Monday 25 January 2010

USB resets on external hard disks

My syslog entries on Ubuntu x64 revealed lots of errors over the last month, specifically in relation to USB errors.

Jan 23 15:23:52 colossus kernel: [ 1806.970046] usb 1-1: reset high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 2
Jan 23 15:23:52 colossus kernel: [ 1807.131881] sd 4:0:0:0: [sdb] Unhandled error code
Jan 23 15:23:52 colossus kernel: [ 1807.131888] sd 4:0:0:0: [sdb] Result: hostbyte=DID_ERROR driverbyte=DRIVER_OK
Jan 23 15:23:52 colossus kernel: [ 1807.131894] end_request: I/O error, dev sdb, sector 205518871
Jan 23 15:24:53 colossus kernel: [ 1867.600085] usb 1-1: reset high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 2

These USB resets caused either of my two external HDDs to make the dreaded clicking noise, which made me suspect that either one or both of them might be faulty. Both drives were normally plugged into the back of the server on the motherboard itself, which has 4 ports available.

This time, due to work commitments, I had been ferrying my disk drive around and therefore found it more convenient to plug into the front mounted USB2 hub that I'd installed a couple of years ago.

After doing the usual rounds on the forums, quite a few posters were suggesting some physical damage to the hard disks whilst others suggested it could be an NTFS problem. A small percentage of posters suggested that using a hub may be the cause of the problems. After exhausting the first two options, I then plugged both HDDs into the motherboard USB ports and lo and behold, all was working fine again.


Skype on Ubuntu Linux, plus pulseaudio problems.

After experiencing a load of hassle in the past with regards to getting Skype working at all on my 64 bit install of Ubuntu (Karmic Koala release), I was pleased to find that Skype now offer a 64 bit version to download.

After a quick one-button install, I was up and running. It seems to run even sweeter on Ubuntu, compared to Windows. Top marks to the developers for supporting this platform!

Prior to this, I'd started to investigate why the sound system in use by default on Ubuntu (pulseaudio) was giving me so many problems. My system would always start with the sound muted which was very annoying, although I fixed that quickly by hacking a script together to run on boot.

What really got my goat with pulseaudio was its inability to remain stable and usable for any length of time. Music played through Winamp was hit and miss, with radio static/crackle sometimes rearing its ugly head. Don't even think about mentioning Spotify since that caused all manner of problems! My solution to the problem was rather violent (in UNIX terms) because all I did to resolve the situation was to perform a killall on pulseaudio:

# killall pulseaudio

This would sometimes sort the problem out, but not always. After a lot of digging around on Ubuntu forums, the general consensus of opinion was that the pulseaudio system is still a 'work in progress'. Not an ideal situation I feel, so I took the executive option of removing the crud and installing a proper sound system, aka esound.

# sudo aptitude purge pulseaudio
# sudo aptitude install esound

All is now well in the world of sound on Ubuntu x64 and I am very happy that this great software seems to have fixed all of my sound problems. All the more exciting is that I can now select my webcam mic as a recording sound source. Perfection!


Wednesday 20 January 2010

Mark - bruv would have been 40 today!

It's my dear bruv's birthday today and it made me wonder how things would have turned out had he still been around?

A lot has happened in the last 10 years or so since he departed this earth. It's a shame he never got the chance to meet Ale, or see how his nephew and nieces have developed. There's not a day that goes by without me thinking about him in some way, shape or form and I miss him dearly.

I just hope that he made the right decision for himself and that he's happy where he is...

JB x