Slow WDS PXE Clients and Bad Memory

Following on from my post last week about UK Regional Settings for MDT 2013, I have been this week testing the deployment of a Lite Touch MDT image using WDS PXE over Multicast. Unlike what you will read online about Multicast, I haven’t personally had any issues with it and Multicast has worked off the bat but the problems I have been encountering are actually with Unicast, with the initial phase of PXE boot, downloading the Boot SDI and the WinPE LiteTouch WIM files.

In this case, I’ve been given eight client machines to test the deployment and we were finding that only about half of them were properly initiating the WinPE environment in a sensible timeframe with the other clients taking over 30mins just to download the Lite Touch WinPE image which obviously isn’t cricket as you should be able to lay down the entire Windows OS image is not much more time than that.

All of the machines are HP 8000 desktops with a matching hardware specification and matching firmware revisions so we were left wondering if the problem was the network, routing or such like however earlier on this afternoon, we found the issue and I have to say, it’s one of the craziest reasons I’ve seen something not working in a long time, especially considering how software defined our worlds have become.

Hynix Memory 2GB PC3-10600U-9-10

Yes, that is correct, the above is an image of a Hynix 2GB PC3-1006U-9-10 DIMM and this was the cause of our problems.

The machines in question were all configured with 6144MB of RAM in the form of three 2GB DIMMs. What we didn’t notice at an early stage and why would you really, was that some of the machines exclusively had three DIMMs of HP certified Micron memory in them and our faulting machines had a combination of HP certified Micron memory and Hynix HP certified memory.

All the DIMMs were of the same unregistered type, all of the same PC3-10600 speed and all have the same 9-10 CAS latency so it’s just crazy to think that a mismatched batch of Micron and Hynix memory could ruin things for us given that all of the other factors like registration, speed, latency and ranking were matched.

Simply by removing the Hynix DIMMs from the machines and leaving them with 4096MB made up of two 2GB DIMMs of Micron memory allowed these machines to load the Boot SDI and Lite Touch WinPE WIM files at the speed we expected to see and were already seeing on the other clients.

When we look at this logically, you can see why our issue was a memory problem because the download of the Lite Touch WinPE WIM is done into memory and the hard disk is not touched at this point but I cannot remember the last time I saw a simple DIMM cause so much of a problem. These days we automatically assume that hardware works and that our problems exist in software due to the configurable nature of everything but this was certainly a lesson to never forget the simple things in computing: the basic hardware like processors, memory, motherboards and the like.

HP Crapware Crosses the Line

I used to work for Xerox, I hide this not one ounce. One of the things I liked about Xerox most was their drivers – Lean, mean fighting machines, rarely any bigger than 10MB for the full driver.

Nicky got a new HP printer for Christmas from her Dad. I would have had him chose a Xerox Phaser 6115 MFP for us if it wasn’t for the extreme price tag on them, however the HP Photosmart series makes a good mixture of price and features for a home ‘power’ user.

HP seem to be the anti-christ when it comes to drivers. I downloaded the driver for the printer from the HP site. I would normally download the driver only package as this means you can print and it is much leaner and more stable, however the lean build isn’t even available for this model, so I was forced into the full package (also because I need to configure the networking on the device which can’t be done via the front panel) so instead I had to download and install the 180 MB package.

After several problems getting the software installed (due to the fact that HP’s installer package couldn’t handle the fact that I use a redirected home drive for my documents directory on H:) I managed to get it installed with some registry hacking.

Once the installation started I was watching it go through, I was watching the phases whir by and one of them offensively caught my eye – Yahoo Toolbar Customized by HP. This annoyed me no end, because I hate toolbars so very much because they are intrusive and 99% of the time not installed at my request such as this one. Yahoo is not my search engine of choice and never has been. If HP want to bundle the Yahoo toolbar then that’s fine with me, but at least give people the option to not install it.

Secondly, after the installation finished I noticed something else I didn’t ask for – A Windows Sidebar Gadget had been installed which allows you to drag and drop pictures onto it for instant printing. That’s a nice feature for someone who actually wants to use the printer, however I only installed this overweight bloated driver for the purpose of configuring the networking. Even though it may be a nice feature, this is again a feature which should be optional. Sidebar Gadgets can be quite intrusive at time (especially those shipped by TechGuys and PC World to name a couple).

I feel HP have crossed the line on at least three accounts here by not giving the users the choice they deserve and forcing junk bloat-ware upon it’s users, not giving users the ability to configure the networking in a lightweight fashion without installing the software and lastly for the damn software not working.

Now I have the software installed, I’ve spent the last 45mins trying to get the software to correctly assign the wireless network settings to the printer so that I can use it as planned to no avail. It would be faster for me to manually change the binary bits on the EEPROM!

HP – Make better drivers, smaller without bloat!

UPDATE 1
I just opened Internet Explorer to do something and discovered some monstrous and utterly real estate wasting piece of rubbish toolbar on the left side of the page view area has also been installed. Get real HP!

UPDATE 2
I managed to get the networking on the printer configured by setting the Configure Network application to Compatibility mode for Windows Vista Service Pack 2 and Administrator Mode in Windows 7. The irony here is that HP’s software claims to be Windows 7 compatible from the text on their website, but it’s obviously borderline compatible.

I have this morning been trying to uninstall the HP software from my machine now, as now that printer is on the network it is broadcasting itself via UPnP for all to see which I have to say is excellent (another post coming) but the shoddy software not only requires me to reboot for changes to take effect after the removal of each of the six components, but forces the immediate restart killing any open Internet Explorer tabs in the process – Rage ensues.

The Myth of Leaving it Plugged In

The aged old myth of leaving your laptop plugged in forever and a day remains strong even today.

Many people claim that this is an old adage that doesn’t apply to modern Li-Ion (Lithium Ion) batteries, however there is just as many people who disagree. Even Apple agree with an official statement on their site about not leaving your laptops plugged in all of the time:

http://www.apple.com/batteries/notebooks.html

However, an article on the Dell website doesn’t recommend the same thing – In actual fact it neglects to comment on what you should do once your notebook is fully charged. HP even circumvent the topic in their article.

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/batteries_sitelet/en/replacement?c=us&cs=29&l=en&s=dhs
http://h20271.www2.hp.com/SMB-AP/cache/122140-0-0-155-121.html

Read the Full Post