Windows 7 Constant Reboots

UPDATE March, 2010: I’m seeing a lot of search traffic to this page for Windows 7 reboots; however the following article won’t be of much use. Instead what is happening is caused by the Windows 7 Release Candidate time-out. Beginning March 1, 2010, the Release Candidate will reboot itself bi-hourly. Come June 1, the copy of Windows 7 RC will convert to a non-genuine copy. The solution is to upgrade to a retail Windows 7 release or go back to the operating system you were using before the Windows 7 Release Candidate.

I’ve been using Windows 7 Beta 1 as the primary OS on both my laptop and desktop. Sure, call me crazy, but up til now, it’s performed admirably. Now that I’ve been forced back to Vista on my desktop, it feels… old. The core of the OS may not have changed, but the usability changes added in Windows 7 make it completely different, in a good way. As I said to a Microsoft recruiter a few weeks ago, Windows 7’s UI just works.

Now back to the topic at hand; my desktop started rebooting itself randomly today. There was never any warning; no BSODs or error messages of any sort. Event Viewer didn’t tell me anything helpful either. The reboots happened at random, but the system was never able to stay on for more than half an hour without restarting. Figuring it to be a hardware error, I booted back into my Vista partition for the first time in a couple weeks without issue. No reboots.

I don’t have time to chase issues, so I’ll be slumming it out with Vista until reading week. At the very least I can reinstall Windows 7.

Vista/Server 2008 Sound Stutters

If you have sound stuttering issues in Windows Vista or Server 2008 and use a Linksys WUSB300N USB wireless dongle, grab the latest drivers (1.0.5.1). They should solve the problem. This may also be an issue with other Marvell chipset wireless dongles, such as some Belkin wireless-N cards.

I recently ran into this problem on Windows Server 2008, which I acquired through my MSDN-AA membership with the Computer Science society of the IEEE. Windows Vista will prompt you to install new drivers through Windows Update; however the driver doesn’t exist in the Server 2008 update repository. Furthermore, Linksys’ Vista support page links the WUSB300N driver to the wrong file, so no luck there either.

Out of necessity, I got a bit creative, plugged the card into my laptop running Windows Vista and had the latest driver installed automatically. I then copied the driver inf from the Vista driverstore over to Server 2008 and manually installed the driver. Voilà, the sound stuttering is gone.

To save you the trouble (if you’re on Windows Server 2008), I’ve zipped up the setup configuration file for the Linksys WUSB300N for your downloading pleasure.

Linksys WUSB300N 1.0.5.1

Mini PCs and Vista SP1 Battery Life

There’s been a lot of hype and news regarding low-cost and/or small form factor PCs in recent days.

HP 2133 Mini-Note

Let’s start off with the HP 2133 Mini-Note. I wrote about my thoughts earlier and followed up with the editor at Notebook Review regarding possible problems with the VIA power management module. Unfortunately, the unit has been sent back to HP already, but judging by the editor’s experience with the 1.2GHz C7-M ULV in the Everex Cloudbook, the heat dissipation and mediocre battery life are not isolated to the HP 2133.

Dell plans for the low-cost notebook market

While in Tel-Aviv, Dell’s CEO, Michael Dell said that the low-cost notebook market is something he plans on addressing.

We do see opportunities for very interesting products that are smaller and lighter and address the more mobile users in a very cost-effective way – Michael Dell

The rumours are that based on the potential June announcement, this product or product line will be powered by Intel’s Atom processor. I certainly hope the offering will be as well designed and built as the HP 2133, but also more functional, from a heat and battery life point of view. Take the HP 2133, reduce the heat dissipation and make the battery life 1.5X or more and you’ll have something that is really appealing.

ASUS Essentio 5110

Here’s a higher-end mini-desktop from ASUS, equipped with a Blu-Ray drive along with the performance to power 1080p content. It’s definitely not a competitor for something like the upcoming Eee Desktop, but does address what I’ve been writing about recently, an attractive, almost decorative desktop. It’s not a power performer, but, as an HTPC, has the ability to push all the HD content the user could want. This ASUS looks like one of the more attractive and well integrated HTPCs I’ve seen thus far.

Vista SP1 Battery Life

I recently installed SP1 for Vista on my Dell XPS M1330 and I’ve noticed an improvement in battery life. Some initial testing with SP1 has shown a 14.2W power consumption during web browsing and productivity work, versus 15.6W without SP1 under the same conditions. The SP1 testing was performed with an extra BlueTooth module as well. This translates into an almost 10% increase in battery life (around 20 extra minutes with the 6 cell and half an hour with the 9 cell), which is quite significant.

Vista Hosed Thanks to Linksys WMP300N

A wireless card should never do this to a computer.

Vista hosed due to Linksys WMP300N

Furthermore, it shouldn’t mess a computer up so badly that even Windows repair or System Restore can’t fix it. But that’s exactly what a recently-purchased Linksys WMP300N wireless card did. In fact my desktop’s Vista installation is so far gone, I have no other choice than to perform a complete re-install. I’m using my laptop currently – I’ll get around to reinstalling Vista when the new computer parts I ordered get here, but that’s another story. (Remember the downsizing post a while ago?)

Following Linksys’ recommendation, I downloaded and installed the Windows Vista driver from their website and proceeded to install it before plugging in the wireless card. At the appropriate prompt, I shut down my desktop and installed the card. Attaching the three-wire antenna was painful enough – the plugs are the screw-type and are placed so closely together that only child fingers could easily screw them on easily. That was the easy part.

Booting the computer back up, I was greeted with the Windows is installing new hardware dialog, which I assumed was the correct behavior. A few moments later, the device drivers were correctly installed. Unfortunately, at this point, explorer.exe locked up. Furthermore, attempts to ctrl+alt+del led to the entire desktop background to fade, in Vista’s “I’m no longer responding to your actions” manner. With a completely frozen system, I had no choice but to push the reset button.  What a bad idea that was.

Long story short, my registry is corrupt and System Restore wasn’t able to complete. Meanwhile, I have a non-bootable machine, thanks to this Linksys WMP300N wireless card. Reading around on the web, I can see that I’m not the only one running into problems with this card on Windows Vista. Linksys, don’t plaster a Windows Vista compatible sticker on the box if it has this many problems! I don’t know how you even managed to get those Vista drivers approved. Where is your QA department? Seriously, I was happy I got a good deal on the card, but it was definitely not worth the pain I’ll have to go through to fix my computer.

Recommendation? Don’t buy the WMP300N if you’re running Windows Vista. Not until Linksys gets its act together in any case.