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Having just gone through the pain of venturing into the uncharted territory of "Bleeding Edge" technology, I thought I'd share the tribulations and joys of my experience in the hope that it may aid some poor soul experiencing similar problems

My wife works from home and does some farly extensive data manipulation inside MS Access.
Some of her queries were taking upto 4 hours to run on her old P266 with 256M RAM, so we decide it was time to upgrade her machine.

Here's the story

Being a brave (foolhardy) individual I purchased 2x ATA100 30Gb drives, 512Mb RAM, an ASUS A7V motherboard, the AMD Athlon Thunderbird (1GHz) CPU, a WinFast 32Mb with TV/Out AGP video card, extra cooling fans, 300W PSU, I-Touch radio keyboard and wheel-mouse, Pioneer DVD/ROM & and OnStream 30Gb TBU.

We are running Windows NT4 (workstation) on a 16Mb full-duplex Token Ring network with four other machines.

Well I got the machine home and made a start.

The first headache I struck was of-course the 2Gb limit of NT4 pre SP3. I fixed that and moved on.


Now I hadn't worked with the ATA100 drives before, and was blissfully unaware that the system board provided its own special 'Promise' BIOS to handle the large fast drives.
Of-course NT knew all about that .... NOT !!!
Fortunately the motherboard had come supplied with the necessary driver CD AND it had an NT driver section.
Shame NT simply WOULD NOT be persuaded to load the driver at install time but aaahh ... these things were sent to try us .... and they do. Once NT was installed ... I installed the driver through the SCSI devices in Control Panel.


Now NT was installed, the next thing was to install the WinFast AGP video driver software. It installed fine but the TV/Out option was disabled and a number of the option tabs spoken of in the user guide were simply not-there. To cut the story short, again, later drivers were the answer to the missing option tabs. The disabled TV/Out option ... that was more tricky !
You have to have the TV/Video device attached before the option becomes enabled ... it's auto-sensing !


Next I went to install the OnStream Tape backup software. No such luck ... couldn't see the device at all.
This eventually tracked down to needing a later version of the On-Stream software TOGETHER WITH an update of the VIA 4in1 drivers.


Now the exciting bit.
The DVD.
We'd all been looking forward to this. The kids had their first DVD movies all waiting to play.
Load the WinDVD software that came with the WinFast AGP video card. ... Looks good.
Put the DVD in the drive. OSD pops up and says "PLAY"
.... nothing else happens
.... we wait
.... nope that's all folk.
We hit the Play button (in-fact any control) on the GUI DVD player and the screen freezes.
Alt-tab, Alt-Esc, Mouse, all no-go.
Alt-ctrl-del, tab to Task Manager and find that PowerDVD and the DVD Player are both "Not Responding".
Highlight either one and "End Task"

... OOooopps !! BAD BAD move ! Now the entire OS is locked solid. - It NEVER comes back.
You can contact the machine over the LAN and the processor is still running, but the OS is RS .... Kaputt !
Only one option ... hard-reset !!

Again for the sake of brevity.
Having tried all manner of things including alternate DVD software, BIOS settings, updated video card BIOS and drivers, changed interrupts,
... you name it I tried it.
I searched the web. I searched MS TechNet. I searched the newsgroups. There wasn't many avenues I left untried.

Finally I stumbled across an article on some FAQ somewhere that mentioned a similar problem under Win200 being caused by automatic video buffer expansion and how you could hack the registry to stop it from expanding its buffer.
Armed with that information I discovered under the display properties setting a little check-box under the "TNT 2 Model 64 Properties" dialog on the "OpenGL Settings" tab, called "Enable buffer region extension". It was ticked by default. I un-ticked it and naturally, the DVD now played absolutely perfectly !!!!!

AAAAaaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh !!!!


The next obstacle was the continual lockups while moving through documents. This could happen when scolling, clicking, using the page-up/down or left/right keys.
Suddenly the keyboard and mouse would stop responding. There was suddenly no way to communicate with the PC. Even coming in through the LAN you would find the processor had halted.
No error messages. No blue-screens. No warning. Nothing !
Again after many e-mails and hours of searching I yet again stumbled on another Win2000 article (TechNet this time) which mentioned a problem with the Ring Buffer overflowing on the Mouse/Keyboard.
Sure enough, when you know what to look for, there in the System event log is either or both of the following informational blue-i.gifentries;

Source: Mouclass
Event: 11
Description: The ring buffer that stores incoming mouse data has overflowed (buffer size is configurable via the registry)


Source: i8042prt
Event: 12
Description: The ring buffer that stores incoming mouse data has overflowed (buffer size is configurable via the registry)

Usually followed within a couple of minutes by the usual system restart events.

The specified registry hack on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Syetem\CurrentControlSet\Services\i8042prt\Parameters showed both the keyboard and the mouse queues were set at 100 bytes.
I first tried them both at 200 bytes, then 500 bytes and finally now at 1000 bytes (3e8 hex) we seem to have erradicated the lockups.

The keys in question are ...


Now as we all know, locking an OS like NT is a bad thing to do, it leaves files open etc etc etc.
That's ok. Autochk will run and take care of things at restart.
Weeeell .... not quite !
You see for some currently unknown reason, NT thinks the 30Gb ATA100 D: drive has become as follows ....

The type of the file system is NTFS.
This NTFS volume was created or modified by a later version of Windows NT.
This version of chkdsk cannot be run on this volume.
You must boot the version of NT that created/modified this volume and run
chkdsk from that installation.

Yeah well ... !!
I tried various things including another article on using the Win2000 chkdsk ... it doesn't even think the drive is NTFS !
In the mean-time there are now two directories on the drive which I cannot access in any way. Rename, Delete, View, .... nothing.
Having tried a fair few disk utilities, I am now waiting on a copy of On-Track Suite 3.0 to see if it can at-least remove the corrupt entries.

(NB. System Suite 2000 arrived but it couldn't fix the problem either. I eventually backed-up all the remaining good data off drive D:, restored it to drive E:, swapped the driver lettering in NT's Disk Administrator, rebooted and got around the problem that way.)


Two other minor headaches.
Software this time

STATUS UPDATE as at 9 June 2001

Now Back To The Main Story ...

Much troubled and muddy water has flowed under the bridge since I first created this page in Feb 2001.
To cut a VERY long story short, having resolved the ...

... the system still continued to lock-up sporadically.
It has turned out that the ASUS A7V has a major instability problem running OpenGL etc on a 4x AGP adaptor
If you can force the AGP bus to run at 2x, PRESTO ! - the instability is GONE.

Now, the hitches here are;

Since I could find no obvious way to force the 2x/4x AGP card down to 2x without undesirable side-effects, I purchased an older 8Mb SIS 2x AGP card off a collegue, and although the graphics are noticeably slower and the DVD will not run properly on it, AT LEAST MY WIFE'S SYSTEM IS STABLE !

The only real issues left now are:

Till the next update then ... Happy processing to you all.


Well I think that about sums it up.
If you have any specific questions, e-mail me on the link below.

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