pip_r_lagenta (pip_r_lagenta) wrote,

Not Blaming Vista, While At The Same Time Blaming Vista

This last week has been a profoundly weird week for me in a widely divergent number of ways.  Weird things happened around the house, weird things happened with family interactions, weird things happened at work, with both immediate and other more far reaching things going on, at work, and then un-happened.  Some of this is too boring (boring for you, an outsider) for me to write about, some of it is too "Family" to write about.  And this last week is the week that I chose to try to get my computer fixed.

All the weirdness, this week, came out of the blue, but the computer problem has been frustrating me for a freeking year.  I wrote extensively about my computer problems in my last blog (Multitasking: It Seems That I Can't Blame Vista For This; 2009-07-13 11:06:00).  I will try to keep repetition to a minimum.

The support tech at Puget Custom Computers solved the problem.  The problem was not what I thought it was going to be.  The real problem was an issue that I thought I had addressed.  The problem was a driver problem.  I had, nearly a year ago, systematically gone through the every device listed in the Device Manager and searched for, and installed, any new driver located by Vista.  ...and there is the problem: I trusted Vista to actually locate vital drivers.

Why was I concerned about drivers at all?  My Hard drive had failed, and I had replaced it with a new, blank, hard drive.  I then had to install the Vista operating system.  Much about Vista did not work, but that slowly improved as I installed the better drivers that I located using Vista’s Device Manager.  I went right down the list and checked every device listed... checked them twice, then I moved on to other things.  This week I learned that that was not good enough.

For the last year, my computer would not multitask (as written about in my last blog).  For too long, I laid the blame on Vista.  Then other people convinced me that Vista would not do that, stop a computer from multitasking.  I went into BIOS to confirm that both CPU cores were enabled.  The CPU cores were enabled, but while I was in BIOS I looked around for settings that might enable multitasking.  I had some luck with changing a setting which produced a very small, but demonstrable, improvement in CPU performance.  This lead me to think that if I found the correct setting in BIOS, I could fix the multitask problem.

BIOS is a complete freeking nerdfest.  BIOS settings represent the epitome of obfuscation.  Each setting could have utterly benign or wildly disastrous results.  The descriptions of the settings within BIOS are piss-poor at best.  There was not available to me any documentation indicating correct BIOS settings.  This has always pissed me off about computers: the lack of documentation.  Textbooks on computer repair always suggest checking the documentation.  To which I always respond "There is no freeking documentation, goddamnit!But the textbooks never reply.

So, seeking information on BIOS settings, I contacted my computer’s assembler, Puget Custom Computers, of Kent, Washington.  The Puget service tech had me check, in BIOS, to see if both CPU cores were enabled, which was the first thing that I had checked back when I first started suspecting the BIOS settings as the possible culprit.  Where I had thought "If it is not the duel CPU core settings in BIOS, then it might be another more obscure BIOS setting that is the problem", the Puget service tech behaved as if he thought "If it is not the duel CPU core settings in BIOS, then we should look at things other than BIOS settings".  This we did.

Via the magic of remote control, the Puget service tech (in the Seattle area) got inside my computer for a look-around.  He found some puzzling things in the Start-up menu.  But that came to naught.  The tech found that two of the drivers were a bit out of date.  One was the video driver.  I did not think that my problems were video problems.  I updated the video driver, nonetheless.  But the other... oh the other driver!

According to Vista, all of the drivers are up to date, with no newer drivers available.  Fool that I am, I believed Vista.  But what choice did I have, really?  The only way to find out if a driver is the newest driver available is to check the driver itself.  And to do that, you have to use the Operating System, Vista.  Vista is adamant the all of the drivers (checked individually, you can’t check drivers in a group) are up to date.  But the Puget service tech brings up the subject of this second driver.

The Puget service tech says that this second driver, the mainboard driver, is out of date.  "Mainboard"?  Does he mean "Motherboard"?  I go to "Device Manager".  There is no "mainboard", and there is no "motherboard" in "Device Manager".  What would Vista call the motherboard if not "Motherboard" or "Mainboard"?  It wouldn’t be an "Ethernet" driver: that would make no sense at all!  My systematic updating of drivers missed the motherboard driver because there is no "motherboard" listed in "Device Manager".  But wait, there’s more.  The motherboard manufacturer, XFX, tightly holds their drivers, and only releases them to registered motherboard owners.  Vista could not have updated the driver if it wanted to.

After registering as the motherboard owner with XFX, I find that they call their motherboard driver an "Ethernet driver".  And that, my dear friends, is just plain nuts.  But wait, there’s more.  The XFX motherboard driver comes as part of a suite of drivers that includes a variety of crap along with, among other things, a RAID driver.  Man, talk about over-kill.

At the same place that I get the motherboard driver, I also find a download for a manual to the motherboard.  In a word, documentation!  I grab that the second that I see it.  Guess what are in the manual to the motherboard... the recommended BIOS settings!  Hot Dog.

After I loaded the new video and mainbord drivers, my computer seems to be able to multitask.  The next day, I set to, giving my computer as tough a multitasking test as I can think up.  I put on some music, open Photoshop, open the film editing program, and I pile on open photo files in Photoshop and load an hour’s worth of video into the film editing program.  The music never skips a beat, and the moving picture in the film editing program never turns into a slide show.  I call it fixed.

I should have called on the Puget people sooner.  But I was so beaten down by Microsoft Vista that I had given up any hope that a computer with the Microsoft Vista operating system could work in anything close to a reasonable fashion.  Vista has destroyed my productivity utterly.  I will never be able to do those things that I so loved doing with XP.  I produced things in those days that made me happy.  But now, thanks to Vista, I will never come close to being that productive ever again.  I am struggling to build a new skill set.  I am years away from producing things like those that I used to produce on the computer.  The new skill set that I am building is a different skill set.  When I do, at last achieve my new skill set, I will produce things different than those that I produced in the past.  I will try my damndest to make that into a good thing.

 --Pip R. Lagenta

Tags: bios, computer, computer repair, drivers, microsoft, multitasking, puget, vista, xfx
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