During the last few weeks, I could not even read my emails on my workstation! As soon as I booted and logged-into Windows 10, I got a BSOD. And gosh, Windows was creative. IRQ levels mess-up, driver not handling exceptions, or simply could not handle threads… I am sure many of you have noticed this despicable habit Microsoft picked-up with Windows 10: push out un-tested stuff and have their paying customers to debug it! Yeah, a great idea isn’t it. I thought that I reached the bottom of despair when Microsoft demonstrated that everything could become worst. How? Well, they succeeded to screw-up the entire graphics stack during the last upgrade to keep me safe, to a point where the system BSODed right after boot. After leaving the system crash and cycle for a while, ashamed – at least I hope –, it proposed me to get into the recovery mode so I can fix the problem they have created for me. I was resigned to reset my PC. After all, a couple of weeks ago it worked. It was disruptive, painful, but at least I could use my computer again. But this time, Microsoft outdid itself. Windows 10 could not even reset itself – erasing all content…
Upgrade the Graphics
My experience with previously failed Windows 10 upgrades, and digging around the BSOD error codes, everything pointed to the graphics stack. It is true that the graphics card I was using for the last ~eight years was getting old. Not a hardware aging issue at all, but more a lack of support issue. Nor AMD, or Microsoft, found apparently necessary to check if the Sapphire HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 edition card was supported stably by the updates. Because of my particular system setup – six 23” monitors driven using mini-DP ports –, I didn’t have many good options to upgrade to something more modern, hoping for better support, while not costing an arm and a kidney. Also, I decided to drop Eyefinity 6 if possible, since it didn’t bring me much over the years. I finally choose the Nvidia NVS810. This cheapest Quadro card has two Maxwell GPUs – 1024 CUDA cores (512 cores per GPU) – and eight mini-DisplayPort 1.2 connectors! It is also smaller than the ATI card and requires less power. I was pumped up and ready to give it a try.
Still not in Nirvana
Once the ATI board swapped-out and the Nvidia board installed, I was back in business with all six monitors used and a resolution of 5876 x 2228 pixels. I’ve installed the drivers shipped with the card, relying upon the fact that Nvidia is advertising its drivers’ stability and certification for professional users (a key value proposition for the Quadro product lines). In other words, they charge you an extra arm in exchange for a rock-solid and stable driver stack. Note that many manufacturers and software vendors do the same, focusing on the technical/financial workstation customers. Guess what? My refreshed system was unable to playback a simple video when the player’s window spans multiple monitors. Embarrassing for digital signage dedicated board :). A friend of mine used to repeat, “being ridiculous doesn’t kill us anymore,” so we are all safe. It turned out that once started to be played on monitors driven by one of the GPUs, if you moved the playback window to a monitor driven by the other GPU, then the card is showing a black rectangle. You can see this very well in the video attached to this post. I decided to upgrade to the latest driver – what else could I do –, hoping for a fix, which by itself took me the evening, fighting BSODs randomly appearing during the upgrade, with a sweet tooth for THREAD related crashes. The Nvidia installer doesn’t seem to like my 36 logical processors. Too bad for a professional product.
Always can be Worst
Finally, the updated driver fixed the ridiculous video playback bug. Was I out of the wood? At least, I thought until I started to use my system. It resumed BSODing randomly… Really? After all these efforts, costly hardware upgrade and a full system re-installation?! No way. Well, I narrowed the issue down to Google Chrome this time. Indeed, by default, the browser uses the GPUs to offload some processing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to know what it does, because as soon as I opened Chrome, I started to play a video (on YouTube, so no excuses Google), BAM! BSOD! Because they must know at Google that this feature doesn’t always work, there is an advanced setting that allows you to disable it. Finally, after jumping thru all these hoops, I can use my computer again. So, stay tuned, as I should be able to share soon about a few great systems. Have a great week!