Web Server Overload

Sorry about the erratic web server behavior today.

Most of my 24/7 computerized services all run off of one machine. The machine runs Windows XP Media Center 2005 and has Virtual Machines for my email and web services. Since it is my everything computer I normally don’t pay attention with what I do with it, but today I started a video conversion job today which took 12 hours or more. A few hours ago I noticed that the web server started to reject people with a web server busy message.

The disk queue length grew large enough that all the services running on the machine started having problems.

In the future if I start another video encoding job I’ll be sure to adjust the process priority such that I won’t have to worry about it again.

—– Rom

Microsoft Windows XP and Hibernation Failure

So today I discovered why my notebook was failing to hibernate when I closed the lid on Windows XP, thanks to Scott Hanselman.

Scott’s article can be found here.

The bug affects all computers that had more than 1GB of RAM. Microsoft finally released a hotfix to the problem here http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=909095

Why did Microsoft wait so long to release this to the public? It appears they had this available for awhile, but you had to call PSS to get it.

—– Rom

Windows Vista RC1 and the Portege M400

So on my vacation in Switzerland my notebook had this annoying problem where it would fail to hibernate when I closed the lib with the Toshiba Portege M400 Windows XP install. Let me tell you, it is annoying to have a notebook fail to hibernate and drains two batteries because it cannot it cannot hibernate. I have both the built-in battery and the add-on slice battery.

The notebook appeared to get stuck in a loop where it would suspend and then when it had been inactive for a period of time it would attempt to hibernate, fail to do so with some sort of System API failure system tray balloon, and then suspend after a period of time. Rinse and Repeat. Uninstalling Toshiba’s power management toolset didn’t fix the hibernation problem, so I suspect it is another device driver that was causing me grief.

Anyway, when I returned home I had received an email from Microsoft informing me they had released Windows Vista RC1 for beta testing, So I repartitioned the HD of the notebook and installed Vista RC1 and I am impressed. My only complaint so far is that I still haven’t gotten BitLocker working, I keep receiving an error stating that the BIOS wasn’t able to pass along information to the MBR and I did upgrade the BIOS to 1.70. Oh well.

Toshiba published a set of Vista drivers for the M400 here:
Microsoft Windows Vista Drivers for the M400

I have only experienced the BSOD two times in a week, both times happened shortly after I installed the fingerprint reader drivers. I uninstalled the fingerprint reader drivers and haven’t experienced a BSOD since.

The touchpad driver package really isn’t Vista friendly, they add startup references to the registry and Windows Defender complains every time you reboot the box asking if it is okay to start them up again. Either Microsoft needs to add them to the approved list, since I couldn’t find a way to do it myself, or the ALPS touchpad people just need to add themselves via the startup group instead of the registry. The good news is that the touchpad works without the touchpad driver package so you can skip it if you want too.

Intel finally got around to getting video drivers for the M400 put into Windows so Aero Glass is supported the very first time you boot up. Hurray.

If you use the tablet features on the M400 you’ll need to install the XP version of the rotation utility found here:
Toshiba Rotation Utility for Windows XP

All in all, I’m a pretty happy camper right now. To top it all of, hibernation works as intended.

—– Rom

Previous Articles:
Toshiba Portege M400, Windows Vista, and BOINC

Toshiba Portege M400, Windows Vista, and BOINC

My Toshiba Portege M200 notebook was in need of an upgrade. A couple weeks ago I purchased an Toshiba Portege M400 and it finally arrived on Wednesday.

After burning the recovery DVD’s I set about installing Windows Vista Beta 2 on it. After my second try I finally got things up and running right, I failed in my first attempt since I attempted to install the Toshiba HDD shock protection driver which caused the BSOD. I searched around the blogshere and found out that the Bluetooth drivers were safe to install so I did that. I also had to change the video driver that Vista picked to the ‘Intel Lakeport Graphics Controller’ in order to view Aero Glass.

So I have everything up and running except the built-in IDE RAID controller and the HDD shock protection driver.

The system has a built-in TPM module which is pretty cool and I’m going to go ahead and try to get Bitlocker running on the machine after I make a backup. What is interesting though is that windows detected and installed the fingerprint reader but hasn’t given me an option of associating a fingerprint with a user account out of the box. Even though the machine comes with a finger print reader I think I’m going to stick with my plan of using smart cards. I’m not gutsy enough for an RFID implant and the finger print readers are a little awkward for me. What would be the bomb for me is an iris scanner.

After a little fiddling around with a manual installation of BOINC it appears to run just fine with Aero Glass. Here is a picture of it.

I’m going to see if the guys at IBM think it would be a cool idea to make the background image in the Simple GUI translucent. I think that would be neat.

BOINC on Windows Vista

So I got my hands on the Feb CTP of Windows Vista. All I can say is… WOW, nice eye candy.

I haven’t been gutsy enough to actually load it up on a real computer yet, I installed it on a virtual machine using Microsoft Virtual PC 2004. I did run into a few problems in the beginning, it turns out that Vista didn’t like my captured DVD-ROM and I had to capture a virtual DVD-ROM to actually keep the Vista setup program from crashing. A couple of problems with running Vista under emulation is that Vista removed support for ISA devices, so it doesn’t support the emulated sound card and of course the emulated video card doesn’t support Aero Glass.

Instructions for setting up Vista to run on Virtual PC 2004 can be found here.

The first thing I did after getting it all setup was to install BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) on it. There are a few things I need to do to improve the user experience of BOINC on Vista, for instance opening up the firewall so that the various components can talk to one another.

One thing I noticed is that services run in terminal services session 0 instead of the console session. This completely ruined my plans for a more secure design without the need of the local system account to display graphics for science applications. When you sign in with a real user account the console is moved to which ever session is assigned to the user logging in. I have not discovered a way to move an application window from one terminal server session to another.

My revised design up until this point was to create two user accounts for BOINC, one for boinc.exe to use and manage the sciences applications and the other one for the science applications themselves. Now the account for boinc.exe would manage the file permissions such that the contents of the BOINC directory itself would be off limits to the science applications and the account for the science applications would be limited to the project and slots directories.

Now to make all of the work with the screensaver involved the screensaver asking boinc.exe ‘Which user account is running the science applications?” which boinc.exe would pass back the name. Now the screensaver would proceed to modify the current desktop and window station ACL’s to allow that user to create and display windows within that desktop and window station. Then the science application would be informed of which windows station and desktop to display itself on. Everything was fine until Vista.

We may only be able to support the single-user installation scenario for graphics on Vista until I can figure out a better way to display graphics in the screensaver.

—– Rom