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  • Windows 7 Chkdsk Prompt Hangs At 1 Second: How I Fixed It

    Posted on January 5th, 2010 Brian No comments

    A few weeks back, something bad happened to my computer.  I’m not sure what, but my nightly backup reported a failure to run due to corrupted folders.  So I immediately pulled out the toolbox and scheduled a chkdsk for the next reboot.  And then I rebooted.

    Chkdsk Prompt on a Windows XP MachineWhen Windows rebooted, I was greeted with the familiar notice, “A disk check has been scheduled.”  As anyone familiar with Windows knows, you then get a ten second countdown to abort the disk check.  I waited (10…9…8…) patiently (7…6…) while it ticked (5…) off (4…) every (3…) excruciating (2…) number (1…), and then … nothing.  I had one second left, permanently.  The computer had frozen, and hitting the any key did nothing.  Hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL did nothing, either, and so I was forced to hard-off the machine.

    On reboot, I received the same prompt, and once again it hung at one second.  I couldn’t even get it to abort the disk check, the very purpose for the countdown prompt!  Woe is me!  I was stuck in a reboot loop.  At this point, I am going to fast forward over the gory details of booting the rescue tools off my install CD, unlocking my encrypted drive, fixing the disk, resetting my TPM state, and all that.  Trust me, it’s for the best.  But in the end, I had a working machine again.

    Last night, and right before bed no less, I encountered the same problem.  Googling led me to the same results I had seen before.  But this time, reading through the top result, there was a new post.  The comment by Tayloradical on December 10 recommended removing all the peripherals, including any SD card.  I have lots of peripherals, including an SD card I use for ReadyBoost.  After a somewhat systematic cycle of decoupling and rebooting, the chkdsk finally kicked off normally after removing the SD card!

    So, if you encounter this problem, try removing your SD card, and maybe some other peripherals as well.

    2010-02-02 update: This is a known issue, and Microsoft has issued a hotfix.  Also, for my machine at least, the fix has been rolled into a update sp46718  from HP.

  • Fun Little Bug In Windows 7: Control Panel Back Button

    Posted on November 2nd, 2009 Brian No comments

    Here’s a fun little bug I stumbled across in Windows 7: It appears that the back button in the control panel does not properly update the quick navigation links on the left-hand side bar.

    1. Open Control Panel.
    2. Click on Appearance and Personalization.
    3. Click on Preview, delete, or show and hide fonts (under Fonts).
    4. Click the Back button (far upper left).
    5. Click on Network and Internet in the left-hand side bar.
    6. WTF?!

    Here’s a video of the bug in operation.  This is using the fancy new HTML 5 video tag, so if you can’t see it, here’s a lame Flash version instead.

  • Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 3: From Release Candidate to Final Version

    Posted on October 31st, 2009 Brian No comments

    I was running the Windows 7 Release Candidate for many months prior to the October 22 public release.  I had pre-ordered the new version, and it conveniently arrived on the release day.  Anxious to see what was changed, I promptly set about upgrading.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy upgrade path from the RC.  The process forces a complete re-install (although there are some work-arounds).  I’m okay with that, though, since I had beat my RC install to a pulp experimenting with different drivers and hacks to get my Qualcomm Gobi 3G card working.  (I never really did.)

    My Upgrade Process

    The upgrade process I took was simple: Plug in my external hard drive, back up my machine using Windows Backup – including a system image – and then wipe the drive and start from scratch.  I had used similar processes in the past, although usually using a Linux Live CD and dd.  However, the Windows 7 Backup creates system images in a VHD format, and Windows 7 can also mount VHD images natively, making this a much simpler solution.  Also, it neatly sidestepped any issues I might have had with my encrypted Bit Locker hard drive.

    I’m pleased to report that the re-install process was a cakewalk, and the recovery of my data was virtually flawless.  The only hiccups were caused by my own stupidly.  I limited the files I had backed up in order to speed up the process, and found out later I wanted them.  Fortunately, they were still on the system image, and the VHD mount worked as-expected.

    Though my technique may not be for everyone, it works for the tech-savvy control-freak like me.

    Stuff That’s Fixed

    The good news is that HP’s new drivers for the Qualcomm Gobi 3G modem work flawlessly in the final version of Windows 7.  Hopefully they’ll eventually switch to use the new broadband driver stack built in to the new OS, but I’m not holding my breath.  They do work, though, and that’s enough.

    The VMWare NAT issue was actually cleared up by an update to VMWare while I was still running the RC.  I am mentioning it here to close the loop on the earlier post.

    And that’s it, really.  It’s not that there aren’t any more fixes, but that the RC was so solid for me that I had no gripes worth mentioning.  For those who suffered through Vista’s growing pains, this is a huge step up for Microsoft.  I suspect the large beta program and massive release candidate program helped immensely in this area.

    Wish List

    Here is my one gripe: Windows sizes the desktop background based on which monitor is designated as your “Primary”.  I dual monitor using my wide screen laptop display and a 4:3 stand-alone monitor, and I prefer the stand-alone screen as my primary.  Thus, I often get stupid black bars surrounding the background on my laptop display, because the image has been sized for the non-wide screen.

    I am hard-pressed to think of a situation where this makes sense.  Hopefully Microsoft will make the “Fill” desktop background option actually fill on differently sized screens.  But in the meantime, this is a minor, minor thing.

    And it should tell you something that such a ridiculously minor thing is all that I can find to complain about.

  • Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 2: Multi-Monitor Support

    Posted on July 14th, 2009 Brian No comments

    My Desk with Docked LaptopOne of the awful, terrible, no-good parts of Vista was its multi-monitor support.  My set up is a laptop mounted in a docking station with a second monitor.  My mobile nature means I frequently dock and undock the laptop, requiring the operating system to detect how many screens there are, switch the primary display to and from the external monitor, and move all the windows back and forth, possibly repositioning them because of the difference in resolutions. Adding to the chaos is that I frequently sleep and wake the computer, sometimes docking it or undocking it while asleep, or shortly after waking.

    Vista failed at this horribly.  Often it would fail to detect the new display, requiring me to hit the external-monitor toggle key several times.  On occasion it would detect the new display, but then drive the new monitor at the wrong resolution.  Sometimes, after the first full moon on the second Tuesday of a month where the average temperature had been between fifty-four and sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (I think), it would forget which monitor was supposed to be the primary, and I would be forced to re-tweak the settings for three days in a row – and then all would suddenly be fine again.

    I won’t even mention what would happen if I put the laptop to sleep, undocked it, and woke it up later!  But to add insult to injury, the churnings of the graphics subsystem would cause flickers and re-sizes for five to ten seconds while it was figuring out whether things would work or not.  The entire experience was nothing short of maddening!

    I am pleased to report, however, that Windows 7 has been flawless.  It never fails to correctly identify the monitors present, nor does it ever forget which display is supposed to be primary.  The resolutions are always correct, and it makes the appropriate adjustments quickly and with no flicker.  It even handles with aplomb every combination of sleeping, waking, docking, and undocking I can think of!

    In short, it does exactly what it should.  Finally!

  • Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 1: Qualcomm Gobi 3G Modem and VMWare NAT

    Posted on May 28th, 2009 Brian No comments

    So I went ahead and installed Windows 7 RC 1.  The process is remarkably smooth, and the OS is nicely polished.  The new task bar is a long-overdue change, formerly difficult or esoteric system tasks are now simple and obvious, and the Libraries paradigm in Explorer has pleasantly surprised me.

    But that’s not to say there aren’t some niggling issues.  This is a new release – nay, a pre-release – of the most popular operating system in the world.  There are bound to be some compatibility problems.  What is truly amazing is how well things work right out-of-the box.

    As I use the OS day-to-day, I’ll post some updates about real-life surprises and tribulations.  Here are my first two.

    Qualcomm Gobi 3G Modem

    Winodws 7 recognized almost every single piece of hardware on my HP Elitebook 8530w, including the silly fingerprint reader and the webcam I never use.  The one thing it didn’t already have drivers for was the built-in Qualcomm Gobi un2400 modem 3G.  What’s worse, the Vista drivers from HP’s support site don’t install, either.

    Fortunately, some amazingly enterprising soul figured out the problems, and was not only able to divine how to install the drivers, but then even wrote a schnasty little program to force-feed the Gobi modem its appropriate firmware.  Major kudos!  Unfortunately for me, it still doesn’t work.  There’s some magic incantation that isn’t being done quite right for my AT&T setup, so I’ll have to wait until the drivers get updated.  Hopefully that’ll be soon – paying for a data plan I’m not using is rather annoying.

    But, really, given how esoteric and fragile these 3G modems are, it’s not that surprising something bjorked their spaghetti-like functioning.  (Did you read the “More About The Firmware” section at that link?!)

    VMWare NAT Failure

    The only other true problem I’ve had is with VMWare Workstation 6.5.  It works like a charm, except that NAT routing fails to work correctly.  Interestingly, the guests can ping out, but other connections fail.  It’s a known issue, though, and will certainly be fixed soon.  And the work-around is simple enough: Just use bridging instead.