Archive

Archive for August 19th, 2009

Dell Mini 10 vs. WHS

August 19th, 2009 2 comments

This is a sad saga, because it really shouldn’t be this difficult.  I should be able to say, “Woo! WHS paid off again, thanks my little backup buddy!”

But I can’t fully give a big *high 5* to the WHS, though it came out the winner, it got bruised and battered on something that ended up being easily fixed, but that fixed relied too much on me finding answers outside of normal MS channels.

First, some background. We have two kids with September birthdays.  We decided to pool resources with family and get them one big present, we got them each a Dell Mini 10.  Sweet little portable laptops.  (I’m ignoring the, “Wait, it isn’t September yet!” question, maybe another post, so put your hand down).  So they’ve been enjoying playing with them. 

In a fit of uncoordinated laziness, I tossed one of the power supplies to my youngest so he’d have it to recharge.  A bad throw followed on the heels of that bad idea, and the cute little charger hit the cute litte keyboard right about the letter ‘F’ which is right above where the hard drive resides (I found this out later).  Movie stopped working, reboot was met with a BSD.

*gosh* stream of thoughts follows roughly:

  • I’m an idiot.
  • Good thing I made sure it backed up to WHS (Windows Home Server) last night.
  • Hard disk is probably toast.
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Should have gotten the SSD instead of the SATA hard drive, less moving parts
  • I’m an idiot.
  • I’d better call Dell, it’s still under warranty.
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Run the diagnostics first, so you can speed up the Dell support call
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Oh cool they have a Dell support Chat, I don’t have to SPEAK to anyone. FTW!
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Waiting for a Support agent, 67 in line.
  • I’m an idiot (repeats 67 times)
  • Oh hi, Mr. Dell Support person that types really good English, my hard drive is toast, please replace it.
  • Thank you, awesome, cool.
  • I’m an idiot (repeats 2 days while waiting package).

Hard drive comes and it’s pre-imaged with the software load, and they re-included the DVDs/CDROMs of software that is installed.  Nice touch, but since the Mini 10 has no optical drive, not really necessary and/or useful, a USB with the same content would be teh awesum though, please make note, Dell.

So while I quickly swapped out the drive, and restarted and the computer did it’s little ‘first time installation’ thingy.  I started creating a USB key to have it restore from the WHS.  I had to relearn some lessons:

  1. To make a bootable USB key you need to use a Vista machine and use the diskpart, so I had Angie do that part for me.
  2. Next is just copy the files from the Windows Home Server Restore CDROM image. I do this by loading the CD-ROM image with Nero Image Drive, rather than burn onto plastic, then copy.

After a bit, and about the time the ‘first time’ processes got done I had a USB stick ready to roll.  Plugged it in, booted up the Mini-10 attached it to the wire at the network switch and…

Nothing.

Dell Mini 10 couldn’t find the server.

Three hours later, and google searches galore, I got it to work.  Here’s a break down.

  • Dell Mini 10 uses a RealTek PCI-E Ethernet driver.  The driver on the WHS Restore CD-ROM identifies it correctly, and it all appears to be ready to work.  But it doesn’t work.
  • The drivers on the Mini 10’s installation, (XP NDIS variety) also don’t work (if you copy the c:\drivers directory to the usb stick and then scan for additional drivers, it finds them)
  • The drivers on the WHS PowerPack 3 Beta restore image, also don’t work.
  • The drivers for the Vista (Windows Server 2008) do work, but you have to download them from the vendor, (not Dell, Realtek) then extract and stuff the drivers into a drivers folder on the USB stick, and then scan for additional drivers.

So once I figured all that out, by brute force, trial and error, I was glad for my 8 years of education in computers and 20 years of practical education.  And if anyone else buys a WHS and then a Dell Mini 10, I’m sure they’d stuff it all in the trash and go live in the wilderness.

Though I understand that technologies change, and the Dell Mini 10 is new technology…  C’mon, Ethernet drivers shouldn’t be an issue!

The bright spot of the story, is the computer is back in the midget’s grubby little hands, looking and working just like it did moments before the power adapter harshed the hard drive’s mellow.  I just wish two things.  Drivers need to be easier, or at least an better error message on how to troubleshoot drivers in WHS.  And that they built hard drives at least as ruggedly as they do key-caps (no damage sustained by the failed lob).

Categories: Gadgets, Life Tags: