Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Computer trials and tribulations.

I have several devices that connect via USB to my computer. Now, my computer has USB ports, but they are earlier version USB ports (1.1). This meant that things like scanning and working on my USB key drive were relatively slow.
So for approximately $13 total I ordered a USB 2.0 card online, which is capable of over 40x the speed of my USB 1.1 ports. Seemed to go well as I reveled in the quick speed with which I was able to access my USB key drive.
Then, it all started. I plugged in the printer/scanner. No matter what I did it wouldn't install, and so already having considered a format/reload of my OS, Windows ME, I proceeded to backup my stuff and wipe the hard drive.
The computer was also becoming very slow. I ran a number of tests on the drive in which the drive tested fine but acted verrry slow. Like trying to get a directory listing from the command line of a blank drive and waiting 2 minutes for it, all the while the drive access is lit. I knew the drive was on its way down, even if it wouldn't admit it.
So I go to a local computer store the next day to get a drive and, what the heck, I grab a copy of XP. Spending $60 on the new drive is already throwing a wrench in my budget so I figured let's do it in style. Besides, WinME is always touchy, flaky- I tried to love WinME and tweaked it incessantly but to no avail.
The drive installed and has been performing flawlessly and is very fast. XP installed nicely, recognized everything, and I began to reload all my stuff. I was having a frustrating problem with slow internet connections. So was my other computer, a Win98SE machine. Several reboots of the cable modem fixed that for my other computer but my new XP install was still lagging when accessing the internet.
The first suspected culprit was QoS. A number of websites told of WinXP reserving bandwidth for itself and throttling apps through use of the QoS Scheduler. Well I completely uninstalled the QoS network component and disabled the system service, to no avail. As it turns out, XP reserves no bandwidth, but QoS apps can reserve bandwidth, although XP will still share the bandwidth unless the app actually uses it.
Next up was general TCP/IP tweaking. No improvement here, either.
Lastly I discovered Windows XP's "feature" of limiting the number of TCP connections so as to limit internet worm attacks. By default, this limit is 10. Only by patching a system file, TCPIP.SYS, can this limit be changed. Fortunately, an app exists on the internet to do that, and I increased my limit to 150. Rebooted, now I am a happy camper!
I am confident of my ability to protect and clean my system so I am not concerned with my machine becoming a "bot" in a "worm attack." I would much prefer fast networking.

Update: No, the problem came back again. ARRRGGGHHH! So I increased the priority of DNS resolution, manually set the interface metric, turned off the AV and firewall, installed Win2k drivers for the network card, all to no avail. Then, I swapped network cards with my Win98SE system, so I put the Linksys NC100 into that system and put the NETGEAR FA310TX into my system. The Win98SE system was happy and content (as usual), but then when I inserted my USB key drive WinXP hard locked. GRRRRR... So I can't even boot WinXP into safe mode, so I started the installation CD. Wouldn't boot from that, either- it locked up at "Starting Windows". HMMM... obviously a hardware issue.
I pulled out the NETGEAR card and lo and behold, XP boots like a charm. I went into the registry and deleted the info for this device, then used a utility off the internet to reset the TCP/IP stack and the Winsock. After shutting down and putting the card back in with the USB key plugged in, everything configured.
Now to try different permutations of inserting my USB key drive. I inserted it while in Windows- OK, then removed it - OK, then shut down and inserted it and booted - OK. So it looks good.
AND.... my problem seems to GONE! My fingers are crossed, though.

Update #2. With the NETGEAR adapter in my system, internet performance was what it ought to be, although I felt that tweaking some of the TCP/IP settings would give it a little bit more of an edge. After making the tweaks things slowed down. O-K.... so I undo the tweaks and no improvement. GRRRRRR..... So I delete ALL of the TCP/IP info in the registry incorrectly assuming XP will rebuild it. WRONG. Now TCP/IP is all hosed and even resetting the stack via netsh doesn't work. So-o, I export a copy of the key from my XP Pro system at work and email it to myself. Just now I imported it, reset the TCP/IP stack, and reinstalled the NIC so it would rebind with TCP/IP, and life is good again. _Hopefully_ this is the LAST installment of this saga. I think I am going to leave things alone now, as far as networking goes!

Update #3. Now three days later since the beginning of this ordeal, I am coming to realize it is not my computer. My mom, who uses the Win98SE box, finally told me she had been having slowdowns, still. So, I run my system directly into the cable modem and... the problem persists. Having moved the cable modem into my room and connecting it to my APC UPS, the problem has lessened, and my connection is OK, but definately not what it should be. So I'm thinking maybe I need a new cable modem right? As I shop online and review Cox's approved modem list I find, guess what? My cable modem, which WAS on their list, has dropped off. Other DOCSIS 1.1 modems are on the list, so it must be something with my model (SMC8002) that doesn't work right with their systems anymore. I sure wish they had told me, they have my modem model registered in their system. I would be interested to see the technical details but I'll never get through to anyone high enough and technical enough to get those.
So now it's NEW CABLE MODEM time. Another $60-odd bucks. GRRRRR..... It will have to wait. I can't spend another dime right now. Looking at the D-Link DCM-202, BTW. Nice price and good reviews and on Cox's list.

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