XP Again (read on)

 I've installed a couple of Windows XP Professional operating systems. All went well. They were new computers, and from inserting the CD to the final boot up desktop, all went well. However it's always with some trepidation that I wipe a hard drive and install a new operating system on an older machine. After all the owner delivered the computer in a decent state and expected it back in at least as good a condition as he left it. One wouldn't expect to take a car to have a new gearbox fitted and find the engine had fallen out when you went to collect it.
On this occasion the owner delivered the computer late on a Sunday and wanted it back to take to work the next morning. I was a little apprehensive as there wasn't really time to sort out any problems, if any materialised.
Some files were copied to CD and I was then given the go-ahead to wipe the hard drive and install a pristine Windows XP Professional CD.
The first problem was the machine wouldn't boot up. Why? The CD was in the top drive and this was Drive D, or at least it had been. After a few minutes I'd established it was now drive E and the lower drive was in fact Drive D. I switched the disk, XP going into the lower drive and the computer dutifully booted into the installation procedure. I selected FAT32 because the NT format gives me problems when I try to read it in my workshop computer and you never know when that's going to be necessary, what with all these viruses around.
After a very long time the hard drive was reformatted and we were ploughing onwards with reassuring screens and prompts.
Eventually all was completed and the computer booted up for its final flourish.
But wait… what had gone wrong? It looks odd. With difficulty I managed to type in the password to get to the desktop and then calamity. The screen had gone very very dark. I could just pick out what seemed to be a message but I couldn't read it. It was very dark blue writing on a black background. I shone my angle-poise on the screen. That didn't help. I fished out my jeweller's eyeglass and peered intently at the writing with my nose against the screen. Something about there being only 8 colours and click the bubble.
I clicked the bubble and nothing much of interest happened. Some of the dark colours changed to a sickly very, very dark green. I started prodding around with the mouse but to no avail. Sometimes, just for a fraction of a second a green field appeared with some sky. Utmost clarity. But then the sun went in and it relapsed into shades of night. It was like reading a book in an unlit coal cellar (if anyone remembers what they were like!)
Eventually I booted up whilst fiddling with the F8 key.
I selected VGA mode. Clearly this isn't the first time someone had experienced a graphics problem. In Windows 98 it's an easy matter to enter Safe Mode and resolve a problem such as this.
Up came a pleasant green field with blue sky and a message telling me to depend on XP sorting out the graphics problem. At least it knew what was wrong; which is a good start.
I clicked my affirmation and…. back to the coal cellar.
I tried many, many times flipping into safe mode and back again until I decided to download new drivers for the S3 Savage 4 AGP card. XP had been very positive about what it thought it was doing, and the name of the driver did seem to relate to the name on the card, but to be sure I got the right ones, I loaded a special detection program. This would, it said in the accompanying blurb, detect, down to the minute, no doubt, it had been born.
It worked (in safe mode) and armed with the information I downloaded the latest driver. It didn't actually say "XP".. it was for "2000" but then again it also said that they, "weren't going to produce any more drivers…. Ever", so what choice did I have?
This time I didn't let XP have its own way. I told it I wanted this new driver. It did raise some objections but clearly it didn't know what it was talking about. Stupid programmer! The new drivers were discovered and in they went. A few moments later after a fresh reboot…. back to the coal cellar. True there were tinges of slightly different shades of black but absolutely no use at all.
I managed to decipher something about "acceleration may be the problem", and I was to reset this to a lower position. After much messing around this was done and.. I was back in the coal cellar again.
Time for decision making. I found my box of spare cards and plugged them in one after another. This wasn't to be my day, as most wouldn't let the computer even illuminate the screen with basic information. They didn't let me even get to the CMOS page!
I remembered I'd bought a Voodoo card on "special offer". I unpacked it and plugged it in place and switched on. Up came XP with almost proper colours. The picture was shaky and pre-disposed to losing lock, but after putting in the driver CD and a flurry of activity I was informed that XP drivers were in place and a few moments later I was looking at a nice green field with blue sky.
Sometime I'll have to investigate this S3 card. After all it's now in the junk box and I may want to call on its services sooner or later.

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