Fresco Logic and Windows

None of the Windows PCs and Servers hereabouts shipped with “native” USB3 ports, so they are provided instead by an assortment of el-cheapo PCI cards I purchased years ago. All of those cards happen to use the Fresco Logic host controller chipset… and every single one of them has misbehaved of late when running Windows 8.1 or Windows 2012 R2.

The symptoms are that brand new USB3 hard drives are plugged into the Fresco Logic-supplied USB port, bulk file copying begins to the newly-available USB drive and then, sometimes swiftly or sometimes after considerable time, the copying option aborts with a ‘destination drive no longer available’ error message. You usually get the option to try again, and if you do, the bulk copy operation resumes (though the specific file that was being copied at the time the error arose is skipped in the process).

This happens repeatedly. It happens with (in my case) three different WD Elements USB 3.0 2TB drives using 6 different USB 3.0 cables (just in case!). It happens with Windows 8.1 and Windows 2012R2 equally. And it happens on 3 different PCs or Servers. In fact, the only commonality that can be traced is down to the use of Fresco Logic hardware as the USB controller.

It’s all just a bit annoying …and if you Google the phrase Fresco Logic USB Windows disappear, you’ll find that randomly-disconnecting USB drives courtesy of Fresco Logic hardware isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon. The general theme running through all those other stories of woe is that the Fresco Logic power management capabilities are a bit aggressive (putting it mildly!) and thus the USB drive is constantly being turned off and on again by the controller in a misguided fit of power saving.

What resolved the matter for me was:

1. Go to Control Panel → System and Security → System → Device Manager, expand the Universal Serial Bus controllers item and right-click the Fresco Logic Root Hub item and select Properties. Select the Power Management tab and uncheck the option to allow the computer to turn off the device to save power. (Note that this option seems to re-check itself after a machine reboot -or, indeed, after a drive disconnect and re-connect, so although I did do this step, I don’t think it actually made any difference in the long run).

2. Use regedit (usual warnings about editing your registry by hand apply) to navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\FLxHCIc\Parameters\. If there’s a REG_DWORD value there called U1U2LowPower, then set it to 0. If it doesn’t exist at all, then just right-click and create a new 32-bit DWORD of that name with a value of 0. Having changed the registry, a reboot would be in order -though I found that merely disconnecting and re-connecting the USB drive seemed to do the trick.

Step 2 was the one that seemed to make all the difference to two of my machines: I still got the very occasional disconnection, but a 1.3TB file copy worked perfectly immediately after implementing it, where it had been continually failing before.

Just in case, however, you might note that at the time of writing, Windows 8.1 and Windows 2012 were both declaring that Fresco Logic driver version 3.5.4.0 was in use (installed from some ancient installation package I had lying about, but declared fully up-to-date when the ‘driver update’ button was pressed in Windows’ Device Manager utility). From the Fresco Logic support site, you can actually obtain version 3.5.107.0. I haven’t installed that myself, though: the regedit did the trick for me. I am reluctant to add yet another ‘degree of freedom’ to a problem that seems now to be resolved but proved frustratingly awkward to get that way.

Anyway: long story short… if you’re using Fresco Logic hardware, my commiserations. And disable its silly power management capabilities ASAP.

Windows 2012 Stuff

I’ve been mucking about with changing operating systems on one of my servers, switching from FreeNAS to Windows 2012 R2. No particular reason why, just that after 6 months solid service as a FreeNAS box, one of my HP Microservers deserved a bit of a change.

Before it was a FreeNAS box, it had been running Windows 2012 (i.e., Release 1) perfectly well, so I expected no dramas switching to 2012R2… but I was wrong.

Firstly, the O/S won’t complete its installation routine if your server’s firmware isn’t bang up-to-date. Secondly, you can’t get the firmware up-to-date without paying HP for extended support. And thirdly, once you’ve negotiated those hurdles, there’s the small matter of what antivirus to use on a server product (given the server will be doing primary duty as a file server for a bunch of Windows clients, that’s quite an important consideration).

Short articles on how I dealt with all three problems have accordingly been put together:

Seeing you…

I have had a “thing” in my left eye for a while now. It’s a sort of pair of lines, like a railway track, with a couple of knots in. Zoom in on a human hair in a microsocope and you’ll see the sort of thing:

Now imagine that running vertically through your left eye but much, much fainter and thinner. You’ll definitely know its there -though, perhaps like me, you’ll only get a really good look at if you stare at a bright but blandly-cloudy sky, where the absence of anything substantive to look at will really draw your attention to the ‘crack’ that seems to afflict you.

I put off seeing anyone about it because, well, it’s kind of trivial in a way. It really is very faint in usual circumstances. And work’s been busy. And I’d rather not know if I have an incurable disease that’s going to eat one of my eyes eventually. You know… all the usual excuses.

But I couldn’t help but notice it getting significantly worse of late -and a little bizarre. I wear glasses for long vision, but take them off when I sit down at a computer. So if they’re on, I expect distance to be sharp and near-objects blurred and the opposite when they’re off, of course. Except that a week or so ago, I noticed that my left eye was pin-sharp with glasses when viewing a monitor and blurred when the glasses were on, looking in the distance. Completely the wrong result, in other words, so I finally went to the optometerist this weekend.

Turns out I have a posterior subcapsular cataract.

This is excellent news, bizarrely enough, because the diagnosis doesn’t tax the skills of Man (or optometerist), so it’s probably correct. It isn’t going to kill me. And (the important bit): it can be fixed, more-or-less trivially. Doing it privately will cost me about $3000 apparently, which is bearable… although I note I could get a nice 64GB/1TB SSHD new desktop PC for that sort of money. Or even two of them :-(

The trivial bit of the fix is to pulverize my existing eye lens with ultrasound and vaccuum all the bits up (if they miss any, it can cause problems… so I hope Dyson is involved somewhere). Then they pop in a new lens which locks itself into position with springs… and in ten minutes it’s all over. Of course, I have to find a specialist willing to do this operation first, and that could take months. And there’s always the possibility of posterior capsule opacity to deal with afterwards -but that’s even easier to fix with a blast of Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet laser light. I like this sort of medicine: anything that involves Yttrium has to be “proper science”, whereas “stay home, take plenty of rest and keep your fluids up” sounds not much more advanced than “you have an excess of the sanguinary humours. Where are my leeches?”

In short, I can see just about fine, though the annoyance from the left eye is at the threshold of being a real pain in the butt. So I’ll be getting it blasted, vaccuumed and replaced as soon as I can. I did ask whether replacement with X-Ray or Laser-Vision was possible, but apparently not for another couple of centuries. Shame.

Anyway, age is the main culprit here (though I had fondly thought that age was something that just happened to other people). So make a habit of staying young.

I like to do that technologically, too: so after five months of fairly happy daily usage of Linux Mint 16, which I would heartily recommend to anyone, I’ve switched all my laptops and desktops back to Windows 8.1 Pro. It’s a perfectly acceptable client OS and the .1 and subsequent updates have really begun to knock it into pretty usable shape. The move makes it a bit easier to align with work (who are all on Windows 7), and to practice my SQL Server. More of which anon, I expect.