October 19, 2006

Installing etanol – day 1

Filed under: etanol,windows — SiKing @ 4:46 pm

So about a year ago, I got (“got”, as in “somebody else paid for it”!) a hot and pretty new box. It was actually so hot, that almost nobody would touch it – Linux did not run on it, Microsoft had only one operating system that I could get onto it at that time, and I did not even try anything else. I got the high approval from the family, under the pretence that this is going to be a complete family entertainment centre: Internet, PVR, TV, video-phone, games, the whole thing. But really, what family needs a RAID 5 system? This was, of course, a new toy for daddy. kool

Let’s clear up one thing right up front: the name of the machine is not a typo! The letter “h” from ethanol, is intentionally left out in this case. I name all my computers after Greek letters with some modifications, and the next letter in line was eta… hence the name.

And so for one year now etanol ran Windows 2000, awaiting that one day when Linux would fully support the ICH7 chipset… It ran well, but not quite what I envisioned. This thing was a powerhouse, running an operating system that barely utilized half of it’s capabilities. So this past weekend I got the uncontrollable urge to upgrade to a 64-bit operating system. Actually this was the first operating system that was intended for etanol (got the install CD with original purchase), but back then I quickly ran into problems and no time to solve them.

This weekend was supposed to be a dry run, to see what problems I am going to run into down the road. Just download drivers, and try it out. Nothing is ever easy with me, however! Things that just work for most other people, I usually cannot get to work. I also often want something a little extra. I want to push the capabilities and, to my dismay, often beyond what the original architect anticipated. On the upside of things, I don’t have Internet at home right now (hopefully coming on the 27th), so the family is not going to get upset at missing something important (well, perhaps movies for a little while). On the downside, I don’t have Internet at home right now, so it is going to be time consuming to download whatever I need elsewhere and/or to search for information. Therefore, this post is going to be a multi-day kinda deal.

The goal of this entire exercise is to install Windows on one partition, have all the user data on a separate partition, and still leave some room on the disk for that day when Linux will pick this up. Further down the road, I also plan on at least one other project on etanol: with my digital video camera see if I can generate DVDs from home movies. This, however, is much further down the road.

So what’s in the box?

KME Domino case

Thought you’d never ask. grin List updated 6-11-2006, ’cause I actually forgot what all I gots.

  • The whole system is built on the Intel D955XBK motherboard. This thing, among other features, has an 82801GR SATA RAID Controller (ICH7-R), which gives it the ability to hook up disks into a RAID.
  • Intel P4 processor clocked at 3.00GHz, with an 800MHz front bus.
  • Two 512MB sticks of Kingston DDR2 RAM, running in (the faster) interleaved mode.
  • ATI Radeon X300SE graphics card, driving a 19” Samsung SyncMaster 913N LCD monitor. Since I am not a gamer, I wanted something of a good bargain: not too expensive, but still easy on the eyes.
  • Three Western Digital Caviar WD1600JS disks. Hooked up together in a RAID5 yields 298.1GB of total storage – this is according to the system, not my calculation.
  • Creative WebCam Live! Ultra, piece of crap web camera. This is not the cheapest available, but it was the first one that I grabbed for. Most cheaper cams get significantly clearer pictures – avoid this if you can.
  • Hauppauge Win-TV-PVR-350 TV card. This thing is really nice, has a built-in MPEG encoder, so that you can record TV in the background and have the CPU completely free to do other things.
  • I know I got a DVD-RW internal disc, can’t remember which one though.
  • Genius SW-5.1, Dolby 5.1 speaker system. Again, not interested in system better than the town’s theatre.
  • Zalman quiet fans throughout. Originally I wanted only a stereo system, but the price difference was negligible.

Live and learn

Here is what I learnt going through the three original installs of Windows 2000, and now four (so far) installs of Windows XPx64.

  • The original disk with the mobo drivers was trashed so I had to download everything from the Internet for W2k. I had to do it all again for Wx64 since the drivers are completely different – as they should be!
  • Norton Ghost 2003 totally crapped out – it could not even find a disk to image! Intel did ship a CD with a whole bunch of trial software. I am going to have to try all of it out. Ideally I want to find a 64-bit firewall (besides the one that is built into Windows), a 64-bit virus scanner, and any disk tools that will actually work (why doesn’t, after all these years, Microsoft bundle something with their shit of an operating system?). Hey, anyone have any suggestions, please do leave a comment.
  • I have a Seagate portable 100GB USB disk (very much recommend this – one of the best purchases that I made!) that I was totally dependent on as a replacement for the lack of Internet at home. W2kSP1 could not find the disk; I first had to bump up to W2kSP4 (going though a CD) before it would be detected. Windows XPx64 picked it up right away.
  • I tried to install Windows XP SP2, but it did not take it. The system is that good – apparently no service packs?!?!
  • After a suggestion that the system is going to require 1.5GB, I started with a 10GB system partition. But after the first install (that did not even include all the drivers!) it had sucked down 3.97GB.
  • At some point in the past Microsoft decided to remove the 'fdisk' utility. Since I had no Internet (or a clue) I could not find the non-union, Mexican equivalent. The cripple that is fired up from W2k for partitioning from the installer will take only five-digit numbers which are in MB! The work around – don’t create partitions bigger than 99999MB. WTF Wx64 fixed this, and bumped it up to eight-digits.

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