God damn it

You know that DirectX problem, that I thought I'd fixed by buying a whole new video card?

Well, it looks as if what I actually need is a whole new computer. Isn't that great!

Yes, the problem is back again. Last night I watched a movie just fine; today I open a video file and as soon as I switch to fullscreen I've got three frames per second again, because DirectDraw acceleration has just turned its own self off again for no damn reason at all, and cannot be turned back on.

This is the way it always happens. It doesn't happen after I reboot, or after I install some particular piece of software, or in response to any actual change in the system configuration that I can see. DirectX acceleration just works one minute, and it doesn't work the next, and that's it.

From past experience, I am confident that rolling back to a previous system restore point, removing and reinstalling all video drivers, or even reinstalling Windows from scratch, will solve the problem for only a little while, at best.

I presume it's something wrong with the motherboard. Or something.

I don't need a new computer, I don't much want a new computer (more speed nice, lost day setting everything up again not), and I sure as hell don't want to pay for a new computer.

But since the memory and CPU in this computer won't work in a new one, I might as well get a whole new PC, lacking only a video card. Clearly, nothing else is going to fix this problem.

I feel stupid, contemplating a whole new computer just because a couple of graphics acceleration modes don't work on this one. Everything else works fine, and I can even cheat Direct3D into working, so I can play games if I want to. If I get a new computer, I'll be doing it just so I don't have to use crunchyvision low-res modes when I watch TV on my enormous monitor. How spoiled is that?

Kids are starving in Africa, et cetera.

God damn it.

30 Responses to “God damn it”

  1. rsynnott Says:

    I wonder is it transient hardware dodginess causing Windows to believe the card is broken? I know that this can certainly happen with mostly-okay hard disks; they'll quietly drop down to PIO if they register a few (possibly short-term) faults.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Yeah, I thought about that the last time. But since it's clearly not the video card, that narrows it down to the motherboard.

    And that's of an obsolete type (thanks a bunch, AMD, for stampeding off to Socket AM2 after we'd all bought the previous tech...), so I might as well get a new PC as bother with all the hassle of rebuilding this one with another old board.

    (There's an outside chance that it's some bizarre power supply issue. But despite my frequent statements that a flaky PSU can cause just about anything, I doubt it's the culprit this time, since everything else is perfectly fine.)

  3. rho Says:

    I've always wondered, why do atheists say "God damn it"? Isn't it more or less the same as saying "Thor damn it"? Is it just cultural lag?

    Me, I'd just buy a TV. Watching movies and TV on the computer just seems so university ghetto to me. Your thinking is what led the world to the MacTV, and who wants that?

  4. Daniel Rutter Says:

    A TV bigger than my monitor would be rather more expensive than a new PC :-).

  5. reyalp Says:

    I would guess it's some bit in the registry that marks it as disabled (after being triggered by some real condition). Assuming this is true, you could reinstall, take a snapshot of the registry (google will find you various programs that do this, if you don't already have one), then compare next time it is broken. If this theory is correct, you can then just make a .reg file to "fix" it.

    A horrible kludge, and there's plenty of ways it could be wrong, but if you aren't looking for an excuse to buy a new computer, it might be worth a try.

    As rsynnott mentioned Windows does something similar dropping (seemingly perfectly functional) UDMA interfaces back to some ungodly PIO mode, although in that case you can fix it via control panel.

  6. kamikrae-z Says:

    It couldn't be a RAM issue could it?
    I've had posessed RAM that has slowly corrupted my registry, one bit at a time. Having said that I also had a posessed mouse (serial) that would crash the computer when it was plugged in.

  7. Changes Says:

    Well, you doubt it's a PSU problem, but before you splash out on a new computer it's probably worth to try a PSU swap, a reinstall and see what happens.
    You oughta have plenty of PSUs around you can use... worst that can happen is that you exceed your weekly profanity allowance.

  8. twoflower Says:

    I was going to suggest it couldn't hurt to try one of the other 1,137 power supplies you have lying around the place, either.

    But another thought strikes me: do you have no access to anyone technical at Microsoft, either through your magazines or on your own? I'd think this is still a Windows problem with a simple solution, if only you could find it...

  9. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Yes, I have more than one mole at Microsoft.

    They don't have a fucking clue what this is :-).

  10. sniglet Says:

    I feel your pain, Dan. I've got a $200 file server that's been chugging along for a few years (on usb, running unbuntu, faithful faithful faithful), did a software update, and it hung midway through it. Reinstalled the OS and now it won't work if I run gnome (TWM or text mode's okay, but textmode
    bittorrent sucks.)

    So I have a cheapo old skool box (IDE, PCI, AGP) with onboard video and some flakeyness that's not worth troubleshooting. (rebooting the machine makes the cooling fans make funny noises)

    $425 delivered gets me an Xmas price for an HP pavilion and a copy of vista stoopid edition that won't even see the light of day. It's Core 2 duo, PCIX/PCIE, SATA, and a $40 GeForce video card.

    Should be MORE than enough to occasionally throw bits around the house. Doesn't mean I wanted to spend the money...and the rationale you can take with you: Whatever you buy will be more expensive (and outdated) after xmas.

  11. Jingu Says:

    His display is fine, and that's all that a TV would replace, since his computer is still his media device.

    And I know that I say "god dammit" because it's a phrase I use to express frustration. They're just emotionally charged words for me. Additionally, I earnestly doubt that a Christian saying "God damn it," is really truly calling upon their lord and savior to cast the offending jay-walker/traffic-jam/empty-cig-pack/what-have-you into the eternal fires of hell.

    I'm sorry about your travails Dan. My friend, just before last Christmas assembled his own new computer. We bought ours at the same time, even purchasing mostly the same hardware. His just plain wouldn't function properly. Wouldn't install Windows, would hang or have other problems randomly. We tried all sorts of complex arrangements of his computer parts and mine, but it seemed that the deciding factor as to whether or not it would work... was that it belonged to him.

  12. Daniel Rutter Says:

    And here's a new and exciting twist - all of the acceleration modes just turned themselves back on again! It's never done that before.

    Once again, I didn't reboot, install anything, uninstall anything, change any settings... but this time the computer decided to cure its own problem.

    No doubt the problem will be back again shortly. I look forward with fascination to DirectDraw Acceleration turning itself on and off while I watch a movie.

  13. RichVR Says:

    Dan. I've actually been spending more time than I usually would thinking about your issue. Since I have my own problems, as it were.

    I'm known in my little group as a "troubleshooter". Only due to the fact that when I was in college I was the guy that people gave their computers to when nobody else could get the suckers to work.

    The problem is that, I usually went to your site to get most of my answers.

    The only things that I can think of are:

    1.Registry issues. If you're using a WinOS that's usually the problem.

    2. You said it isn't power supply, it isn't video card, so it's probably motherboard. Why isn't it RAM? Because flakey RAM doesn't behave that way. At least in my experience. Flakey RAM can screw up a lot of things. But it usually does it on a regular basis and does it to things that demand memory. That's why I'd expect hard drive issues first. That's also why I wondering if you had hard drive issues. But you don't mention bad sectors or things like that. It's only Direct x (meaning DirectX plus x) issues. That sounds like an onboard chip problem. Maybe. I could be way off, and probably am.

    But I keep thinking about registry probs. The problem is, when you don't want to just wipe the C: drive and start from scratch it blinds you to the possibilities that you are past a restore because your last restore is just as fucked up as the one that you last made. And your problem might be that you didn't have restore on. I didn't for a while. My WinOS got fucked. And there I was, doing the whole reinstall on a cleanly wiped drive.

    Just saying.

  14. Joe Bloggs Says:

    >A TV bigger than my monitor would be rather more expensive than a new PC :-).

    ... and you can't make your monitor accept input from a DVD player?

  15. OgreMustCrush Says:

    Well, we should be able to rule out any registry problem because Dan has reinstalled Windows before with this issue, but it still comes up after reinstalls. If it is a software issue, it has to be caused by some software/driver that has been on the machine both now, and before he reinstalled. He could run barebones as to software for a while, but thats rather nasty itself.

    Oh, and his monitor doesn't have any video processing hardware. It must accept input at its native resolution, or exactly half it. Any scaling must be done in the video card. Thus the necessity for a computer for watching TV etc. Also, have you used a computer for a tuner? It's awesome... you can do all the TV type stuff on it, and its easy to switch to watching videos on your hard drive. I'm not sure if Dan uses Windows Media Center, but I swear that it is the only thing that keeps me using vista.

  16. OgreMustCrush Says:

    I do believe that that comment was originally much longer, but that is what I get for copy/pasting into the firefox search box to temporarily hold data.

    To very breifly paraphrase the remainder of the comment, I would check the RAM and PSU, simply because they are easy. Though that SLACR does look pretty appealing, and DDR2 memory is cheap as shit right now.

  17. Daniel Rutter Says:

    and you can’t make your monitor accept input from a DVD player?

    Actually, no, since all it has is a single DVI input.

    Even a DivX-playing DVD player wouldn't be of much use to me, though. And I can't even remember the last time I watched an actual DVD :-).

  18. Daniel Rutter Says:

    It must accept input at its native resolution, or exactly half it.

    That's not true, though. You can send pretty much any DVI signal you like to the 3007WFP-HC (or any other modern LCD), and it'll scale it onto the whole screen natively. Boot-up text mode works fine, for instance.

    If you're displaying most kinds of computer video on a monitor like this (or on lots of humbler LCDs) and you don't pick a sensible resolution, though, the scaling means you'll get fuzzy-vision.

    That in itself is no big deal for most video, but when DirectDraw acceleration isn't working, there's no resolution you can use that'll give smoothly scaled, tearing-free results from most video files.

    With hardware accelerated scaling working, there's no issue. You take your video file, it's scaled by the video card straight to the native resolution of the monitor, everything proceeds at full frame rate without breaking a sweat, and you're fine.

    If you lose the hardware acceleration, though, you suddenly start to notice the oddball resolutions of many video files. They force the system to do multiple scaling passes. A 624-by-352 video file, for instance, will be scaled once to (say) 800 by 600, then scaled again by the monitor to cover all of its pixels, and then there's even a bit more scaling on top when you tweak the aspect ratio to make that 4:3 resolution look right on the 16:10 screen (and no, there aren't any widescreen resolutions available in that res range - well, not unless you drop to 320 by 200!).

    The resulting abomination is, under the circumstances, astonishingly watchable :-).

  19. Matt Says:

    >> and you can’t make your monitor accept input from a DVD player?

    > Actually, no, since all it has is a single DVI input.

    That's why I went with the 24". It has DVI, VGA, composite, YC, and component inputs. Mind you, I end up watching DVDs via the PC anyway.

    Well... that and the price, that is. :)

  20. MathieuB Says:

    I have the exact same problem as you do. No DirectX support in Windows XP (OpenGL works fine though).

    My rig is quite different though, I'm running an old AthlonXP 3200 in an ASUS A7N8X with an AGP Radeon 9700Pro AIW.

    The problem started when I tried to upgrade my ATI drivers from 7.2 to 7.10. DirectX stopped working after the install and I had to roll back to 7.2 to get it back.

    I then upgraded to a Radeon X1950pro (AGP) and installed the drivers shipped with the card (7.6). This worked fine, so I tried upgrading again to 7.10 and later to 7.11 but the issue came back. I've rolled back to 7.6 and for now everything works fine with all current games (HL2EP2, Bioshock and Crysis). Yep, Crysis runs fine with medium settings on that old rig...

  21. ErockRPh Says:

    My last act of despiration when a Windows install craps out on me is shouting "Screw you Bill Gates, you capitalist swine!" at the top of my lungs, then trying to see if I can get by with dual-booting Linux (or using a Knoppix LiveCD) to run whatever applications that are FUBAR under Windows. It may be annoying to have to boot another OS, but if that can buy you a few months until you're ready to build a new box then it may be worth a shot.

  22. alphacheez Says:

    This reminds me of an old Macintosh ad:

  23. Daniel Rutter Says:

    As was observed at the time, that ad was perfectly accurate.

    Had he a misbehaving Mac, everybody would have known better than to present any suggestions. They would all just have gone away and come back the next day to see the presentation on his new Mac :-).

    A piece of somewhat later vintage, which includes this concept:

  24. OgreMustCrush Says:

    Ah, it was my understanding that since most 30 inch monitors lack internal scalers, any input to the monitors had to be at native or half native res. Of course, any resolution can still be displayed, but the scaling has to be done by the video card. Dumber devices that could not handle scaling to the monitors native resolution would thus not work except at native, and more likely at half-native, as they probably wouldn't have dual-link DVI (or hdmi).

    Monitors under 30in don't have this problem (except for REALLY old LCD's), and can scale any resolution as Dan said. It's typically listed as one of the caveats of the 30in monitor. Thats also why it only supports DVI, and not the abundance of inputs available on smaller monitors like Dell's 24in models.

    Of course a cheap 30in without the gigantic resolution would include an internal scaler, as all hdtvs do.

    Of course, this is all just my understanding of the issue. A very easy way to test for this phenomenon is to hook some device that assumes an hd resolution, ie 1280x720 or 1920x1080, via an hdmi-dvi converter and see if the monitor can display the input. If it can, it's scaling the input, if not, it isn't.

  25. OgreMustCrush Says:

    I supposed it could also display the input without scaling by having huge black bars on all sides, now that I think about it.

  26. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I don't know exactly what the deal is with the 3007WFP-HC's scaler, or lack thereof. Everybody says that thirty inchers have no built-in scaler and the video card does the work, but if that's the case then it seems that the video card still somehow knows to do it even in DOS mode. You get a fullscreen fuzzyvision view of boot-up screens, the CMOS setup program, and so on.

  27. Coderer Says:

    I'm going to make a radical suggestion -- if your only problem is playing back arbitrary-resolution video on your monitor, you might consider using an Xbox 360 or a PS3. The 360 just added DivX support with their Fall dashboard (OS) update, and the PS3 plays a bunch of formats as well. You can just plop TVersity on your PC and UPnP stream your media to your new frontend, both of which are more than up to the task of rescaling your videos. Of course, there's probably still going to be a number of formats *not* supported, but you're also getting a game player and, in the case of the PS3, an HD-movie-disc player in the bundle, all for substantially less than a new PC. And unless I'm much mistaken, you could use the HDMI output of either system (provided you don't get stuck with an old-model 360) to drive your single DVI input -- Newegg has a 2-input auto-switching DVI switcher for about 40 bucks American, and of course you know cables are dirt cheap online.

    I got a used PS3 20GB for $300 US a few weeks ago; I would hope the situation Down Under is at least not a lot worse.

    It might not be everything you need, but hey, it's a thought ;-)

  28. OgreMustCrush Says:

    The video card firmware probably read the EDID information and provides the proper scaling. I have never seen a monitor/tv that supports DDC that those low res text modes don't work on. Video card scaling can only truly work if the video card knows the native resolution to scale to so I wouldn't be surprised if the video firmware automatically polls the EDID at boot, then allows any of its acceptable scaling resolutions up to native res.

    @Coderer If it is the case that the monitor doesn't handle scaling, I'm pretty sure that neither the PS3 or X360 support scaling to its native resolution, so I don't think that would be a very good option.

  29. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I had a whole week of DirectDraw acceleration working... and now it's gone again.

  30. Daniel Rutter Says:

    ...and now it's back again!

    This time, though, something definite happened to bring it back: My VNC server helpfully crashed. As soon as that happened a light bulb went on over my head and I checked dxdiag again, and verily, there everything was in perfect working order once again.

    Obviously, the DirectX problem this time was caused by the VNC server, which was presumably doing the same thing that NetMeeting can do, disabling hardware display acceleration while someone's looking at your screen remotely. It's only supposed to do this while a viewer is actually connected, but I would not be even slightly surprised if it managed to expand its influence.

    VNC could very easily have had something to do with the past problems, too, since I VNC to this computer fairly often. But that wouldn't explain the problem persisting after I rebooted, breaking the VNC connection. Still, this remains the first really helpful data point I've managed to collect about this weird issue, so I'll mention it here for Google posterity.

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