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Author Topic: Living life in the Dark Ages
uilleann
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Icon 8 posted November 20, 2006 17:33            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Once upon a time, PCs were simple little beasts, and you had to do everything for them and clean up after them. Installing a new card into a PC was the stuff of nightmares and probably one of the inspirations of people like Wes Craven. (Not Wes Crusher, he was his very own little nightmare.)

Funny ... never bothered me, I've installed a variety of sound cards in my 486 and I've never had any problems getting them to work. (I've also never had a single SCSI conflict with my Macintosh's SCSI chain.) Put the card in, install the drivers, and go. In the case of my dearly beloved C-Media card, it was driverless! (640 k free conventional RAM ahoy!)

So, these days, we get to Plug and Pray and hope that the deities of BIOS don't plug and prey on us ...

I've had a SoundBlaster Live! Platinum 5.1 supersnazzy sound card in my PC for a couple of years, and it's been nothing but trouble, so today, as part of a general minor upgrade (cannibalising another PC) I put in a new sound card, a totally random-branded C-Media card ... this should be better. But I forgive Creative now ... sort of (I still object to how crap the SB 16 was compared to my old CMI-8330)

For, Windows failed to use the new card. Not enough resources, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. Not enough of what resources? No conflicts, just no resources. I tried the Microsoft site, tried disabling practically every device except the video card and then uninstalled that (new inherited GeForce2 MX 200), and no dice. Poked and prodded the extremely confusing BIOS and reconfigured and reset all of its PCI/ISA settings ... no effect. But then I noticed, that the sound card was not receiving an IRQ. WTF...

I'd put it into a different PCI slot to where the Live! had been, to distance it from any lurking leftovers. OK, what if the new slot is hosed?

Bingo -- it receives an IRQ in the old slot. Windows recognises the card again, installs the drivers again, and prompts now to install the Gameport drivers (it didn't spot that before) ... and locks up!

Good grief ... OK, what if I try another slot? So I take the card back out and put it into the third PCI slot, next to the NIC. The BIOS grants it a different IRQ this time and, magically, both the multimedia controller (sound card) and game port parts work. The MPU-401 MIDI adapter part refuses to let itself be installed, for no reason, so I'm stuck with abominable Windows wavetable MIDI instead of mildly horrendous hardware MIDI.

So now I think I know why my old card would freeze the system if I tried to record audio, or play MIDI -- you can't have two separate IRQs/DMAs running off PCI slot one -- the system simply crashes or (for recording) causes every running app using sound to hang irrecoverably ("The program is probably being debugged and can't be axed. OK we know you haven't installed a debugger really but we're going to keep with this convenient lie regardless because it suits us.")

I still know little about how PCs work, but clearly they're far more ugly and horrible than I ever imagined.

I am now wondering how long it will be before I scrape up the courage to hit record in something to see if the PC locks up again this time ...

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted November 20, 2006 18:20      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If you /really/ want something stupid...take my dealings with Windows and USB keys. It seems that these things must have some form of GUID on them, as well as a manufacturer product code (i.e. not serial number) - Windows sees every USB key inserted as a new one, so long as it has never been inserted into the same exact port before. The same holds true for PC Cards, by the way. At work, I bought USB keys for the whole dept. and then some - all the same model (back then, Lexar Jump Drives - 128 MB -- now SanDisk 1 GB). We've all used them in our own computers, but if we want to share something via SneakerNet, Windows takes ~30 seconds to recognize it the first time around. You'd at least think you'd be safe on your own machine...but if you happen to be using one port and decide to use another one... it needs to rescan it...again. OTOH, Linux and Mac OS X just work. [Smile]

On the matter of PC Cards - awhile ago, I helped someone set up an 802.11b card, along with the encrytion settings, etc. It worked fine for quite sometime...and then I heard that "it wants the driver disk and settings." I was quite baffled by it and looked at the laptop and the messages were true. I pondered it for a minute, as I was quite surprised - what could have changed. I checked the Network Connections settings and saw the correct settings already in there for the device...and a new entry there as well. So I took a closer look and found that the owner, who always carefully puts the laptop in a case, put the PC Card in the bottom slot instead of the top one, which I had configured. Why pay attention to a logical thing like a MAC address when you can use a nonsensical warped IRQ instead?

Years ago, working on a particular junk brand of white boxes, we found that we had to remove the sound card after imaging the machine, because otherwise it would freeze on the first boot. After that, it would recognize the card, and work. There was simply no workaround - the hardware as shipped was just incompatible with itself. Go Windows! (Please...scram!)

In these cases, though, the only real answer is Linux. [Smile] If it's not OEM hardware, Macs can be an utter nightmare, and even so, if something goes wrong, Apple Tech Support is dreadful. When they work, Macs are very nice machines to work on, and the software/OS works quite smoothly. When they don't, they're frustrating as heck.

I hate computers. [Wink]

--------------------
There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

Posts: 9332 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
uilleann
Discontinued


Icon 1 posted November 20, 2006 19:36            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Actually one of the scary parts was when I first moved the card into slot 1, an IRQ got assigned (wahey) but the PC started beeping really erratically and then Windows wouldn't take any input ... D'oh, monitor cable was lying across the keyboard and the BIOS switched off both the keyboard and the mouse ...

But no, I disagree -- you can't blame Windows for the deeds of a useless BIOS. I don't think Windows can really do a lot if the BIOS refuses to report that a drive exists or fails to actually assign an IRQ to a card at all, or assigns conflicting resources to different functions of a card. This isn't Windows, but the ropey architecture of a PC. At least before Plug and Pray, you could forcibly assign settings to whatever you liked ;)

I've not really had a chance to compare Macintoshes -- the Mac firmware is far superior and such problems should not exist. Except you still get silly fun. My Mac's NIC is an Allied Telesyn, with a RealTek chipset. I was sold it as Mac-compatible, but it failed to ship with a Mac driver. The store (MacWarehouse) just said to get the driver from RealTek.

So, can you guess the next bit? The RealTek Mac driver addresses cards by the device name, which is something set as part of the OEM chipset. The RealTek driver looks for a RealTek device name, and the instructions tell you that you have to:

  • Open up Apple System Profiler and write down the device ID reported for the NIC
  • Use a hex editor (and they did point me at one) to substitute the device name in the driver with the one the card uses
  • Save, drop it into Extensions and reboot

And I get you about the whole USB mass storage lark. A friend came over with one, and I had to go through the whole driver installing malarkey again. I renamed the SD card inside my camera when it was mounted on the iMac some time ago, and after that, Windows refused to recognise the camera as USB mass storage and asked for a driver. Because the card name is no longer "SANVOL"? (Windows gives me F: or something, Mac OS X gives me SANVOL). Renamed it back and it was OK ...

Linux, of course, you realise how badly you need a microkernel ;-)

I guess we'll get there one day, maybe ... (A decent personal computer expansion and storage architecture) :P

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TheMoMan
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted November 21, 2006 03:40      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
uilleann__________________________________________A letter to members of an Amatuer television net that runs on a local repeater___Hi Al, Mike & Mike

A Tuesday and Wednesday experience. After Monday nights Net (ATV) I decided to install MMSSTV on the Barn Computer. Now this is not to be taken lightly as all three of you know about my dislike of Winblows. Also the barn is not wired for phone or Ethernet. Tuesday night download MMSSTV not a problem, find floppy and copy file onto floppy. Wednesday Morning 8 o'clock go to barn loaded with floppy containing MMSSTV and two Winblows CD's with 98 and 98se updater. Go back to house to get another HD. Set up machine with one CD-ROM and three HD's Format all drives with UBCD3.3 for DOS fat32. Start-up with the Knoppix CD and setup swap files and HDB1 and 5.

Now put in Winblows and start loading it. Success put in floppy and install MMSSTV, all is well. MMSSTV starts and tells me in a dialog box that it cannot open sound card, fsck that sucks. Now Ubuntu and Knoppix don't have a problem with the sound card, why should Winblows. Pull sound card and look at manufacture date 2002 aaaahhhh newer than the OS that must be the problem. Look through junk box find old ISA sound card yeah that should work, install card and see if Plug and Pray can see it nope not there, it does not even show up during BIOs run at start-up, fsck that sucks. Look in junk box again, find sound card from 1997 that should work nope can't find drivers for new hardware, fsck that sucks too. Now I am really getting frustrated as I try other combinations of cards. Aha look at this I have a Creative labs sound card and over there is a copy of Creative labs Sound-Blaster drivers, fsck that did not work either that sucks again. Put back in the ALs4000 card and go into the house and down load the driver set, fsck its ten Megs that won't go on a floppy, looky over there it is a memory card, load drivers onto memory card and back out to the barn. FSCK Winblows won't read the USB interface of the card. Back into the house and look for USB+SD+drivers that will fit on a floppy. FSCK Goggle has got me in a loop always coming back to the same page that does not have what I want, try Excite hey that worked the drivers were free and only about 400k much better than the 4Meg ones at Google. Back to the barn, open new hardware click that I have disk nope Winblows does not believe me, can you believe that shit. Winblows Winblows Winblows open floppy and copy to my documents tell Plug & Pray to look there, hey it found them. Now I have a Drive G in the devices folder. Go back to install new hardware and tell it that the drivers are in DriveG nope no go FSCK THAT SUCKS. Open Drive "G" myself put files into my documents, go back to install hardware, Plug & Pray and tell it where to look. Success finally click on MMSSTV it opens and no dialog box telling me that it can not open sound card, plug in cable the waterfall and scope screens light up is that ever cool.

Al where is the check mark I have to uncheck on this, please reply in writing so that I can print out the directions and carry them out to the barn.

I have attempted to use this setup for two months however I have yet to get a color picture through only black and white or grey scale. Now the Linux version of this program sees all the hardware and puts up the picture, However it does not have auto slant correction and every picture sent needs a different correction angle.

Remember when we punched in NUM and wrote our own code or some from a book and if it hung up , we turned on trace to see the defect?

--------------------
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted November 22, 2006 10:49      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
More Mac oddities...
http://coop.deadsquid.com/?p=608

--------------------
There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

Posts: 9332 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged


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