The Great Computer Upgrade Debacle

Alright, you’ll have to excuse me for today’s post, but I need to complain.

For about 5 months or so, my computer has been complaining to me that it cannot install Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Internet Explorer 9. These are two huge updates that are very important, but in particular Sara has some major, major problems with Internet Explorer 8, so I would love to get the new version for her. However, my computer cannot install these updates, no matter what I do.

It’s embarrassing. I make my living on computers. I have a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering. I pull the strings and the computer dances. And yet, I just can’t do it.

Every month or so, I would roll up my sleeves and say, “That’s it, this is not going to beat me. I am going to do whatever it takes to solve this problem.” After a day or two, I go down in flames and give up again. Rise, wait a month, repeat.

I have googled, I have downloaded, I have installed for hours and hours at a time. There is a specific “System Readiness” program that I run every time I see the version change. We’re on something like version 22 now. It doesn’t fix my problem. From all my googling, I know that this is a common problem that many people have. Why can’t Microsoft fix my problem??

So the other day, I rolled up my sleeves and said, “That’s it, this is not going to beat me. I am going to do whatever it takes to solve this problem.” I got down and dirty. I was looking through Microsoft support posts, I was looking in obscure log files, I was installing, downloading, uninstalling, and rebooting for hours on end.

I seemed to make some progress. If I am understanding properly, the root of the problem came down to this:

Failed to parse package manifest: \\?\GLOBALROOT\Device\HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy3\Windows\Servicing\Packages\Microsoft-Windows-Client-LanguagePack-Package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~nl-NL~6.1.7600.16385.mum

Now, as you can clearly see, that means I didn’t have the Dutch language pack installed (obviously). Why would I need the Dutch language pack installed? Your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, I found some illicit tool to install the Dutch language pack and cleared that error. Lookin’ good, but no installation.

That’s okay. The instructions told me to expect that. Now I simply have to try to install, check the logs for errors, and clean those errors up one at a time. You simply scroll through for obscure log syntax, see which Knowledge Base article had a problem, then uninstall that update and restart. What could be simpler? The people in the forums had to do this once or twice, and eventually they were able to install.

I did it for four hours. FOUR HOURS, and I didn’t get to the bottom of it. Eventually I had to go to sleep, so I had to give up. Maybe I could devote another day or two to trying to solve the problem. But wait: while I was sleeping, Windows RE-INSTALLED all of the “important updates” I uninstalled trying to get this to work. As far as I can tell, all of my work was undone by my super-helpful Windows 7 installation. Thanks Microsoft!

If I can’t figure out this problem, who is going to be able to solve it? Do you think Average Joe Windows User is going to dig through logs and install Dutch language packs? Is he going to spend 20 hours trying to solve this?

No, he’s not.

But I am, because if I allow a computer to beat me, then my whole life is a lie. Besides, I think if I just solve this *one last problem*, it’s all going to go smoothly…

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I am a programming god

I understand that most of you won’t understand this, but that’s okay. This post is for me!

At work I was put in a rough situation. If you tried to dream up the hardest, most ridiculous scenario for a programmer to be in as some kind of thought exercise, it would probably be better than what I had to deal with.

  1. The bug dealt with a goofy setup of a program that is pretty bad to begin with. So dealing with the program itself would be bad, but it was made worse by having the most counter-intuitive setup you could think of.
  2. The program has a huge history to wade through, with tons of legacy databases, none of which I am familiar with. So the tree sort of gets lost in the forest.
  3. The program uses abstract terminology that I’ve never encountered.
  4. The API to the program is in a proprietary language which I don’t know.
  5. The person who wrote the original code now lives in a different country.
  6. I was working under a deadline, namely, the end of the day. No pressure.
  7. I don’t have the program to interface with here at work. The guy who does have access to the program, doesn’t have a debugger. So neither of us are really in a position to debug.
  8. Did I mention that the program I’m supposed to access is in a different state? So, we are trying to work via a web conference. I can see his screen, but he can’t see mine. I basically send him files to try, which inevitably doesn’t work, rise, repeat.
  9. The guy on the other end of the web conference with the access to the tool isn’t a programmer, nor does he know anything about the program to interface with. So we are like the blind leading the blind.

So, to summarize, I have one day to fix a bug in code I didn’t write that interfaces with a horrible, backwards, customized, proprietary program which I’ve never used and don’t understand, and also which has a lot of history and obscuring details. On top of that, I don’t have direct access to the program, but I’m using an intermediary to type things for me in a different state, which I watch through a web meeting.

And I did it, baby. I did it. It took like 6 hours, but it got done. Booya!

And you reading this, much like my boss, probably had no clue how hard it was. Oh well.

An ode to my crappy laptop

Oh laptop, how I hate thee! Let me count the ways:

  1. The way the “t” fell off your front cover, making you a “Gaeway” laptop
  2. The way some of your keys don’t work every now and again, forcing me to hit them a few times to get them to work
  3. The way  you somehow ruined not one, but two mice, which no no longer work in any computer
  4. The way you were not Windows Vista compatible when I bought you, even though you came pre-installed with Vista
  5. The way you always used to get blue screens (though, to be fair, this seems to be fixed now, after a year or so)
  6. The way you occasionally randomly shut down for no reason when you are left alone
  7. The way you take 48+ hours for virus scan
  8. The way you are unable to do anything while virus scanning
  9. The way you take ten minutes to start up or shut down
  10. The way I had to re-flash your bios that one time, just to make you work like a regular computer (see #5)
  11. The way your tiny hard drive is 98% full
  12. The way you somehow destroyed your own power cord

Between #3 and #12, I’m kind of worried the poor thing has Lupus. In regards to #6, and maybe the whole list in general, I think that the little devil just wants attention. Hey laptop! That’s not the kind of attention you want, buddy!

Baby Smash

First off, happy Labor Day!

This post is for all you readers out there with young children. I know when Evie was younger, she would see us on the computer all the time, and want to participate. She spent a lot of time smashing on the keyboard and doing all sorts of interesting things I never even knew you could do with key shortcuts (in other words, she taught me a thing or two about computers).

It’s not that I minded her playing with the computer, it’s that I was worried about her messing things up on the computer. Enter BabySmash, a program for “baby proof computer fun”. Basically, it locks out the keyboard so that all those extra keystrokes don’t accidentally change your password or something. Instead, they bring up fun animations and sounds. So put it on and let them smash to their heart’s content. You can see a couple of demo videos on the website. Did I mention it’s free?

Oh, sweet internet

Our DSL modem inexplicably quit working Sunday night, so we have been incommunicado for a few days.  After dealing with AT&T’s phone system and tech support for a frustrating but acceptable amount of time we got a replacement modem and everything seems to work okay now.   Unfortunately, since I had Internet at work and Sara has been cooped up with no contact with the outside world, I think the Internet is still inaccessible to me at home. 🙂

So last weekend we went to WI because my uncle was visiting from CO and my grandma had a get together.  So Evie got to meet her great grandmas as well as many great aunts and uncles.  More importantly she finally got to meet her uncle Nathan!  I want to put this down here so that it is forever recorded in history; despite being like 2 1/2 hours away, uncle Nathan didn’t meet her until she was about 2 months old.  I guess that’s why he’s the bad uncle (he is, ask him).  Although, to be fair, he doesn’t have a car. 

Speaking of my brother, I don’t devote enough time to him here.  Certainly there are more good stories to tell about him than anything that happens in my life!   Maybe I will write some of the classics in here sometime if I haven’t already.

 So my brother went out to the bars with some of my uncles when they were visiting.  When it was time to go home he walked out to the bus stop and my uncles all left.  After waiting for awhile, he realized that the buses stopped running at midnight and he didn’t have a ride home.  So he called a cab and he told the guy, “Look.  This is all the money I have.  Can you just start driving in the direction of my house and stop when my money runs out?  This is all I have, so don’t forget to tip yourself.”  So the guy started driving and when they were about 4 blocks from my brother’s apartment he stopped and said, “This is as far as you get.”  So my brother at some point realized he had in his pocket a snickers bar and he says to the guy, “If I give you this snickers bar, will that get me 4 more blocks to my apartment?”  The guy thought about it for a while and then he took the snickers bar and dropped my brother off at home.  That’s good bartering!

Okay I found this a very interesting theory.  It is from Tuesday Morning Quarterback, a weekly article that is about football and a lot of other things.  It is a very long winded column, so you might just want to read the excerpt:

“The apparent absence of artificial radio transmission in the galaxy suggests that intelligent life, at least in its technological stage, might be rare. Regardless whether we owe our existence to divine offices or natural forces, if there are millions of Earth-like worlds, you’d think either God or evolution would have put thinking beings in many places. Have other intelligent beings come into existence, only to wipe themselves out with war or evolve beyond the physical? Perhaps intelligent life takes a very long time to arise, then rapidly either destroys itself or ascends to a higher plane. After all, it was 3 million years from Lucy in the Olduvai Gorge to controlled agriculture, then 7,000 years from controlled agriculture until Guglielmo Marconi sent the first high-powered, long-distance radio signal, then a mere 60 years ’til the United States and former Soviet Union possessed doomsday arsenals sufficient to end human life. Perhaps across the vastness of time there are only brief intervals in which civilizations exist in the technological phase — transmitting radio and television signals, launching spacecraft, and searching for others who are doing the same. Right now, we’re transmitting like crazy and firing rockets as fast as they can be built. Maybe a thousand centuries ago another civilization on a nearby world was doing as we do now, then either destroyed itself or evolved beyond such concerns. Maybe a thousand centuries hence, a civilization will arise in the Gliese 581 star system but find no evidence of us because by then humanity will either be extinct or have chosen to leave corporeal limits behind.

It is interesting to think about, I don’t know why I’ve never seen that mentioned as a possibility before.

Anyway, I will leave you with a Leno-esque slide show of reasons not to hyphenate your last name, courtesy my first name is not Dabu.

Coming soon

Got the DSL modem from UPS today! A week and a half with no Internet (at home) seem like a long time. Internet should be hooked up tonight (assuming AT&T did their part) and then you can expect a very, very long update about everything that has been going here.

Stay tuned…

Weekend

Went to MI this weekend for Sara’s sister’s birthday.  Pretty low key, we didn’t really do much.  Actually I feel like I slept the whole weekend!  Must be the allergy medicine or something.  We went to  bunch of baby stores.  I’m kind of baby-stored out, I have to tell you.  They’re all pretty much the same with the same brands and items for about the same prices.  We did eat some good food though, including a trip to Olive Garden.  I don’t think I’ve been there for about 6 years!  Too bad too because I love that place.  I ate 7 bread sticks.  We played 1 game of Acquire and I came in 3rd out of 5.  So not very good, but I beat Sara so that’s all that counts! 😛

In unrelated news, I have had nothing but headaches with my new laptop ever since I bought it.  Vista is so terrible.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  To be fair, I don’t think it is really Vista’s fault, I think it is the fact that there are no good drivers available for most of my hardware.  I’ve tried everything under the sun to keep the thing from locking up constantly until Thursday I actually re-flashed my BIOS.  But the good news is that so far it hasn’t locked up since then!  So keep your fingers crossed and maybe everything is okay now!

I probably have other things to say, but I just couldn’t be bothered.