We do a lot of Windows bashing here at 2FatDads.com and in all fairness we usually have been given many good reasons to be so negative about the aging and flailing Microsoft OS. We’ll been using it since the Windows 3 days and most of us are very knowledge at making it do our will. Even though I got rid of all the Windows machines in my house over 2 years ago, I continue to use and Dell Latitude e6400 at work. In fact I am writing this very post after hours on it… but more on that later. For now, I’m going to try to explain the title.
UPDATED See end of post.
You see, I loaded a fresh install of Windows 7 Enterprise on the Dell last Friday. I spent most of the weekend loading programs, setting it up on the corporate network and making sure my Outlook was sync’d up with the Exchange server so I could be back up and running come Monday morning and to be quite honest things were going very well. I had no problems with the install, in fact, it was done in under 30 minutes even from a DVD. Some of the guys at work have even managed to get it installed in about 15 minutes from a USB key. The install is slick and provided your machine meets all the Vista requirements, you should be fine installing Windows 7. After the install I set a local admin and then proceeded to join the work network. First I VPN’d and made sure the connection was persistent and then I switched users and proceeded to login in to my work account. It does help that I’m also an administrator at work so I had no permissions issues joining the domain. Programs loaded smoothly while Outlook and Exchange did there “thang” with my emails, calendars and contacts. I had decided not to sync My Documents as this would probably push my bandwidth cap with Bell. So by mid day Saturday all was looking pretty good and I was looking forward to getting to work in 7 on Monday.
That is when the problems started, Monday morning I set the Dell book up on it’s pedestal by my 22 inch Dell monitor and proceed to plus in the display port to DVI adaptor, then the Apple aluminum keyboard and finally the Network cable. Booted it all up turn on the Logitech mouse without even thinking and seconds later I was using configuring the monitor resolution without even thinking about the fact that I had paired the same mouse I was now using. That’s when all my problems started. Within minutes I had experienced my first system hang, no timer, no blue screen, nothing but stillness. The keyboard was unresponsive, the mouse wasn’t moving the, the touch pad was completely useless. So I just sat there for about seven minutes just staring at the screen waiting randomly punching keys and every once in while hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL with no avail. I resigned myself to hitting the power button and restarting the machine hard. I was presented with a new fancy clear type SAFE MODE screen to which I immediately responded with Start Windows Normally, this is now an instinctive reaction to Windows crashes and I didn’t even spare it a thought except to admire the new Safe Mode screen in passing. The computer restart, very quickly I might add, and I proceeded to sync my documents and check my email and log into to the entirety of the IM protocols I use as well as a few of the more professional Social Network I cling to for a lifeline while at work. And that when it all started: the 7 minute windows of Windows usability. I would restart the laptop, check the event viewer for the probable cause of the system wide hang ups and then try to squeeze in a bit of work just before being locked out again.
We looked into all the various programs that might be conflicting with the with Shiny New OS and found nothing, we then proceeded to load up every Dell recommended 64bit service pack and driver update that we could before having to shut down and restart the process of checking logs, crash reports and then trying another driver update. At this point, I must confess that M$’s error explanations have not gotten any clearer but that Google has become a far more reliable place to find clues about what the 6 to 12 digits numbers now mean. The Bios was flashed, hardware diagnostics where run, display drivers that were running perfectly well, were reinstalled with the manufacturers version and then removed and replaced with Dell’s version again. The display port was replaced with a standard VGA cable and then removed completely only to be plugged back in again 7 minutes later.
And that is pretty much where we’re at now. Slowly plugging peripherals back in to the various ports, waiting about 70 minutes and then trying another. Right I’ve had the Dell monitor plugged in via VGA, the USB Dell mouse is also plugged in and I’m just about to also plug-in a USB Dell Keyboard that has collected dust on the shelf ever since I got the Apple Aluminum Keyboard. If that goes well, I will try and turn on the Apple Mighty Mouse as the Logitech Travel Mouse V270 has lost it’s ability to scroll with the wheel, I am not about to re-train my mind to look for scroll bars it’s bad enough my hands are cramping up from using a track pad that is the size of a postage stamp, the MacBook really has spoilt me even if it’s the older one without all the cool gestures. We are pretty sure it has something to do with either the Widcomm Bluetooth drivers or the Smart Card reader which has already been disabled but continues to pop up in the Event Viewer as an issue.
So here is what my system looks like now:
- I am running Windows 7 Enterprise with a Desktop Performance for Windows Aero of 3.3 which is bring down my whole system base score to 3.3 out of a possible 7.9.
- I have to use the 54G WiFi connection as we are still not sure if the Gigabit network adaptor is causing issues as well.
- My 22inch Dell E229WFP monitor is being driven by the VGA output of my laptop instead of the DVI capable Display Port adaptor on the back.
- I’m using a Dell branded Microsoft knock off mouse that some bean counter decided was far too heavy so they took all the weight out of it and so my mouse gesture now go flying across the physical desktop and eventually end up lost somewhere on the extended desktop.
- I am having to pound out my words on the Dell L100 black USB keyboard that is so shiny that the office lighting is bouncing off it causing reflections in my glasses and making even harder to see the ultra small fuzzy font on in Windows Live Writer.
I haven’t dared plug-in the USB EVDO turbo stick, in case the Bell High Speed internet just ignites the notebook’s batteries into a blazing ball of black flaming… On second thought I might just try one more “test” before calling it a day.
After a couple of days of searching and testing and reinstalling Dell and manufacturer issues Windows 7 X64 drivers, it appears that the two culprits are:
- Dell’s own Smart Card reader, this is not the SD card slot on the notebook but in the security card reader that accepts credit card like chipped ID card to authenticate a Domain or even a local user. This device has been turned off as Dell has not provided any drivers for it.
- The Apple Aluminum Keyboard: this keyboard has a USB hub built into it and although we are not quite sure how a USB hub can take down a robust system like Windows 7 and yet work flawlessy on a PIII running FreeNas. But it has been relegated to Mac OS X duties only for the time being. I’m still looking for another USB keyboard with a hub to see if it’s a USB issue or keyboard issue. I will update this post as I find out.
BTW, I fully understand the irony of an Apple device taking down a Windows system.