February 07, 2013

Spica: Strange things

It's been interesting setting up Spica, the new computer. I'm sure you're all terribly interested in this (snore) but it's been what I've been doing for the last couple of days.

The cooling on this system is amazing. When I started getting really worried about Alcyone, Speedfan showed the cores running 80C and the GPU running 120C. Seems like the computer was really cranking back its clock rate in self defense, which is why that computer felt really slow and unresponsive.

Spica, on the other hand: Speedfan reports the cores running about 20C and the GPU at 38. 8 cores, it reports.

???

And the task manager reports 8 CPUs, too. This is designed to be a gaming machine, but I'm having a hard time believing there is any game out there that can take advantage of 8 CPUs. We're getting into the realm of "Mine is bigger than yours" with this, I think. Surely I have no such use; the only app around here that would take advantage of it is Handbrake, and I run that about once a year.

Or is it 4 hyperthreaded cores? Intel i7 3610QM; Wikipedia said it was 4 cores.

I managed to get a lot of my apps installed. Spica has about half the disk space, and I'm finding that I have to leave some stuff behind. However, I think it has an empty bay for an HD. I'm going to check on that, and if it's true I'll order another one.

Something worrisome: twice now this system and quit and rebooted. No warning, no popup, just instantly black screen, and then the windows boot "We shut down unexpectedly, do you want safe mode?" screen. That's not good.

One of my "can't live without" programs is Photomagic 4.0. It originally came out as a Win 95 app, and its installer is a 16-bit program, which Win7-64 won't run. So I copied the install directory over. And it turned out there were about 8 DLLs in the OS directory that had to be copied, too. Once I did that, and then let it run once with admin privilege, it works. Whew!

The new puzzle is that IE has stopped running flashes. I'm not sure why, but I can't see the top rotation now. (It worked earlier, and it still works in Firefox.) It may be that I have to install the Flash plugin again, and it may be that I fouled up a setting in the options frame. I'm still working on it. I was looking around on the Adobe website for the page that installs the plugin, but I couldn't find it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Computers at 09:24 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 442 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Black screen is so-called "tripple-fault": CPU takes GPF on a program, immediately takes another in kernel, and another one special recovery mode. I do not remember details, sorry. But something went bad, like all the interrupt-servicing tables overwritten. Although, a tripple-fault is easy for SMM BIOS to trigger as well.

As far as tempterature goes, I am afraid I need to deliver the bad news: temperature sensors must be calibrated. They deliver meaningless numbers, that in theory the board vendor should provide to Windows. I think there's no way to fetch calibration tables from firmware, or at least there wasn't one when I looked at it. It may be just an .INF file somewhere, however.

Both these together may be pointing at the board vendor doing poor job with firmware and software support. Can't really say any more with any surety.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at February 07, 2013 09:44 PM (RqRa5)

2

A power hit could cause that black-screen failure, but that isn't what happened. For one thing it has a battery, even though it's plugged into the wall.

A static electricity jolt could do it, too, but that also isn't what happened.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 07, 2013 10:27 PM (+rSRq)

3 OK, and now I have flash working again.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 07, 2013 11:04 PM (+rSRq)

4 Power hits don't have to be just the line.  A twitchy rail in the power supply did the black screen to me in the past; it didn't help that I was close on the power budget either.

Posted by: Douglas Oosting at February 07, 2013 11:30 PM (vtGjZ)

5

 

As far as tempterature goes, I am afraid I need to deliver the bad news: temperature sensors must be calibrated.

I believe that. But the old machine was noticeably hot to the touch, and this machine doesn't even get warm.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 08, 2013 11:01 AM (+rSRq)

6 If you did have some kind of GPU failure leading to a reboot, Windows should have warned you on the reboot, with a "Windows has recovered from a serious error" message.
Intel's web site says the CPU is HT.  Windows reports hyperthreads as if they were full cores in places like Task Manager.
Finally, that CPU is a 45W TDP, so it's possible those temps are accurate.
What are you doing with the old machine?  Have you checked the vents to make sure they're not clogged?  A blast of compressed air can do wonders--I've had more than one laptop get new life after that treatment.

Posted by: RickC at February 08, 2013 04:33 PM (WQ6Vb)

7 Regarding Flash, I know you said you had it running again in an earlier post, but in Win7, if you run the 64-bit version of IE, you need the 64-bit version of Flash, which is not installed by default.
I had the same black-screen problem once; newer video drivers fixed it.

Posted by: RickC at February 08, 2013 04:35 PM (WQ6Vb)

8

What are you doing with the old machine? Have you checked the vents to make sure they're not clogged? A blast of compressed air can do wonders--I've had more than one laptop get new life after that treatment.

Right now the old machine is sitting on a counter in my kitchen so that I can consult it if needed. In a couple of days it's going into a storage box. Yes, I've opened it up and gave it several blasts with compressed air. It didn't make any difference.

(And one of the reasons I hate unsolicited advice is people telling me to do things I had already done.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 08, 2013 05:12 PM (+rSRq)

9

If you did have some kind of GPU failure leading to a reboot, Windows should have warned you on the reboot, with a "Windows has recovered from a serious error" message.

Depends on how it happens. If the driver is in system mode and takes a blind leap into space (for instance if the stack gets corrupted) then no recovery is possible.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 08, 2013 05:28 PM (+rSRq)

10 "If the driver is in system mode and takes a blind leap into space (for instance if the stack gets corrupted) then no recovery is possible."
That's true.  But the message I'm talking about comes *after* a reboot, so "recovery" may not be technically correct, but there for the benefit of less knowledgeable users.
Even when the machine locks up hard and you have to hit the reset button, sometimes Windows still knows what happens.

Posted by: RickC at February 08, 2013 08:58 PM (WQ6Vb)

11

Yes, sometimes it knows. But sometimes it does not. When the software realizes that something in system mode took a blind leap, it can't trust anything. It can't, for instance, trust the code that's supposed to log the failure.

When the CPU is jumping around randomly, anything could happen. If it's in system mode, it could change system code in strange and wonderful ways.

In a situation like that, the only sane way to cope is to say "Screw it; shortest possible path to a reboot, involving the least amount of code and hope to hell that even that code didn't get corrupted." Using code to write anything to disk is insanity, because it could write to the wrong place and corrupt the file system.

In a serious production system this would get done by hardware via a watchdog timer, but PC's don't go quite that far.

Rick, I used to write this kind of stuff; I know how it works.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 08, 2013 09:32 PM (+rSRq)

12

By the way, the only reason the reboot knows something bad happened is that there's a flag left on the disk that says "I'm unclean" when you're normally running. If the OS does a well-mannered shut down, one of the things that happens is to set that flag to a state that indicates "I am clean".

The flag doesn't get set to "unclean" on a catastrophic reboot; it's set that way normally. If the reboot finds that flag in "unclean" mode, then it tells you it was an unexpected reboot and gives you the option of going into Safe Mode.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 08, 2013 09:35 PM (+rSRq)

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