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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » RTS, new computer, Win7 compatibility problems

   
Author Topic: RTS, new computer, Win7 compatibility problems
Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12686
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-17-2011 11:09 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We just got a new office computer. It is a Dell, running Win7, 64 bit.

I contacted RTS before we bought the computer and asked if there would be any compatibility problems with Win7 and they said there would not be any problems.

We've had a lot of crashes since then and our computer guy thinks it is RTS-related, but doesn't really know what exactly it could be.

Originally the system would just "lock up" while we were selling tickets, and a reboot would fix it. Then eventually we'd get a black screen saying "Insert proper media device and press any key to reboot" (leading me to think it wasn't recognizing the hard drive) and we could CTRL-ALT-DEL and be back to normal.

As a fix, for that, we first replaced the hard drive but the problem continued. Then we set RTS up so that it runs in "XP Service Pack 3" mode, and runs as an administrator. That seemed to fix it for the last 3 weeks or so.

Then tonight, we got the "Blue screen of death" for a second, followed by that same black screen asking for a boot disk, but couldn't get it to reboot....just kept going back to the same black screen. We finally got it to reboot by going to the "select device to boot from" screen (press F2) and then Windows started normally and we're back in business...for now.

The BSOD disappeared too fast for me to catch the error code.

Our computer guy thinks maybe there is some kind of snowball effect from RTS, building up day by day until it finally crashes the system. For now we're going to exit out of RTS every night (as opposed to leaving it running) and see if that helps the problem.

It's one of those things that's unpredictable and has no particular pattern, so very hard to diagnose. Anyone out there with any ideas? I'm willing to try any and all experiments.

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Frank Cox
Film God

Posts: 2171
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 09-18-2011 12:14 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mysterious occasional crashes can sometimes be caused by bad ram.

memtest86

Run that for a day or two and see what happens. It's a free program, just click on the "free download" link.

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Jason Raftery
Film Handler

Posts: 72
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Registered: May 2011


 - posted 09-18-2011 12:42 AM      Profile for Jason Raftery   Email Jason Raftery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Windows is configured by default to automatically restart on system failure, which means blue screens disappear before you can catch the fault code generated. Follow the directions here to keep a BSOD on screen until you tell the system to restart. Next time you get a blue screen, Google the stop code to get an idea where the fault is occurring.

If the system has been having stability issues since day one, Frank's suggestion on checking the RAM is a good one. I'd just add that you must use multiple memory testing programs to check the RAM before declaring the memory modules to be sound. I've seen modules pass memtest86 / memtest86+ for days but fail in other programs on the first pass. The shareware version of GoldMemory has worked well as a secondary testing program for me and the results have been accepted when I've requested RMAs from Micron, Dell, and others in the past.

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Frank Cox
Film God

Posts: 2171
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 09-18-2011 02:26 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This bootable cd contains a ton of useful utilities, including memtest86.

I'll offer it has an alternative to the stand-alone memtest86 cd I suggested earlier but be advised that the Ultimate Boot CD also contains some programs that can do a fine job of screwing up your computer really good and proper. It's great and it does a great many things, but it's a bit of a loaded shotgun if you don't know what you're doing.

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Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1051
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 10-19-2011 11:10 AM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It definitely sounds like something hardware-related, rather than software.

If RTS has installed any proprietary drivers for thumbprint scanners, barcode readers, or something like that, I could see the correlation there, but your "Insert proper media device and press any key to reboot" does point a finger at the drive interface.

If I recall correctly, that error will appear if you have a memory card inserted into a card slot and the computer's BIOS is set to look at those slots for bootable devices. It scared the heck out of me the first time I saw that error, as my first thought was that the hard drive had crashed! Popping out the memory card and rebooting before the ensuing heart attack did the trick.

I wouldn't rule out a problem with the motherboard, BIOS, or SATA controller drivers. Using some memory testing utils (I also like MemTest 86+, but using multiples is probably a good idea) will rule out flaky RAM.

You could also run some hard drive testing programs to beat on the drive and see if you can get it to fail without RTS actively running.

If you suspect a screwy device driver, booting in safe mode (with and without networking) might help rule out such an issue.

Many computer issues are still cabling and connection problems. If you haven't done so, pop the hood and reseat everything. RAM, expansion cards, cables, even the CPU if you're comfortable doing so (but I don't think it's a CPU problem, so don't do that until you've tried everything else). Swapping the SATA cable going to the boot drive may not be a bad idea if you haven't already done so. Try using a different SATA connector on the motherboard as well to eliminate that.

How much bloatware did the machine come with? I would toss everything that isn't essential. I would replace any anti-virus/security/spyware program with Microsoft Security Essentials, as I have found programs like Norton Internet Security to be more trouble than they're worth, and Microsoft's software is free.

Good luck with the troubleshooting! If you have the warranty coverage, you might want to just skip the hassle and demand a replacement from Dell or the retailer you bought it from.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12686
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-19-2011 02:05 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It looks like we got the problem solved. After my initial post above, it got to the point where the computer just went to the BSOD within a few minutes to a couple hours after rebooting. It was just getting worse and worse, so finally we took the computer to a friend in Billings who is a Dell reseller (and one of the smartest computer guys I've ever met) and left it with him for a week to tweak it until he got it figured out.

Turned out that it WAS apparently a problem with RTS after all. So, if any RTS users out there are looking at new computers with Win7, keep this thread in mind -- it might help you if you have a similar problem.

I'm excerpting part of an email from our computer guy here, rather than try to explain what he did myself.

quote:
Hey Mike, I do think I've gotten to the bottom of our RTS problem. From my last email, I'd been doing some stress testing on the hardware and every test that I ran was coming back clean and clear. The software I'm using is called Sis Sandra and allows me to isolate and benchmark each key piece of hardware like the memory, harddrive, and graphics. From our initial Blue screen error codes, I was really running a lot of memory and hard drive based tests thinking that it still might be a hardware issue. However, it wasn't until I started running these tests with RTS that I noticed the issue and started experiencing the same blue screens. RTS does seem to be the cause of the issue, but to be on the safe side, I swapped out memory and even changed the hard drive cable on the computer. RTS with the combination of a memory test would continue to cause this issue to reappear.

I believe the issue is a memory leak from the RTS software which causes unpredictable windows halts and ultimately, the blue screens. The only thing I can think is the combination of Windows 7 (either x64 or 32-bit) and RTS causes the memory leak which we don't experience on a previous version of Windows possibly because of version specific DLLs or other system files used by RTS. I believe this is why RTS support adjusted the paging file to allow more virtual memory to be consumed. Normally, just adjusting the RTS software to run in compatibility mode like we've done would fix this sort of problem, but since RTS runs a little different and isn't necessarily installed to the system, it calls some other services when it's launched. These other services allow RTS to act as a local file server (connects to the concession computer) which I think is where the memory leak occurs.

With this assumption, I did some research and experimented a bit to see what can be done on our end to fix this issue since I don't see a new version of RTS coming out any time soon. Instead of running the main RTS application in compatibility mode, I'm running the other individual services RTS uses in compatibility mode and sure enough, no more blue screens. I've even been able to undo the RTS fix on the page file and turn off compatibility mode on the main RTS executable.

I've been successfully using this machine with RTS running full time and as my main computer completely problem free. I've actually been doing so since Friday, but didn't want to get our hopes up until I knew for sure.

And, we've been using the machine since we got it back for about 10 days so far with no problems.

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Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1051
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 10-20-2011 10:12 AM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It sounds like you have a very knowledgeable and capable tech helping you -- kudos to him for tracking down what is hopefully the problem.

I would be interested to hear what RTS has to say about the findings and how quickly they respond with a fix.

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