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Windows 7 is quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I travel quite frequently for business. As such I figured I would install Skype in order to keep in touch with my family at home and to provide myself with the ability to do video calls with them (it’s nice to be able to see one’s family and not just hear them). It took me a while to get my Lifecam NX-6000 (which is, allegedly, compatible with Windows 7 according to Microsoft’s gospel) installed and working both with the Lifecam software and with Skype. However, for reasons I CANNOT fathom, whenever I plug the webcam into a different USB port (and my laptop has 4 of them) Windows 7 wants to reinstall the driver. Well…today, it tried to reinstall the driver (I couldn’t remember which port I last plugged the webcam into) and failed – repeatedly. This for a product that is considered COMPATIBLE with Windows 7 (the Lifecam NX-6000 is only 2 years old at most!).

So, now, I cannot use the webcam and Skype crashes when I try to do a video test. This is utter BS on the part of Microsoft. I have tried looking up the help for this problem only to get some ridiculous crap about a) making sure that automatic updating is turned on (HELLO! This is a corporate system – they are only pushing patches that they approve!) or b) manually updating the drivers (tried that…no luck) or c) installing the software for the device from the manufacturer (uh…Microsoft…YOU ARE THE MANUFACTURERS OF THE FRIGGIN DEVICE AND THE OPERATING SYSTEM!!!!!). I’ve even done the usual uninstalling and reinstalling of the driver (Several times in fact – all to no avail). I’ve even done the sane thing of rebooting Windows. What I can’t understand is that Windows won’t provide for me any detailed information as to WHY the driver is failing (the only thing I can surmise is that the driver being used for the 1TB USB drive I got yesterday is the culprit…however, I’m not sure which one it is). This is beyond stupid and represents a truly, phenomenally crappy operating system. I’m starting to think that I will be looking to get a second laptop to travel with just so that I can stay in touch with my family with hardware that actually WORKS!)…perhaps a MacBook Pro…if only I can swallow the fact that I will be selling my soul to “The Steve”!

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Power was finally restored sometime early this morning — possibly around 3 AM. We have been slowly getting caught up on chores and other things as we get ready to rumble for round 2 of the “Snowpocalypse”/”Snowmageddon”. One thing I’ve had to do was restore the network (which wasn’t so bad). The thing that irked me the most, though, was that we lost power around 9PM on Friday February 5th 2010 — on Shabbat — when I couldn’t go into DR mode and shutdown the servers cleanly. So, they all crashed even though I do have them all on UPSs. I need to sit down and finish that shutdown script that I’ve been meaning to write so that when one starts to shutdown it signals to the others to shutdown as well.

Recovery of the network took about 45 minutes as the Windows 2003 servers had to check AD — and because they had to check AD, DNS — which is integrated into AD in my home domain — was unavailable for a while. The good news is that all the servers recovered cleanly and network services were restored. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of the power outage from the last storm and things will be much smoother…(he says as he knocks on the wood desk).

I’ve finally built my new virtual server — the one in which I’m going to consolidate my current machines as virtual machines. The intention is to measure the amount of energy my current systems (consisting of a Sun Ultra 60 — dual 400MHz UltraSPARC II CPUs, 2GB memory, and 2x20GB SCSI drives; a Dell Workstation 610 — dual 700MHz Pentium III CPUs, 768MB memory, and a 20GB IDE drive as well as a 30GB IDE drive; a home-built server with an AMD Athlon 1.2GHz CPU, 512MB memory and a 30GB IDE drive as well as a 9.1GB SCSI drive) and then migrate everything to the virtual machine world and measure the energy used by the VM server.

The VM server consists of the following hardware:

Seasonic SS-500ES 500W power supply
Gigabyte GA-MA790GPT-UD3H
AMD Athlon x64 X4 CPU 630 Propus 2.8GHz (quad-core, 95W)
8GB memory
1 x 160GB 7200RPM SATA drive
1 x 500GB 7200RPM SATA drive

The first idea was to install Windows Server 2008R2 core with Hyper-V on the machine and use that to build the VM images. However, the Athlon x64 X4 CPU is not supported by Hyper-V. So far as I can tell it does use AMD-V technology and I did enable virtualization in the motherboard BIOS but Hyper-V won’t start. So, the fall back was to go with ESXi.

I wanted to use ESXi 4.0 Update 1 however the network interface on the motherboard (consisting of a Realtek 8111/8168 chip) is not supported by ESXi. The only supported network interfaces are gigabit interfaces (which the Realtek is — it just isn’t supported and I didn’t have a supported interface card on hand). So, I figured no problem…I’ll just use ESXi 3.5 Update 4. Well, the Realtek chip is also not supported in ESXi 3.5 — but the PCI 3Com 905TX and an Intel EE Pro 10/100 are. However, SATA drives are not supported — well, not completely. I managed to get the system installed by booting from the CD, switching to the tech support console (hitting ALT-F1) and then logging in using the unsupported login. I then loaded the AHCI driver and restarted the install and ESXi installed nicely. However, booting off the install on the hard drives was a no-go since the AHCI drive wouldn’t load (for reasons I’m not sure of) and the system crashed. Back to square one.

I then noticed that VMware released Update 5 to ESXi 3.5 earlier this month (about two weeks ago). I read the release notes and realized that they had resolved the AHCI/SATA drive issues. I downloaded it, burned it to a CD and tried it. Bingo! It installed without a hitch and booted without a problem. Awesome. Now I’m in the process of building out my VM images.

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