Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What a way to start the day...

I am generally not a fan of turning computers off. The bigger, more powerful, and more complex the machine, the less I like subjecting it to wild swings of temperature and voltage.

Last night I powered the Dark Tower down just in case the power lines dropped overnight, and when I went to power it up this morning, it crashed to a BSD with memory errors. Fantastic, and me on a deadline...

Luckily, the original VFTP Command Central was still sitting there on the desktop and I just yanked the cables from the newer machine and stuck them in the old one (and booted up the eMac to check email while VFTP Command Central updated all the software that hasn't been used in lo these many months.)

Again, I guess I shouldn't complain: You know you're leading the life of the Decadent Westerner when one computer on your desk takes a dump, and you just go the backup computer...


Tango Juliet said...

Such decadence!! Since the iPad isn't compatible with iTunes 9.1 which isn't compatible with OS/X 10.4, I'm considering upgrading to a new iMac so an iPad can be used with iTunes.

WV:gatagat - Armed!

Anonymous said...

I use the cloud as my primary now. Fully accessible for any computer with web connectivity and the right credentials.

My home systems sync to that as a backup and proof against connectivity loss.

Even a house fire wouldn't stop me now!

Eck! said...

As a systems person and all I don't power down. A UPS is fairly cheap and will allow ride through for any minor power burp.

As to the cloud, feh. I don't trust my data to somewhere else and someone else's security.

My own systems run 24/7x365 with planned powerdown for maintenance like cleaning dust bunnies from fans.
That and my computing central is mixed lot of intel/linux, MacBook, VAX Ultrix, VAX/VMS. I run typically 2 of each but the VAXes I can fire up a cluster of 10 if I need cpu cycles. Winders gets run in sims and VMware when needed.

I do it because I can, VMS is B1 secure and Linux is resistant to winders bugs/virus.


Montie said...

Eck and Tam,

So, it's not true that you must power down periodically to keep things running smooth on your computer?

IT has been telling us that for years at work and I follow it at home as well, powering down any time I'm not actually using the machine for eight hours or more.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Montie: I've found that Windows does need to be shut down regularly to keep running well. Maybe not daily - it depends on how much you use it and what you use it for - but every 2-3 days seems about right. Otherwise, I see noticeable slowdowns and more frequent crashes.

Personally, I use Ubuntu Linux at home, and I can keep it running constantly for weeks at a time without trouble. I only use Windows for iTunes and games.

Tam said...

You can do a soft restart of Winders without actually powering the system down, of course.

Anonymous said...

Please note, as a computer professional, I would bet on Cloud security over ANY home security. Corporate security has a slightly better chance, but only if they spend a gross amount of money.

It's not IF a home system will fail, it's WHEN will it fail.

Firehand said...

When my pc crashed a few weeks ago, I still had the old one sitting in a corner. And it still works, so I didn't have to go through withdrawal.

I know there seem to be some Windows updates that won't install unless you actually turn the thing off; why, I don't know.

Tam, we missed the ice but currently have 8" on the ground here, with 2-4" more coming. So they say. Not much for your area, damn heavy snow down here.

Nathan said...

Meh. If you have to reboot Windows every 2-3 days, you're not doing something right.

As far as the cloud goes, all this talk of Internet "kill switches" has just cemented my resistance to it. I'll keep my data (and backups in fire-resistant storage) safe here at home, thanks.

ViolentIndifference said...

Tam: Your best bet with Dark Tower will be to open it up and re-seat the memory sticks. Vac the innards of the machine. Wipe the mem card gold contacts with isopropyl. Please take static precautions.

Nathan said...


Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

\\NACHBAR has been up for: 19 day(s), 21 hour(s), 6 minute(s), 41 second(s)


Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

\\SEVEN has been up for: 6 day(s), 2 hour(s), 6 minute(s), 24 second(s)

These are both machines that I use heavily on a daily basis.

Standard Mischief said...

I'll regularly reboot XP. I'm a bit lazier about Ubuntu. I've gone months between reboots. While this is seen as a mark of pride for those who follow the path of the one true *nix, I like to think of rebooting as the computing equivalent of Ham radio "Field Day".

Oh wait, this is a gun blog. OK then, "zombie apocalypse practice".

Anyway, An occasional reboot let's me test if my bid sniping software comes up configured OK, and whatnot.

s3cmd will let you zip, encrypt, and upload to Amazon's cloud from the command line of a recovery disk. or a crontab triggered script.

RobertSlaughter said...

Even if y'all do ice-in, it shouldn't be as bad as we had here in ATL a few weeks ago, with 5 days straight where we couldn't drive out of the apartment due to the icy hill. The roads were clear-ish by day 3, just not the complex's parking lots.

Dirt Sailor said...

Tam- I feel your pain. My desktop died a few days ago- my overclock burned out the mainboard.

Just ordered new parts- I'd been planning on an upgrade anyway.

Eck! said...

If I have to reboot I must be using winders.. Gak!

Actually I did run winders for a while when NT4 was the system. That after tweaking and ridding it of all the MS nasties for security was a very fine box for 24/7/365 deskto and server. I have that machine (with NT4 desktop) still as a hardware legacy support machine. typical uptime was 4-5months without UPS.

I'm into doing work with my computers so reliability as in uptime and hardware stability are primary. Note I said with my computers rather than on it to make it work. I have no idea why someone would overclock and risk frying a machine when 3ghz multi-core machines are fairly cheap. Besides, how much faster than instantly is fast enough?

Ubuntu 10.4 system..
top - 11:21:09 up 113 days, 4hours, 7 min, 6 users..

We had a power outage that exceeded the UPS battery. Auto reboot worked
as it should.


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"If you have to reboot Windows every 2-3 days, you're not doing something right."

I'll byte, Nathan: What would I be doing wrong? I see this on every Windows XP system I've used on a regular basis since it came out.

Long uptimes like you posted are not unusual even with Windows, but the issue I noted is performance - I've always seen noticeable performance slowdowns and a somewhat increased rate of OS or program crashes if the machine isn't rebooted regularly. It does also depend on what you use the computer for, and what programs you're running regularly, but I would say that when I was using Windows at home I was a fairly average user as far as frequency of use and the programs I was running.

We also have the same issues at work with XP Pro, where we have a paid IT provider managing our systems, though I'll admit that our case management program may be the culprit there - it's an ugly kludge, probably due to backwards compatibility issues.

Gewehr98 said...


Dark Tower will probably be hunky-dory if you just give the memory daughterboard a solid nudge or three at it's junction with the motherboard. (Achilles Heel of IBM M-Pro 6850 series) Otherwise, I'd say the individual memory sticks on the daughterboard would perhaps need reseating.

Spare Dark Tower unit sitting in garage here if you can't revive yours on your end...

og said...

I run XP pro and Win 2000 sometimes for months at a time. I have no issues with either operating system, in general. The Win2000 box which acts as a sort of a server has not been off in recent memory. The XP pro box never goes off unless there is a power outage, and even then it's on a UPS which wait ten minutes and then shut down the computers connected to it.

atlharp said...

Three cheers for Linux Ubuntu. I have been using Ubuntu for about a little over a month on my laptop and i love it. Runs smooth, no weird Winders glitches and most of the software is free. Very cool! Think about next time you ahve to pay for your upgrade or Office Suite.

Tam said...

I run Linux on my Eee, OS X on my eMac, and XP on my Wintel box and haven't really had any problems from any of them...

Anonymous said...

We have 1 tower, and 6 laptops of various types.

Yes, we are decadent. And mobile.

nbc said...

Tam, next time you power-cycle your systems put a power meter in see how much your "always on" costs you.

You might be surprised what that low-suck vacuum cleaner costs over a month.

Orphan said...

Jake - That can happen if you have a small amount of RAM and never shut all your programs down, as your virtual memory gets fragmented. There could also be a memory leak in one of your background applications/tasks. (Tortoise SVN seems to leak like a sieve for me.) You're not crazy, nor are you alone, but it's not necessarily a Windows issue.

(Tech people who favour Windows take a lot of crap for shit that isn't true, so we tend to get defensive about stuff that comes too close to criticisms which don't hold true anymore, such as that Windows doesn't support long uptimes.)

Rabbit said...

Our team got an email from a customer regarding an IBM 7017/S70 that had an uptime of 7 years, 8 months, and 17 days, running AIX 4.3.2 (which has been out of release/support since around 2002). They're planning on retiring the system this year.

Robert said...

"Jake - That can happen if you have a small amount of RAM and never shut all your programs down, as your virtual memory gets fragmented. There could also be a memory leak in one of your background applications/tasks. (Tortoise SVN seems to leak like a sieve for me.) You're not crazy, nor are you alone, but it's not necessarily a Windows issue.

(Tech people who favour Windows take a lot of crap for shit that isn't true, so we tend to get defensive about stuff that comes too close to criticisms which don't hold true anymore, such as that Windows doesn't support long uptimes.)"

I know for a fact that Macs have the same problem. I used to spend a lot of time on OSX Macs that were part of a university multimedia lab, and if you didn't want to suffer crashes and severe performance issues, the first thing you did when sitting down was reboot the machine. Being lab machines that didn't always prevent crashes, but it helped a lot.

Robin said...

Sheesh, I worked on AIX version 4 something OS and that was two careers and two decades ago ...

Standard Mischief said...


60watts * 24hours *30days / 1000 convert to KWH * .16 cost per KWH = $6.72 per month

While I really wish my motherboard would idle at a lower wattage, how much is your time wasted booting up from cold worth?

Joseph said...

I had the same thing happen with my dell a couple of weeks ago, though what happened was it got unplugged while it was on. On power up, I got the same thing, BSD with memory errors.
Ruined the hard drive. Most of what was on it was able to be saved, though

WV: Umackwal-what I said when the above happened.

CarlS said...

Here's a tip (I've been creating and using Windows apps, and machines, since well into the "last century". And Unix, Linux, AIX, and selected other O/S.

Set your machines up to minimize apps that run at startup in the background. Allow only those that are truly needed.

Set your O/S and apps to clean temp files correctly. Many apps will not using default settings, and especially if they are shut down incorrectly. I once found a machine with 630,000 temp files, and about a million or so in the recycle bin, which causes space allocation issues; directory tables can only hold so much. The user was complaining that his machine needed to be replaced because it was so slow. A 3.1 Ghz dual-core with 8 gig of RAM. Hmmm ....

For a free, user-friendly tool, use CCleaner, and run a custom setup, then use Scheduler to have it run automatically at specified intervals. There are many hidden directories which are not processed unless you add them.

For example:
Include1=PATH|C:\Users\All Users\TEMP\|*.*|RECURSE
(App)Custom Folders=True
Include2=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Local\History\|*.*|RECURSE
Include3=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\History\|*.*|RECURSE
Include4=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\|*.*|RECURSE
Include5=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Local\Temp\|*.*|RECURSE
Include6=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Local\Temporary Internet Files\|*.*|RECURSE
Include7=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\|*.*|RECURSE
Include8=PATH|C:\Users\Your User Name\Recent\|*.*|RECURSE

BTW, my Windows systems only go down when I tell them to. Or on a scheduled basis, as when Microsoft puts out hardware level updates. Electricity costs are worth it, to me, since I'm always connected, even when traveling. And yes, I don't use, or trust the cloud. Ask any hacker, or cracker, why. Or just run a "deep internet" search using Google.

Of course, I did custom build it and did not let a manufacturer load it up with crapware.....

Tam said...


"Set your machines up to minimize apps that run at startup in the background. Allow only those that are truly needed."

Yup. That's a habit I retain from being a hardcore gamer back in the days of writing custom boot disks for each of my DOS games.

I don't like a bunch of crap running in the background; I might need that RAM for something!

CarlS said...

I feel compelled to clarify:

Even with machines running 4, 6, 8, or more gigabytes of RAM, memory stacks get corrupted. That is why a reboot is sometimes needed. There was a time when even Microsoft said "reboot at least every 47 days". There was an internal counter, but that's another story. Programs which are not written to Microsoft standards, which are not truly "Windows whatever compliant", use non-standard DLL's and such, and frequently do not clean up after themselves as they should. Sloppy programmers; go figure ...

Additionally, many programs, if you do not choose Custom Install", surreptitiously add toolbars and agents, and "check for updates", many of them containing spyware, trojans, worms, et al.

Even legitimate programs are guilty of this. See Adobe Reader and others, which want to install the Google Toolbar unless you say no.

All of these "things" add "run at startup, invisibly in the background". And more and more programs are adding these "capabilities" all the time.

It's a plot, I tell you. The Evil Overlords are watching ..... (that's sarcasm, for those who might miss it).

Does your computer boot slow? Use CCleaner (or the tool of your choice) to check what runs at startup.

Tam said...


I wasn't being sarcastic! A clean system is a habit I hold over from the olden days, which might be how I've had Wintel boxes running for months at a stretch with no serious degradation of performance...

CarlS said...

Tam, no worries. I felt I needed to clarify because someone I know read my comment and called me. If he needed clarification, I felt sure others would too.

I get so ... irked ... with the "I hate Microsoft crowd". And no, I don't work for them. Never have. I use whatever O/S I need to get the job done. All of them have both good & bad points. The command-line, now ....

Tennessee is supposed to get more ice & snow tonight, so I feel for you up there in the great white North. Stay warm and safe.

Anonymous said...

I have best luck running dual boot on most of my machines. Usually some flavor of Linux Mint or Debian, with a dual boot to Windows (mostly just for games). I run a VMWare machine under Linux for most Windows duties (office, autocad, etc).
This combination of Linux, VMWare of windows for certain work apps, and an occasional boot to real windows for game playing yields a computer with few problems that will run for months at a time.

Ian Argent said...

I have upstairs a machine running an MS OS, vintage 2002 or so, with uptime in the years. It does useful work even; every morning it wakes me an the missus up with a selection from our MP3s. It's an HP iPaq, and it soldiers on. Dunno how much the battery is good for these days, since it sits in a cradle, but it survived the move from our apartment crosstown.

I've had it given to me from the people who know that the main cause of Windows crashes is borked device drivers, sometimes from quite reptable manufacturers. The next most common cause is Line of Business apps written by a part-time temp in '96 and the source code since lost. Lord knows that fits with my experience.

Over in the corner is a WinXP machine that pretends to be a file server, it collects uptime months at a time, as long as I don't want to do anything at the console. Something's long since broken in the OS and the boot HD fills up at the drop of a hat. But packets go in and out of the RJ-45 jack.

All that said, I recently started thinking: when I do replace it, parts for a baby file server are cheap enough I could just go ahead and build a hot spare while I'm at it...

Finally, I was recently shown the truth of "two is one" with a power supply recently (which is why I haven't competed the new server; it was sheer coincidence I hadn't yet put the power supply into it)

Sigivald said...

I leave my Windoes 7 machines on 24/7 until they need to restart for an update (every few weeks, typically). No problems.

Same with the Macs, and the only time my server at home gets turned off is when the power fails...

Computers do not need to be power-cycled at the hardware level.

And no current (or even last-generation) OS needs regular maintenance reboots either.

Ian Argent said...

I have to restart my win7 box every so often ouside of a Patch Tuesday cycle; but that's almost entirely due to user error/program error and I know what causes it.