Mar 31 2008

Congratulations and welcome to (mt) MediaTemple ’s grid server, icerabbit.

Screen grab.

Mar 22 2008

The first attempt failed two days ago without error messages or explanation. The Windows Vista SP 1 upgrade went fine all the way through Step 3 100%. Then reverted.
Armed with the knowledge that the display driver is incompatible with Vista SP1, I updated the display driver successfully and made another attempt.

Now after Step 3 100% it complains that the “installation was not successful”

“Windows Service Pack 1 was not installed on your computer. Error code 0X800F0826. See http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=101139 for details.

Ok. At least we get an error message this time.

The error box links through to: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947366 – Error message when you try to install Vista SP1 “Installation was not successful” or “An internal error occurred …” and gives some recommendations:

1. Restart and try again. Really?

2. Check your hard drives for errors.

3. Run system file checker tool.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and was unable to repair some of them. Details are included in the CBS.Log – C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log

Not bad, if it weren’t that the file is 148626 lines long.

4. Run Vista Memory Diagnostic tool.

Error: “Windows cannot check for memory problems” – ” A Problem is preventing Windows from checking for memory problems during startup. Try to check for problems again by running the tool manually. ”

Isn’t life great. Another useless MS error box.

5. Restart and close any applications that may be running.

Another attempt, despite the corrupt files and memory problems (which never have been diagnosed nor an issue before) did result in the same problem.

Interestingly there is a Windows Update error 800f0826 Windows Help article:

http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/Help/2d96561c-0a7a-492a-b48f-8317cf4f1fde1033.mspx

suggesting to look at the update history and trying to resolve the individual update error(s).

Mar 22 2008

The first time I tried the installation, using the standalone downloadable installer, it went all the way through to step 2. Then crashed upon reboot with a blue screen of death (BSOD), was unable to repair the startup problem, but was finally able to do a system restore.

My two conversations with Toshiba Technical Support were of no help in identifying the problem I experienced, other than that in the mean time I figured it out on my own. Or, I should say, at least figured out one part of the equasion, namely that the display driver on this machine is not Windows Vista SP1 compatible.

The Intel 965 Express driver on the Toshiba Satellite U305-S2804 is v 7.14.10.1329.

This versions fits right into the beginning of the range 7.14.10.1322 and 7.14.10.1403 that is incompatible according to Microsoft (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=948343).

But, there has to be a newer driver out, right?

Using the “Update driver” feature within the device driver window, Vista kindly alerts me that my driver is up to date. Of course this is not surprising me when in the mean time I already looked up that Intel has released several newer versions and is currently at v 7.14.10.1437 (http://www.intel.com/support/graphics/intelgm965/#anchor1)

A quick download later, the Intel driver installation alerts me that this driver is not certified for my machine and that I should download the latest version from the manufacturer. Mmmm.
Back at Toshiba there is nary a download for the U305. Through a chipset search I find that the latest driver predates my machine’s purchase and matches v 7.14.10.1329.

So, no SP1 love right now for this Toshiba notebook.

And, of course I have to be the first and only one at this point in time who can’t install SP1 on this particular machine. What are the odds?

Update: Toshiba is bumping me to level 3 tech support, advanced engineering since it is a driver/firmware issue and their department will be giving me a call back in the beginning of next week.

Mar 22 2008

Microsoft is giving me, and countless other people headaches with the Vista Service Pack 1 update. Luckily I haven’t had an inoperable operating system yet, and right now, my personal install score is: 2 failures – 1 success.

Since I have a near factory fresh Toshiba laptop on my desk which experienced that BSOD, I gave them a call to see what’s up as their site didn’t tell me anything about Vista issues. I received some bad advice and feel sorry for people that may follow it blindly. No surprise really, and many manufacturer’s may unfortunately say the same thing.

Toshiba’s Level 1 advice:

a) a program you installed is incompatible, do a factory restore then try again. Sorry, this machine only has an additional browser or two and a card game.

b) something you installed caused a driver issue, do a factory install and try again. Sorry, I did not update any drivers and the factory restore for that matter would be useless, it would just set the device drivers back to where they are now.

c) call MS. Oh right, who will say call Toshiba.
Toshiba’s level 2 advice

d) download the standalone installer, don’t go through update. Fair. I prefer to work that way anyhow. Unfortunately that was the method I used the other night.

e) there are no known issues between SP1 and Toshiba notebooks. All are Toshiba notebooks are Vista SP 1 compatible. No upgrades or downgrades of drivers are required.

Red alert! While I was on hold, a little light bulb had flipped on in the back of my head. Clearly my BSOD was some driver issue (didn’t catch the name, it rebooted on me the second I noticed it from the corner of my eye) and the reason of my call to Toshiba. Microsoft didn’t give any install notes about hardware incompatibilities, driver issues and I didn’t find it upon a first quick search. Anyhow.
Click here to read more …

Mar 20 2008

One of the two notebooks (dual core, vista home premium pre-installed) I use prompted that Vista SP1 was available as an automatic update. I figured why not, since this is the official release from 2 days ago. Speedy download. Installation goes pretty swiftly. Step 1, step 2 and step 3: 100%. Sweet. Reboot. And then this:

vista service pack did not install

Excuse me? It just did 100% on all three steps, taking its sweet little time overal, and then it says it couldn’t do it? So what exactly happened during all the installation steps? If it checks something that critical at the very end, how about doing that little hardware and software check (or whatever it is) at the very beginning of the update process? And, where can I trace the cause of the problem? I did not see any error information? Nor suggestions?

Fortunately this botched update did not ruin the machine. Everything still looks the same and essential applications work. Small sigh of relief. And, now of course Vista SP1 is ready to be installed again. Funny.

On a second Vista notebook the SP so far refuses to show up. Haven’t tried any other machines yet, but something tells me I will exercise some patience. There are plenty of similar stories on the web already too.

Anyhow, you have to love Microsoft, right?

Update: I am too curious what the failure rate will be so I am already trying it on another machine. This one is a year younger, pretty much ’stock’ (or factory default) and faster. We’ll see.

Update 2: Absolutely fabulous. 25 minutes into the installation. Step 2 is completed. System reboots. A blue screen of death. My system is unable to start. Windows Startup Repair can’t repair the problem. System restore … attempting …

Update 3: Fortunately I landed back on my desktop after some very long 15 minutes.

My conclusion, with two failures and especially after that Blue Screen Of Death, is that this Service Pack 1 for Vista is not ready for prime time. Two solid and fast machines, less than a year old, from mainstream manufacturers and neither can be updated?

I recommend others to just wait. Maybe once you hear on the web from somebody who has the same machine and updated his/her’s fine; you can be confident it will work. To me it is not worth the 40 min hassle nor risking data and possibly having to reinstall the machine. I have read some reports where it took several hours to both install and revert SP1. I can’t imagine sitting through that worrying if the machine will boot.

Mar 14 2008

This weeks marks the 8th anniversary of moving to the US.

It certainly makes you reflect on how fast time flies. I remember living and working in Belgium like it was 3 years ago. How could it be 8 years already?

Rather than writing a long story, I figured I could do a quick Question & Answer round of frequently asked questions:

Happy? Yes.

Any regrets? No. Not really. You hate leaving a void with your closest family and friends, especially when some are going through a hard time. But as a whole, do I regret moving to the US? No.

How are things with you and Carolyn? Things are good. We are very happy together and are both doing well. We are in a good place and good situation.

Is living there how you thought it would be? Yes & No. Yes, because I knew it a little bit from traveling here. At the same time, we are living quite differently than we had originally planned. We have not settled down yet. We have been pretty mobile and plan to stay that way. We live in two places, so there are some practical long distance issues, as you can imagine. Business is different than we had planned, but we are doing good. We will see what the future brings.

Are you a US citizen now? No. Not yet.

Do you miss Belgium? Sometimes. I haven’t been there in several years, so one automatically misses friends & family. From time to time we catch a travel show on TV highlighting Belgium or places we have visited. It brings back memories and makes you want to pop in to say hi and refresh your memory of what it is really like to be there.

When are you coming to Belgium/Europe again? Not in the near future. Have you seen the Euro/Dollar rate lately? 1.55 USD for 1 EURO is a 50% tax for Americans to come to the EU. I can’t imagine paying 50% extra for fuel, hotels, … Maybe you guys can swing this way? It is a bargain at 50% off.

What’s the biggest thing that is different about you now? Doing construction work. I thought I would be doing purely computer stuff and clerical work. I didn’t think I was cut out for construction work, but it turns out I am. And, I owe it all to a little encouragement from Carolyn with the first few little projects. We were unhappy with the cost and results of a couple things we hired done at our first home and I figured I could do a lot better for less cost. Apply some brain power. Analyze it, come up with a strategy and go for it.

And the second thing? Smarter & braver. I can for instance jump in the car and drive anywhere in the US with minimal notice & minor to no preparations. Initially the US it is kind of intimidating because being from Flanders you think small. Drive an hour each way and you are in different country. Years ago I couldn’t understand why Americans would travel across Europe in 7 days. But travel and distance are different here. A few hours driving is nothing. Things are on an entirely different scale. By the way: Americans don’t get much time off from work, so they pack as much as they can in a short vacation.

What haven’t you done enough? Travel & sightseeing. Windsurfing.

Anything that surprised you? Hearing I have a talent for skiing and water skiing.

Are there some things you wish would be different in the US?

Health insurance. The cost goes through the roof. Large sections of the population can’t afford insurance. Other sections of the population have insurance but are denied treatment. Any reason is good enough to deny coverage. Way too much time and money is wasted on paperwork, applications, pre-approval processes, reviewers, … and not enough care given. The administration just drives up the cost of providing care and insurance itself. A never ending spiral.

Commercials on TV. Most channels are like Eurosport. Commercial break every five minutes. It just makes we want to turn the TV off.

Political campaigning. The amount of money spent on campaigning and the amount of coverage in every news cast on every channel, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year is just … insane. It just doesn’t stop. What is next? Strapping a camera to the candidate’s head and following every word & move 24/7?

Driving. In a way driving in the US is relaxed because of the lower speed limits, but quite a lot of people have totally unsafe driving habits: no safe driving distance, aggressive driving, not stopping at stop signs, running red lights, slow traffic staying in the left lane,text-ing behind the wheel, etc. And all the police seem to focus on is speeding. Maybe if everybody would drive safer, we could get some higher speed limits on the interstate that are more in keeping with our rushed lives and save a little time on long distance hauls. It doesn’t have to be 65-70mph on many quiet stretches of interstate, but it is not likely to change.

What car do you drive? A Chrysler minivan. No convertible yet. Right now I’m more thinking about a pick-up truck with a snow plow.

Are you still into computers & electronics? Of course! I have scaled back some, but yeah, I’m still quite ahead of the curve.

Any cool hardware recently? I still think the Nokia N800/810 & OQO o2 are marvelous pieces of technology.

iPhone? Not enough features yet and tied to AT&T, so no.

Mac or PC? Both. I indeed switch to Apple in 2002, but Apple isn’t all it could be and should be so, I found my way back to using pc systems because Apple’s product line is too limited in some respects and under featured.

Linux? Some. Not enough time to delve into it. I have enough to catch up with as it is.

When will the site be updated? Soon, I hope. I am waiting on an iBlog export function to centralize things without having to edit every single entry and have been distracted with a few other projects.