nvidia raidtool installation for nvidia chipsets

I have had a heck of a time with Nvidia chipsets not installing their RAID tool automatically or with the chipset install for some reason. Ran across a thread tonight that had instructions.

  1. Download and install the chipset driver from the nvidia website.
  2. Extract the files (install 7zip then right click on the chipset drivers, extract to folder.
  3. Go into the folder and into the “raidtool” directory. Right click on raidtool.cab, choose 7zip, then “unzip to folder”.
  4. Copy that folder to c:program files.
  5. run RegRaidSedona.Bat.
  6. enjoy the ability to manage your raid sets in windows now.

changing the default escape in the hyper-v console

(I am putting this here mainly so I can find it again.)

In order to change the default escape key combination in the hyper-v console, instructions are here.

Basically: “You can change the release key combination (CTRL + ALT + LEFT ARROW) by going to the Hyper-V Manager and selecting Hyper-V Server Settings… and then Release Key and selecting one of the options from the drop down (I usually change my release key combination to be CTRL + ALT + SHIFT as I find it easier to type).”

w7 plus the touch mouse pad

I use Dell laptops and always disable the touchpad because it doesn’t do anything but get in the way and sent my pointer 2 paragraphs up without my knowledge or consent. There is no built in way to do this, so I had to use the Synaptec drivers for vista to load the utility so I could disable it. (Yes, the vista versions load just fine.)

vista sound for htpc

I have spent quite a bit of time on my vista media center’s audio setup. (Too much time really.) One of the things I am doing that most folks do not is that I am processing the audio inside the computer and outputting the analog channels to amplifiers directly. For me this setup works great.. I don’t have a fancy receiver that’ll do the processing that I want all in one place, so what I did was buy several older receivers that do not support DD or any of the latest stuff (because they are very inexpensive now). So there’s one running the mains, another running the two center speakers, one for the rears, and of course I have my sub amp already. Long term my goal is to replace these older receivers with some nice amplifiers.

Anyway, there are a few gotchas that I have learned while doing this, and I will attempt to list (some of!) them here.

  • “Select Full Range Speakers” during Vista speaker setup

This one seems easy.. i have full range speakers in front and rear, so that seems like the thing to check.. unfortunately, this is not the case. If you read this blog entry carefully, you can see that what happens when you check this box is “In other systems, people who prefer full-range loudspeakers in some or all positions may not have—or want—a subwoofer. In such cases, material intended for the subwoofer in home theater systems may need to be mapped back into the main channels so that it is not lost. Such a scheme of bass management is referred to as "Reverse Bass Management", as shown in the following illustration.”.

If you read that carefully, you can see that selecting “full range” speakers sends the bass intended for the sub out to the speakers you check. In a home theater setup with a sub, this is not good.

  • If you have 64 bit vista installed, you will need 64 bit codecs. This one also seems rather obvious after you know it, but it can trip you up if you aren’t looking for it.
  • The best way to get the codecs that you need and will work is to use the  Vista codec pack by shark007. Of course, don’t forget that if you are running x64 to download the x64 components.
  • Understand that audio filters, presets, environmental effects, etc, can be stacked , meaning that if you enable, say “expand stereo” in the card’s driver settings, you don’t want to enable it in ffdshow, or it will try and do this twice. This is bad! Another one that will cause issues is the “bass management” setting. The best thing I have found to do is go to control panelsoundspeakers and check “disable enhancements”.
  • I have also had issues with “enhancements” being enabled, but none of them being used, and this can cause crackling and popping in the sound. As I said above, just disable them, save yourself the trouble.
  • If you have a motherboard with the “nvidia nforce 4” chipset (like my Asus A8NSLI Deluxe), you do not want a creative  soundblaster xfi card. There are known issues and it may or may not work, and you won’t know until you have problems.
  • I constantly have problems with the “creative audio control panel”, and if you download the drivers from creative, you can’t get ones without it. So what I have found is that if you get the driver, download, install, etc, then you can uninstall the control panel stuff, and that will leave the latest and greatest audio driver without all of the other crap they like to “give” you.

OK, that’s it for now.

hyper-v networking

(I hope to start making more of these type posts of weirdness I find, but this is a first.)

We were having what I thought were network issues at work, so I started a pingplotter on my XP vm on my hyper-v server at home. Based on the graphs below, things look pretty latent.

7.21.09.focalpoint.omnilink.com

If you run the same thing on a physical machine on the same network, the graphs look much better, and you can see that the network is not the problem.

7.22.09.focalpoint.omnilink.com

The takeaway here I guess is to be careful with this sortof thing. Right now I’m not sure if it is a hyper-v specific thing or if it’s just a vm in general.

Tankless water heater: I tried

I recently learned thought I learned that my water heater had gone south. This was expected, due to its 13 years of age and II had found rust in my water. Since I consider myself smart enough to look at the long term benefits of something, even if the initial cost is greater, I decided to look into a tankless water heater. Research showed that they were supposed to save anywhere from 15%  to 40% on your gas bill every month, last longer, etc. You also get a tax break and a credit from your local energy company (in most cases) so it seemed like a no brainer. Aside from the initial cost being greater, the advantages looked great.

After some research, I found out what size I needed, and they they seemed to pretty much all have the same features and prices, so I went to lowes and picked up a Bosch 2400 (only because I had a 10% off coupon).  Since I’m pretty handy around the house (I will not pay someone else to do something I can do on my own) I decided that with some help from my brother, we could install this thing no problem.

As far as location goes, the choices were small.. it pretty much had to go where the old tank water heater went, because that is where the piping is. There was some discussion about mounting it on the outside wall, but that would have made for about 25′ of extra pipe, and that didn’t seem like a good way to get water to the facts quickly.  Also, these things reqire large amounts of gas, in my house it worked out where all I needed to replace was about 1′ of pipe and a couple of fittings. This was pretty easy. What wasn’t so great was the flexible gas line that I needed, it was $70! Then a valve, and an adapter. The install was complicated in the fact that the hose that Lowes sells to go with the gas valve, didn’t have the right sized fitting to work on the water heater… and… they don’t stock it! So, in order to make this work, I had to go to Home Depot as well. (What?)

Before I bought the thing I did some research and found out that tankless heaters require updated exhaust venting, but I couldn’t found out too many of the details around it. After some reading online and scanning through the manual, it looked like what was needed was just dual walled exhaust pipe, which is code (almost?) everywhere now, and since this is what my house already had, we got the stuff to tie into my regular exhaust vent. We even found  a couple of write-ups online (I will look later and link them if I can) where others had done this. After reading the manually carefully though, and after a call to the Bosch 800#, I realized that in order to meet code, I would have to use the stuff that the manufacturer recommends, which is a stainless pipe that is sealed with a gasket. So.. I go back to lowes and get their install kit, which is $230 and includes about 4′ total of pipe. In order to get to the side of my house, I would need about 12′ of straight pipe in addition to this stuff. This was going out the side of the house instead of from the basement through the roof like the old exhaust vent ran since I also found out that the water heater can’t share an exhaust vent, it must have its very own. The pipe is special order at Lowes (and Home Depot for their brand I found out), so I went looking locally at the plumbing supply houses. In the end I learned that the exhaust pipe is mostly brand specific, and that no one carried anything locally. After some looking online again, I found the pipe for a price of $50 for a 4′ section online! This means that venting to the closest place I could, I would be out about $400 total. Ouch.

In the interim, I installed the unit and vented it to my existing exhaust pipe, while I waited on the ordering and shipping process to take place. So… we had hot water! ..and I went to take a very much needed shower. While showering, the water kept getting hotter and hotter, and while I was all soapy, the water got very cold, there was no hot water! After fuming about it for several minutes and rinsing off in cold water, the water came back hot again. What?! The next day I called Bosch and they told me that the temperature was adjusted too high, and what was happening was that I would turn the hot water so low during the shower because the temp was so high, that it would fall below the minumum flow rate needed to make hot water, so the heater would stop. Their answer was to turn the temperature down, which I did, and it didn’t help. Turning on a hot water faucet in a sink temporarily relieved the problem though, since it kept the flow rate up enough, and everything worked.

I troubleshooted it a bit and finally realized that the heater was making water that was 145 degrees, no matter what the setting… it was a bad heater. Great! So I did some more research and found out that Bosch isn’t one of the best brands out there, and lots of people had problems. Strangely enough, I didn’t see this beforehand. So off I went to Home Depot to buy their tankless product instead, I had it on the cart and was getting ready to leave when I realized that it required 4″ exhaust piping instead of 3″… meaning that I would have to buy 4″ pipe and adapt that to the 3″ pipe which was already in my house, and it was then that I decided this wasn’t meant to be. This was just too much trouble.

Sooo.. I put the Rheem from Home Depot back on the shelf and got one of HD’s GE water heaters, it was the best one, 12 year warranty, supposedly energy efficient, and I got a 50 gallon instead of a 40 gallon. Got home and started comparing the little yellow stickers and realized that the efficiency rating on my old water heater was .57, and the new, top of the line one I had just bought was… drumroll… .58. That’s right, 13 years later and .01 more efficient. Then I picked up the phone and called Lowes, and they had one with a .62 rating, and I decided I may as well get one as efficient as I can, and back to Home Depot I went to return the tank heater, and back to Lowes I went to purchase their tank product. (They must have thought I was crazy.)

In the end it took me about 2 hours to mount up the new tank water heater. It is a Whirlpool Energy Smart. I had hot water in about 30 minutes, it is working great, and I haven’t looked back. Lowes was nice about returning the tank heater and various bits and pieces. In the end with all the returns and whatnot (some of the stuff I couldn’t return), my new water heater cost me $908. My hope is that this one works out. If I had just gone with the tank heater in the beginning, I am sure I would have saved myself time and money, probably a couple hundred dollars at least.

Oh well, lesson learned.

Google: time to listen up

At my workplace, we have a number of Google search appliances. There are a number of issues and errors with Google’s design and marketing of their search appliances, which I will outline below.

Price

These devices are very expensive, and in most cases, they are so expensive (too much so) that we have only one, and thus no redundancy. This is a problem! I don’t remember, and can’t quote exact numbers, but when we first started buying these, it was  near $30k each , and that was for a non redundant server that would crawl 1 (yes, a single) site. I will admit that I believe the prices are cheaper now.

Support

Google’s support model doesn’t include the ability to call Google. All that you can do is go to the website and post a tech support incident and wait for a call-back.  Not being able to get someone on the phone immediately is a problem! This is the enterprise, this is a fortune 300 company, we don’t desire to wait some unknown amount of time for someone to call us back, it simply is not acceptable.

In addition to this, most of the time, all Google wants to do is SSH into the box, which requires 1 of 2 things.

1: An SSH connection from the outside world in.

Since these devices are internal only, they are unavailable to the outside world, and because of PCI Visa compliance, it is an act of God to get a firewall rule put into place to allow something like this, and as much of a problem to have it removed afterwards. When you are under fire and need to get support, having to fill out the necessary paperwork to get a firewall rule in place just isn’t acceptable, it takes too long.

2:  A modem and phone line.

 Modems are a little easier, but it is difficult to keep a modem somewhere, keep a phone line somewhere (but not attached) and then to have to go and manually connect one to to one of many pieces of hardware that could be anywhere in the 100,000 sq/foot datacenter. Well, this just sucks. It is difficult to do.

And lastly, everytime you have an issue that can’t be fixed over the phone (due to the hardware issues I mention below, this is often), then Google has to ship you a new, unconfigured device. That’s right, you are down, and have to wait on one of these devices to be packaged up, shipped, and received. Then you have to go through tons of red tape (thank you PCI compliance) to get the device into the datacenter and get the old one out. Once you have completed all of this mess, you get to start over and reconfigure the device from scratch! And of course, let’s not forget that after that, it has to crawl all of the content again, which can take from several hours to a day. The net/net is that if you have a hardware problem, you have an outage that lasts several days, again, this is not acceptable in the enterprise.

Hardware

When we first started buying these appliances several years ago, they were tiny 1U boxes with zero redundancy built into them. Due to the expensive price, it was cost prohibitive to use redundant appliances. So we are buying these very expensive appliances, and of course, they would fail occasionally. (I will get to what happens in a failure situation in the support section.)

After some time, Google saw the error if its ways, and started using redundant Dell hardware (they don’t tell you this, but aside from being YELLOW (lame), they look just like the other Dell hardware that we have a datacenter full of.  This was indeed a step in the right direction, but not far enough. Since they don’t admit that they are Dell hardware, when something fails, you can’t call Dell yourself or have them call Dell and just schedule the hardware replacement, you have to.. guess what? Get a device shipped to you! See above for how long this process takes.

Additionally, there were certain devices used which have known problems, and we had a 100% failure rate. What this means is that every single device of this type failed. Was Google proactive? Did they ship us a replacement device ahead of time? No! They waited on each one to fail, and we had the several day outage for each one. This is not acceptable in the enterprise.

Conclusion

The problem here is that google isn’t trying to apply it’s model in appropriately. They are making the mistake of banking off their name only, and not following up with the service and support to go along with the amount of money that the devices cost, and the expectation of the large customers that are buying their products. This is a common mistake, and has been the demise of many products and services over time. Google: WAKE UP. Listen to your customers, service and support what you sell, and stop trying to bank off your name only. This will not last.

My recommendation is to avoid purchasing any Google search appliances until they learn to listen to customers and respond appropriately.

should the credit agencies be able to do this? I don’t think so

This is a story about the credit agencies and how they have too much power and not enough accountability.

I recently bought a new house, one thing you always here about this is to check your credit before  you start this process. My old house was on the market for a year, so I checked my credit when this process started, but I did not check it again during the year, and that turned out to be a mistake.

So, I had someone who wanted to buy my house pretty quickly, and I found a house I wanted, this should be easy, right? Not so much.. When they pulled my credit, there turned out to be a lein against me for $5500 in change, that seemed rather odd, as my credit is good, and I have always paid everything. After some research, I was able to determine that there is someone else with the same name as me in the same county I was in who had a legitimate lein, who didn’t have the same social security number as me, yet this was on my credit! Additionally, it turns out that with my bank, if you have something like this happen and it is <$5500, you can get something in writing and they just pretend like it isn’t there, but if the amount is > $5500, you must have it removed from your credit before they will issue the mortgage.

So I called the Bartow County Superior court clerk’s office, they were very nice and told me that they didn’t report to any credit agency. I was also able to determine from talking to them that leins are considered public record, so anyone can go in and look at the full text of the lein, additionally, due to privacy concerns in recent years, the SSN is not included in this document. What this means is that if you have the same name as someone else in your county, no one can tell the difference between you two just by looking at the court documents.

After this, I placed a call to the business who had filed the lein. They are an umbrella corporation (DBA, whatever you want to call it) for Fred Hanna and Associates. The first person I talked to there was named Stephanie, and she was not very nice, helpful, or any of the other words that you would put together with “customer service” in a positive manner. After some more calling and discussion, I was able to talk to a guy named Roy Raegan, and he was much  more helpful. After discussing with him, he told me that they were as specific as they could have been with the lein, and this was just what can happen. He provided me a letter to send to the mortgage company and to the credit agencies stating that if my SSN’s last 4 digits weren’t XXXX then I wasn’t their guy.

During this process I found out that the credit agencies actually have people that work for them whose job is to drive in person to the court clerk’s offices in the various counties, and look through public records for new leins to report against people’s credit. That is how this ended up on my credit report.

So, I gave this to my mortgage agency, who sent it off to the credit agencies with a “rapid rescore” (which costs several hundred dollars), and they sent this back stating that this wasn’t sufficient documentation (no more detail than that!) So I called all the above folks again, did some more talking, and eventually came to the conclusion that I was screwed. At that time I made a call to a friend of mine who has a lawyer buddy and went in for a consult. He advised that with my timeline (less than 2 weeks at that point), it may be better just to pay the $55XX and work it out later, after I got over the initial shock, I asked for another idea. He offered to write a more demanding letter than what I had written to begin with, and sent it off to the big 3.

I called the next day and was able to fax the letter in to all 3 credit agencies… Transunion and Experian both had “pending mortgage approval” departments that were easy to find, and easy to work with. They looked at the fax, got my closing date, and said that there shouldn’t be a problem, Equifax, on the other hand, was a bear to deal with. They wouldn’t gurantee that the information was correct, and the time and date that this would come off my credit report. I called repeatedly every few hours in the days leading up to the closing, and they finally did remove it on May 23, I closed on May 24.

So now, my credit is clean, and what is on there is mine. It is a shame that I had to get a lawyer involved to write a nasty letter to get them to do this.

The point of my whole story is right here though.

Whenever someone submits your information to any credit angency, they must include details, such as your social security number . This is a unique identifier that well, identifies you. What happened to me is apparently perfectly legal, the credit agencies themselves actively pursue information which is flawed at a root level, they are unable to determine with any certainty that this information applies to you, yet they still apply this to your credit report. This can and does impact you in a negative way. For me, it cost me a lawyer bill, hours and hours on the phone, faxes, stamps, and hours driving around, talking to people, and researching the laws around this.

Just so this gets caught in search: ripoff, legal, illegal, experian, equifax, transunion