What? No Serpentine Fire?

January 11, 2010

Entertainment, Technology

It’s been a very odd weekend: lots of tech frustration, lots of tech success, and a few lamentations.

Last Thursday night, I spent a lot of time trying to solve a home theatre issue.  I was trying to get my TV set up to show content from my main media source.  Based upon the specs for the Samasung LN52A750, I was trying to play content from my PC onto my LCD.  I tried the Samasung PC Share solution first.  But I couldn’t get the PC to recognize the TV using PnP.  So I switched to using TVesity. [Note: TVersity is absolutely the coolest free software solution to stream videos and photos. In particular, it can do on-the-fly transcoding. It is well worth setting this tool up.]  So I set up TVersity to support DLNA as well as Windows Media Center.  I got my son’s XBox to work perfectly.

But after several hours of fiddling around while Texas lost the national championship, I finally realized something: I didn’t have a Samsung LN52A750 LCD.  Indeed, I had a Samsung LN52A650.  So all my efforts would bear no fruit with my current LCD.  Rats.

But my frustrations were only starting.

I had a few dollars left from a Christmas gift certificate (from Amazon), so I decided I needed some music to chill out.  So I got onto Amazon and decided it was time to download a few Earth, Wind & Fire songs.  So I bought a “Best of” album.  Unfortunately, it didn’t load properly.  In fact, Amazon said I downloaded the songs when they had failed to download.

So I started a search for a means to contact Amazon support.  In the past, I’ve had no trouble reaching them.  This time was different.  The only way I could reach them was via email.  But when I reached them, they were eager to help.  They reset the album so that I could download the music.  So as Saturday wound down, I tried again – and it failed again.  So I left another support request and moved on to other matters.

I had been having trouble with my video driver for a couple of months.  Every now and then, my system would get a blue screen in the video driver.  And over the past couple of weeks, I had been getting a number of notifications when the video driver would fail and successfully restart.  The problem seemed to happen whenever I was driving the CPU and the graphics processor heavily.  Sometimes it would happen when I was using Media Center.  Sometimes, it would happen when I was streaming something from Hulu.  And sometimes it would happen when I was using VLC to watch some of my videos.  But the result was frustrating.

As the problem became more acute, I began to suspect a possible hardware problem – though I wasn’t convinced.  I had noticed that I had gotten a driver update in late October.  And it seemed as if the problems began after that.  But I could find no correlation to recent increases in reboots.  Nevertheless, I started down the path assuming that I had a video error.

I got onto Intel’s website (as I use an Intel Graphics Media adapter).  They did have a new update.  So I gave that a whirl.  Unfortunately, I got the typical message that this driver would not work with the custom HP implementation.  Indeed, the new software refused to install.

But I never let error messages deter me.  So I unpacked the executable file to my hard drive.  From there, I updated the driver via Device Manager (and selecting the path myself).  I was able to load the driver.  Now I had to reboot, wait and hope.

After ten hours of complete stability, I am ready to declare an interim success.  After a week, I’ll flag the issue as resolved.  But in the meantime, it sure seems to be resolved.  And as the weekend was quite frustrating thus far, I was glad to declare a success somewhere.

So it was time to return my attention to Earth, Wind & Fire.  My desire to seriously chill out had subsided but had not disappeared.  So I had to solve the Amazon issue.  Since their technical support was providing little real help, I decided to solve it myself.  Figuring that this would take some time, I decided to download a couple of podcasts so I could listen while I surfed/researched.

But I couldn’t download any podcasts.  Now I was starting to sense a pattern.  With a new release of iTunes and some recent sharing changes (for TVersity), I started to wonder whether I was having permission problems with my media libary.  So I dug a little deeper.  And voila, the problem became manifest.  Somehow, my file permissions had changed.  I was no longer the owner of my media directories.  And even though I was an administrator of the system, I could not update my own files.  Arghhhh.

So I went ahead and formally took ownership of all files and directories in the media library.  From there, I changed file permissions.  Of course, it was not quite this simple.  In the end, I had to delete all permissions on all files and then rely upon inherited permissions only.  But once I did this, things started to whirl into action again.  My podcast downloads worked.  And I could finally download files from Amazon.

In the final analysis, I got the problem solved.  But I still am not entirely sure how permissions on my media library were changed.  In troubleshooting parlance, I had a solution – but i had no root cause identified.  So I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen again.  But as of last night, I understood my home theater  challenges, I fixed my unexplainable reboots and I could download the media comtent I wanted.

In celebration, I’m finally listening to some exceptional music.  And it does help me chill a bit.

-Roo

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