Back in business

One thing I really hate is when hardware is not working.

Blue screens

Last November and December will be remembered as the “Blue” months, because of the amount of Blue Screens (BSOD) I got. And the problem (with me) is that I just can’t work on anything else, knowing that some piece of hardware can suddenly break down (again). These things consume all my time and energy until it’s fixed.. but I think I’ve got it fixed now!

This time my rather new Hyper-V server was suffering from BSOD’s. It started in November and it got even worse in December; I even had to show the rest of the family what button had to be presssed to get this server on his feet again for when I was not at home.. big fail! Life did still go on of course, but when your complete Domotica system and Internet connection stops working, you realize how much you’re used to  all the “good stuff” it brings and how fast you think you can’t live without it anymore.

This time it was one of the SDRAM modules inside the server that was causing these BSODs. But since I didn’t want to just start replacing hardware components randomly, I had to be sure what exactly was causing these blue screens. So I waited until I had enough BSOD occurrences to justify buying a new set of 4 x 4GB RAM modules. So on December 24th of 2011 I replaced the RAM and the problem disappeared – I’m back in business!

I know I’ll never be able change the fact that my productivity drops below zero when I’m facing these kind of problems. On the other hand, a few years ago I would have thrown this malfunctioning server out the door and start building a new one immediately – but now I take my time, observe where the errors come from and solve the problems in a more relativistic way. OK, I will miss some power consumption “blips”; I have to turn on the lights manually, etcetera – but after all, it’s just a hobby 😉

There is one nice side effect of all this, and that’s that while I was going through all the scenarios to solve the issue, I found a list of components with which I can build a new sub-20W server with even more processing power than I have now. That’s a reduction of 33% in power consumption… sounds tempting!

Do it before you have to…

I have 5 VM’s running on a Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V. This homebrew ‘server’ has been running flawlessly since June 2008, but last week, after being “up” since May this year, I had some problems and I couldn’t find what caused them.

The first issue I had was that MS Outlook was very slow, especially when moving from one email folder to another; it took multiple seconds, really terribly slow.  Update KB2412171 was the cause of this, as I found out here. After removing the update from my system everything was back to normal; well, part of it.

I was also experiencing performance issues with my file manager; not on local drives but only on network drives. The cause of this was something else, which didn’t take long to find either: my Hyper-V server was almost out of memory, 7.99 GB of 8 GB used! 🙁 That can’t be good for performance, so it was time to reboot the thing and do some updating on the VM’s.

I never look at the Hyper-V host because it’s always running fine, but after 7 months of uptime it needed some attention. But unfortunately, in this condition, starting the windows update process on 2 VM’s  was not a good idea. Both of them had multiple large .NET updates in the queue which always take a long time, but now it took much much longer; 3 hours in total! Bye-bye to all other plans I had for my Saturday evening…

So from now on I’ll keep a closer eye on the Hyper-V host and update & reboot before I really have to…

Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is doing fine

After some problems with the NIC driver, my Windows Server 2008 is running fine.

With all the BSOD’s i had in the beginning, the index was below 5.00 at some point. But since i replaced the NIC driver, the Sysytem Stability Chart is rising steadily.

No problems whatsoever, everything is working very stable. The only disadvantage of working with 5 virtual machines on Hyper-V is that when you have to install updates on the host that require a reboot, all VMs have to be restarted. Besides that, i can only see benefits of working this way.

Suddenly it starts having BSOD's… (2)

Some moments ago i updated the NIC driver. Current driver version is 6.203.214.2008, made for Vista, but i was able to install it on my Windows 2008 Server. At reboot Hyper-V service got stuck, it didn’t want to shutdown, so i had to push the reset-button. However, everything booted ok afterwards. At the same time i re-installed the 4GB RAM i recently removed. So now i’m back to 8GB, with a more recent driver. Now all i can do is wait to see if this driver-update has helped…

Suddenly it starts having BSOD's…

Since i virtualized a bunch of my PC’s, i’m having some trouble lately with my Windows 2008 Server running Hyper-V RC1. I get BSOD’s way to much, somewhere around 1 every 2 days. I was lucky that i witnessed the BSOD on 2 occasions and i could see vmswitch.sys being mentioned on the screen as the possible culprit. This lead me to the following Microsoft TechNet Forum post. 

Well, that can’t be a coincidence that this thread mentions the same NIC as i have on my Gigabyte EP35-DS4 motherboard. It seems to be a problem in the driver for this NIC (an on-board Realtek RTL8168/8111 Family PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC). So probably updating the driver should help, although i don’t know yet how to handle this if the driver is not digitally signed..we’ll see. The replacement RAM was already purchased, cause the problems started around the same time that i added an additional 4GB so i blamed that at first… well, nevermind, a bit of spare RAM is always handy 🙂

CPU Charts

I finished a new page today, containing CPU Charts for all of my virtual machines. This way i can keep track of what’s going on ‘ínside’ my virtual machines, without having to log on to the server all the time. The data for these CPU Charts are produced by a Powershell script running on the host, that periodically does some WMI querys and stores the results in a SQL Server table.

I’m planning on expanding the monitoring of the virtual machines by adding things like disk usage, uptime etc so i have a good view of how the systems are performing and whether they need attention or are just running fine.

Ethernet-enabling my hardware

In order to be able to virtualize my 3 24/7 PCs to one single machine (by using Windows Server 2008 with the upcoming Hyper-V), i need to get some devices Ethernet-enabled, like my ACT TI213, the LED-bar, PTZ-control for my Sone EVI-D30 cameras, RFXCOM receivers and transmitters, etc. etc.
I ordered a Ethernet-RS232 converter earlier this week to connect RS232 devices to my LAN and ‘talk’ to these RS232 devices by using TCP. It’s very simple; you set the IP address and Port for the Ethernet side, Baudrate etc. for the Serial side, and off you go. Together with some POE (Power over Ethernet) plugs this will reduce the cabling in our house, cause Ethernet is always nearby..