suppose.") I decided to pay the difference and brought home a new extender today. The main external difference between the D-Link and the Netgear extenders was that the Netgear device lacked external antennas, and had way more blinky lights.

In terms of configuring though, it was much easier than the D-Link. Both our router and the extender support WPS, so it was just a matter of powering up the extender and pressing a button on each device. While there is a puerile little part of me that wants to remote into the extender and change its SSID to something like "Free Porn", I have decided to leave it be because I don't want to mess with something that is working - and it is working pretty well. We now have a nice, strong signal through the entire house.

There were a couple of minor snags, mind you. When I first set up WPS, the extender connected to the router, but the globe light on the router (which indicates that it is connected to the Internet) began flashing different colours in a manner that I assume would probably be more meaningful if I had a copy of my router's manual kicking around somewhere. We had Internet connection on our wired computers, but not on the wireless ones. I finally power cycled the router and that seemed to fix its issues. Alas, we still could not connect to the Internet via the extender on our laptops - that is, until [ profile] atara suggested rebooting them.

Is there anything a reboot can't fix? Look at what it did for Star Trek and My Little Pony. What's good for stale franchises should also work for computers too, right? Apparently so. Everything works now, and it works further than ever before.
plonq: (Blank Mood)
I've got a question for some of you techies out there for an issue that, frankly, has us stumped.

The sound on [ profile] atara's computer cuts out, but only in very specific circumstances. Once it cuts out the only way she can restore it is by rebooting her machine - a soft reboot usually suffices.

Anyway, it cuts out when the cat jumps down from her desk. Not any cat, just Merry. Also it doesn't cut out every time Merry jumps down from her desk either, it only does it when she has the ceramic heater behind her running. Actually this is an improvement over last winter when having Merry run past her computer would, at various times, cause it to lose its sound, lock up, or spontaneously reboot.

Nothing else causes this to happen. We can walk, stomp or tip-toe past the computer all we want and it won't cut out. I can jostle and bump the machine and it won't cut out. We can drop things on the floor and it won't cut out.

But when Merry jumps down from the desk, and the heater is running, her sound cuts out until she reboots.

So my question is: what's going on and how do we fix it?

If it's any help, we replaced her video card between then and now.
plonq: (Ack!)
Cars have idiot lights that come on to tell you when it is too late to change your oil. My computer could use one of those. What it does instead is start giving off a loud buzz/hum when I have been an idiot and let its coolant levels drop too low. It caused me concern and it scared the cat.

I'll have to keep a closer eye on this thing so that I can top it up before it's down to sucking on air again.
plonq: (Scared Mood)
Why can't I even do something as simple as update a video driver without having my computer remind me of mortality, and the fleeting nature of existence?

In this instance it wasn't a problem with Windows, but a machine that refused to post on reboot -- the kind of thing that screams "hardware malfunction!"

I started systematically unplugging things from the machine on each power cycle until eventually I had nothing plugged in but keyboard, mouse and video card. Finally it booted, and then complained aloud (bloody voice alerts) that it couldn't find the floppy drive. No shit. That was one of the first things I'd unplugged. This was where I ran into my second crisis; I'd forgotten to make note of where the plugs had gone for my RAID.

Ah well, only eight possible combinations for that (two RAID chips, each with four possible plug combinations). I got it on the 6th try. In the end, it turns out that I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I'd just unplugged my USB key before I'd rebooted. Dunno why that was hanging it up in the post process, but there you go. I suspect it was mistaking it for an unreadable boot device and getting caught up in some kind of logic loop.
plonq: (Cutting through the pooh)
We recently purchased a wireless router to replace the pocket router/access point that we've been using for our notebook computers.  I have come up with a plan on how to wire the lot up, but I have a question about how XP and the network will function if I wire it that way, and I was hoping that some of you folk could chime in (since most of you are more tech-savvy than I am).

The way we have them wired right now is interesting, but not that unusual.  We have both computers directly wired together with a CAT5e crossover cable, giving us 1GB file and printer sharing across an IPX network.  Both computers also have a 100MB TCP/IP wired connection to a router, with the file/print sharing disabled.  We have a pocket router configured as a secure wireless access point plugged into the router, which allows our notebook computers to connect to the internet with their onboard wireless LAN.

The way that I am thinking of wiring it is very similar with only a couple of small, but significant changes.  I'm going to leave the crossover connection untouched, but I am planning to enable file and printer sharing on the TCP/IP connections to the new wireless router.  The idea is to give our notebooks access to the file library and printer on our home network.  This is a bit less secure than our configuration above, but the router has a hardware firewall, and we have software firewalls running on all four machines, so my thinking is that if I put fairly secure password protection on the connection then we should be reasonably safe.

I've done up a visual representation of the current and proposed networks below.

The question: Is there a way to instruct Windows that it should only share files on the desktop systems across the 1GB connection?  Does it have a preset order in which it will cycle through network connections in order to choose the ones it needs (e.g., by network card ID, connection number, network type - IPX vs TCP/IP - etc.)?  Is there a different way to wire this up in order to make the question moot?  (With the assumption that we'll still have a 1GB connection between our desktops at the end of the day.)

Network setup.
plonq: (Studious Mood)
I think I've done this meme before, but it's worth repeating (and I haven't memed in awhile).

My computer geek score is greater than 93% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!
plonq: (Cheesy Mood)
Our 350W power supply finally came back from the factory.

On the plus side they didn't charge us for shipping (which I had been expecting), but that may be because the "6-8 week turnaround" turned out to be closer to 3-4 months turnaround.

On the down side, they simply sent back the same power supply with a new fan bolted in.  It stinks.  Literally.  The power supply reeks of burnt components.

I assume they tested it before they sent it out, so it's probably good to go.  I'm guessing that the burnt smell was from the old fan burning out, rather than any of the other components cooking themselves.  The power supply was working fine when we had it, aside from the fact that fan wasn't spinning and it smelled like baking electronics.  With luck the smell will blow itself out after use - though I guess it wouldn't hurt to hang a car deodorizer inside the computer case for the first while.

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