15 November 2007

The drive is there... you just can't use it

This is one of those rare technology posts that involves my recent experiences with what happens when something that has operated, heretofore, well on a computer system decides to not do so. In this case I will be blaming Microsoft as the culprit, but that is pretty much standards for a Windows based system.

To forestall every lover of every other Operating System on the planet Earth, and some others as yet less well recognized, let me say the following:

1) My active Unix life is two decades in the past, saw little use in my time on the job, and is pretty much gone. LINUX, requiring a level of Unix guruship that comes from having that knowledge, plus machine language capability, plus all sorts of other things is *not* an option. For some activities I have, indeed, tried the *nix areas and in a few desktop apps that I enjoy there is no LINUX counterpart. Nor does WINE, resting on LINUX, offer me what I need as that, too, requires a level of *nix guruship. Free requires a time investment I cannot afford and, so, is not 'free' for me.

2) Apple, now resting on BSD which is also a Unix formulation requires the above. Yes, the company has done much to make it graphical, hide the ugliness of the command line and all the rest of that. I also remember Steve Jobs putting forth in the 1980's that a 'command line would never be a part of a Macintosh product'. With the shift of platform to Unix the command line has magically reappeared... if it wasn't needed, it wouldn't be there, now, would it? Plus, even with all the cross-compatibility (say, why does the Mac need to be cross-compatible? wasn't it supposed to be the 'be-all, end-all' of user interfaces?) that headache is not one I will put up with as it requires having *multiple* OS capabilities available simultaneously so that I can use those apps not available via the Apple OS nameplated product du jour. Not gonna happen.

3) Other OS platforms - I have tried a few others, like Be, and it has gone to a virtual graveyard doing the open source development concept for awhile. There have been a smattering of others, just to try things out, but that was when I was healthy some years back. The lack of native apps and ease of understanding for use was not there.

4) The MotherShip - The worst set of operating systems to grace this planet has come out of Redmond. Their only saving grace is that they are 'just good enough' to get the work going at a decent price point. Also, they did this thing known as: give developer tools away for FREE when IBM, Apple and a number of other companies required payment for such. I am sure that at some time MS will redo its own conception of a *nix based OS, CF it enough to the average Joe/Jane can use it, hide some of the obvious blemishes and ingrain a number of others for 'backwards compatibility'. Then the hue and cry will go up, the threats of torches appear, and folks will just buy it because it, more or less, just works. If your OS of choice has been unable to crack into the backwards-compatibility upgrade cycle and steal that market from MS: don't complain to me, ok?

I have enough problems with this stuff, as-is, without *your* advocacy.

There, that should really tee-off a wide section of the tech population which, thankfully, will never read it.

My problem started with an 'upgrade' (don't they all?). In this case a piece of what I consider to be 'critical desktop apps for which the open source community is trying to replicate but can't figure out ease of use' had a pay-for upgrade which I paid for. Nice little box, that protected a smaller box, which, itself, protected the DVD case and 16 page manual, of which a few pages were -blank-. That says it all for software distribution these days, really.

Take out the DVD, put it in the drive, close the drive, and...

Hmmmmm.... well I did use the powertoy to turn off the 'automagic start' so, pull up the drive list and, say, where did the DVD drive go to? Uh-oh....

I have been here before with: modems, network interface cards, graphic cards (those are so *fun* to troubleshoot), RAM, hard drives, etc. I used to build my own systems when I had energy and this, being the last of my hand-built rigs, I ensured that with the last of my energy and mental capacity a couple of years ago that I troubleshot the thing to a 'fare-thee-well'. It would work, dammit!, because I was in bad straights and might not be well enough to ever troubleshoot the damned thing *again*.

Thus starts my trials and tribulations of tracking down LG Electronics Super Multi DVD drive GSA-4120B! In theory search engines are your friend in this, and I did, indeed, find all the old sites that had answers to my initial troubleshooting of the thing back when I was putting it together. But... for this? Try again, a few times, and get pointed to hacked drivers that did not work and, in general, spending two days trying to find the actual drivers to the thing which, it turns out, are already on-board from MicroSoft.

Not good!

Then it is entry through the dark doors of MicroSoft's website and into the dungeons of the knowledgebase where, held prisoner, rank upon rank, file upon file, row upon row, are the tortured answers to every damned piece of asinine 'fixing' MS has ever done with their software.

And the interface sucks, too.

But such would not stop the intrepid adventurer, trying to wrest the secrets of how to fix the fabled LG GSA-4120B so that it would WORK PROPERLY WITH THE MS DRIVERS on his system. Ah the hours spent and even the fun of answering a questionnaire about how bad the site is so that MS can ignore it. Those things are expected.

A day of fruitless searching and despondancy hits: the answer is not apparent.

With heavy *sigh* the adventurer notices that MS has put out 'security updates' du jour and downloads same, and does some general updating of drivers for the trackball, graphics card and whatnot as he will be spending time frustrated otherwise, it might as well be productive frustration. For ONCE all of that installs well and easily and, wanting to check out a piece of software upgrading useless to his system, the hardy adventurer finds a knowledge base interface geared for his operating system which was NOT ON THE GENERAL KNOWLEDGE BASE SITE! With a thrust the virtual doorway opens to give way to more and darker dusty catacombs where the ranks of the particular prisoners holding answers has swollen so that more sub-basements were being built so far off you could not even identify where....

Another day of searching and no luck.

Back to the search engine and finding the Original Equipment Manufacturer of the LG DVD is Matshita, aka. Matsushita, aka. Panasonic. Now *that* is a name I know, although not love or adore, either, but that is another story to tell. The search engine reveals more of the same, but points out some of the things overlooked on the initial go-through: the adventurer had not spent enough time diagnosing the problem.

Cursing himself for a fool he heads off to do a further investigation, goes back to the specialized dusty catacombs and... de nada.

Life well, and truly, sucks.

The adventurer admits defeat and goes to his tech outlet of choice to order an *external* DVD drive with multi-function capacity so he, at least, can have that available for every other system in the house. Despondant, he heads off to do other things, has a poor night's rest and wakes up earlier than is wise and decides to do one last look at the problem and search into the Event Viewer. Scrolling back he sees something a bit anomolous... one driver function is complaining. The driver can't load, due to that... odd... the little library doing the complaining is not obvious in any way, shape or form.


With a search engine look at the driver name and something generic like *problem* the snippet line on the second line seems to directly address this. It is from an obscure camera messageboard. Deciding 'why the hell not, I'm not really awake', the author of the message describes the EXACT SAME PROBLEM with the DVD drive that is the EXACT SAME DRIVE! He points to a horrifically obscure Knowledge Base article in the catacombs of MicroSoft and gives direct linkage to it (thanks be praised!). In that tiny cell, in the midst of the hundreds of thousands of prisoner knowledge base articles this one EXACTLY describes the problem and the SOLUTION to it!

Using this trinket of knowledge, a tiny grain of diamond dust in catacombs littered with precious gems, gold, platinum but all of it kept under better obscurity than Fort Knox, the adventurer treads carefully into his Registry on his system, goes to the indicated hardware controls on the current set-up of his OS, finds the indicated key for the CD/DVD drive, and removes the Upper and Lower Filters.

With a Reboot to the system it does, indeed, find the DVD drive and properly adds it to the system and it is, indeed, fully functional.

The cause?

A freaking *update* to the Operating System a few weeks ago which sweetly ADJUSTED THE FILTER SETTINGS BY ADDING THEM.

Thusly the blame is given fully to MicroSoft on this battle and I will still need the external drive for use with other systems because one of them, at least, has a dodgy CD-ROM drive and another has no write capability for CDs or DVDs... no make that two that have no such capability.

Here ends the story of troubleshooting the LG Electronics GSA-4120B Super Multi drive OEM'd from Panasonic with drivers from MicroSoft.

There is no need to curse the Darkness so long as MicroSoft exists.

It makes a much better target for said cursing.

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