Blog Archives

Windows Vista Upgrade failed

Last night I was trying to upgrade to Windows Vista on my main XP computer.  I was 3/4 of the way through the installer when the install screen vanished and dropped me back to the XP desktop.  XP still seemed to work, and no matter what I tried, I could not get the installer to resume.  I had no choice but to reboot, but what I didn’t know was that Vista had already copied over its boot files and screwed with the MBR on my hard drive.  So upon reboot, I get a Vista boot loader, which goes to the setup screen, but promptly throws up an error saying (not exactly sure of wording) “Windows could not initialize the installer”.  So XP was dead at this point, sure there are some ways I could have gotten it back, but I really wanted Vista to install. 

I ended up using a Knoppix 4 bootable CD and using the file managers in linux to backup my data on my XP parition to a file share on a server in my network.  After the backup was done, I wiped the partition and loaded the full install of Vista and installed fresh on the clean XP partition.  I am not sure if I am going to go with Vista or not, so I’m installing from the media with no CD key, just to use it in eval mode.  If Liz likes it and can get used to it, we might go ahead and buy the Ultimate edition upgrade.  But for now we’ll give it a try and see how it goes.  So far its running great on my hardware, but I’m a little disappointed with the performance rating of 3.7.  I have a dual core P4 3GHz chip, 2 GB of performance DDR2 RAM, and 256MB ATI X600 PCIe video card running on a nice Abit motherboard.  I was expecting to get a score near or at a 5. 

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Another hard drive crash

Well it happened again. Over the weekend my brand new Seagate FreeAgent 500GB external USB drive crashed. Saturday morning Liz said it wasn’t showing up in Windows. So I tinkered with it and got it working. So I started to copy stuff off of it just in case. Well we had this thing pretty full, so I had to spread our stuff out over 3 machines and its pretty tight on space now at my house (hard drive space that is).

Near the end of copying things off the drive, I moved my leg and my foot caught the power cord which was dangling under the desk. This casued the drive to fall to the floor from the top of the computer where it was sitting. This is not a huge distance, but was enough of a fall to permanently crash the drive (probably a head failure), and I ended up losing lots of software I had collected over the years and some misc stuff. I got all the pictures and most of the important stuff off before it crashed. So it wasn’t terrible, but still no fun. This thing was brand new! So I am getting an RMA from seagate and they will replace the drive, which was in a failing state before it even had its little fall 🙂

Hard drive faulure … fake out!

Yesterday, Liz tells me that she can’t get into our external hard drive to get to our picture library. This kinda freaks me out since we have nearly 500GB of data on this drive. So I try a few quick things to see if I can get her access to the drive, I see some warnings in the event log about the disk and some transaction log error. I assume the drive is dead or perhaps I unseated some cables when I put in the new processor the other day. So when I got home from work I checked it out, plugged everything in and it came right up the first time, no problems. I’m not sure what happened, but I didn’t have any trouble with the drive, and Liz said she tried the same thing, so I don’t know what happened. Its working ok and our data is safe….for now.

Computer System upgrades

This weekend I will be doing some computer system upgrades to my home computer systems. Not all of this will be accomplished this weekend, but the following is a list of items I plan to take care of starting today and finishing by mid week next week.

1. Install new memory into main computer, this is 2GB of DDR800 PC6400 DDR2 high performance RAM. Replacing another set of high performance RAM that never did work well with my motherboard, and was only 1GB.

2. Install upgraded CPU for the main computer. Installing new Intel P4 D 3GHz Dual-Core processor, replacing older 3.2GHz HT P4 processor. Slightly less MHz than the old processor, but provides dual-core support and better performance for Vista when we do that upgrade.

3. Install new Processor for the multimedia computer. Installing new AMD Athlon 64 2.4GHz CPU to replace the AMD Semperon 1.8GHz (mobile) chip that is currently in the unit.

4. Install new server computer. I will be adding a Dell Optiplex GX260 SFF desktop class machine as a server to my home network. This will end up powering Active Directory, DNS, DHCP and some other services on my home network. This will replace older and very slow compaq desktop that is on its last leg. This is a 2.4GHz P4, 512MB RAM, 20GB hard drive system, its small, cool and quiet. Perfect for my “server closet”.

In addition, the following upgrades are planned for the coming months…

1. Upgrade existing home photo printer. Currently have HP PhotoSmart 7550. Will be selling this on ebay to purchase new photo printer.

2. Upgrade existing LCD Flat panel monitor. Will be selling existing unit to purchase a new better model, at least 19″.

Current problem – seeking solution (backup related)

Let me expalin a little about a problem I am trying to solve. This relates to backups using Backup Exec 10 and 11. I am hoping to get some feedback and ideas on a solution, your comments and ideas are welcome. Please feel free to post to the comments on this article.

First, we have servers all over the place and back them up locally when possible. So each major location has a consolidated backup server with over 1TB of hard drive space and utilizes a backup to disk strategy for the daily backups, and then we have a separate archive to tape job which puts the B2D files onto tape. We keep 3 days worth of backup to disk files on each backup server, using media set controls with a overwrite protection period of 2 days so we only ever have 3 days of backups in each media set.

Jobs are configured with backup to disk folders to keep the media in. Now the issue comes as our storage grows, we are backing up more and more data. Keeping 3 days worth of data on the server gets harder and harder. Not to mention we also are currently backing up 3 days worth of backup to disk files to tape each day, which eats through more than one ultrium tape per day.

The goal I am working towards is being able to keep 3 days worth of backup to disk files on the backup server (idea is to have quick access to restore media 3 days back in case something important needs to be restored) but we only want to backup 1 day at a time to tape, so we don’t waste tape storage and have some crazy confusing tape rotation schedule. We use an autoloader with 24 tape capacity, and are having difficulty in maintaining a good predictable rotation.

So does anyone reading this have any suggestions for being able to keep 3 days worth of backup to disk files on the server, but support backing up only 1 days worth of files at a time to tape? Currently the backup to disk folders are created and named after each server.

I also want to find a way to prevent having to use third party software to keep the backup to disk folders cleaned out. Sometimes the B2D files don’t get re-used for a while, they are protected, but don’t get re-used and just sit there taking up space and ultimately eat up valuable hard drive space for nothing. I had been using some external software to clean out files older than 3 days from these folders.

All suggestions are welcome.

weekend computer work

I spent all day Saturday working on our home computer systems. I got an external USB storage drive (500GB) for storing our pictures and software and whatever other junk (and we have lots) we had. So I removed a second hard drive from our main computer, swapped out the hard drive in my multimedia PC, and reloaded the main PC. I moved all our files around, over 400GB worth. We now have most of our files on the external drive and my multimedia PC is much faster now with the better hard drive. I swithced out my Hitachi hard drives with Seagate drives. I wish it hadn’t taken all day, but at least its done. Things are now better organized, safer and I have some spare drives to sell now. Hello craigslist!

Fun and fast weekend

We had another fun weekend, but it went really fast!!! On Friday night we had a few couples over to play games and have snacks, etc. We all sat around and snacked for a while and talked. Then we started to play catch phrase, which I’m not good at, but enjoyed watching and participating. We laughed a lot and it was fun. Then we got setup on the wii and I watched them all play boxing and we all got a kick out of watching Liz fight Mike and go nuts trying to knock him out. The night ended a little earlier than we could have handled, but the ladies had an event to go to early the next morning.

Saturday, it was just the kids and me for a while. Liz went to her event in New Tampa and I got the kids up and we started our day. We played the wii for a long time and Sarah was a natural with bowling, we scored me with 126 and her with 122 our first try. On her next try all alone, she got 148! She was also good at golf, baseball and tennis. Later around 1pm or so, Mike came back over with the kids and Sarah and Nathan played against each other for a while, and it was so much fun to watch. They played the practice rounds and tried all the different games, it was lots of fun!

Sunday Liz had Susan over to look at pictures and I worked on our storage situation a little for the computers. I ended up buying a 500GB external drive to keep our pictures and downloads on. This way it only runs when we need it, and we can take it with us. I plan to consolidate our storage onto this external drive, and delete old stuff we don’t need anymore, and maybe burn some stuff to DVD. Once done, I can sell about 3 hard drives that used to either be in a server, my PC or on a shelf. My PC has a 450W power supply which is having problems keeping up with the load. I may need a new power supply at some point as well.

I have Liz ready to buy a wii, we are going to use some money from the sale of computer parts I have and save up a little for it. In a few weeks we should have one.

Good podcast – TechBrief.tv

I have been trying to catch up on podcasting lately and have really been enjoying Tech Brief. I watch these podcasts via the democracy player which is very nice and allows me to automatically download any new shows and also manages deletion of older podcasts so I don’t fill up my hard drive. I really like this podcast, and think its fun and informative. I enjoyed the one with Mark Lowrey as a guest, and also Leo Laporte has been on the show via remote interview. Cali Lewis has also been on the screensavers before.

Side note: I was on the screensavers once on a webcam session. I got to talk to Leo Laporte about some server stuff and it was lot of fun. I wish I could do it again, but finding a good question that would be interesting for a wide audience is tough for me, since most of my work is highly technical and of a specific nature.

Computer problems

Sometimes even us computer professionals make really dumb mistakes on our computers. I was downloading some software last night and messing around a bit, when I opened something I knew I shouldn’t have. I had some zip files on my desktop that I had downloaded and when I tried to open them (without first scanning them for viruses) they just said the archive was damaged. But I could extract them with winrar. So I figured I just did something bad! I was adding and removing software from the PC, when I had to reboot. After the reboot, Windows would load to a blue screen waiting to open the logon box, but instead I just got STOP errors and Winlogon would crash and do a memory dump. So I stayed up till about 11:30 working on it, trying to get it working before Liz got home so she would have her PC today. I was never able to get it working and even tried some live linux CDs just to get her something to use. No luck! So I am going to try a different tool tonight to see if I can get to the system restore feature of Windows XP (since not even Safe Mode will work). If that works it makes it easier for me to backup and then re-load everything, but either way, it looks I’ll spend my weekend re-loading our PC again! I seem to be doing that more and more frequently lately. I wish I had a nice powerful server I could run Virtual server 2005 on, then I could just setup a virtual PC for all my downloading and testing, then it wouldn’t screw up my PC! I think I may also start making routine backups with ghost or something like that once I get it back up and running. I get the feeling that I need to do some hardware swapping too, since the machine seems so slow. Its got good stuff in it, but its just not as fast as it used to be. I could probably use a new hard drive, memory and motherboard. We use our computers a lot, and they run almost all the time, so things do tend to wear out!

Paperless home office!

I got a sheetfed scanner in the mail today, and started doing some searches for free or open source software for use in making our home office a paperless home office. I am so tired of all the clutter in all the papers we get from creditors, and not to mention all the papers from Sarah’s schooling and Liz’s activities. I found this great software called DocsVault, which has a free home edition for download. I had searched for a few hours and really hadn’t found much of anything that cought my eye. Some expensive server based systems looked great, but were overkill for my home needs. So I came across this software and downloaded it to give it a try. I was impressed right from the start, it has everything we need for organizationl; cabinets, drawers and folders. It stores everything in an internal database and can use my sheet fed scanner. It has backup and restore capabilities built in, and can burn stright to CD/DVD or to a hard drive location. It integrate with MS Office and save documents directly to the cabinet/drawer of your choice. It has search capabilities and lots of powerful features above and beyond what I thought I could get for free. I started today scanning in papers, anything from bills, tax paperwork and all the way to the girls drawlings. Its perfect and exactly what I need to take care of my digital home needs. This should decrease the clutter and allow for better archiving and make things easier to find.