Sorry for this rant post, but I feel that I have to get it off my chest.
I recalled yesterday that I hadn't updated the graphics card drivers for a while (I wasn't experiencing any problems, just like to be up to date where possible). So I downloaded the 8.11 driver from AMD/ATI's website (just the display driver, not the whole Catalyst thing). Installed fine, no issues. Got lost in SimCity 4 yesterday which is pretty GPU intensive (not because it's really complicated, just the quality of EA's programming ), no problems.
Today, amongst other things I opened up Explorer (XP SP3) and initiated a search for files. While that was going on I was looking at Wikipedia when suddenly... all windows stopped responding.
I could still move the mouse pointer.
Then after about 10 seconds the monitor went into standby.
Checking whether the computer would change the keyboard light for caps lock, I surmised that it had crashed. I wasn't sure what at this point had caused it, but it struck me as odd that instead of the BSOD of yore I was getting the monitor-in-standby-of-death. The monitor is connected via DVI-D (there are only DVI ports on my graphics card).
So, I restarted. Cautiously I checked out the Task Manager and startup entries for anything that may have given Kaspersky the slip. Nothing suspicious. No indication of problems or indeed the crash in the Event Logs. I restarted Firefox and it brought up what I was looking at when the crash occured. Browsed for a while, no crash.
At this point I was starting to relax until I recalled that I was running a search while all this was going on. I closed down all applications, opened Explorer and ran the search again... and it did the same thing again. Unresponsive, then the monitor went into standby. This time at least I heard the hard disk park heads, the standard audio cue for a BSOD.
I scratched my head for a bit. I should be seeing something here, but I got nothing. I then recalled the sketchy details I knew about the XP kernel and what it does when it's frightened, the fallback VgaSave driver that is always present. I surmized that a VGA connection was necessary to find out what was going on.
A quick hunt around the house later, and I return armed with a VGA cable and DVI-I adapter. I connected the cable to the graphics card and my monitor and restarted. As soon as I got into Windows I tried running the search again...
...this time, BSOD in all its glory. STOP 0x000000EA referencing ati2dvag.
The STOP error indicates that the driver had a "stuck thread", more generally known as an infinite loop.
I repeated the action a few times, each time within 20 seconds of initiating the search, it crashed.
Roll back the driver... it no longer happens!
So, could someone riddle me these:-
- Why is it whenever something important happens to my computer my only view into it (DVI monitor) is turned off?
- How is it that something as simple as a file search can cause an infinite loop in a graphics card driver when the messiest EA code can't manage it?
- How it is possible to make a graphics driver worse over time?
- What the home address is of the ATI engineer responsible for all these wise decisions so that I may make just one attempt at dislocating his/her jaw. I don't want to make angry calls to their support. I don't want to hold management responsible. I just want to make plain how karma in this universe works. This would be both an economical and environmentally friendly way to deal with the issue.
- I would also shake said engineer's hand for sneaking "vag" into the driver filename. Reminded me of an American Dad! episode.