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HunterZ Talks Hardware

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First post, by HunterZ

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Currently having no life, I find myself sitting in front of my computer on a Friday night. In an attempt to make myself feel better, I've decided to bore you all with the latest stuff I've been doing with my new computer:

A New Old Monitor:

I don't know if I ever mentioned that I picked up an oldish 21" CRT montior on sale at Boeing Surplus for around $20. Seems to run well, although I'd like to open it and adjust the internal brightness and focus controls on the flyback transformer (since, as with many old CRTs, I have to turn the brightness all the way up to get it to a reasonable level).

I now have a dual-CRT setup on my Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, with the 21" running at 1600x1200@75Hz and my 17" Samsung running at 1280x960@85Hz. This has proven essential with the 8 hours of telecommuting I've been putting in every week, as the development I do at work is on dual 1280x1024 LCDs.

Fancy Speakers Can Suck Too:

I plopped down somewhere between $250-300 for a set of Logitech Z-5500 speakers a couple months ago, and they have turned into a long story: around a month ago, a Cirrus Logic chip in the control box fried itself while the unit was in standby mode (i.e. turned "off" but still plugged in, so the power light was red instead of blue and the LCD display was off). At first, Logitech wanted me to pay to send the whole damned unit back (big-ass subwoofer and all!). Fortunately (as it turned out), I decided to wait a couple weeks because I was planning to go to Las Vegas for my roommates' wedding (which was a blast, btw, despite the travel agent totally fucking up my airplane and hotel reservations). I say this because when I called back a couple weeks later, I found out that I was bitten by what Logitech has since realized to be a significant design defect. As a result, they promised to ship me a brand new unit free of charge (and with no need to return my broken unit!) which would arrive in 7-10 business days.

Fast forward to today, which just happens to be the 10th business day: Having not received my speakers, I called Logitech and asked what was going on. I was informed that they hadn't started shipping the new revisions yet, and had told me that I was supposed to receive a new unit by today because they were being kept in the dark about when the new units would actually be available. They claimed that they (Logitech Sales) will now be receiving a shipment on the 22nd of this month, and since I called they will be sending my replacement via Priority shipping. I plan to call them back around the 26th or 27th to get an update.

What a mess!

Vitamin RAID:

My roommate has been complaining lately that we're running low on shared disk space on our LAN, so I started shopping around for hard drives. Yesterday I saw that my local computer parts store, CompuCare, was putting on a sale for 250GB Seagate SATA hard drives: $140 each, a savings of $50. The best deals on Pricewatch were only up to $5-10 less, so I stopped by and picked up two of them. When I got home, I realized that that cheap-o 550w power supply I got didn't have SATA power connectors (of course), and that Gigabyte was too cheap to include adapters with my motherboard. So, I ran back down there today and plopped down another $11 for a 1-Molex-to-2-SATA converter cable (I don't plan to do anything fancy like hot-swapping, so it should do fine).

I had the drives mounted in my case last night, so all I had to do was hook up the power and data cables. I then entered the config utility for the on-board Sil3512 chip on my mobo and set up a striped RAID 0 array with the auto-selected 16KB chunk size. I should mention that using the utility to set up the array took less time than writing about it just did.

Anyways, I booted into Windows XP (onto which I had already loaded the latest drivers for my SATA chip last night) and it saw the new drives as one big 500GB drive (yay!). It's been formatting for at least a good hour now, but is at 96%. I let Windows use its default allocation unit size of 4KB, as I couldn't find any good info on good striping chunk-versus-allocation unit size combinations. I figure it doesn't matter too much anyways, as I plan to use the drives mostly for large games and multimedia files (and probably my swap file). I'm not going to try to move my boot partition over there, as I don't think the risks and effort will be worth it.

Last edited by HunterZ on 2005-04-09, 14:23. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 27, by fed1943

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Mister:that is not boring,is dishearting,if this mess happen to a expert,what can happen to me?
And about having no life,maybe you should wait forty years for that happen.
Best regards,

just younger than computers

Reply 2 of 27, by Snover

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This has been a bad week indeed for many many people, myself included. One of the drives on my RAID failed and subsequently caused filesystem corruption. Story, and major problems encountered, here. After that, as I was making backups preparing for the reload, my external backup drive failed. All in all, not a good week for my hard drives. I finally got replacements today (this happened last Wednesday). I need to decide what backup software to use -- right now I'm just copying my important data, but I'd like to not need to spend hours restoring my programs if this happens again in the future.

I'd like to be able to create an exact copy of everything on my drive to the external drive, without needing to reboot into something such as DOS Ghost. I don't want to have the backup encapsulated in any strange format, and I want to be able to have it span onto a second drive when the amount of data I have is larger than the external drive (the external drive is 400GB; my internal is 800GB). Ideas? Does Ghost 9 allow this? (I know it runs from Windows, but the last time I tried using it to make a backup of a running system, it bluescreened.)

Yes, it’s my fault.

Reply 3 of 27, by DosFreak

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Acronis True Image can backup your OS/Drives without having to reboot. Use it all the time. It does use it's own format tho. Also don't know about spanning across HD's but it spans across CD's just fine.

uhhh, you have 800gb of Data.....? WTF is on there? Pr0n? 😉

Are the Nvidia RAID/Firewall/NIC really that buggy?

I really haven't used my Nforce 2 Onboard NIC (Rather use my integrated 3Com), and I don't trust mobo RAID except for simple functions like RAID0/1.

Was thinking about getting an Nforce 4 eventually but I really don't like beta hardware/software which is usually why I wait so long to pick it up.

Reply 4 of 27, by Snover

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Acronis uses Linux. Not only will it not work because I won't be able to access the filesystem from within Windows (and I think it uses archives anyway), it won't work because the nvraid drivers for Linux don't work.

I don't use the nVidia Firewall/NIC, I use the Marvell NIC, so I can't attest to the bugginess of the nVidia LAN, but from what I've read it's quite spectacularly bad in many, many situations. I can attest to the crappiness of the NVRAID, but I think that it can be quite good if they just make some good software updates.

Yes, it’s my fault.

Reply 5 of 27, by DosFreak

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Hmmmm, I'll test my copy of Ghost32 v8 for online backups, every time I've used Ghost I just did offline backups. Ghost 9 is a POS, IMO.

Earlier vers of Acronis had trouble with the Silicon Image controller on the Nforce2, I guess the Nforce3/4 have a propeitary controller? Hmmm, good info to know....

EDIT Nope, Ghost32 can't do it. Requires exclusive access.

from forums.nvidia.com

Here is the answer from Acronis. nVidia needs to get busy and release the open-source drivers for this, it's really screwing us […]
Show full quote

Here is the answer from Acronis. nVidia needs to get busy and release the open-source drivers for this, it's really screwing us customers that they have not!!! It really limits what software can work with this motherboard!!

"We regret to inform that current version of Acronis True Image doesn't support NVidia RAID when you boot from Acronis Bootable CD. The reason for this is lack of open source drivers for the NForce chipset. Currently you cannot add any drivers into Acronis Bootable CD. Please note that this CD is build-specific, not system-specific do it even doesn't matter on which computer it is created.

NVRAID support will be implemented as soon as the open source drivers for it are available."

Same reason Partition Magic 8 fried my boot sector and cost me several days work... angry.gif

Well....so much for getting an Nforce4. 😠

Reply 6 of 27, by DosFreak

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Some imaging tools I found on my BartPE disc. Don't use 'em because Acronis works for me, these are for when Acronis doesn't work:

www.drivesnapshot.de
http://www.partition-saving.com
DrvImagerXPwpe (Discontinued search around on net)

DiskTools ImageMaker
www.disk-tools.com

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Reply 7 of 27, by DosFreak

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Interesting....

Looks like R-Linux can make images...Had this on my BartPE CD too but didn't know it could do this.

www.r-tt.com

I doubt any of these will do online backups but I'll give 'em a whirl.

Reply 8 of 27, by DosFreak

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Damn my altheimer's,

Just remembered while watching the A-Team Season 2 DVD! "I pity da' fool!" that there's a plugin for Acronis True Image for BartPE.

Plugin enables the Windows version to work on BartPE.

So you can do an online backup of your system while in Windows.
When you need to restore simply boot up BartPE, load up Acronis for Windows and restore!

The Acronis True Image Plugin is on the 911 CD Forum: http://www.911cd.net/forums/

I haven't tried it yet because the Acronis CD has worked fine for the systems I use it for.

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Reply 9 of 27, by MiniMax

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Re: Acronis TrueImage plug-in for BartPE.

An official plug-in from Acronis is on its way, initially only for the more expensive Enterprise version, but Acronis has indicated that they will make it available to individuals who have problems with the Linux-based Rescue CD (e.g. when no Linux driver is available for RAID/SATA/USB/FireWire controllers).

The plug-in is still byggy and sensitive to how the PE is built, so it not ready for prime time yet.

Snover wrote:

Acronis uses Linux. Not only will it not work because I won't be able to access the filesystem from within Windows (and I think it uses archives anyway), it won't work because the nvraid drivers for Linux don't work.

50% true. You should be able to image your NVRAID drives from within Windows, but if you need to do a "bare-metal restore" you will have problems. If you have the image of the boot+OS partition on a DVD or on an non-RAID'ed external USB/FireWire disk, you should be able to restore the OS, boot into Windows, and continue the restore of your data onto your RAID'ed disk.

Snover wrote:

I want to be able to have it span onto a second drive when the amount of data I have is larger than the external drive (the external drive is 400GB; my internal is 800GB)

True Image can make images of individual partitions, and it can split the image into smaller (sub)image-files. As long as the image file(s) for an individual partition can fit on your external 400 GB drive, you should be okay.

More info here:
http://www.wilderssecurity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=65

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Reply 10 of 27, by Snover

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We use a program called xxcopy to create customer data backups here at work (seriously, rsync anyone? whatever...). Apparently the company also makes a really nice clone utility called (guess!) xxclone. It's a time-limited beta (expires every 30 days after build), but it does what needs to be done -- full incremental drive clone from within Windows. If I ever needed to clone back I could just use Ghost 8 off a floppy disk or something. It's working very nicely.

Yes, it’s my fault.

Reply 12 of 27, by DosFreak

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Just keeping it warm for ya, man. 😀

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Reply 13 of 27, by MiniMax

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DosFreak - just in case you have not done so already, check out the progress by these True Image & BartPE hackers.

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Reply 14 of 27, by DosFreak

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Yeah, was thinking about it but there's probably not much point. Almost all of the posts in that forum are of people whining for a Plugin and the other half just testing it but not really providing any usefull input. The "Acronis Support" user doesn't appear to be very helpful. Most of the time while looking for answers on the forum, the "Support" doesn't really provide any answers except to post that the user should post the problem so he can relay it to the techs. I'd probably get more usefull help from the 911 CD Forums.

I've pretty much hit a wall with Build 774 of True Image Server 8. Looking around some of the issues with backing up appear to be problems with older versions of True Image (Latest is 826?), I did try a newer snapapi.dll but it required a newer ver of Acronis. So I'll be downloading a newer ver of Acronis sometime this week and testing it out. So with luck my plugin isn't really the problem, the problem is probably with using an older version of TI, but like I said it restores fine just no backup for now.

Reply 15 of 27, by DosFreak

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Okay, cleaned up my plugin and reverified the reg keys, then I posted at Wilders. Will probably get some useless posts but what the heck. I did try some newer snapapi, snapman files which seems to get me the same behavior that the other forum posters were having. Guess we'll have to wait till Acronis releases a later ver.

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Reply 16 of 27, by MiniMax

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My turn ....

A couple of months ago, my semi-new company laptop crashed with a Blue Screen of Death. When I tried to reboot Win2K, I would get lots of errors about missing files, including the important ones like NTLDR and NTOSKRNL.EXE.

And - I had no backup of the system 🙁

It wasn't a big deal, since I was still using the old one (a lovely little 300 MHz Dell with a whooping 6 GB drive) because of all the extra work I would have with transplanting all my applications and settings to the new laptop. Normally, I would just have returned it to our internal support group, but since I am working at a client site I rarely go to our main office, so I decided to try to see if I could get it back up and running.

I heard about this program called SpinRite which claimed to be able to salvage and restore bad disk sectors. It reminded me of one of the diagnostics tools that the techinal support guy used on a mini-computer we had at the university. Every month he would come by, clean the air-filters, calibrate the tape drive, and run diagnostics on the disk drive. The drives (big, big drives - physically at least - the size of a washing sink, but only with like 400 MB) had an intelligent controller that logged read errors for each sector, and the number of re-reads required to get data from sector, or complete read failures. The disk diagnostic tool would read the logs, and could then force multiple re-reads of failed sectors until it got a read where the checksum matched. Then it would write the sector to a spare area, and insert a relocation entry in an internal disk allocation map making the data movement transperant to the OS and the applications. Nifty.

SpinRite can do similar stuff, and they offered a refund if I was not satisfied with it, so I thought it was worth a try.

The first run reported (not surprisingly) that the laptop drive was about to die! I guess it got the hint from the S.M.A.R.T. info which included a +2000 count of re-allocated sectors (which means, I need to find a program that will monitor the S.M.A.R.T. logs on my other drives and notice me of any problems. Suggestions anyone? - Windows only, please). I pressed ahead, and SpinRite found 10 bad sectors, but only managed to salvage 2 of them. And the laptop would still not boot.

I wrote back to SpinRite's helpdesk and asked what to do next. They said that running it a second was not likely to help and would only increase the risk of a totally dead drive. They recommended that I unplugged the drive and contacted a professional data recovery service.

Oh well - that was way too much hassle, since I had nothing of real value on the drive - I was just interested in seeing if I could get it up and running again, so I was planning to just apply for a SpinRite refund.

I had almost written off the drive when I decided to "Spin" it a couple of times more. I am not sure what happended, because SpinRite was still not able to recover any more sectors, but after 2-3 runs, I accidentially allowed the laptop to boot from the hard disk - and it allowed me to log in!!! 😀

I quickly launched NTBackup, and made a full backup (include the all-mighty System State) to my desktop over the LAN. I also used a little program called Keyfinder 1.41 to retrieve the MS Windows and MS Office installation keys.

Then I went out and bought a new 60 GB Hitachi Travelstar, replaced the failed drive, and started to figure out how to restore the system from by backup - something I had never tried before.

The first step was to format the new disk. The old one had 2 partitions, C for MS Win2K, MS Office, and other official, company-sanctioned stuff", and D for data and personal applications. For my restore attempts, I decided that I needed 3 partitions - 2 to match the original layout, and a 3rd to host a temporary Windows install from which I could launch NTBackup and complete the restore.

Installing the temporary Win2K was easy enough, but the Win2K-SP4 CD (which I had to borrow from a co-worker) did not include an Etherdriver for the laptop - essential since the backup was on my desktop! And I did not have a diskette drive on the laptop either. Luckily the Win2K-SP4 recognised my USB memory stick, so I soon had an Ethernet driver installed and could transfer to backup file to the laptop.

Restoring the C and D partition was a piece of cake, and editing C:\BOOT.INI to recognize both Win2K installs was no problem either. But when I tried to restore the so-called "System State" to its "Original Location", something went terribly wrong. I am not sure what, how, and why. I think NTBackup loaded some Registry-stuff from the backup into its "Original Location" - which it must have interpreted as the Registry of the currently running Win2k = my temporary Win2K install. Anyway, it left my temporary install unusable, so I had to do a re-install (repair did not work either).

Back again with a fresh, temporary Win2K, I started down a process of booting the old Win2K, making a note of the missing file, booting the temporary Win2K, and putting the missing file in place. One of the missing files was C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM - which is part of the registry! I found the original SYSTEM file inside that "System State" once I had restored it to an "Alternate Location" instead of the "Original Location" that destroyed my temporary system a few hours earlier. 8-9 reboots later, I was no nearer a bootable system, and decided to try something else 😉

I noticed that the "System State" in its alternate location (which was just sub-directory on my 3rd partition) contained not only 5-6 of the Registry files, but also an "C_" and "D_" folder with major parts of an Win2K install, including many of the files that I previously been copying into the real C:\WINNT folder after a failed reboot. With nothing to loose, I simply dragged the contents of "C_" onto the real C:, "D_" onto D:, and also copied all the files in the Registry-folder into C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM.

A reboot and 30 seconds later, I was logged into my old Win2K install!! The only thing it complained about was a missing Logitech keyboard DLL, which I copied from desktop system.

End of story.

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Reply 17 of 27, by DosFreak

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Hey thanks for the reminder about spinrite. Haven't used it for an extremly long time. Looking through my HD I found v3 made back in 1993. Whoah. Just got v6 so I'll be testing that out tonight. Weird that he's still using DOS (FreeDOS YEAH!), but if it it works....

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Reply 18 of 27, by DosFreak

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Just bumped my FSB/MEM up to 175 (from 166). Asus A78NX. Doing some heavy testing but so far everything is quite stable. Sweeeeeeetttt... Now if I was just brave enough to do voltage mods....

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Reply 19 of 27, by Alkarion

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DosFreak, you have Spinrite v3 from 1993 on you HD? Do you keep all your old stuff on your disk or have you been making regular backups since then?

I was not so prudent and lost much data from back then. Only small portions remain which I copied on floppy disks. But floppy disks are dying quickly, so 10 percent of this data is lost also.