Tuesday, June 2

Vista + SP2 == clock one hour off? FIXED!

I took the plunge and installed Vista/2008 SP2 after rebuilding my Vista notebook twice last week.

Let me take a step back. My Dell Vostro 1500, running Vista x64 with a Dell 1505 Draft-N WiFi adapter since late Fall of 2007, started BSOD'g like crazy for no apparent reason. No driver changes, no software installs. I did the usual spyware and AV routine, came up with nothing. Let the computer cool off completely, overnight, no improvement. Removed and reinstalled the network drivers, but BCMWL664.SYS errors kept bringing me down. (This is a Broadcom driver for my WiFi adapter I believe.)

I'd been meaning to rebuild this notebook for a while -- 18+ months is a long time for a development machine to go un-rebuilt, especially with a new, clunky OS like Vista, ESPECIALLY with 64-bit drivers. Plus, I have licenses for Ultimate, and wanted to move up from Business. So I bit the bullet, took the plunge, reinstalling Vista while also putting in a new 7200 RPM Hitachi drive, stepping down to 32-bit Vista for peace of mind. (For the most part x64 has been good to me, but with all the BSODs, I wanted to remove as many variables as possible. The loss of .5 GB is tolerable for now, and ReadyBoost seems to help.)

At first, things seemed good ... but BSODs showed up 12-15 hours in, getting more and more frequent. This time the driver was still for WiFi, but it was coming up as BCMLW6.SYS -- despite network drivers being installed from the same package from Dell in both cases. Maybe something didn't update properly with the old install ...

After days of Googling and fiddling and event log trawling, and lots of frustrating BSODs and reboots, I eventually stripped down my WiFi adapter (Device Manager -> Network Adapters -> your device's Properties -> Advanced tab), disabling A-band, set AP Compatibility to "Broader Compatibility" rather than "Higher Performance," Roam Tendency to "Conservative," and decided to set all options possible to prefer G-band.

I also made sure Windows did not power the device down (Device Manager -> Network Adapters -> your device's Properties -> Power Management tab). Since day one, I've heard issues about weird packets floating around, giving Vista issues, so I killed N-band on the router, forcing the adapter to operate G-band only, matching all the G-band preferences I'd just set.

I can't be sure which of these actions did the trick, but I've been BSOD-free for days. I'm not sure what started it -- this hardware operated nominally fine for the better part of two years with no recent changes -- but I seem to be back in business. At some point I'd like to narrow down the variables and figure out precisely what the issue is, but for now, after 5 days of BSODs, I'm too busy being productive and happily connected.

OK, so with that out of the way, Office and Visual Studio and Firefox and plugins reinstalled, I decided to install Ubuntu 9.04 Server to my notebook as well now that I had a 100GB partition dedicated to it on the new hard drive for dual-booting purposes. Unfortunately the Server install dialog is a little less user-friendly than the old Desktop install dialog I was used to, and I managed to make a rookie mistake ... one I haven't made in a decade: I toasted my Windows partition when the Linux installer started making partition decisions. Whooops.

Back to reinstalling Vista. Only this time, since I hadn't heard any real rumblings about bad things happening with Vista SP2, I decided I might as well take a leap off that cliff too. The download and install process was a bit lengthy, but tolerable. Auto reboots are nice. The OS came back up, my tools still work. Happy days! Except for one nagging issue.

The clock was an hour off. Yes, the right time zone was selected. Resync'g wouldn't help: I keep getting the "no data available" error, despite having NTP setup in the registry, and NTP stuff disabled in Domain/Default Domain group policies in the 2008 domain and the Vista local security policy. I tried various NTP servers and sync flags, in the registry and from the command line, all to no avail. Setting the clock manually worked of course, but then timestamps in GMail and other online locations were an hour off. I applied the Vista SP2 hotfix for clock issues (what, a hotfix for SP2 ALREADY!?) I went back to the registry to examine the TimeZoneInformation node, since this was feeling like a Daylight Savings Time issue. As it turns out, the DaylightStart and StandardStart values were empty ... what the heck?

"Automatically adjust clock for Daylight Savings Time" in Adjust Date/Time -> Time Zone was unchecked.

Yeah, it really was that simple. But if you Google, you'll see I'm not the only one.

Sloppy, Microsoft, sloppy.