30 October 2008

In an open place

Still ruminating on pictures from that trip to the mountains a month ago. It's a kind of place that makes you feel very, very small as a human being. Humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time.

This week-end I'm in for a top-up on the Humbling and Awe-Inspiring, btw. Off to a Swedish nature photo festival first thing tomorrow. Looking immensely forward to that. It's a festival arranged by Vårgårda photo club, attracting big names to their programme every year. This time Matthias Klum is coming, among others.

24 October 2008

Memories of green

I was just listening to Vangelis tune "memories of green" from the album "see you later". It's one of my favourite tunes because there is a kind of tension in it which resonates with my experience of autumn. The tune came on (random pick playlist in Windows Media Player) while I was working this picture out from its raw file, so I simply couldn't resist the title. A bit cliché, but heck, everyone have some sentimental moments, right? :-)

19 October 2008

A night shot

This is a really long exposure, about fifteen minutes. I was curious to see how the Pentax K20D handled this kind of thing. I think the result is quite OK, but oh, the patience... After the exposure, the camera needs exactly the same amount of time again to apply its noise reduction. Foreground is lit by "brushing" with a small LED flashlight, by the way.

16 October 2008

Autumn tree

Inspired by Cog

04 October 2008

BIOS relief

Here's part two in my BIOS upgrade saga.

After getting some cheers from a Norwegian discussion forum on Hardware matters, I boldly went and bought myself a new motherboard. Unfortunately, I couldn't get hold of same model as the one with amnesia, and not even one with the same RAID controller. But I placed my bet on the devil I best knew, and stuck to an Asus motherboard with a RAID controller made by Intel. I also shot off an email to support at Intel, in the offshot chance that they would bother to reply a single guy like me <g>.
By the time my new motherboard arrived, I was fully prepared to install Vista and all the apps from scratch. No mail had arrived from Intel, so I just had to give it my best shot. Since this could potentially go very wrong, the pulse was in bit of a rush when I pushed the power button.
And I swear that's why I fumbled with the keyboard and missed the timeframe for pushing <ctrl-i> to enter the RAID setup. My heart didn't sink as much as it dropped. Or maybe just skipped a couple of beats. The only thing that went through my head, in large flashing letters, was "uh-oh".
When my heart picked up is vital task again, I cursed myself for being such a sluggish guy and tormented myself by envisioning a full week of installing apps, recovering backups, reconstructing photoshop actions and image database keywords. All the while my eyes were following a yellowish progress bar from left to right on the screen...

It finally sunk in. Lo and behold, the bloody 'puter booted up straight! I was so shocked I turned it off without logging on. Then, from my older PC I found something in the spam-filter. A mail from Support at Intel. In a friendly way they told me that if I found an identical motherboard it would not be a problem. If I had to buy a newer motherboard, I should be able to read the RAID but was advised against booting from it. With no reason stated.

Time to worry again. What would happen at the next boot? With the wrong RAID drivers, the wrong soundcard, the wrong network card, and even the wrong Southbridge chipset! But I supposed whatever damage, I would probably already have caused it. So I pushed the button again, and the PC booted. I logged in, and noticed that the machine was quite slow. A look at the Device Manager explained why. The list was peppered with warning signs for "unknown device". But as I watched, the warning on a couple of entries disappeared. Vista was looking them up and replacing the drivers without any intervention.

In the end, the SMB-driver remained the only unknown entity, and Vista demanded a reboot. Before allowing that, I installed the SMB-driver from the CD that came with the new motherboard. On the next boot, the machine was back to its snappy self.


I'm impressed by Windows Vista's resilience to hardware changes. It kept working, and reconfigured itself quite well when faced with new hardware. Admittedly, I had to reactivate my license by phone, but that's just five minutes of hassle. Compared to installing the whole fleet of apps it's nothing.
And Intel must have done something very right with their ICH-series of RAID controllers. The new motherboard with its ICH10R controller booted fine with a driver in the OS that was made for a much older controller, the ICH8R. Given the warnings from Intel support, I may have been a bit lucky, but according to a test done by "Tom's Hardware" forum, compatibility is more of a rule than exception with the ICH drivers (article here).

So my image archive is back on line, thank goodness! It is just SO nice when such things turn out much better than expected.

For a change. :-)

Edit 06. october:
Intel Support mailed me back and advised cautious optimism. No clear-cut answer on compatibility between drivers and chipset versions, but I guess it's hard to generalise across the myriad of combinations possible of disks, motherboards, driver versions and operating systems. Neither could they know I had used the week-end to move on, of course, so I really appreciate them taking time to respond to a dimwitted customer who goes off and screws up his own PC like I did. Well done Intel, and well done Otto JK. who answered my mails. Dimwitted my PC handling may have been this time, but professional customer service is certainly not lost on me!

02 October 2008

BIOS woes

Secure storage of my photos have become more and more important since going digital five years ago. So when building a new computer last summer, I took the bother to set up a fault-tolerant disk solution (RAID-5), and make sure that I had a backup device large enough to accomodate as much data as the computer. I also forced myself to do backup regularly, and have kept at it. More or less. :-)
Last week-end's outing was not yet fully backed up. Nor would it be, until all the keepers were extracted from the raw files, and jpegs for web produced.
And if you suspect a disaster coming now, you're quite right. Last night I installed a new CPU in the machine, which made an upgrade of the BIOS necessary. I downloaded the latest version from Asus, along with the proper tool to upgrade it, and began the process. What the tool did was to erase whatever trace there was of BIOS inside the machine, as it should, to make room for the new version. But guess what it did NOT.
So last week-end's few fabulous, and loads of not-so-fabulous, photos of reindeer and landscapes are now in limbo on an array of RAID-5 disks inside a dead computer.
Did I sigh? Well, I'll do it again.
It looks like the way out is to buy a new motherboard with a RAID-controller in the same family as the one I have, and then carefully set up the disks exactly as they are in the current config, down to plugging the disks into the same SATA ports on the controller. Then, the magic trick should be to tell the new controller NOT to write any changes to the disks, just make use of the parameters I give it to access the disks. A new motherboard is ordered, so if this method works there's only one more joker. Will Windows Vista accept the changes in hardware? My fingers are crossed... :-)
A fall-back solution would be to install Windows Vista anew on a different disk, and then access the RAID-5 as a second disk. Alternatively, if the BIOS cannot take a new configuration without overwriting the disk data, I will purchase a Raid Recovery tool like Runtime or DiskInternals, hook up the disks as individual entities and scavenge the files that way.
Not the end of the world, but a lot of extra work. Updating a BIOS shouldn't have to be this risky.
I will permit myself a third sigh, I think.