Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Jay: Troubleshootus Interruptus
I ruled out hyperthreading and onboard audio as the problems with Deb’s computer, and was tempted to move right to ruling out (or in) the hard drive with certainty.
Sadly, except that money is good, I had to switch to client work. I had exported 28000-odd contacts from the old case management software. The manager went through them in Excel, devoting mass quantities of time over the past several days, culling them down to a mere 26000-odd, ditching duplicates and clearly bogus ones, and doing a little massaging.
It got back into my hands today.
The vendor of the new case management software has an import utility, but the data has to be in a specific field order, etc. My job is to bring it from one format to the other, then save it as CSV and run the import. Easy enough, on things like last name and first name; just copy and past the whole column sans the first row with the old field name.
However, the old data has four phone fields: phone, altphone, fax, altfax. The new format is phone and phone2, with corresponding columns for phone type and phone type2. That will be trickier. At least the allowed length is sufficient to account for things like “508-555-1234/1235” as shorthand for two alternate numbers.
I passed over the phone fields, figuring I’d get the easy ones first. Country is next. Well, most of those are blank, and it’s no big deal. Right? Heh. Most of the ones that are filled in with anything have phone numbers and descriptions thereof, alternate or family member addresses, or other notes. Since we don’t have a notes field. Oh wait.. we do! Then there are the gems like “Brazil, South America,” to avoid confusion with all the identically named countries found on the other continents. Unlike phone, country is a very short field. I will need to move all the extraneous stuff to notes before I run the import.
I can only imagine what else I’ll find. And I’d better get back to it. It’s going to take long enough as it is…
Jay: Not Too Soon
Radley Balko beat me to it. I had not yet thought of a tastefully funny yet pointedly snarky way to put my feelings of good riddance.
Jay: Sex Insurance
Quite possibly the best thing Arnold Kling has ever written. He understated some details, but generally it’s an excellent parable.
Jay: The Saga Continues
Now Deb’s machine has given some indication of the problem being the CD-ROM drive, which I had suspected earlier as a possibility. Most of the way through setting up XP, it errors and refers to:
That seems to be a mystery error that can mean many things, depending on the circumstances, of which during setup is a less explicable one. It can be on account of a virus. I think we can rule that out, considering the scorched earth procedure. It can be a corrupt driver, except the circumstances seem to rule that out. It can be settings that have never been changed in the BIOS.
At least one person out there found it was a bad CD or DVD drive causing it during install.
There was mild reason to wonder about this drive long before the problem in question.
I recently installed a giant cooling fan that required two of the 5 1/4” bays, so the CD stayed and the CDRW got evicted. The CDRW is therefore available as a spare. I’ll swap them and try letting it continue setup, or start fresh with setup, from that…
That was decisive. It started setup where it left off and promptly died again. It’s not the CD drive (DVD, actually). Next up, check BIOS settings again, maybe replace the RAM even though it tested as good, and try a different hard drive to verify that it really isn’t the drive, which has tested fine repeatedly. Maybe the video card even before that. Before I start thinking it’s the CPU or motherboard, I want to be sure…
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Jay: Head Meets Wall (Updated)
The other day, Deb’s computer started the day by refusing to boot, with a message about \windows\system32\config\system, which means registry corruption.
So great, boot from the XP CD, go into recovery console, and do the steps to fix the registry.
Except we have no clue what the administrator password is! It’s none of about a dozen most likely candidates. It actually appears that it doesn’t know, either, and whatever “remembers” that password on the hard drive doesn’t.
After the first pair of three password attempts - you are forced to reboot after three fails - the machine threw a twist at us, blue screening the boot into the XP CD. That led me to test the memory and the hard drive with utilities on a special boot CD. Of course they were fine.
Ultimately I ended up hooking Deb’s drive to another XP machine I’d just gotten working. I backed up her important files in case we have to wipe and reinstall completely. Then I realized that, duh, I could use the method for recovering the registry at the recovery console via being able to access the drive as secondary on a different machine.
So I did that, copying the original versions of the five hive files after backing up the bad files. That should be enough to get you into Windows, from which you can manually replace the registry files with recent system restore point versions, so you’re not as bad off.
I realized I could cut to the chase and just put in the relevant system restore copy, but I was unable to access or set permissions to allow me to access the system information folder. So I put the drive back in her machine. When prompted, I allowed it to boot into safe mode. Big mistake. It wanted the administrator password!
Again, nothing worked, and after a few tries the system hung. When turned back on, it gave the same error and again needed to be recovered. This time, it allowed me to access the restore point files, so I swapped in the registry hives from the 10th, days before the failure.
No dice. It still gives the error. This is getting ridiculous.
I’m trying it at least one more time before I give up, but jeez…
No dice on a different restored registry, but it gets even better.
I realized I didn’t backup the wpa.dbl, so I hooked it to the other machine one more time to grab that. Having it can make Windows product activation less painful on a reinstall.
Then I put it back, booted from the XP CD, had it delete the partition, format and install to it. It chugged along and got through copying the files and ultimately gave a screen saying it couldn’t install yada yada (should have written it down to research; got distracted) and to contact your system administrator. Doh!
Rebooting afterward, before I switched boot CDs, it attempted to boot from the hard drive and gave the exact same error as all along, implying a corrupt registry. WTF, over? On a fresh partition?
So now I am using something called Boot and Nuke to wipe the drive. It’s one of the tools you can use for the purpose that meet DoD, NSA, etc. standards for protecting prior data from recovery. Then I’ll try again. Then I’ll probably try with a different CD drive reading the XP CD. Then I’ll just have to try a different hard drive.
There’s no clear indication of hardware trouble, beyond it having made me suspicious at times of the hard drive and CD drive, maybe the IDE controller. However, things can fry in subtle ways. I’ve seen some pretty absurd stuff.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Stay tuned…
Monday, May 14, 2007
Jay: Sadie and Cousin Julia
Jay: Sadie and Aunt Lynn
Jay: Spider-Man 3
I still say it’s Spiderman and the hyphen is weird.
Anyway, I went to see it yesterday. Deb and I had it pegged. In the absence of the first two, the third would be considered a good to superior comic book movie. It’s not as good as the others, but we were lucky to get anything as good as the others, ever, from anyone.
I was worried about the excess of villains. It ends up being essential to the plot. There was clear bookending going on, tying it off as a trilogy and as a stopping point.
There was not as clear of a positioning for Mary Jane not to be in a hypothetical number four, allowing Dunst to be free or have a break before either she comes back or they replace her in a hypothetical number five, six or more. At the same time, despite introducing Gwen, they didn’t leave her as such a clear replacement for when Dunst doesn’t come back if there’s a four and beyond.
It can legitimately be said that it was big on CGI and small on character aspects, and that was part of the problem. Unfortunately, the villains in question required massive CGI, and invited more.
One could be excused for thinking Peter ought to forget MJ and Gwen and go with Ursula instead.
Anyway, if you like that sort of movie, it’s at least worth hitting a matinee, and will absolutely be worth getting the DVD. It’s not a Must. See. Now. though, so waiting for the DVD would be reasonable.
I started a commentary on Spider-Man 3, but it awaits completion when I am done with more immediate work stuff. Which is itself multiple posts, or a large single post.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Jay: Happy Birthday
To blogger Daryl Cobranchi.
Jay: Grandniece Emily
Jay: Cousin Casey
My cousin Andy’s daughter, coming from the “bundle them up until they can’t move” (grand)parenting school of thought.
Jay: Nephew Dan
Who sometimes helps me and will be a computer science major this fall.
Jay: Nephew Marc
This morning Deb’s computer won’t boot, claiming a file is missing or corrupt. Funny thing is, I think I saw the same thing recently and it was bogus. In her case there was nothing for it but to boot from the XP CD and use the recovery option.
So that requires the administrator password.
Of which the first six it might have been are not valid, which puts me at the third reboot because it won’t let you try more than three at a time.
Then that third reboot gives a stop error PFN_LIST_CORRUPT and freezes at that point. Yay.
So I am hoping I really do have a blank CD around on which to burn the Ultimate Boot CD, which just finished downloading as I typed. I found it had both the drive utility and memory checker I wanted in one package.
There’s likely nothing on the drive that isn’t expendable, but I’d like not to have to wipe it out. Or worse, replace it, even if I do have a spare available just now. If the drive seems to have issues and I don’t even try to wipe and reinstall it, I may be able to access files on it as a slave drive.
I have tons of other stuff to post about, which may have to wait until after this and after going to see Spidey 3 today. For instance, how I came to spend an entire 56+ hour stretch making the client’s data conversion run and monitoring it periodically (current ETA for being done with part 2 is 8 PM or so today).
Anyway, literally waking up to this computer problem is fitting, since I had a nightmare in which I accidentally wiped an existing drive with all my stuff on it instead of an expendable drive I’d added to a system.