Not again… (Updated)

Alright.  Long story short, things are now resolved—albeit not quite how I’d have chosen.  I am now posting from Windows, and going through the process I suspect many of us know well—that of downloading and reinstalling many a program.  Putting things back on the shelves in the new home, as it were.

As you may know if you’ve been following along, I’m now on Windows 7.  Previous to this incident, I was running Windows XP, but it failed at every step to recover itself, either to repair its existing install, or to even reinstall in the same partition from whence it came.  Fortunately for me, I’ve been sitting on a copy of Windows 7 Professional for the better part of a year now, with the intention of using it fresh for my next system upgrade.  Alas, that was not to be.

I will say, thus far it’s serving me well, even if I am still a bit jumpy—each time the screen goes dark in advance of it asking me to authorize something, each time a load bar looks like it may be hung, I quietly panic…just a little.  By tomorrow, I’m sure it will begin to pass.  I hope I’ll be able to love Windows 7 almost as much as I loved Windows XP—which is to say, quite a bit—but if not, I suspect it will still fulfill my requirements for the foreseeable future.

For those who talked me down through this, Thank You.  Especially Josh.  I’m sure I’d have gone quite mad without your support.

Original (Jun 26, 2010 @11:35)

So…I went to play GTA III.  All was going well.  I started to load a saved game.  Something loaded in the background–I could see it flickering through the screen.  Probably my firewall/antivirus doing its thing, as usual.  Then the game seems to hang.

Well, I think to myself, probably the security thing’s holding up a process (it does that sometimes, you see). And so I go to alt-tab over and approve whatever GTA was trying to do.  Tap-tap.  Tap-tap..  Tap-tap… No dice.  The whole system’s hung.  *sigh*

Reboot.

Go through the boot loader, pick Windows, watch the load bar cycle a few times, and then hear the entire system power down.  Hard drives stop, the video card fan shuts down, all the fans stop (even on the power supply), the output to the monitors stops, and even the mouse and keyboard are unpowered.  Oddly, the power LED on the front of the case is functioning just fine.

Repeat.  Same deal.

Repeat, attempting to get into Safe Mode.  Either my timing was off, or I don’t know where to hit Safe Mode now that I have a boot loader.

Screw it, I’m done for now.

Boot Fedora.

Write irritated post about my shitty computer.

Add Categories.

Press the Publish Button.

Update (Jun 28, 2010 @ 11:52)

Ugh.  I started looking into what’s going on in the system, and my results thus far have not been promising.

Step 1:  I went to try booting in Safe Mode.  Generally a great place to start, as it usually works.  This time, though, the only difference between Safe Mode and regular boot was that it actually posted a BSOD for me.  Yay information, yeah?  Quoting it here in its entirety:

STOP: c000021a {Fatal System Error}
The Windows Logon Process system process terminated unexpectedly with a status of 0x0000135 (000000000 0x00000000).
The system has been shut down.

Alright, I don’t know what that means.  But I bet the internet does!

Microsoft suggests:

The STOP 0xC000021A error occurs when either Winlogon.exe or Csrss.exe fails. When the Windows NT kernel detects that either of these processes has stopped, it stops the system and raises the STOP 0xC000021A error. This error may have several causes. Among them are the following:

  • Mismatched system files have been installed.
  • A Service Pack installation has failed.
  • A backup program that is used to restore a hard disk did not correctly restore files that may have been in use.
  • An incompatible third-party program has been installed.

So…yeah.  I haven’t been installing anything system-related since…I don’t know when.  The closest thing is installing Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City.  I don’t feel reassured about this yet.

So I’m supposed to hit a command prompt and run Dr. Watson to net a log of what process fell apart on me.  That sounds like work; let’s see what else there is…

  • Last Known Good Configuration

Oh, there we go.  *hits F8 and runs the Last Known Good Configuration*

*FAIL*

Goddammit.  What else is there?

  • In-Place Upgrade
  • Remove incompatible software by using the Recovery Console

Huh.  Having poked around in the Recovery Console in the past, I don’t feel competent to try that, and I can’t say I’m excited about the idea of an In-Place Upgrade.  Guess it’s off to see if I can get a command line to run Watson from…

Re-Update:  I no long have right-click functionality in Fedora.  Not sure what happened there.

Re-Re-Update:  Possibly related:  I can’t get dropdown menus at all.  Like I can’t send Stumbles and such.

Update (Jun 30, 2010 @ 10:00)

Alright. I’m in the process of reinstalling now. When I reach the “Choose your drive/partition” screen, though, things get a bit weird for me.

76318 MB Disk 0 on bus 0 on iaStor [MBR]

H: Partition1 [Unknown] 200 MB < 200 MB free>
—: Partition3  < Windows XP Fault Tolera15543 MB < 15543 MB free>
C: Partition2 [NTFS] 57420 MB < 10929 MB free>
Unpartitioned space 3154 MB

Now, this is the drive I keep my Operating Systems on. Partition3 matches the size of my Linux storage (not sure what that “WinXP Fault Tolera” label is about).

Partition2 is where I’ve got WinXP currently installed. But when I try to reinstall, I hit trouble.

Drive is unformatted, damaged, or formatted with a file system that is incompatible with Windows XP. To continue installing Windows XP, Setup needs to format this drive.

Now, I’m not entirely against reformatting the drive—having not trusted the reinstall idea, I carefully went through my files, copied everything out and wrote up a list of all the apps I had installed.  But still.

Basically…Is this a sign of something worse, or a possible side effect of whatever happened?  Is there any reason I shouldn’t move forward here, and just reformat that partition?  Should I be really worried about the WinXP Fault whatever?

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  1. #1 by VisualHierarchy on June 26, 2010 - 7:33 PM

    I foresee something similar in my future. I never knew what Fedora was until this post, but I need it now.

    • #2 by Chadwick on June 27, 2010 - 10:17 AM

      I like Fedora, and it’s pretty nice for my first Linux (not that it’s actually the first; just the first I stuck with, and that hasn’t rejected me). But if you’d like to play around a bit with a few Linux options, I could offer you some last-revision Live CDs (which let you run the OS entirely off the CD, to take it for a test-drive [or find what’s toasted in your system]).

      • #3 by Andrew D. on June 28, 2010 - 12:15 PM

        Fedora’s a good distro, but I’ve never spent long on it (read: more than 1 year) due to Red Hat’s using it as a dumping ground for untested technologies they want to mature before putting them in RHEL.

        • #4 by Chadwick on June 28, 2010 - 12:27 PM

          I keep thinking about OpenSUSE, since there was a lot of stuff I liked in there. On the other hand, Fedora ain’t broke, so I’m not fixin’ it yet. Unless this no-right-click thing fails to resolve, in which case, “fuck it.”

          • #5 by Joshua on June 28, 2010 - 2:54 PM

            O.O that’s a really odd combination of problems. The lack of drop-down menus in Linux is usually a rendering engine problem. Since you’re using Fedora, I’m guessing most things are GTK. Have you tried using a QT app and seeing if menus work?

          • #6 by Chadwick on June 28, 2010 - 3:23 PM

            They came back after the second time I rebooted (but oddly, not the first time). So I’m guessing I’d just borked something in a temporary fashion.

  2. #7 by Joshua on June 27, 2010 - 8:26 AM

    Lol I’ve been there. Hammering F8 right after you press Enter on the GRUB menu should get you the Windows startup menu. I hope everything works out and if you’d like assistance, I’m always available.

  3. #8 by Chadwick on June 28, 2010 - 8:32 PM

    Right. So I basically tried everything it suggested except for the Repair Console and reinstalling my OS. Which makes me really unhappy. It’s like killing a friend.

    If anyone has an alternative for me, I’d love to hear it.

    • #9 by Phillip on June 28, 2010 - 9:11 PM

      First, what OS? It sounds like Windows XP. Second, what’d Dr. Watson say?

      • #10 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 7:34 AM

        I couldn’t get Watson to fly. I got to /system32/ and he wasn’t there. I think I might’ve gotten pissed at him once…

        • #11 by Phillip on June 29, 2010 - 9:17 AM

          This is the first time I’ve ever heard of him being needed for something. Before I thought he was just a vestigial program from the 3.1 days.

          The only thing I can think of is to repair the installation.

          WAIT! Can you do a safe mode command prompt and end up doing a dskchk /r? If one of the indices are bad, or if a file is corrupt, it could possibly correct it or let you know what file it is. The downside is that it’d take awhile…a very very long while.

          • #12 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 11:07 AM

            Safe Mode with Command Prompt throws the same error as regular Safe Mode, so no good.

            And no, whenever I crashed shit, I had Watson loading in the background, and hanging about 30% of the time.

      • #13 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 7:38 AM

        Oh, and yes, it’s WinXP.

    • #14 by Joshua on June 29, 2010 - 6:53 AM

      I can’t think of any. Reinstalling Windows seems like a logical starting place to me.

      • #15 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 11:41 AM

        If I do an “in-place upgrade” as it were, you happen to know what/how much info I’m going to lose on that partition?

        • #16 by Joshua on June 29, 2010 - 1:27 PM

          Shouldn’t lose anything but registry settings and possibly DLL linkages.

      • #17 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 11:41 AM

        Or whether such a thing is even necessarily a good idea?

        • #18 by Joshua on June 29, 2010 - 1:28 PM

          On a broken system an “in-place upgrade” is as likely to hose things further as it is to actually fix things. A better option may be just a straight installation over your existing C:\Windows directory (i.e. don’t let it use C:\Windows.000)

  4. #19 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 3:09 PM

    Hmm…getting Steam running in Fedora looks problematic. Apparently, Steam via Wine trying to access files on an NTFS-formatted drive doesn’t pan out. Which makes it unfortunate that I only have about 4GB of free space on a non-NTFS drive.

    • #20 by Joshua on June 29, 2010 - 3:48 PM

      Yeah. How mine works is that I copied all the Steam files / games / etc. over to my Linux (ext3) partition and I run it from there under Wine. It says that you can also just *install* the games through Wine without much difficulty.

      • #21 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 9:09 PM

        Yeah. But I think I’m gonna have to dig up some spare ext3 space, ’cause that 4GB isn’t going to go far.

      • #22 by Chadwick on June 29, 2010 - 9:12 PM

        Though I did find software that lets you read ext2 formatted drivespace in Windows, and I wonder if it would then be possible to install Steam inside of an ext2 partition and run it from there on both Linux and Windows…

        • #23 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 9:00 AM

          ext2 driver for Windoze is read-only afaik. I don’t think Steam would run off of a R/O partition.

          • #24 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 9:41 AM

            Apparently it can do Read and Write. There’s also a suggestion it can support ext3, but it gets a bit on the technical side for me. Care to offer your thoughts on it?

            Ext2 IFS For Windows

          • #25 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 11:47 AM

            Huh. It seems to have matured greatly since the last time I used it. I’d say go for it.

  5. #26 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 11:53 AM

    76318 MB Disk 0 on bus 0 on iaStor [MBR]

    H: Partition1 [Unknown] 200 MB
    —: Partition3 < Windows XP Fault Tolera15543 MB
    C: Partition2 [NTFS] 57420 MB
    Unpartitioned space 3154 MB

    Your partition3 is your Linux partition. It should be type 0x83, which is “Linux Native.” Windows setup is misreading the type. I’m not sure what the 200G partition1 is all about. It’s obviously either not formatted / labeled or contains a nonstandard partition type entry. If it was a Dell or HP, I’d say it may be a system recovery partition. I just thought of something: It may be your Linux Swap partition. It should be type 0x82: “Linux Swap.” Your C: (NTFS) is your windows drive. The 3154MB is most likely unusable space because it doesn’t begin or end on a cylinder boundary.

    • #27 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 11:57 AM

      You’ll have to pop in your Fedora CD and re-run grub-install or however Fedora re-initializes grub since Windows will overwrite your MBR.

  6. #28 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:03 PM

    Follow-up FAIL.

    I go to reformat C:

    It tells me it cannot because the disk is damaged or it can’t find it or something. It’s non-specific about the cause.

    Rebooting to Fedora for now.

    • #29 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:06 PM

      It does sound like the hard drive is beginning to die.

      • #30 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:30 PM

        Sadly, it’s my newest drive.

        • #31 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:34 PM

          Depending on price point, it may be a case of infant mortality. At Hunter, we had a refurbished IBM SCSI-320 drive (120GB) that had passed the 24 hour burn-in test but failed after just 14 days in the server.

          • #32 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:49 PM

            Dunno. Things happen, even to the best equipment. But I don’t buy cheap parts.

          • #33 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:51 PM

            If it is a failed drive, check for a warranty. Many manufacturers have a 1 year factory warranty on new drives.

  7. #34 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:05 PM

    And now it goes to “Error loading operating system” immediately after the BIOS screen. No more boot loader. I wonder what the chances are that a failed look at reformatting ate my boot loader…

    Will report back shortly, once I find my Fedora CD.

    • #35 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:07 PM

      It’s possible that Windows setup ate your bootloader. It’s equally possible that your drive (or cable or controller) is going flaky.

    • #36 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:11 PM

      If the Fedora CD is the LiveCD build, you should be able to run GParted and see what partitions are on your drive. It may be necessary to delete your previous Windows partition and make a new one, then let Windows format it during setup.

      • #37 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:14 PM

        If it asks for a partition type and doesn’t have NTFS as an option, enter 0x07 (HPFS). That’s the Windows NTFS type. DO NOT use DOS or FAT (0x0a, 0x0b, or 0x0c) types. Windows will install but it will run quite shittily.

      • #38 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:30 PM

        Well I’ve got a pile of Live and non-Live CDs and DVDs for like 8 varieties of Linux still lying around from my early experimentation. So basically, I’ll go in, try to manually reformat that section with Linux to pave the way for Microsoft. Yay. I think if this still fails, I may just have Linux eat the entire 80GB drive, and move Windows to D: or I:. I don’t really want to, ’cause D:’s getting old, and I:’s been my dedicated media storage, but I may run out of alternatives.

        Though I’ve got a copy of Win7 Pro lying around as well. I was planning to save it for my next rebuild, but…

        • #39 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:33 PM

          Well, you probably won’t be able to actually *reformat* NTFS with Linux. You should be able to create an NTFS partition but Windows should format that blank NTFS partition during setup. The best tool for the job is GParted but in the event you have only a command line, Linux’s fdisk command will work also though it’s significantly more difficult to use than GParted.

          • #40 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 12:53 PM

            Didn’t have GParted, though I did wipe the section from the graphical drive management tools I had.

            Went back in, told it to reformat, and it actually started to! Unfortunately, despite the fact that I know I selected Partition2, it specifically began reformatting the 16GB Linux partition (but it failed at that). It called that Partition2, though, which is not what it was listed as on the previous screen. I’m starting to feel like I’m going to have to try entirely wiping the drive and starting over.

          • #41 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 12:55 PM

            That would definitely suck.

  8. #42 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 1:10 PM

    Good news, everyone! A reinstall for the Linux side of my box shows that the boot loader had just been crapped on by Windows.

    Now I have at least that much back from which to figure out what to do.

    • #43 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 1:15 PM

      Yayy!!!! That’s typically what happens. You may yet have a good hard drive after all. I’m going to the fourth job interview this week. This time with the company that bought the company that bought the division I used to work for at M&I. This one’s scheduled for three hours.

      • #44 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 1:29 PM

        Oh, speaking of which, how’d the follow-up go on Monday?

        • #45 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 5:58 PM

          Excellent. THey’re bringing me back in for a personality test sometime soon.

          • #46 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 7:40 PM

            Where they will promptly find that you’d be more comfortable talking to a toaster than a business major?

          • #47 by Joshua on July 1, 2010 - 9:49 AM

            In this case, that would be a positive. It’s a whole company full of Linux geeks.

    • #48 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 1:16 PM

      Unlike other OSes that are polite and figure that you might want to use another OS in addition, Windows just assumes that it’s the only OS that anyone would want to use.

  9. #49 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 3:22 PM

    Well, after WinXP has completely failed me in every way (honestly, it was never designed to run on a system with SATA drives and no floppy drive), I opted to move to Win7. As I said, I hadn’t wanted to do that until my next rebuild, but I guess some things can’t be avoided.

    Thus far, Win7 seems to be going fine. I pointed it at the partition, told it to NTFS format it, then installed. It’s working away right now copying files and installing itself. Updates to come as things progress.

    • #50 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 3:35 PM

      Related note: When the Win7 install reboots my system and there’s the like 3-5 second hang time where everything’s powered down, and I wasn’t watching the screen, so I didn’t know it was coming…at this point, it scares me, ’cause I think my computer’s in trouble again.

      • #51 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 3:52 PM

        To be clear, Win7 is functional, right?

        • #52 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 4:10 PM

          Yes. I am posting from it now and beginning the (possibly) arduous process of reinstalling all my crap. Ah, hell, I should get Steam going so I can have my games again to keep me sane.

      • #53 by Phillip on June 30, 2010 - 11:18 PM

        I had that same thought the first time I rebooted. I was trying to install Windows 7 on something and every time that it would reboot during the install process there’d be a problem. So finally, after a bajillion tries, it eventually worked. BTW, how’re you enjoying it?

        • #54 by Chadwick on July 1, 2010 - 1:09 AM

          Mostly okay. The regular interrupts for authorizations is irritating, but I suspect I’ll notice less once I’m not installing all these programs. Though if I’ve let my computer start to idle, then do something to cause the auth screen to pop up (where it darkens the screen), it causes both screens to go entirely black for a second, which worries me all over again.

    • #55 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 3:46 PM

      Right. Win7’s installed. Does anyone know what process the computer uses to decide which is the primary display of my two? ‘Cause it was displaying only on the top one (Fedora has the same problem, and so did WinXP), and since everything does that, I just went and swapped the cables between the monitors.

      It still outputs to the top monitor.

      • #56 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 3:53 PM

        Goes by vid card I think – whichever GPU initializes first. If you install the NVidia software, it should give an option.

      • #57 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 3:57 PM

        Also, in the Display Control Panel, there’s the “Screen Resolution” tool. That has the option to set a primary display:
        http://dl.maximumpc.com/galleries/dualmonitors/Win7_ScreenRes.png

        • #58 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 4:09 PM

          Oh, yeah, it’s not a problem really. I was just wondering ’cause I thought it was hilarious that I could swap the cables and get no change in the outcome.

    • #59 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 3:54 PM

      You still got Fedora? Do you need to reinitialize grub?

      • #60 by Chadwick on June 30, 2010 - 4:09 PM

        Well, I’ll have to go deal with the boot loader again, but Fedora was there before I started install, and Win7 sees a 16GB partition it can’t understand, which sounds like Fedora to me.

        • #61 by Joshua on June 30, 2010 - 4:13 PM

          Yeah Windows doesn’t like to look at anything but itself so Fedora is an incomprehensible mess to Windows. The same view is held by lots of Microsoft fanbois.

      • #63 by Andrew D. on July 1, 2010 - 10:18 AM

        My preferred method to reinitialize grub is launching a LiveCD, mounting and “chroot”-ing into my Linux install, then running “grub-install /dev/sda” to stick it in the first disk’s MBR. Takes all of 3 minutes and I don’t have to bother with setup routines. YMMV.

        • #64 by Joshua on July 1, 2010 - 10:34 AM

          That’s how I do it. Bootstrapping a Linux install (or compiling GCC and GLIBC from source) both use that technique. Back in the day, that was the way to install Gentoo Linux – by source-only bootstrap. Nowadays, only the development builds are done that way. Releases copy essential binaries first, then boot the system, then recompile everything.

        • #65 by Chadwick on July 1, 2010 - 11:51 AM

          Oh, that’ll be so much nicer…I think.

          • #66 by Joshua on July 1, 2010 - 12:00 PM

            The steps to accomplish that are:

            1. Boot a liveCD to a command prompt (or Desktop with Terminal window.)
            2. Mount your existing Linux root partition under /mnt (mount /dev/sda# /mnt, where # is the partition number of your Linux root partition)
            3. If your Linux /boot filesystem is on a separate partition from the root, then do mount /dev/sda# /mnt/boot, where # is the partition number of your Linux /boot partition.
            4. Do chroot /mnt
            5. Do grub-install /dev/sda
            6. Type exit and press enter.
            7. Type cd and press Enter
            8. If you mounted /boot separately, then do umount /mnt/boot
            9. Do umount /mnt
            10. Reboot your machine.
            11. The bare cd is to get you out of /mnt since you can’t unmount a filesystem that’s currently someone’s CWD.

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