Saturday, December 8, 2007

Death of a computer

I should be happy. This only proves how right I really am. Windows PCs are fragile - period. I've participated in countless debates over three separate industrial control forums regarding this. My stance remains that PC based controls has unlimited potential, but off the shelf PCs running windows are too clunky to be the (dependent) "brain" of the operation. Their cheap price and huge computing power makes them ideal as a replaceable interface terminal. I received numerous counter arguments that if you treat a PC like "valuable business equipment" there won't be any problems. These were supported by factory examples where a PC has been "running for years". Forum posters downplayed my MTBF argument of electromechanical devices, particularly power supply and CPU fans. They claimed that Windows is perfectly stable - the exact same years after installed if dealt with properly. YEAH, RIGHT!

I want the PCs they're using. Better yet, I want a hit of whatever they're smoking! I've worked several IT jobs, and have done plenty of consulting - both at the desktop and server level. The helpdesk at my current job constantly has to Ghost (re-image) desktop clients. Ever dealt at a site with a large number of servers? You're constantly replacing shit!

In any event, my poor computer suffered a terrible hard lock up and Windows is toast. I've gone through all the usual troubleshooting. This one is difficult since it boots off of a RAID array whose drivers aren't included with the XP (or Vista) CD. It doesn't matter - it's been a couple of years and the box has been heading downhill. I didn't loose any data (will have to look at my iTunes library). I hope there wasn't an underlying hardware problem. Installing on my new hard drive should bring that to light.

The biggest pain is all the program installations. I wish that more of my applications were lightweight like FactoryPMI clients. I'm considering installing Ubuntu and virtualizing Windows. At least then I could create a baseline image as a point to revert.

update - after buying a and installing a new hard drive my computer fixed itself. Well, kind of. A full Checkdisk fixed drive index errors on some important .dlls. The problem was substantial enough to prevent me from booting into any version of Safe Mode or Last Known Good Configuration. If my drive controller wasn't so quirky, I would have been able to fix it with the console (DOS prompt with a few apps) by booting from the XP CD. I also could have used Knoppix to troubleshoot the issue. It was only after a reboot after attempting to format the new drive with a Vista CD that XP decided to run scandisk. Baffling, but I won't worry about it - black smoke.

The first thing I did was a recent iTunes backup, the second was update this post. Take this time to BACK UP YOUR DATA. If you've got a workable backup solution for your home PC, you're smarter and more on top of the game than I. My "backup plan", if you could call it one, is copying my important work to an external hard drive, occasionally (rarely) burning DVDs, and sometimes copying files to remote machines online. I'll check into online remote backup plans and post how it goes.

3 comments:

estaban said...

You should check into MozyPro. I've just started using this offsite backup service and I'm backing up three machines. The first two are only backing up 2 -3 GB and went with no problem. My 70GB backup was problematic. But once I installed the latest version of the software it backed up no problem. Depending on your connection speed it could take a while to get the full backup, and to honest, I have never tried to restore (I plan on testing this soon), but so far I like what I see and it's cheap compared to other offerings.

estaban said...

You should check into MozyPro. I've just started using this offsite backup service and I'm backing up three machines. The first two are only backing up 2 -3 GB and went with no problem. My 70GB backup was problematic. But once I installed the latest version of the software it backed up no problem. Depending on your connection speed it could take a while to get the full backup, and to honest, I have never tried to restore (I plan on testing this soon), but so far I like what I see and it's cheap compared to other offerings.

CarlG said...

At the risk of these comments looking like plants from Mozy...

I just started using Mozy Home ($5/mo) a few weeks ago. With my fiber connection, I never notice it, and you wouldn't either with your buildings connection. I had the same backup plan as you did - occasionally burn cds / external hard drive (a.k.a. the "praying" solution, since I never really did that stuff)