Windows 7 and i855 chipset

by on Sep.12, 2009, under software

Final version of Windows 7 is done and it seems that unlike Vista this OS will be a huge success.
There are so many reviews praising this new operating system from Microsoft and everyone is so excited about it. Computers that had very hard time running Windows Vista do not have to be replaced or trashed as W7 should run quite well on it.

There is however one big issue – Windows 7 no longer supports XDDM drivers as Vista did. Instead it just uses the ‘Standard VGA Adapter’ which is good only for standard resolutions. And critical thing for notebook users – it does not allow you to hibernate or put the computer to sleep. Many great Centrino notebooks were shipped with i855 or i915 chipset and integrated graphics that do not support Aero. In Vista it was possible to use XP drivers and everything was fine, but in Windows 7 this no longer works.

Since I really wanted to use Windows 7 on my ThinkPad X40 (i855), I spend hours searching the internet for solution. And I succeeded! This is a step-by-step guide how to make it work:

1. bcdedit.exe -set loadoptions DISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS
2. bcdedit.exe -set nointegritychecks ON
3. reboot to safe mode
4. open Computer Management, update driver for the Display Adapter using THIS drivers (only this version works!)
5. wait for the succesful installation message, reboot in normal mode
6. wait for the ‘New Hardware Found’ dialog to finish, it should give you error for one of the adapters
7. reboot to normal mode
8. wait for the ‘New Hardware Found’ dialog to finish, it should be successful this time
9. reboot to normal mode
10. change the color depth to 32-bit

Please note that I wasn’t the one who found out how to do this and I don’t want to steal credit for it. It is a compilation of various solutions I found on the internet that for some reasons didn’t fully work for me.

EDIT 04/09/2010: the first line is not required, the next one is enough.

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Boosting ThinkPad X40 with SSD

by on Sep.02, 2009, under hardware

Some time ago I was able to obtain a beautiful piece of hardware – IBM ThinkPad X40. Long ago I attended a presentation of this ultra portable notebook when the speaker after mentioning the magnesium alloy cover and the active protection system for the hard drive simply took the demo machine, dropped it (while it was still running) on the ground and jumped on it with both feet. Then he placed it back on the table, connected the projector and continued in the presentation like nothing happened. Awesome!

The notebook comes with low voltage version of Pentium M at 1.2GHz with 1MB L2 cache (TDP 12W), 1.5GB RAM, 12″ TFT display @ 1024×768, 40GB hard drive, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, InfraRed, 56k modem, two USB ports, SD slot (although it should work only with simple SD cards, I’m using a 16GB SanDisk class 6 SDHC card without problems) and a Windows XP Professional licence. The standard battery has capacity of only 2600mAh but thanks to the low power components it gives about 3.5 hours of normal work. High capacity 8-cell battery is available that can provide up to 8 hours.  This all comes in a package less than 1 inch thick and 1.3 kilos light.

I got it together with Ultrabase X4 Dock which has integrated CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive (can be replaced by second hard drive or battery) and more ports (serial, parallel, USB).

The only fault I found so far is the hard drive. The capacity is more than enough but IBM had to make a sacrifice and used 1.8″ 4.2krpm drive that is anything but fast. Another thing is the scary clicking sound it makes periodically – at first I thought it is about to die soon but using it for a while I realized it is feature…

This is a screenshot from HDTach with the original Hitachi DK13FA drive:

Hitachi DK13FA-40B benchmark

Maximum transfer about 21MB/s, random access 21.7ms – nothing but a disaster.

The only HDD replacement I found in regular computer stores here was 80GB drive from Toshiba (kinda expensive at about 250 USD for a new one). I didn’t find any reviews of this drive but I can guess that it won’t be much better than the original.

Yet again I was saved by eBay – I found 1.8″ PATA SSD drive made by KingSpec especially for X40/X41 notebooks. It comes in 32 and 64GB capacity and now costs about 140 / 240 USD including worlwide shipping. I ordered the 32GB version, got it in 2 weeks, replaced the original drive in less than 2 minutes, installed operating system and ran the benchmark:

Stable transfer speed almost 70MB/s and access time 0.2ms – that is more than 100 times faster than the original drive.

By the way – I paid more for the SSD drive than for the notebook with the docking station, but still the whole thing was cheaper than the new Atom-based netbooks that are so hot today. So if you are thinking about buying Asus EEE or the Acer Aspire One,  my advice would be to think again – just check eBay for refurbished ThinkPad X31/X40, replace the hard drive with SSD and you get much better and nicer notebook!

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Promise TX4310 vs. Intel ICH7R

by on Jun.04, 2009, under hardware

Some time ago I wrote a recipe how to lose 2 TB of data. The server in which we had the two Promise TX4310 controllers started acting up so we decided to replace the old socket 603 motherboard with a newer one. We had couple of spare servers with Supermicro PDSML-LN2 motherboards.

The new board comes with 4 SATA ports (previous one had only IDE and SCSI) using ICH7R controller which supports RAID 0, 1, 10 and 5, so I decided to see how this built-in solution from Intel handles the 3TB RAID5 array that the Promise cannot. I installed Windows 2008 Standard Server x64 SP2, Matrix Storage Manager 8.8 (latest available from Intel) and the latest driver for Promise controller ( for Vista/2008).

I created the array using MSM GUI and opened Disk Management console. The array was visible but was split into two partitions: one with size 2048GB and the second one with the remaining 746.41 GB. The default Windows disk – MBR – does not support partitions larger than 2TB. I had to convert the disk to GPT in odrer to have just one partition.

Out of curiosity I tried to do the same operation on the Promise controller, connected the 4 drives, created RAID5 array in the web application (it is not supported in the controller BIOS!) and to my surprise, it behaved the same as on Intel. I could see the whole ~3TB partition! The original server was running 32-bit version of Windows 2003 Server, so first I thought MS is to blame – but only until restarting the server. During the POST, I noticed the Promise BIOS reported the array size as 2199GB and when I logged in and checked the Disk Management, the size was only 2048GB. So obivously there is something wrong with the Promise BIOS. The only way how to use all 4TB of raw capacity is to create two RAID5 arrays (each with size < 2TB) and then – if you want to have only one disk in the system – to create spanned volume accross these two disks. If you make one 3TB array like me it will work only until first restart. And question is if the data written above 2TB will be written properly or it will be just a garbage, eventually it overwrites data stored at the beginning of the disk (as it has happened to me).

And there is one more important thing – the performance of each of this arrays.

First the Promise controller with 4 WD drives, each 500GB in RAID5:

Promise TX4310 RAID5 performance

Then the Intel with 4 Hitachi drives in RAID 5:

In both cases the disk cache was enabled, controller cache enabled and NCQ enabled.

I wasn’t able to use the Hitachi drives with the Promise controller as they were already filled with few hundred GB of data, but the WD is not at fault here. The only thing in which the Promise controller is better is CPU utilization. The server is using one Core 2 Duo 6420 @ 2.13GHz, and the performance gain of the Intel is certainly worth the 13%. Not to mention that I don’t have to worry about losing the data again…

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Cloning Vista’s boot drive

by on May.14, 2009, under software

It feels like it was yesterday when I purchased a 3.2GB hard drive (IBM Deskstar DAQA-33240), the biggest capacity available at that time, for (now) ridiculos price of 380 USD. It was year 1997 and I could not imagine I will be able to make it full…

Last weekend I ran out of disk space on my 160GB system drive. Since I was too lazy to search through the files and delete the unneeded ones, and since I had an extra 320GB disk in the cabinet, I decided to simply clone the drive. For this task I always use Acronis TrueImage Rescue CD – connect the new hard drive, boot from CD, select source and destination drive, start the process and within minutes it is done. Take out the old drive, boot to OS, one more restart (new hardware found) and it’s done.

Previously I was cloning either Windows XP or 2003 server and those worked without problems. This time it was my first attempt to clone Windows Vista – and it failed. After succesful cloning of the drive, Vista started booting but reported error that winload.exe is corrupted. After some googling I was able to find the answer and solution to this problem.  The trick is to modify the boot configuration data before the cloning operation to fool the boot loader.

1. open command line and run ‘bcdedit’ – it will return something like this (from Vista x64):

Windows Boot Manager
identifier              {bootmgr}
device                  partition=C:
description             Windows Boot Manager
locale                  en-US
inherit                 {globalsettings}
displayorder            {current}
toolsdisplayorder       {memdiag}
timeout                 3
resume                  No

Windows Boot Loader
identifier              {current}
device                  partition=C:
path                    \Windows\system32\winload.exe
description             Microsoft Windows Vista
locale                  en-US
inherit                 {bootloadersettings}
osdevice                partition=C:
systemroot              \Windows
resumeobject            {2c528445-aefb-11dd-abf0-86e4099117f6}
nx                      OptIn

2. we need to replace the string ‘partition=C:’ with ‘boot’ to make it work, so run following commands:

bcdedit /set {bootmgr} device boot
bcdedit /set {current} device boot
bcdedit /set {current} osdevice boot
bcdedit /set {memdiag} device boot

3. clone the disk and the problem with winload.exe is gone, Vista boots from the new drive.

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When 2GB of memory is not enough

by on Jan.21, 2009, under software

Too bad I forgot which game I was trying to install…

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Error code 1603 when installing SQL 2005 Service Pack(s)

by on Jan.20, 2009, under software

Due to some issues with MS SQL 2005 and Reporting Services I was forced to update installation at our customer’s site to at least Service Pack 2. What seemed to be a trivial task turned into a nightmare (and daymare as well).

The first problem we had was that we were running the RTM version. Even though SP2 is cummulative update and it should be possible to install it directly, during the preinstallation checks it failed to connect to both the SQL Server and Reporting Services instances and reported authentication error.

I found plenty of similar reports on many internet forums but only one advice – SP2 might have these issues when installing over RTM, so install SP1 first and then SP2, it will work fine. But I didn’t have the SP1 installation package! If I was at home, the 300MB download would take just few minutes to complete, but here in the middle of Africa it took almost 12 hours.

<praise>Thank you Lord for resumable downloads. </praise>

The next evening, SP1 installation seemed to work fine  – well, except the SQL database. The update failed with error code 1603. First I thought that maybe the downloaded file was corrupted and the MSP file is broken but it was fine. So what, DB can stay at RTM, I need reporting services. Except that they won’t start.

Some more googling, but no advice on this error 1603 – it is not SQL specific, it is generated by windows installer. Oh well… let’s try the SP2 now!

SP2 now passed the preinstallation check, much to my surprise since the DB instance was still running at RTM level as before. Installation finished in few minutes, and again – 1603 error when trying to update the DB instance.

I ran through the megabytes of logs generated by the installer but didn’t find anything helpful except the following message:

Property(S): SQL200564Hotfix3042 = C:\install\SQL.2005.SP2\HotFixSQL\Files\sqlrun_sql.msp
MSI (s) (1C:98) [01:58:35:286]: Product: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (64-bit) – Update ‘Service Pack 2 for SQL Server Database Services 2005 (64-bit) ENU (KB921896)’ could not be installed. Error code 1603. Additional information is available in the log file C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Setup Bootstrap\LOG\Hotfix\SQL9_Hotfix_KB921896_sqlrun_sql.msp.log.

Well, as one can expect, this is all that I found inside the SQL9_Hotfix_KB921896_sqlrun_sql.msp.log file :)

Out of desperation I checked the event log, and there it was! One simple sentence that lead to the solution:

MSP Error: 29506 SQL Server Setup failed to modify security permissions on file C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Data\ for user martin.havlicek. To proceed, verify that the account and domain running SQL Server Setup exist, that the account running SQL Server Setup has administrator privileges, and that exists on the destination drive.

Someone created a subfolder with database backup in the Data folder with security permissions only for himself and the installer didn’t like that at all. I took ownership of that folder, deleted it (backup was from 2007!) and rerun the SP2 installation – and it worked perfectly!

So in case you are getting the same error as I was, you might find this info helpful.

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Migrating VM from VMware Server 1.0.x to ESXi 3.5

by on Dec.21, 2008, under virtualization

In response to Microsoft releasing free Hyper-V Server (actually a full Windows 2008 Server with only one role – Hyper-V) VMware followed with crippled version of their flagship product, ESX Server. The product is called VMware ESXi Server and the current version is 3.5 update 3. Unlike VMware Server it does not require operating system to be installed first as it is actually heavily modified and customized linux-based hypervisor.

I decided to give it a try and migrate couple of my virtual machines from Windows 2003 + VMware Server to ESXi. Since it uses its own file system (vmfs3) I had to move all the VM’s to another server before installation. And that’s where my problems started.

Booting and installing the ESXi is quite simple, on IBM xSeries 3250 it detected all required hardware (LSI controller, Broadcom network adapters) and the system was ready within 10 minutes.

The only way how to manage ESXi is through VMware Infrastructure Client, GUI application that you need to install on your client machine – you can download it from the ESXi host.

I connected to the ESXi server and tried to transfer the original VM’s I moved out earlier, but there is no obvious way. You can create a new virtual machine or import virtual appliance, but nothing else.

After spending couple of hours googling and reading various forums I finally succeeded and here are some tips I found:

(continue reading…)

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Recipe: how to lose 2TB of data

by on Sep.20, 2008, under hardware

You will need the following ingredients:

– Promise FastTrak 4310 SATA RAID controller with latest BIOS ( and drivers (
– four Hitachi HDS721010KLA330 1TB SATA drives
– 2TB of really important data

1. install the Promise controller in PCI slot
2. boot to OS and create RAID5 array on all 4 drives
3. start transferring files to the newly created array
4. fill up 2 terabytes and enjoy the error message
5. spend two days trying to recover the files
6. spend another two days trying to recover yourself

This recipe is OS independent.

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giving Vista a second chance…

by on Sep.19, 2008, under software

In February 2007 when Windows Vista was released I gave it a try and was as many many other users quite disappointed. The main complaint was the bloody hardware requirements, very slow performance and some of the new features being more restrictive than helpful. My computer was kept occupied all the time only by the operating system and I was thinking, what would happen if I actually try to run some applications? Like Visual Studio? Or games? Network performance was also an issue, transferring files between two computers made me remember 90’s and coax 10Mbps ethernet. So after only few days – actually even hours – I gladly returned to Windows XP.

With the release of Service Pack 1 earlier this year Microsoft addressed most of the issues that everyone was complaining about and Vista actually became quite usable OS. Shall I give it a second chance? The decision was made when my 15krpm Ultra160 SCSI Seagate system drive moaned loudly and simply stopped spinning. So I just grabbed the original 160GB SATA drive and used it instead. The PC I tried it on is pretty obsolete in 2008 – HP dx6120 with 3GHz Pentium 4, 2GB RAM and i915G chipset – anything new you buy these days is better than that.

Funny thing – when the new installation of OS, all drivers and applications was finished, miracle happened and the Seagate came back from the dead… Murphy was right!

The installation was fast, done in about 20 minutes, everything worked fine except the AC97 sound – I downloaded it from HP website. The default WDDM video driver for i915 was behaving weird when playing movies (using ffdshow), I installed the latest i915 driver for Windows XP and problem was gone.

Note – i915G chipset, both desktop or mobile version, is not able to run Aero – blame Intel for that one, though they clain the chipset was designed long before Vista was released and that’s why it is not supported, even older GeForce and Radeon cards happily work with Aero, so something stinks here. Vista will work in ‘basic’ non-Aero mode but from my experience it looks much worse and is much slower than the fully accelerated Aero engine. So if you have free AGP or PCI-E slot, sacrifice 50USD and get a cheap DX9/10 GPU – it is worth it.

Get at least 2GB of RAM, especially DDR2 is so cheap these days, Vista (unlike XP) takes full advantage of it. IThere are lots of complaints that Vista uses all memory there is – and that’s true, it does. What is the use of having lots of memory when it is not in use? When other applications need memory and ask for it, it is freed immediately, until then Vista uses it used as a system cache.

Multi core CPU is not necessary, HT works fine, and my other computer with 2GHz Pentium M runs Vista quite as well.

I also noticed it takes couple of days for Vista to get used to the hardware and optimize itself, after that it runs much faster. So it seems that the prefetch and optimalization crap actually works…

The only problem I had was obtaining the Vista SP1 installation DVD – slipstreaming the service pack easily into the installation DVD as it was done in Windows 2000, XP and 2003 is no longer possible. I found an article compiled from various sources how to make a SP1 DVD from the RTM + SP1 installer and it was really long and complicated story. I cheated – downloaded the ISO image from MSDN.

So after my first negative review I have changed my mind and am now a happy Vista user. And since Windows XP is getting harder to get these days and in few months it won’t be available anymore, like it or not, Vista is the only choice. Le roi est mort, vive le roi.

Well, of course, if you have so much spare time, don’t know how to use mouse or still run on 386SX, you can go for Linux… 😉

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Windows XP SP3 Release Candidate

by on Jan.29, 2008, under software

A litle belated news but for many people quite important – on 12/18/2007 Microsoft released for public testing third service pack for it’s so far most favourite operating system Windows XP. You can download it here –  it’s 336MB. It doesn’t include any new functionality and is just a rollup of all hotfixes and updates since 3+ years old SP2. It would have been nice if it included Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Media Player 11 but ‘thanks’ to idiots in various EU and US commities ‘protecting’ us from MS monopoly it is available only as a separate download.

As with any other RC sofware it is not recommended for production machines. but from my experience so far is pretty stable with no big problems. Windows Vista SP1 RC is out there as well though not widely available (but those who want it know where to find it :)

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