Thursday, November 20, 2008

[2008.11.20] Fun with Windows Server 2008

I have used Windows XP 64 / Server 2003 for a few months and I liked it a lot. Having upgraded my laptop, I decided to try Windows Server 2008 64-bit Enterprise Version. I am currently running this on an Acer Aspire 5110: AMD Turion X2 1.6GHz, AMD ATI X1600 Video Card, 4GB RAM and a 500GB WD hard drive. Upgrading my RAM to 4GB and HS from 160 to 500GB plus the fact that there is a cool tool to convert Windows Server 2008 to a workstation was motivation enough for me.

You can download the image of Windows Server 2008 from Microsoft and try it for 60 days. The installation was actually a lot faster than installing XP. After using the tool to do the conversions, everything seemed to work fine. While Server 2008 is thus far excellent and comes with a lot of generic drivers (this is both good and bad), there were a few devices that were not installed automatically.

We have, at some point all seen that annoying little yellow icon saying Windows have no idea what that device is, nor is Windows Update any help. Without knowing what the device is, you really can't address the problem.

Fig.1 Famous Unknown Devices

However, there are tools to help out. Two that I have used to get detailed information on my system are Lavalys Everest and HWiNFO32.

Fig.2 Using Everest to get more info on devices

Installing drivers for unknown devices is easy, it is upgrading drivers to the latest version seem to be an issue as we shall soon see.

Issues I have with Server 2008: Some fixed, Some not

[1] Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) in Windows Server 2008 + Manual Driver Install [ fixed (so far) ]

It took me a while to install and configure everything to my preferences and I thought that was that. However, I started getting Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) every so often. However, the feedback you get after rebooting gives you enough information to address the problem. From the report, it indicated that the problem was caused by a Realtek device and a simple search yielded that this device was actually the onboard hi-def sound card.

Fig.3 Report after BSOD

I figured updating the drivers for the Realtek 8110/8169 series would take care of this mess, but doing so was not as simple as it should be. I checked the version of the audio drivers and saw they were from 2006 and it was a generic Microsoft one. Even Windows Update did not try to get the updated drivers from the device makers.

Updating drivers was a cinch in XP but here it was not. When updating drivers, I like to do just that, get the driver package and manually point the driver update for the device to the folder with the drivers. However, when I tried to do that I kept getting the same message over and over - that the 2006 generic drivers were the most current. For instance, this is what Windows said when I tried to update the LAN drivers.

Fig.4 Windows says 2006 LAN drivers most current

Every time I uninstalled the device and rebooted, Windows automatically installed the generic drivers. Even though I disabled this behavior, it still did this, so I am not sure if this is a bug or what.

Fig.5 Changing how Windows will install drivers

This did not work.

The only way to I found to make Windows Server update drivers is to download a full install package (msi/exe) and let the installer "force" the driver update. I personally do not like doing this which is why it wasn't my first instinct, as I find that some of these installer packages often put supplemental programs that I could care less about.

Even after I did this, I still kept on getting BSOD. At first, based on the Windows report, I thought that listening to music and using the internet at the same time was the problem. So usually, I turn my music off before going online. However, I was still getting BSODs, even when I was copying data between partitions on my external drive. It led me to conclude that the problem is with the network drivers instead, which happen to be from Realtek as well.

Again, note that the network drivers installed were from 2006 and Windows was not letting me do driver update the way I wanted to.

Fig.6 LAN drivers are old

Again, I used an installer package from Realtek and updated the LAN drivers. However, Windows was still not using my updated Realtek device as the default NIC. Instead, it was uing some sort of virtual device that was still using the old drivers and as such, I was still getting BSODs. So I diabled the virtual device and made the Realtek NIC my default device.

Fig.7 Disable virtual NIC

So far, I have listened to music and worked online simultaneously and have not had BSOD yet. Hope this solves the problem.

[2] Peer Guardian 2 [ fixed ]

Again, given that it worked on XP64, I didn't think that I would have any issues with this. So I started off by installing the regular 64-bit version (Peer Guardian 2.0 Beta 6b [pg2-x64.exe] ) and that installed perfectly fine, but for some reason it was blocking, then not blocking.

So reading around, I came across PeerGuardian 2 RC1 Test which again installed flawlessly, but again, there were some issues.

The first problem is actually trying to load/start PG2. I kept getting the error:

Fig.8 Peer Guardian start error

This is due to some sort of digital signing driver and you can turn this off when you boot into Server 2008. Hit F8 and choose the Disable Driver Signature Enforcement option. This error will go away and you can run PG2.

Note1: I always boot in this mode.
Note2: This can actually be the first thing you do or you can install PG first, but when you start PG, you will get a driver access type error and you would have to reboot and do this step. Actually, you have to do this each time you reboot.

The second problem is that there were times when it seems to work, then not work and I could not figure out exactly what is going on. At first I thought it was because I modified my hosts file to the one from and even though I kept switching between my original and modified hosts, the problem continued. As well as the lists that come with PG, I use the Blocklist Manager software from Bluetack Internet Security Solutions to get other compatible block lists as well, such as for torrents. I used to run their ProtoWall software with PG under XP32 but I could never get it working on XP64 and I haven't bothered with Server 2008.

To get Peer Guardian 2 to work on Server 2008:

  1. Install PeerGuardian 2 RC1 Test.
  2. Reboot and keep hitting F8, then select the option Disable Driver Signature Enforcement
  3. After install, update the lists
  4. If for some reason it does not look like it's working (i.e. not blocking), then click the Disable button on PG's main window, hit Check Updates and when it is done, Enable it once more. So far this has worked for me. Other suggestions I came across said to quite PG, and delete the files: cache.p2b, history.db and pg2.conf
[3] Hyper-V and Visual Studio 2010 CTP [ not fixed ]

There is a great guide on how to get the VM image of VS2010 to work on Server 2008. It does not work for me as I keep getting the hypervisor error shown in the image.

Fig.9 Hyper-V + VS2010 Error

As far as I can tell, my CPU supports virtualization.

Fig.10 Processor Test
So far, I have not found a solution to this and I have installed Virtual PC to work with VS2010.

It seems that even though my CPU is capable, it is not turned on automatically. My BIOS has no option for doing that. As of Nov. 20 2008, Acer has not issued a BIOS fix to address this problem. Given the rate that they update stuff, I don't plan on holding my breath.

1 comment:

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