Skip to main content

Shodan Wastes an Entire Afternoon

Well, I suppose this is what I get for naming my workstation after the queen artificial intelligence bitch gestapo. I’m just getting geared up for work on a client’s site this afternoon — Photoshop is starting, Winamp is playing something groovy and I’m just about to save an email attachment with some notes on my task when suddenly — complete lock-up. I figured Photoshop just took a dump again, but then the music stops, which only happens when things are going very wrong.

The standard three-finger salute (Alt+Ctrl+Del) didn’t seem to have any effect, so I sat there for a minute to see if anything would happen. It did: The system rebooted without warning. Huh, that was weird. So Shodan goes to boot up, and I start paging through the 2005 GTO sales book while I wait. After a moment I look up and see the POST screen again. Wait a second. Didn’t that already go by?

Sure enough, the system is in a boot/BSOD/reboot loop. Windows is reporting a DRIVER IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL error. I try safe mode, and that works. The event log is crammed with weird DCOM failures and reports that “A device attached to the system is not functioning,” which for the last ten years has been Windows’ way of reminding you that your day just went down the shitter. During my diagnoses, safe mode stops working, then starts again, then I start getting REGISTRY ERROR bluescreens. WTF is this? The more I try to fix it, the worse it gets.

At one point I see a driver file mentioned on a bluescreen; it’s nvata.sys. Greaaaaat, nVidia’s slipshod nForce4 driver quality has finally bit me in the ass. Some Googling (on another PC, natch) reveals this isn’t an isolated problem, at least not on my particular motherboard model (the Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe, which I was already regretting buying after the northbridge fan debacle). Anyway, at least now I know where to start looking for a fix. First order of business: Uninstall my chipset drivers, get the latest version and reinstall.

I get safe mode up and running again and attempt to uninstall the nVidia chipset drivers. Okay, this is where I start seeing some of the queerest shit ever to grace my monitors. Attempting to uninstall things was throwing errors, although it seemed to wind up working. I could not open the event viewer, getting only an error stating that the “interface is unknown.” And Device Manager? When it came up, it was blank. As in, no devices detected in my system. Yeeaaaahhh.

Well, the Forceware uninstall seemed to do the trick, because afterwards I was able to boot up in normal mode without a BSOD. I got the new chipset drivers installed and experienced no further instability, although somewhere along the line my registry did get corrupted. Windows was smart enough to recreate portions of the registry from scratch, but of course this means the loss of most of my settings. My programs are all still here and they all work fine, interestingly enough, but some of them — the ones which stored user settings in the registry, apparently — had to be “re-trained” from square one. Irritatingly, this included MS Office, which is a real pain in the butt to configure the way you want it (particularly Outlook). At least I didn’t lose all of my work emails. Thankfully, my Adobe applications must store their settings in file-based configs, because they all looked normal when I started them up.

So now it’s almost dinner time, and I have not even been able to start this client project. Fortunately, it’s just some additions to a project I already started — the redesign of my former employer’s corporate website. The CEO emailed me today to say I did a great job with the prototype but he wanted an additional page mocked up, so that’s all it is. This particular job is going to net me good money, which will more than pay for my GTO center-stack gauge pod direct from Australia.

Anyway, I guess I will reboot the machine now (just a minor Windows update) and see if everything is still kosher when it comes back up. Before I do, though, I think I’ll burn a DVD of my work materials…just in case.