Friday, October 10, 2008

Technology Tales of Terror!
Two Computer Stories

WARNING: While this post does utilize my unique writing style, and
therefor in my humble opinion
it is interesting, it is quite LONG and
delves into technical issues on computers. So, if you like that read on!

if you are looking for a recipe, go away!

Shoo! Scat! Scoot! I have computer issues to deal with!

Still here??? Then, by all means you must read on!

For our less technical visitors who decided to brave this out since no recipe was forthcoming, note that MB and GB used below refer to megabytes and gigabytes.

Not too much been going on worth note except in the realm of computers. Hence my lack of posts, but, since I felt I needed to post something.....on to the technical tales of terror!

Mom's Computer:
On Saturday I ended up going down to Mom;s house to help her with her computer. She was having some issues easily fixed, and one not so easy. The constant crappy performance and effects of using Netzero. Most often evidenced by Internet Explorer displaying the vague dialog that it has encountered an unexpected error and has to close.

Netzero, a company that I really, really, do not like. Not only do you have to pay these miserable people for access, but they provide NO FREE SUPPORT. So, if you are having an issue that is their fault you have to pay to have it fixed!

The best solution is to remove it, but Mom's locked into a yearly agreement. So, in the interim I set her up with a Gmail account and the went to export her Netzero address book so I could import it.

GUESS WHAT! Those nasty folks have NO WAY to export your address nook! I guess they do not want to make it easy. I ended up doing a print the address book which they do provide and copying/pasting the data out of the print preview window. I then reformatted this into a CSV file I could then import into Gmail. So, that was a fun way to spend four hours, but I got some time to chat with Mom and Dad, and I got lunch so that was OK!

Note too that this is also after having Mom's PC at my house for a week for hardware burn in testing, deep cleaning, performance tuning and optimization. We were able to verify the internet worked flawlessly by both Danielle and myself using Mom's PC for two days on my high speed connections without a single Internet Explorer crash or hang.

I spent countless hours on this, and five minutes after Netzero was connected her Internet Explorer started having those issues. I am hopeful that using Gmail will alleviate a good deal of her issues.

Oh! We won't even mention the first call I got when Mom had taken her PC home and the monitor would not come just won't!

Finally, did I mention I really, really, hate Netzero??

Now....the preamble into the next story......

Over the past five days I have been trying to embrace Windows Vista. After all, I have a free copy of the ultimate edition which I got for being a Vista Beta tester. I had loaded it on my main PC after the beta in early 2007 and found it to be totally unacceptable. It was the worst resource hog I had ever seen, and was just so slow as to be unusable.

After talking to my good friend (who I do not blame for this!) David a couple of months back who sang the praises of Vista, I decided since Vista SP1 had been recently released, and supposedly this fixed a lot of issues including performance, to update my Vista partition on the home office PC. Having done many service pack upgrades on all versions of windows in the past, major and minor, I figured this for a few hours worth of work......I could not have been more wrong. WHAT A NIGHTMARE IT TURNED OUT TO BE. The Tale is told below:

Day 1 of the Vista Upgrade Experience:
I booted up into the dusty and disused Vista partition and immediately I felt a cold chill! It started with the fact that the network card was no longer being detected by Vista. So, no big deal I booted back into the XP partition (Love XP! Love Dual Boot systems!), looked up the hardware designation of the network device which turned out to be a 3COM 3C940, and went off to the 3COM web site to get the Vista Drivers.

NO JOY here! No mention of this existed anywhere on the 3COM site! I began to google the model number and soon I was led back to the motherboard manufacturer as this was an embedded Ethernet controller. On the Asus web site I entered in my motherboard info and then went for network drivers. NO VISTA ONES!

Further googling was required, a lot of further googling as their were simply no drivers for Vista for this model! I finally found an obscure post from some intelligent person (after many dead ends and downloads of supposedly Vita compatible drivers) who mentioned that even though this is branded 3COM is is really a chip set made by another manufacturer entirely. One I had never heard of!

Armed with this info I was finally able to get a driver and get the Vista OS to see the Internet! After a quick update of the AntiVirus program and Spyware definitions, I set out to install some updates and SP1.

So, after much much chugging, and me already hating the performance of Vista, Windows Update says it has about 60 critical patches to install and about the same of optional patched, updates, etc. It says in needs about 256 megabytes of disk space. The Vista partition has about 1.5 Gigabytes free so I click on OK and go on about my business.

I came back to the office later in the evening, close to bed time, to find only 22 of the required patches had been installed and the rest had failed due to lack of space. Vista had eaten all 1.5 GB of free space!

What to do, what to do! I decided to disable hibernation mode which would delete the one gigabyte hiberfile.sys file and give me more free space. In XP this is simply done via the GUI in a couple of places. Not where to do this in vista though and the built in help was useless.

Back to Google! More frenzied searching to find out that the only way to disable hibernation in Vista is via a command line command! I did this, restarted Windows update, and went to bed.

Day 2 of the Vista Upgrade Experience:
So after work I checked the PC, only 10 more updates had been applied! 10! And the gigabyte of space was gone again! 2.5 GB gone to apply updates!! Frenzied cleaning of the file system commenced scouring for temporary files, I cleaned the internet cache, temporary directories, logs not needed. This got me another 200 MB back. Windows Update would consume this like the mint on the pillow at a fine hotel! And you what that makes you want more mints!!!!

So what to do what to do...... Part of me wants to chuck this idea and be done with it! Microsoft just extended end of life support for XP into next year! HOWEVER the tenacious part of me, the part that hates defeat, the part that will not be defeated would have none of this! I would beat this beast as I had beaten many other computer issues in the past! It make takes weeks and in rare cases months but I have always been able to fix any problem with my own systems! I am admin, hear me roar!!!! Vista would be my be-yatch!!

So, I fire up my trusty copy of EASEUS Partition Manager, an AWESOME piece of freeware and look at the partition map for the drive that contains Vista. It has three partitions, the Vista one sandwiched between an old unused partition of 500 MB, and my prized XP partition which has about 5GB free.

Thinking of the facts that many partition managers (let alone a free one) have issues with mixed XP/Vista partitions, partitions on a large volume, which this was, and the fact that resizing partitions always has inherent risks, I command EASEUS to delete the unused partition, shrink the XP one by 500 MB, and Grow the Vista one by another 500 MB. I hit the Apply Changes button, and after the expected message that I must reboot the PC, I headed off to bed. Partitioning takes time!

Day 3 of the Vista Upgrade Experience:
I was very pleased to note after arriving home and rebooting the system that all was well! Another job well done by EASEUS Partition manager, one of the more risky ones I have used it for. XP/Vista partitions were fine and had been sized as expected. I restarted Windows Update and let it churn over the last 10 updates to apply. A couple of hours later I did a remote desktop connection to the XP system from the system I was doing my office work on, and discover the following:

Good News! All the needed updates had been installed!
Bad News! Of the first 2.5 gigabytes of space that had been reallocated to Vista before the partition resizing, NONE had been recovered! I would think most should be and will have to run Vista's dreaded Disk Cleanup tool.

I decided to go for broke and went over all the option updates. Of the 50-something, the majority were language pack files. Out of the remainder I only needed four, and two of these were driver files. The system is booting up now. I will login and the kick off the disk cleaning operation!

Well the built in Disk Cleanup was next to useless, I need something more intelligent because what I envision has happened here is that with the running out of disk space Windows Update got confused and I have multiple versions of files, installation kits, etc. lying about. I will have to look into this further!

I downloaded one trial version of a duplicate file finder; it had a limit of 30 files per operation and since there were thousands of duplicates I went in search of another tool. I found a tool called Duplicate Cleaner which was free, and, after some tweaking of the settings I recovered over 2 gigabytes of file space!

SOOOOOOO.....after all this, all thee updates and patches.......Vista SP1 still has not been installed! It is downloading now........which means the Vista Update Tale of Terror is not over yet......

Looks like we will be going into day 4.....the 2.6 GB of free space is now gone and SP1 was only 94% downloaded!! I downloaded the stand alone SP1 kit which weighs in at about 450 MB. I had it on a different drive than Vista. I looked at the release notes. A minimum of 7 GB free space is needed! If you have a 64 bit installation you need 13 GB!! My current XP partition, fully up to date, with lots of installed programs, is taking up about 5 GB of storage space!

Almost tasting defeat, but refusing to, I launched EASEUS again and shrunk my C drive (used mostly by Vista's boot loader, and my XP partition, and then grew the Vista one to have 7.5 GB of free space. Knowing that was going to be it for the night, I clicked Apply Changes and headed to bed, haunted by visions of failed upgrades that screamed in my head......

Day 4 of the Vista Upgrade Experience:
Thursday - I have a personal day from work and have errands and family business to take care of. I check the PC when I get up, once again EASEUS has done it's work well, and the Vista partition has 7.3 GB of free space. I kick off the upgrade and head off to take care of business. I check in at one point and it is at a screen that says stage 3 of 3 is 100% complete, and warns not to turn off the computer. i continue with what I need to do. Three hours later the same screen is still being displayed, but by the frenzied (perhaps panicked?) flashing of the hard disk light I know Vista has opened a can of Whooop Ass on my hard drive! I wander away and will check back later.

Many hours later (almost 12 from when I started this morning, the same screen remains. The system is responsive in that I can make a remote terminal connection to it, but, like on the physical console the same 100% message is still displayed......I am afraid this must lead into

Day 5 of the Vista Upgrade Experience:
Since this occurred after midnight it is technically day 5. It's over. Upon sitting by the office computer I noticed it was not stuck at this screen, it was periodically rebooting and going from 0 to 100% within a matter of minutes, and then after a few more minutes, rebooting.

Some googling returned the fact that, for all practical purposes, my Vista installation was now boned and I in fact, was Vista's be-yatch who must hang my head in shame and defeat! This is a known issue with Vista SP1 as documented at

Because I had system restore disabled and because I had no vista media (I downloaded it ages back as a thank you from Microsoft for participating in the Vista beta. I then burned it to DVD's which were subsequently destroyed over a year ago when my disgust of Vista's gluttonous nature towards system resources had shown no satiety! So, I can use none of the methods described to fix the issue.

Heck, if I had the original DVD's I would just blow the whole partition and do a clean reinstall. While researching this issue I also discovered that Microsoft is offering free technical support for Vista and Vista SP1 installation issues, so, in an attempt to amuse myself, I opened a support call. On that note I will close this Technological Tale of Terror, which I can always revisit at a later date!


David Louis Harter said...


You documented these experiences very well, and they are most entertaining. The Vista tale would be considerably more humorous were it not so unendingly painful for you--a fact that is very easily drawn from your narrative.

- David

Barry said...

Hi Chris!

I've heard pretty much nothing but negative comments with Vista. OTOH another tech friend of mine from Canada loves it! (Wonder if the Canadian version has something the domestic version does not? (g)

The big problems with Vista seems to be a lack of support/drivers, which probably explains your problem with the 3COM NIC.

You probably know this already: XP's life is being extended:

...Darn! Not accepting the address. OK, do it the hard way then! (g) Go to the Computerworld site, search for the article "Microsoft grants Windows XP yet another reprieve". Oops! It didn't like the angle_brace -g-angle_brace symbol!

The article is at:

Riley said...

My dear friend.

You should listen to me there are 2 types of people, those who love vista, and those of us who consider it an abomniation only similar to windows ME.

Problem (for me) as I see it is that Microsoft do have great ideas, and, I can see so much potential for the thoughts that went into vista, the make it look nice, make it help you stop nasty things happening, problem is? you need a high spec gaming machine to make it even dream of running to anything like a sensible level, and for us techno geeks we want an OS to do OS things, we want games and apps to do games and apps things, I dont want my OS to need me to upgrade my graphics card because it wants to do whizzy graphics, I dont want that at all.. I want my OS to do what I want, when I want, and I want it dont *NOW* not after its spent half hour drawing pretty graphics..

I dont currently own a copy of vista, we have a copy in the house which I may use - as hubbys doing the new MCSE replacement and has to do it for vista and server 2008, server 2008 is ok, vista, just no.. sorry..

Your rant and tales of woe, just dont surprise me, and it shouldnt be that way.. it really shouldnt..


Chris said...

David - As I never intended to use Vista and as I have no huge environment or data at risk it is more amusing than disastrous, but, it is still annoying. I got back my first feedback on the incident I submitted; as usual it's as if they did not even fully read what I submitted. I see a followup post is going to be necessary!

I am pleased you enjoyed my narrative style!

Chris said...

Barry - Yes, I believe I mentioned in my (obviously too long winded ;) post that XP support was extended. Though even if not I would still be tempted to stay with Vista until I see what Windows 2009 is going to look like! I believe there will be a public preview of that next the end of the year. We shall see. Sadly though it is rumored to use some of the core OS from Visa......

Chris said...

Liz, I agree, it should not be like this!

One of the things I do is dial back the GUI O Windows 200 settings by disabling a lot of the fancy features such as shadows, dragging window contents, etc.

I also trim my services and set many to disabled. This helps but does not entirely mitigate the Microsoft bloat factor!