onsdag 10 juli 2013

Nvidia nForce4 / geforce 6150 LE crashing

I had an old Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo E5615, which has a Nvidia nForce 410 or 430 chipset, with integrated GeForce 6150LE, running Windows 7 64-bit and the latest drivers supporting the GPU (version 307.83, according to Windows Update, Nvidia Update och Nvidia website)

The problem:
* When playing movies encoded with VC-1 in Windows Media Player, the video would not be displayed properly and within seconds the computer froze, the graphics driver crashed, or I got a blue screen with various messages, often with a message that the graphics drivers timed out and could not be restarted.

* When calculating the Windows Experience Index, the computer crashed in similar ways during the "Windows Media" assessment.

The cause:
This seems to be an issue with the graphics driver, which crash on hardware accelerated VC-1 decoding. Note that the WEI crash while invisibly decode a VC-1 encoded file, "Clip_1080_5sec_VC1_15mbps.wmv", in C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT. (SAT = System AssessmentTool).

* Ignore the WEI and don't watch VC-1 files :)

* Get an older driver. For example, 285.79 (beta) seems to work while 296.10 (whql) does not, so somewhere between there, the bug was introduced. Obviously, any improvements done to the driver after will dissappear

* Disable video hardware acceleration. This can be done in Windows Media Player -> menues (press Alt to make them appear) -> Performance tab -> Tools -> Options -> uncheck "Turn on DirectX Video Acceleration for WMV files". This will fix WEI and will make VC-1 videos play without crashing, but these, and all other WMV files will no longer have hardware acceleration and thus worse performance. (Note: DirectX Video Acceleration = DXVA). If other applications use DXVA, these may have to have hardware acceleration disabled as well.

* Get another GPU if the computer has expansion ports. :) Make sure to get one that doesn't demand more than your power supply can handle. Remember to disable the 6150 (so it doesn't take up RAM and other resources) and uninstall its drivers.

If you have a better workaround, please let me know :)

Other ideas:
Some things that I tried that didn't help me in this case but might help someone else:

* Run Memtest86+. Faulty RAM is the cause of many strange problems.

* You can run WEI in console mode, just open a command prompt as administrator and run "winsat". It has various parameters to output reports and to only run particular tests. run "winsat -?" to show all parameters. Run "winsat >> c:\somelogfile.txt" to generate a log file. Also note that winsat can generate some XML report. This lets you troubleshoot various issues that happens during WEI problems.

* If the computer just restart with no explanation, maybe you got a bluescreen and the computer has been configured to restart automatically on errors. To change this, hold Win + Pause/Break button (in the upper right corner of your keyboard) -> Advanced system settings -> Startup and Recovery -> Settings -> uncheck "Automatically restart".

* Also try VMT, video memory stress test, from http://www.mikelab.kiev.ua/index.php?page=PROGRAMS/vmt . Like memtest but will run on the graphics RAM.

* Note that the drivers included in the nForce4 driver package is ancient, so answer "no" to the questions if you want to install them in the installation wizard of the nForce4 drivers.

* The nForce4 seems to have some problems with random hard drive corruption. If you have this chipset, try taking a big file and make multiple copies of it, preferably back and forth between two different (internal) hard drives, then run "comp" to ensure they are all identical.

onsdag 3 april 2013

Problem with Samsung SyncMaster SA300 24" (LS24A300BS/EN)

I received a broken Samsung monitor (model name/no in title) that some else had given up on. When no cable was attached, it seemed to work great, with a "No signal" message floating across the screen. As soon as a cable with signal was passed however, the screen would go completely black (no backlighting). The problem was fixed with a firmware update available on Samsungs website. I had to use a DVI cable to get the update software to detect the monitor in Win7 64-bit, but did not have to install monitor specific drivers beforehand, only the firmware update was required. I tried at first to update using VGA cable - that didn't work (that laptop might have been incompatible as well).

Unfortunatelly I managed to order a new mainboard - part no BN96-18431A, supposedely compatible with BN94-04264A and should work in LS24A300BS/ZA as well - I'll try to cancel that order but if I can't, then I guess I have this spare mainboard to sell :)

By the way quality of this monitor is shit. I wouldn't recommend anyone buying it :) However it's low power consumption (< 30W), external supply, no inverter board and generally very few components to fail and very few and small capacitors to break, one would think it would be fairly reliable, but not as long as they make this shitty firmware for it :( Also its a screwless design held together with plastic hooks. Cheap cheap cheap. This is my first Samsung monitor, probably my last too...

Some good resources that helped me when I was troubleshooting the monitor, or that might be useful to other people having problems with their monitor

Badcaps.net Forums - great forum for troubleshooting monitors and other things (things with failed capacitors in particular) :)

PacParts - original spare part store, ships internationally and relatively cheap

ShopJimmy.com - great second hand spare part store

Understanding and finding Samsung monitor part numbers - very good information, note that Samsung parts can have many BNXX-numbers on them but it's important to look for the proper ones. On my mainboard the partno was hiding in the middle of a long alphanumeric string (close to a barcode). while plenty of other less important BN numbers were printed on stickers and parts across the board.

I hope this useful to anyone!