Monday, July 11, 2005

How does it happen

I used to run Linux on the laptop, then I got myself a new laptop with all of the bells and whistles and never put linux directly on it (all of my databases run on the laptop in vmware, and I access the real servers with VNC).

So, everything is going along, no worries.  Until this morning.  I swear, I did not change anything, I didn’t install any new software, I didn’t remove old software.  I just rebooted.  And then it happened.  First I noticed that my speakers were “crackling”, but only when I moved my mouse, or typed, or spun up the hard drive.  In fact, sound wasn’t working at all, just being annoying.  So, reboot again (figured maybe it wants a rest, so gave it a nap).

No joy.  So, I figure – just remove the drivers and let them reinstall.  Blue Screen – bang.  Try again, blue screen – bang.  Thinking “third time is a charm”, I disabled them and then tried to remove them – bang, blue screen again.  Ok, safe mode, remove them – reboot, sound – sweet sound.

Only, no CD/DVD.  Gone, detected but “Code 39 error loading drivers, drivers may be corrupt or missing”.  Drivers are there, drivers are signed, drivers look ok.  So, remove them, reboot, no joy.  Repeat.  Repeat more than once.  Try upgrading drivers — nope, the ones I have are perfect, just not loading.  Review all discussion forums I know, google and google and finally — finally discover:

Problem: My DVD-ROM drive disappeared! Also, the little red light on the drive is permanently on and the drawer won't open.
Possible Solution: This is a well known problem with XP, if you cannot access CDROM, DVD, CDR or CDRW drives or get a Code 31 or 39 error in Device Manager then the solution is to run Regedit and delete Upperfilters and LowerFilters at:  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ System\ CurrentControlSet\ Control\ Class\ {4D36E965– E325– 11CE– BFC1– 08002BE10318} And then restart the PC. See Q2700008 on

Of course, why the heck didn’t I think about that! And sure enough, that does it – some 3 hours later. I’m left sitting there thinking “what would my mom do with this”.  Well, besides call me and have me say “send an email to Bill at”.  I swear, I did nothing – it was working fine all day Saturday, all day Sunday.  All last week.

It has made me even more sure that my decision to not install anything important on the base OS was a smart move.  Everything I really use is on servers elsewhere.  I want a smaller OS that just runs my browser, shows me my movies, lets me get to my email, runs a word processor.  That is it (oh and lets me sync my file systems – I’ve been using unison for years now, it is sweet.  I sync my laptop to a linux server in my basement and one at work as often as possible.  Nice feeling having three copies of that which matters).

3 hours, gone.  But at least all of my devices appear to be working for now.  Just makes me wonder what is next.  Might be time to buy another internal drive and check out how linux would go on this laptop.  Speaking of disk drives, I picked up a Lacie Databank to host my vm’s on.  I got the 60gig version (so I travel with about 140gig of storage – things have changed, that is many times larger than my first Oracle database benchmark!), it is as neat looking in real life as that picture is.



Anonymous Anonymous said....


Perhaps the reason why (as opposed to the dual boot setup you had on the old laptop) you only have an MS OS is that it shipped with the entire drive as one partition. Some Linux distros ship with a disk partitioning utility that is capable of resizing NTFS partitions (ManDrake - now mandrivalinux - used to). Since you are running on RHEL - a copy of Partition Magic will resize the 80 GB (eg) single partition back down to say 50 GB leaving you 30 GB for RHEL 4 ES update 1 and your Oracle 10g Release 2 install + a database to run native, outside of your VMs.
(I'm squeezing by with 20 GB for the same config on my old beater laptop).

I find it thoroughly distasteful that OEMs continue to ship MS OSes pre-installed occupying every meg of space with the exception of a utility partition - but as the US courts didn't whack them across the knuckles for that practice they (it) have no reason to stop.

Far better for me to discuss it here than over dinner irritating others.

I might just have a copy of partition magic with me tomorrow ... if you're interested (as well as the RHEL 4 ES update 1 cdroms).

With any luck we wouldn't be relying on those backups on your Linux box.


Mon Jul 11, 06:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I've never done the dual boot thing - one base OS, that is all I ever need. Everything else is running in vm's.

I'll be relying on backups forever I think... Even when running linux.

Ever seen a laptop get run over? They squish out the sides and die ;)

Mon Jul 11, 06:45:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Mr. Ed said....

I have seen this happen on two different machines running Windows XP: on boot, for no reason, the registry hives get corrupted.

The worst is %windir%\system32\config\system, which holds the hardware configuration. Make a backup of these files, as you can't rely on System Restore points being there, even if it's turned on (in both cases that I saw, Windows XP only had the default restore point, which has nothing useful in it).

From what I've read, this is the price of living with Windows XP.

Mon Jul 11, 07:02:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Mr. Ed said...

I have seen this happen on two different machines running Windows XP: on boot, for no reason, the registry hives get corrupted.

as a guy who frequently gets up in front of 100 or more people and boots up - that scares me to death (I do carry everything I need barebones on a pen drive however as a backup for the backup, I might not be able to do my sqlplus demo's, but I'd have something)

Ok, it is time to order that new drive to linux it and see what happens (I've been wanting a 7200 rpm instead of the 5400 rpm I have now anyway)

Mon Jul 11, 07:09:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Rich said....


I had a similar experience with the OBI w2k build. My speaker on TOSH M1 cannot be used without this obnoxious squealing noise. I recently installed the XP OBI and VMware 5.0 and it was sweet until the new drive crashed in less than 2 weeks time. Haven't gotten around to a new build.

Mon Jul 11, 07:37:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Rich said...


I had a similar experience with the OBI

Rich, you and I know what an OBI is -- but most don't...

oracle binary image, stamped images for the disk.

I've never had an OBI :) this is my laptop - the stuff just went bad, as if software had a shelf-life. Something just went horribly wrong, this morning, all by itself.

I feel stupid saying that out loud. There has to be a reason

Mon Jul 11, 07:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

I recently aquired a new computer with XP for my technophobe wife, and it said to make a backup of the system files (or something like that). Took 8 cd's. And I don't even know if they have the files Mr. Ed refers to.

Mon Jul 11, 08:07:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Mr. Ed said....

I certainly don't want to scare anyone about Windows XP. But this is a real problem I have encountered.

Here is more information on registry hive corruption:

Possible Causes

How To Recover

Mon Jul 11, 08:53:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Windows XP. Just because you didn't install anything on your computer doesn't mean your computer didn't install anything on it. One of the more annoying computer conveniences is that many programs will silently go and update themselves.

One example is Google Desktop Search. Although the first line in those notes say that it automatically updates itself, I would still expect it to tell me that its changing *my* computer.

Mon Jul 11, 09:30:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Tony said....

Your comment about "what would my mom do" rang very true to me. My mother-in-law just asked me to "fix" her computer that she has been using for less than a year. "What's wrong I ask", "it's just slow" she retorts. "great..."

The single most effective thing I did to "fix" her machine was to run registry mechanic and clean out all of the junk. Someone had been in there deleting programs by just highlighting the folder in windows exlorer and hiting delete. The registry was in horrible shape.

In reading around the web, most suggest that your clean your registry just every couple of months - it will get all fouled up just from every day use. That's just quality and craftsmanship.

Maybe we can get Sean Dillion to fix these things for us now.

Mon Jul 11, 09:37:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


Just out of curiosity, what are the hardware specification on your laptop.


Mon Jul 11, 11:38:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Kalita said....

Well, besides call me and have me say “send an email to Bill at”.

or Sean Dillon at :-) Or even better, ask a question at :-)

Tue Jul 12, 12:06:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Amar said....

My laptop went berserk few weeks ago and would just keep rebooting. I had to use my recovery CD to restore my XP OS.

Later I found out that it was due to some patches that got downloaded and installed by automatic updates. Since then I’m keeping my automatic updates off, as I’m afraid to further patch my OS. May be I’ll wait till service pack 3. Or better I’ll move to MAC OS when released on Intel :)

Tue Jul 12, 01:22:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

a. good luck Sean Dillon joined Microsoft ! (and will repair your OS's in the future)

b. you knew
"DOS" = "dirty operating system",
didn't you ?
(XP is just another name for
"DOS V163")

Tue Jul 12, 03:00:00 AM EDT  

Blogger plasticpony said....

Hi, Tom

regarding one base OS and running the rest in VMs, then you should take a look at Xen virtual machine monitor
It lets you run multiple guest operating systems on the same machine... similar to but different from vmware.
It is a really cool piece of software!!!

Tue Jul 12, 03:19:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

I'd be suspicious of hardware with an occurrence like yours. (Admittedly this is covered somewhat in the articles that Mr Ed refers to).

By far and away the most likely reason is a write failure when the machine was updating the registry (maybe at shutdown, maybe at some other time). Imagine if Oracle only had the one controlfile and there was a write failure to it at shutdown of the instance. Not good.

It follows that the most sensible thing to do is to take periodic backups - but we all *know* this, even if only 20% of us actually do it on our own personal kit.

I'm with you on running critical stuff in VMs makes much much more sense now that modern hardware comes with oodles of disk and gobbets of RAM. Of course there is a strong case that the base OS ought to be some lightweight reliable basic os with as few graphical frills and stuff as possible.

Tue Jul 12, 04:02:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Sean said....

...for all your registry needs

Tue Jul 12, 07:36:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Just out of curiosity, what are the hardware specification on your laptop.


The laptop described

Tue Jul 12, 07:37:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Of course there is a strong case that the base OS ought to be some lightweight reliable basic os with as few graphical frills and stuff as possible

hear hear. Maybe I'll be going back to linux.

I doubt it was anything hardware related - disk checks out fine, I knew the cd/dvd was fine as I could boot from it - I did however turn off the stupid automatic updates (put it into "let me know and I'll decide mode"). That is probably not it, I didn't see any updates but the auto updates have killed me in the past.

Tue Jul 12, 07:41:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

I'm sorry -- I just find it terribly funny that a technologist would reboot his laptop because he "figured it wants a rest"

This just confirms for me again that I am NOT going to do anything fancy with my computers, just pay for extended support contracts and whimper pitifully on the phone if (when?) I have a problem.

On the other hand, I did fix the power supply problem with the (old) wireless router I had -- I went out and bought a new router. Worked like a charm :)

Tue Jul 12, 08:19:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"I swear, I did not change anything"...sounds like many of our end-users:)...but sorry to hear about your trouble, at least you were prepared.

Tue Jul 12, 09:26:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

Until this morning. I swear, I did not change anything

Well, then again, I remember a particular nasty problem that many colleagues were having. They stressed the same (ie, "I did not change anything") to Oracle Support the support people simply not believe us...

It was only days, weeks, months later, that we determined that we'd suffered the following little gem (See Metalink Note: 118228.1)

So even with Oracle, you can just be sitting there, doing nothing and have it go belly up


Tue Jul 12, 09:49:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

I love my Red Hat!

Tue Jul 12, 11:11:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

What you tell your Mom is: Press F8 as it boots up, and select the option to 'boot to last known Good configuration'. That restores an uncorrupted version of your registry.

I'd like to hear you tell your mum that to get 802.11g wirelesss working with a 2.4 kernel, she needs to re-compile the kernel, and don't forget to enable the 16K stack option, because NDISWRAPPER isn't going to like Fedora/Red Hat's penchant for compiling their kernels with the 4K option. And she does know that her NVIDIA drivers will have to be re-installed if she upgrades her kernel, doesn't she?

Hmmmm. Much less gobbleygook there, no?!

Tue Jul 12, 03:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger John Baughman said....

Tom, one of the things I do on a regular basis is defrag. I use Norton Systemworks Speed Disk and Sysinternals' Page Defrag(

Here's the steps I take (in order):
1. Dump the recycle bin.
2. Clear my bowser cache, not the cookies.
3. Clean out my TEMP folder under C:\Documents and Settings\[user_id]\Local Settings\Temp
4. Run a registry clean up tool (or two). I use RegSeeker ( and Norton WinDoctor. (Don't run at the same time!)
5. Defrag with Speed Disk. (I don't recommend using MS's defrag utility. I doesn't quite work as well as Norton's, in my opinion. Norton doesn't work on server versions however. For that use Diskeeper ( or PerfectDisk ( Here is a small list of free defrag tools:
6. Set up Page Defrag to optimize on each boot.
7. Reboot.

One bit of advice would be to go into Control Panel\Adminstrative Tools\Services and shutdown as many services as you are able to, without crippling your PC, before running these steps during a malfunction "experience."

I have had a few rare instances where I would get the BS of Death, but after booting into safe mode and running at least RegSeeker and reinstalling any necessary drivers, I was up and running in no time. Usually in a lot less time than 3 hours.

If you follow these steps at the first instance of a problem, you can usually be up and running safely within those 3 hours.

I would recommend NOT defragging until you can let your PC sit and perform the process while you are out BBQing or something. ;)

Good luck!

Tue Jul 12, 03:42:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Howard J. Rogers said...

What you tell your Mom

but the problem was - that it would boot, the config was good. Just no sound, and then no CD/DVD. I don't think "last good" would do a thing here. gremlins

and I'm not suggesting my mom run linux, I'm suggesting I'm not smart enough to run windows, hence I have to dumb down to linux so I can survive again :)

John Baughman said...

Tom, one of the things I do on a regular basis is defrag.

Once a week at night, full virus scan and full defrag (perfect disk). Disk became a chump of a disk after about 3 or 4 weeks after I got it. Amazing. perfectdisk does put it back right, but you know how many times I've virus checked or defrag'ed my linux machines :)

Tue Jul 12, 03:51:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

My mom with the root password...that would keep me up at night!

Tue Jul 12, 04:11:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

Jeff Hunter said
My mom with the root password...that would keep me up at night!

You set a root password? <g,d&r>

Wed Jul 13, 05:16:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


I would suggest get Knoppix (version 3.8.1 is greate) and run partimage from it. That will enable you to save your Windows partition and compress it and restore it when things gets bad...

It's about the same as Norton's Ghost but free... and it works for Linux partitions as well (which is NOT true for my old Ghost version).

I have been looking for a Ghost alternative for a while: it's all sitting on this Knoppix live-CD! Cool!

Wed Jul 13, 08:02:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....

my personal observation with XP...
every workstation at my office that
has upgraded to XP has had nothing
but boss' computer
keeps crashing for no apparent reason and she's forever reformatting the hard drive and re-installing software over and over again. I have told everyone hands off my computer I am running windows 2000 professional and have no plans to upgrade in the forseeable future.

Wed Jul 13, 08:21:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Win2k Pro is one of my favorite windows OSs. One feature I sorely miss was the ability to end a program, NOW. In XP, the task manager will burn 100% CPU until its written some kind of error report and then it'll close the program. Win2k just closes it right there (with few exceptions).

Wed Jul 13, 09:03:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Unlike denni50, I have had nothing but great results with XP. At home, I have 5 systems that run XP. Some have been upgraded and some are fresh installs. I have never had a single crash or problem with any of my computers running XP.

Wed Jul 13, 10:03:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

In XP, the task manager will burn 100% CPU until its written some kind of error report and then it'll close the program.

Hmmm, yes. Very annoying, that. Fortunately, XP does allow you to turn error reporting off. Right-click on "My Computer" and select "Properties". At the botton of the "Advanced" tab is an "Error Reporting" button. And that brings up a form with a "Disable error reporting" option. I left the "But notify me when critical errors occur" checked off; it doesn't seem to give me any performance problems.


Bob Shepard

Wed Jul 13, 10:53:00 AM EDT  

Blogger John Baughman said....

Tom said: Amazing. perfectdisk does put it back right, but you know how many times I've virus checked or defrag'ed my linux machines :)

If only Windows could be as sound as Linux and grandmothers could be geeks. ;)


Thu Jul 14, 12:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous a reader from half a globe away said....

I m pretty sure that everyone here has had problems with XP sometimes (Remember the blue screen that says The instruction at memory address 0x000EE.... could not be written ..etc?) I m not saying that XP is not good, it s good but only for gaming and entertainment (has anyone ever tried to setup a full surround sound system with linux?). Linux is surely more stable and it runs most of the things I need for work (Oracle and JDeveloper, that s about it) way faster than XP. I currently rely on Suse 9.3 professional, it is so far the easiest to install and use in my opinion. It took me only 2 hours to completely install and setup my laptop, including my 802.11 wireless card and Intel extreme onboard graphics card. And btw Tom, I prefer dual boot over vmware since my laptop has not the resources yours has (I m relying on centrino, 1GB RAM for battery life and portability) so every bit of CPU and RAM saved is valuable.

Sat Jul 16, 01:13:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

what's with all these references to sean dillon" and "microsoft" ?
so Sean bounced over to M$ ?
Links please ?

Sat Jul 16, 09:12:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

>>Robert said....
what's with all these references to sean dillon" and "microsoft" ?


oh never mind I found "Point Taken"

Sat Jul 16, 09:31:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Swapnil said....

Hi...i need some help...I am using dual and linux(mandriva). i was using 256MB ram, today i upgraded it to 1.5 GB now my Linux is not booting on it. If i remove rest of the RAM then it runs on Linux...please help...

Sun Oct 07, 08:15:00 AM EDT  


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