Crash and Burn

Date: 2008-11-02 11:52:02 Created: null


Case closed. Thank you for visiting. For full story, read on. For just the solution (hint: it wasn't the butler with the chandelier in the bathroom this time), skip down to the last update.

In the beginning ...

The truth is, Windows XP hasn't been all rosy for me lately. Not at all rosy actualy, much more in the way of cactuses. The fact that I write this in Mozilla on Pigbox (running Mandrake Linux) speaks for itself. This page chronicles my struggles to get my stable OS back after whatever unknown atrocity I commited to get it into this state. That's the introduction, back to the main story ...

Things are going slowly forward in the process of locating and correcting the problem that makes XP shut down spontaneously from some error way too often. The problem has appeared very recently and has put a major dent in my impression of the stability of the OS. Features of XP itself have turned out to be both a help and a hindrance, with the help being more significant but the hindrance feeling plain Microsoftish and silly.

Here's the thing: if you have the right services active (they are by default, but I had them disabled for a while in my quest of optimizing performance) and XP crashes and reboots on you (which also is configurable if you can find it) a dialog box pops up on restart asking if you want to send a bug report. Ignoring my reflexive hesitation against sending any kind of information to Microsoft I've clicked yes in this box the past few times and stared at a nice little progress bar for a few seconds. Once it's done sending you're click to close the window. Then whatever web browser you've set as default pops up and shows you an Online Crash Analysis (fancy name, isn't it?). Here's where the stupidity comes in, if you're not using Internet Explorer you just get a page saying that you can only submit crash reports using that very browser, thank you. You'd think they could at least say why, or specifically start IE for sending the report if that's the only way to do it. But nope.

So, I set IE as default just to see if they'd tell me anything interesting, and they actually did! The crash was caused by a device driver of some kind. Not that much to go on, but still a lot better than anything. Rules out the hard drives I'd had a vague suspicion against for example. I went and updated the drivers for my webcam straight away, but I suspect the Rex cradle and drivers more than the cam. After all, the cradle software always has some service running for itself, and the driver isn't made for XP either. And to top it off it wasn't exactly easy or painfree to get it installed in the first place. So if things keep behaving badly that's something I'll try. Pretty small loss considering how little I use the Rex, but still it's nice to have the option :-) ...

October 1st 2002, 23:45 ...

There might be hope on the horizon! XP crashed once again, just the latest of a long series of crashes today, and shut down as usual. At restart (with detour to 98 to delete some stuff) the usual error report was sent, and the usual error status page came up in IE (yes, I set IE back as default browser just to be able to see the error status that's how often it crashes nowadays ,,,).

But wait!

Maybe there's hope after all (but then, maybe there isn't. When I got to this point in the update the fucking thing restarted once again, that's why I'm on Pigbox writing this ...)! Instead of the usual blame of an undefined device driver the page simply stated that "Error is being researched".

Wow, that's the most promising thing to happen in my relationship with Microsoft in a long time. Maybe they'll actually be able to fix the problem? Sure, it seems unlikely, but maybe, just maybe ...

Sigh ...

They've given themselves another chance, that's the least I can say. Terminus is still running a disk check after the crash while writing about the last crash, so I don't know yet if the problem will still be worked on when it gets back. Somehow a change wouldn't surprise me ... Here's to hoping anyway.

Yes, they still report that they're working on it. I'm going to bed with my confidence in Microsoft increased ever so slightly ...

October 15th, 2002

Ah! Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've reached stability again!

Okay, only as much as can be expected from a Windows system, but still. That's a lot more than I've had recently. I still have some suspicions about running Mozilla and possibly editing lots of text in it, but otherwise things seem peachy again.

So, what did I do? Of course, it was as simple as usual. What I did was a proper uninstall of my display drivers (as opposed to just attempting to install a newer version on top of the old ones, something I've done a couple of times since the problems started). After that I tried to play a game, and sure enough we crashed and burned as usual. The difference this time was that the online crash analysis pinpointed outdated video drivers as the problem and told me to download a newer version. Sure thing, I did, and it's been humming along pretty much ever since. Finally.

Except that possibly-Mozilla-related crash yesterday of course ... Got to have something around to bother you, but at least I can play games again ... Maybe a new version of Mozilla will end the problems for good.

October 27th, 2002

Solved it.


And I mean it this time.

As so (some would say too) often before, it was all my own fault. Only this time it took a long while to be realized and a short time to correct. And it wasn't any of the wild ideas I've written about above either. It was the memory. A while back I read an article on ArsTechnica about tweaking your BIOS settings for better performance. Among the tips were a couple of memory tweaks that I happily applied and noted no immediate effects of. That went on for long enough that I forgot all about it and any possible effect. But then, one evening between now and the last update, I went to bed thinking about solutions and the fragment of a sentence struck me: "set this to ... if you have badass ninja RAM ... otherwise ...". It felt right from the beginning, so I made a note in the Palm (once again it proves its worth) and went to sleep.

Next morning I looked up the article again, noted some relevant-looking settings, went into BIOS and switched to safer things.




About to reinstall Windows XP Service Pack 1, it went away too as part of the troubleshooting, of course to no effect. The download is a lot slower than the first time, but at least it's finishing up now. Now I can stop reporting every crash to Microsoft, stop having IE as the default browser, stop worrying about game crashes ...

Morale: if you tweak things, at least make sure you remember what you did so you can test undoing it if things start going bad at some point in the future.