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Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

Everything is based on a Sample of One: these are my views, my experiences... caveat lector... read the Disclaimer

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey


Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A Bug! Fie on it!

I know it's putting one's head in the lion's mouth to adopt a new operating system as soon as it's released, but my old previous machine - a pathetic HP Pavilion [ab initio defective DVD, crashy, screen died at 1 year warranty + 1 day, etc. etc. etc.] - just had to be replaced and I hung on as long as I could...

In the end I was actually very pleased with Vista (Home Premium) - the Rock Xtreme CTX pro has plenty of horse-power and elephant-memory to support Vista and everything was absolutely fine. Some things omitted from Vista Home Premium were absolutely ridiculous omissions, I thought , but it ran nicely and very solidly (even allowing for the fact that it has nVidia Go 7950GTX graphics - and we all know about nVidia drivers now, don't we?).

There were a few hiccups along the way (VS2008 for instance) but the basic system was Rock solid...

And then along came SP1 - after which every day was a Blue Screen Day! Yes - every day a STOP ERROR "DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE" 0x0000009F error when I moved the laptop from home to the cafe where I write. SP1 actually installed OK, but it was after I had fixed the newly introduced nVidia drivers issue that the real problem became apparent.

I've now been in regular touch with Microsoft Technical Support for over a month now (though I haven't heard from them for a week), emailed other technical types who run blogs and so forth but the issue is still not resolved... though I hasten to assure you, dear reader, that my system no longer crashes.

Eh? Issue not resolved but not crashing? How come? Simple - turn off the offending piece of Microsoft software - the issue hasn't been resolved but it can be avoided. As of this moment the system has been running continuously for 958,054 seconds (that's 11 days, 2 hours, 7 minutes and 34 seconds). Not bad.

But what is this obscure issue that has so far apparently defeated Microsoft. Obscure - of course.

As noted here I had added a little bit of extra storage (1.3TB of RAID5 to be precise) and set up a persistent iSCSI connection (for technical reasons I shan't bore you with this was Necessary... couldn't do what I needed to do with a simple drive mapping, etc.) It was absolutely fine - until...

SP1. It seems something changed: if an iSCSI connection is set up as persistent, it seems that even an Administrator cannot log-off a session (if it's not persistent logging on and off works just fine). But! If - post SP1 - the laptop is put to sleep, disconnected from the network, moved, woken and reconnected to another network something goes very badly wrong... with the iSCSI port, the Virtual Disk complains and it all goes titsup. I didn't change how I worked, but one day Vista was happy and the next day it had developed epilepsy.

Took me a while to figure this out...I had to download a Microsoft debugging tool (windbg); I had to learn how to use it; I had to decipher the dumps, I had to learn all about IRP's (I/O Request Packet)s... (I know... me me me me me) - and then I had to communicate with various people and still largely do the job for myself (I hasten to add however that all of the people I contacted have been surprisingly willing to help - I'm surprised easily by helpful email support- although unfortunately unable to help... thus far).

It took me three weeks - losing at least half an hour a day to nail this - and I'll go so far as to say, dear Mr Microsoft, that I really wouldn't object to some tangible expression of sympathy (e.g. free upgrade to Ultimate or license to run the existing system under Virtual PC which would have been/may be handy for debugging purposes)

[Suggestion: MS should do this automatically anyway once an incident crosses a certain threshold of severity - no one wants to be without a primary work tool, so clean installs, etc. etc. are (they were for me) completely out of the question... but a lot could have been achieved in a virtual machine and it would go some way to compensating users without actually costing MS anything really. If you are tempted to mentioned e.g. System Restore, please don't.]

The bottom line is: if you are experience regular BSOD's with bccode 0x9F and you use iSCSI and you move the machine just before each crash - check to see if the iSCSI is a persistent connection... if it is, turn it off and see if the problem goes way. (There are similar issues recorded in the MS Knowledgebase for Windows Server 2003 but nothing for Vista)

The sad thing is that Microsoft has still been unable - or unwilling - to acknowledge this issue, and I think a month is perfectly adequate to get that far - a fix might take longer but such a reproducible BSOD should be gently squeezing someone's gonads... just cos you don't log off a connection the whole damn machine shouldn't crash!

And now, some Mozart...

Classic Stuff.