Recently in Hardware Category

Last time I tried to migrate my oldest server over to a Hyper V, I was less than successful. That attempt used an Acronis application to create a virtual image which I tried to run under an earlier version of Hyper V. Any number of issues popped up and I had to quickly back out of the plans to retire the system.

I finished rebuilding my rack-mount system with a new MSI motherboard and i3 processor. I installed Windows Server 2008 R2 and spent the day installing the motherboard-specific drivers (audio, LAN and video) to support the H55 chipset. Next, I activated the Hyper V role—that’s when things went south. On reboot, the system screen was cut in half with the lower-half looking like it was transmitted from outer space. Not good. After repeated experiments (starting over several times) I determined that Hyper V works fine on the hardware but not with the H55 HD video drivers.

Well, I've given up on my 120W Kensington power supply. I got it after having seen a number of other road warriors use it, but it just does not hold up. Sure,it works fine on normal wall-supplied AC current, but typically when I travel the AC or DC current is not as clean and the Kensington all-too-often fails to work.

After my last debacle with Windows Live Meeting where all four cores of my processor were pegged, my heat alarm was beeping and my patience was being quickly exhausted, I decided to give up on WLM—at least before Microsoft stepped in. When I got back in town from my penance trip to Leavenworth, Kansas and the biker wedding at the tattoo parlor in Ruidoso, NM (film at 11), I called up the WML support team (866-493.2825) (on a Saturday afternoon). To my delight a friendly voice answered and was able to offer a number of suggestions. Apparently WLM has free support 7/24. So, what were the suggestions?

  • Disable Hardware Acceleration on the video card. This is easier said than done in Windows 7 as I’ll explain next. The support pro told me that this solves 90% of the performance problems. It did occur to me that if this is really the case (as it seems to be), why doesn’t WLM just make this change on its own as it starts?
  • Use the Content tab to choose just those applications to share—not the entire desktop. Again, this makes it harder to run a smooth demo unless you open up the applications to share ahead of time and add them to the Content tab. However, this can lead to poorer performance as WLM might be overwhelmed by the increased workload. Since I have two monitors and many windows open that should not be shared (including gadgets) I can see how this would help. I would like to see an option where WLM shares applications on a specific monitor. While one can setup a sharing window, I could never get this to work correctly—perhaps if this was fixed…
  • Don’t share your screen-cam  Window—it’s okay to get WML to show your video, just don’t include it as one of the shared windows.

Turning off video card hardware acceleration has always been a problem with screen scrapers and application sharing. I should have remembered this trick as we ran across it a decade ago while I was evaluating screen sharing programs at MSTE in the 90’s. My problem is with Windows 7—it seems the dialog to change these video card settings has been disabled for some reason. This means you can’t use the Advanced Settings | Troubleshooting | Change Settings  technique that we could use in XP and Vista to make this change.

Fortunately, I discovered that if you install the DirectX SDK, you can disable hardware acceleration in Windows 7 by clicking on the DirectDraw tab and un-checking the Use Hardware Acceleration checkbox as shown below. The DirectX SDK can be downloaded from here.





Getting Connected

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Another day lost. As many times as I’ve helped others get connected, nothing worked today as I tried to connect from one system in a Workgroup to a SQL Server on a local (trusted) domain. I tried everything imaginable including:

  • Checking to see it the server properties were set to permit remote connections. They were.
  • Was the SQL Browser service running? It was.
  • Did the SQL Server Configuration Manager say that the right protocols were enabled? Yes, they were.
  • I tried to Telnet to the IP address and port being used (based on SSCM). It worked locally but not over the network.
  • I stopped the Windows Firewall service as I was running Small Business Service and it thinks it knows best about configuring client firewalls (despite the fact that I have other firewall hardware). That made no difference.

Nothing made any difference. I could not connect from other domain-based systems either. The rest of the story? Well, I remembered having installed Windows 7 on top of an existing Windows Vista system. I had assumed that it had joined the SBS domain correctly (I ran “Connect” which was supposed to do that). Apparently it didn’t. When I dropped the offending system from the domain, went into SBS, dropped the system there, and rejoined the domain it worked fine. Everyone could see the SQL Server. That only took 6 hours of fiddling to figure out. I’m hesitant to run connect again…

Sigh. How does anyone get any work done if all we do is frutz with systems?


After updating a working Vista system to Windows 7 several things happened that made what seemed like an easy transition to Windows 7 from Vista less than productive. I detail these issues to help you avoid the same issues. Yes, Windows 7 is worth the pain. It’s noticeably faster at every step, the UI is different but I get it. It’s more secure, but that’s a PIA sometimes—and that’s not a Primary Interop Assembly.

I used the IBM/Lenovo Rescue and Recovery to restore my hard drive (to solve another Vista issue) only to discover that the NTLDR could not be found. After trying FDISK /mbr, Acronis' Fix MBR CD and a witches brew of other utilities I could not restore the boot record and files needed to reboot Vista.

What did work in the end? I used Vista's Repair utilities. Boot with the Vista DVD, ask for Repair My Computer and let it try to fix the boot files issue. Okay, this did not work the first time, but on the second try, it launched another window of utilities that was able to repair it.

Thanks Microsoft. You got this one right.


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