A series of events over the last week or so culminated with this personal outburst on Facebook.
Spent all morning figuring out why my PC at home suddenly became allergic to all USB wifi adapters. Looks like it might have been a bios update. Had to downgrade to make it work again. I think I might really be done building my own PCs now.
Here’s what happened.
Sometime over a week or so ago, I decided I wanted to try out the new Windows 8 stuff. So on launch day, I do the upgrade, and things initially seem pretty good.
Then out of nowhere, I start getting SMART warnings about my 2TB HDD which houses all my photos. I do have crashplan setup, and it has mirrored my some 300G of photos, but the thought started to set in, what if I actually had to restore all that stuff from Crashplan? That would be a terrible way to spend my paternity leave.
So after much thinking about a backup strategy, I ordered a Seagate 3TB expansion drive. Basically, a barebone USB 3.0 enclosure + 3TB drive with the integration done by Seagate. What could go wrong, right?
Turns out the damn thing has problem waking up from sleep. What year is this? There’s even some silly FB post by Seagate support page which points the finger at some mysterious driver problem. Get your motherboard manufacturers drivers they say. Umm yea. I have an intel motherboard, with intel controllers. About as plain-jane vanilla as you can possibly get (and that was deliberate, to avoid bullshit like this). If your product doesn’t work with a config like this out of the box, then you’ve done something wrong. End of story.
If only. I had just upgraded to Win 8, so there was still some doubt in my mind that there could be some driver issue, or some other compatibility issue that just hadn’t aired out since 8 had just been released.
So I start poking around, and lo and behold, my BIOS is two revs out of date. The changelog in the bios update even mentions a USB 2.0 performance improvement. Could this be the problem? I apply the update right away and…
No dice. Expansion drive still never wakes from sleep. But what the hell? Now all of a sudden my TP-Link USB wifi device becomes really flaky. It only works about once every 5 boots, and I discover that if I plug and unplug it multiple times, eventually it will come back.
Some more poking around, I realized that TP-link doesn’t have win 8 drivers for this device. It was just using the Win 7 drivers. Could that be the issue? My machine (as most machines) are pretty worthless without an internet connection, so I bit the bullet and reinstalled the OS partition to Windows 7. Now I can get my supported TP-Link driver and be on my way…
If only. Even in Win 7 the TP-link is flaky. Hrm. Maybe the device is just dying? I mean, it was some cheap USB thing that I got off amazon despite a few people complaining of it’s flakiness. Ok, fuck it. I’m just going to get a different one. I mean, this thing is only 2×2 antenna and single band, so I should be able to find a 3×3 dual-band usb adapter by now. (BTW, 3×3 802.11n promises 450mbps, which is more than USB 2.0’s 400mbps. Thankfully, the wifi folks are even more egregious when talking about theoretical throughput than the USB folks are 😛 ) Some poking on Amazon and I find this Trendnet adapter that looks decent. Crap, even if I Amazon Prime this thing, I won’t get it until Tuesday next week…
A weekend of re-plugging my current wifi device later, the new adapter arrives. Hurray! Plug it in, install the driver… and it works! problem solved!
But. A few hours later, after a reboot, no wireless signal. Tried all kinds of diagnostics, but basically any program that actually tried to communicate with the adapter would hang until I unplugged it (including, amusingly enough, the installer for the drivers for the adapter). What. The. Fuck. Apparently my machine kills wifi adapters.
Now I’m running out of ideas. Could it be the usb port? could the wifi things be drawing too much power? Could it be the hub hierarchy in the motherboard (this board has 14 ports, and a BIOS option to make it look to the OS like all of them are on a root hub). Lots of moving devices around, installing / uninstalling drivers, and slow descent in despair… I even found a few posts on the internet where people are like, “why the hell do USB wifi adapters not work on the Intel DP55WB motherboard?” WTF is going on?
Then this morning… Oh fuck. Could it be that BIOS update? It did mention a USB change in one of the revisions. And the update didn’t fix the original problem with the Seagate drive that I was hoping it would fix. Hrm… I guess it’s worth a shot.
A quick downgrade later. Everything works again. Sigh.
So basically, the wrong fix to the problem with the Seagate drive (which is on it’s way back to Amazon) led me down a long rat-hole of cascading mistakes. In retrospect, if I had just ditched the drive in the first place, I probably could have kept in windows 8 install and all the other configuration. Now I’ll just hope I can make it back there eventually, but I’m being pretty damn conservative for now. With a newborn around the house, I need my photo workflow to, you know, work.
Did I mention how I hate computers?