A Weekend In The Life Of The Family IT Guy

by Damian on January 25, 2010 · 10 comments

in News

For me there is no better feeling then when you have technology working seamlessly in your home. However, when things go wrong it can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. Maybe I am alone, but I find that especially when it comes to technology it is never just one thing that goes wrong (I guess the saying “When it rains it pours” would be appropriate). This past weekend definitely proves this

It all started with one of my HTPCs. I have been interested in getting full bitstreaming of HD Audio (DTS MA and TrueHD) with my HTPC, and with the new AMD Radeon 5xxx Graphic Cards it is now possible. Even though I had a perfectly fine 4670 GPU in my HTPC, I decided to pick up the new Sapphire 5670 to replace it with so I could get bitstreaming. I pulled out the 4670, installed the 5670, updated my drivers, and everything was looking good, or so I thought. I am not entirely sure what happened, but at some point after I installed the 5670 Windows Media Player stopped working, I couldn’t get any of my movies to play! Since my HTPC is in my family room this was not good as my wife uses it daily to put on my son’s shows. I just happened to have a spare Popcornhour A-110 lying around, so I set it up in my family room and was able to avoid a revolt against me!

Fortunately when I first set up my HTPC I did a manual backup with WHS so I could always revert to this in the event something goes wrong. I popped in the WHS PC Recovery disk, but halfway through the process my server could not be located. I had a chance to discuss the issue with Alex who noted that there have been reports of the NIC not loading properly during the PC Recover process (in particular Realtek NICs which is what my HTPC has), so I copied the NIC drivers (I grabbed from the Realtek website or you can pull from your WHS backup following this wiki) for my HTPC onto a USB drive and loaded when prompted. Unfortunately I just kept getting messages that no drivers for my hardware was found, and every time I made it to the “server location” part it would fail. I decided to call it a night, start fresh in the morning and do a clean reinstall of Windows 7.

The next morning I went onto my desktop PC to start copying over W7 onto a USB drive so I could install on my HTPC. Two minutes in my screen flickered and then froze. I manually rebooted my PC only to find out that it would not boot up! I stared it down for 5 minutes, tried rebooting again, and nothing. I could get into the BIOS but it would just hang after that. The night before my PC had installed some automatic updates, so I thought somehow that had corrupted my system. I popped in the WHS PC Recovery disk (it actually worked on this PC) and after over 3 hours the recovery completed. I powered up the PC, got to the Windows 7 logo, but that is as far as I could get, so it was not an O/S problem. Next I ran a test on the RAM which passed with flying colors. I thought maybe it was a HDD issue, so I pulled the HDDs out, tested, and they were fine too. My PC is set up in RAID 0 using the onboard RAID controller, so I thought maybe the controller failed. I went into the BIOS, shut off RAID, and still no luck. I was running out of ideas and was already starting to make plans  to build a new PC as I had feared that the mobo itself had died. I then thought that I now have a spare Graphics Card (the 4670 from my HTPC) so maybe the current 8800GT GPU in my PC was bad. I pulled out that card, popped in the 4670, and BAM, my PC booted up without a problem!!! So what was originally a somewhat unnecessary purchase of the 5670 GPU actually became justified as I would have needed to buy a new GPU either way. While I had my desktop PC apart I also noticed some of the fans seemed worn (which would explain the noise level being a little louder then I would like). Fortunate for me I had a few spare case fans from when I was building my WHS, replaced the old fans with the new ones, and now it is so quiet in my office you can hear a mouse fart!!!

When all was said and done, what I thought was going to be a simple 5 minute process of replacing the GPU on my HTPC turned into a 2 day journey into the unknown. I was able to make use of my “spare” gadgets/parts (PCH A-110, Radeon 4670, and PWM Case Fan). I always like to think that once you start having spare gadgets/parts lying around you can truly call yourself a geek, and I am proud to say that yes, I am a geek!

Going back to my HTPC, I have still not been able to resolve why I cannot get the WHS PC Restore to work properly. As I write this though I am discussing with Alex and he thinks the issue is that with the Realtek NIC I have (RTL8111B) I need to use the Vista (WinServer 2008) driver and not the WinXP (WinServer2003) driver. This has actually been documented over on WeGotServed, so I hope to give this a try when I get home. Whether this works or not, I consider this a big failure on the part of Microsoft. One of the appeals of Windows Home Server is the PC backup/restore functionality, and the inconsistencies in using this feature is simply unacceptable. HOWEVER, I can at least say that I am now able to successfully bitstream the DTS(MA)/TrueHD audio from my mkv/ts Blu Ray movies (if you are interested stay tuned for another post detailing how this was set up).

Oh, and the kicker to my IT weekend from hell, my 2 year old son came down with Pneumonia and my 4 month old is now starting to cough… but let’s look on the bright side, I can bitstream lol.

So I was thinking, I am alone in this, has anyone else out there had a similar experience where it just seemed every gadget you owned betrayed you at the same time??? One thing I learned is that you can never have enough gadgets/spare parts lying around!!!





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 10 comments }

Timothy Daleo January 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I feel for you. I will say that the random issues in my home tend to arise just as my wife and I sit down to play a Blu-Ray on the HTPC!

I think the 32-bit / 64-bit driver issue is really coming to light this month. Users are finally starting to get around to needing Restores on their three month old Windows 7 machines!

Damian January 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Tim,

When I moved over to W7 I moved all my PCs back to x32 with the exception of my wife’s pc which is still x64 (although I am thinking about moving that to x32). The interesting thing about x64 is that I have noticed all the manufacturers are pushing x64 with their builds. With the growth of WHS and more x64 machines getting into households, the x32/x64 driver issue you mention is probably going to become more significant if it isn’t already.

welchwerks January 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hi Damian, sorry to here about the kids, and HTPC,

would you in you article go into detail about bitstream the DTS(MA)/TrueHD audio from my mkv/ts Blu Ray movies

I have had really good luck setting up my Harmony remote and IMON IR using keyboard keys and can control TMT3/BLURAYS inside windows7 Media Center FF RW stop/start ECT. very Happy but i had a comment about MKV in the article and now i read yours i am condering if ther is a reason to change (my blurays are converted to iso) and the zotac plays HDMI plays 1080P/LPCM

here is my system,
http://usingwindowshomeserver.com/2010/01/25/ceton-megatron-building-my-own/

Damian January 25, 2010 at 8:38 pm

@ Welchwerks,

Probably one of my next articles will be detailing getting bitstreaming working. I just tested out some more tonight and it is still working. It is buggy in with WMC/WMP, so I have assigned MPC as a 3rd party player for W7MC + MediaBrowser. Everything seems to be working well, no problems operating with my Harmony Remote. I actually have planned to get the bitstreaming article up and then another article to discuss some options for mkvs. Stay tuned, give me a few days and I will start getting some more posts together.

Cheers
Damian

Comp1962 January 26, 2010 at 1:04 am

Damian,

I can’t tell you how many times I have started with a simple project and it turns out not so simple. I have spare parts from one project or another in boxes that bail me out time and time again especially the real old stuff when someone asks me to work on their Model T Vintage machine. You know your in deep stuff when your in the room alone and you start having conversations with your equipement like lecturing them on how well you treat them and then asking them why they they are doing this to you. I don’t have an HTPC story to tell just that I know what you went through only difference is when I get stuck in that sort of a bind my entire house gets ripped apart as I try to remember where I put a particular component and why is it you always find it in the last place you look?

Damian January 26, 2010 at 5:41 am

Comp1962,

Haha, at least I know I am not the only one who lectures his equipment :-)

Timothy Daleo January 26, 2010 at 7:41 am

It is not as much of a �lecture� as it is a motivational sermon to perform as specified.

Damian January 27, 2010 at 3:24 am

If you aren’t watching already, one of my favorite new shows is Modern Family. The latest episode I think anyone here who talks about WAF can relate to:

http://abc.go.com/watch/modern-family/235331/247575/fifteen-percent?cid=fullepisodeaccess

welchwerks January 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

my wife is going to fall of the couch laughing

i just did the home theatre is a body thing to her,

she is never going to let me live this down. to cool

Damian January 27, 2010 at 7:41 am

Haha, yeah my wife got a big kick out of it as well!

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

Previous post:

Next post: