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Microsoft me

3 September, 2008 (06:12)

Don’t you love Microsoft.  I know I do.  They keep me on my toes.  Last night the tricky son of a gun said it had an automatic update for me.  It appeared in a little balloon and wouldn’t go away.  Oh, what was the install - it didn’t say.  Oh well, might as well.  (Famous last words).

So it starts the update and now I see that XP Service Pack 3 is being installed.

Good.  I like to be up-to-date.

Eventually it finishes telling me that XP service pack 3 has been installed and that I need to reboot the machine for the magical improvements to go into effects.

With the new pack of crap installed my computer couldn’t get past the opening screen.  You know the one where the square dots go back and forth as if something is happening but nothing happens.  I check the yellow drive light - but it’s asleep.

Okay, no problem - it must be one of those drives I’ve got attached.  I disconnect all the five external drives, turn off the printers and voila - it gets to that progress screen and dies.  Dies like a dog.  I begin to wonder whether the tricky devil has pulled some Vista code and snuck it into XP.

I disconnect the wacom tablet, the screen calibration thingy and the card reader.

I pick: Use Last Good Configuration (another oxymoron).

Dead.  Reboot.

I pick Safe Mode.


I don’t remember password for administrator.  Try a couple of things and then go for system owner.

I’m in.  Yes folks, I’ve managed to hack into my own computer in safe mode.

I don’t feel safe.  I feel vulnerable.  I’m on a houseboat and Robert Mitchum is stalking through the swamps to kill me.   I’m behind some rocks and Mexican bandits are shooting at me.  They don’t need no stinkin’ badges.  I’m sitting in a dentists’ chair being asked, “Is it safe?”

Yes.  It’s safe.  Very safe.

Before you say it, please don’t.  I know.  I know.  Why would I even torture myself with this operating system?   I began with it.  I suffered with it.  And my machine is still too new to upgrade to a real operating system (uh - they call it Panther or Leopard or something like that).

But, by all that’s holy, I do declare, that when it is time to upgrade hardware, I will be getting a mac. (BTW am I wrong or did I hear that Google has released a web browser?)  I use Firefox anyway and Sun has a Java-based MS Office clone. But to get on with the story.

I turn off the crippled machine and go to sleep.  I don’t want to do anything rash while I’m in this forlorn state.

This morning I wake up (in safe mode) and have three cups of espresso.  I get a sour stomach but the brain is definitely buzzed.

I start up in safe mode and take a look at what the tricky bastard installed last night:

There are about 10 security hotfixes - each one with a little link to their knowledge base (like I could really figure out which one is causing the problem) and a big juicy Windows Service Pack 3 at the end.  Yup.  That’s your problem right there.

Mr. Service Pack the Third has decided to do me a disservice.  What did I ever do to him?

Well, nothing but drastic measures now.  I remove Service Pack III.  It complains that by removing it I will open myself up to vulnerabilities.  Yeah, well - it’s that or buy a new machine.

With the service pack removed, I go to:



And just as I’m about to click on reboot, I notice a link that says that NEW UPDATES WILL BE INSTALLED when I reboot unless I click on a small link marked cancel.

Phew - almost got me again.

So now I search around a bit instead of rebooting and find where to turn off automatic updates.  I click on that.  Again I’m warned that I’ll be opening myself up to vulnerable attacks and bad stuff (hey - what’s my firewall and all that third-party security stuff, not to mention the router for).

So no updates is chosen.

I reboot.

I reattach everything.

And sure enough - all is working as it did before.

I’m sure you all have your own Microsoft horror stories - but I thought I’d toss this one up while it’s still fresh in my mind.  I’ll be very happy when I get to the point where I’m not using a single app. or OS that was made by those freakin’ sadists.


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Comment from Graeme Barrett
Time: September 3, 2008, 7:21 am

Hi Dave,

Sorry to hear of your plight. Not sure what went wrong as I have put Service Pack 3 on many computers I have serviced without a hitch. Maybe it was one particular device that SP3 didn’t like?

Comment from Elliot
Time: September 3, 2008, 8:33 am

I switched to an Intel Mac and love it. I can run XP in an easily relaunchable sandbox with VMware when I need to use Windows apps (less and less frequently), and do it simultaneously with the MacOS running. Life is good.

And I don’t have to tinker with the Mac. I know you have a programming background and like to play around, but I don’t have time or inclination to deal with dll hell an the like.


Comment from Dennis Ward
Time: September 3, 2008, 8:42 am

Good old M$!
My laptop wanted to download this one a couple of weeks back. I vaguely remembered people saying not to install SP2 until it had been proven safe so I googled around to check on opinions first. It seems that there was a problem with SP3 and AMD processors. People were updating and finding they couldn’t reboot - I can’t remember why. The laptop’s an Intel chip so I should be safe but I decided to leave it alone for the time being. If something that basic was stuffed up who knows what else they got wrong!
Try the M$ or Win Update web interface where you can review what updates are available for all M$ software on your machine. There is an option to ignore certain updates so they won’t show up again. You should be able to prevent SP3 appearing on your pc’s wishlist again.
I didn’t know Robert Mitchum was working for Bill Gates these days….is Gregory Peck over at Apple?

Comment from Dave Beckerman
Time: September 3, 2008, 10:50 am

Dennis - yup. This is an AMD dual processor chip. And I found the option to allow me to review updates before installing; but I was so freaked by this that for now - no updates.

Comment from JeffK
Time: September 3, 2008, 11:51 am

Dave, I’ve worked with MAC and PC and several other systems over the years. If you find a combination of software and hardware that never has these kinds of issues, call the Guinness people because that’ll be one for the record books….

Comment from Dave Beckerman
Time: September 3, 2008, 12:05 pm

Jeff - what is disconcerting is that XP at least up until this service pack and been very stable for me. Now they introduce a service pack - which actually makes it impossible to boot up on a particular chipset (if indeed that is the issue).

I was also annoyed when they bought iView Media Pro. I then downloaded (at that point it was a free upgrade) their version of it which had so many bugs it was impossible to use. I sort of expect that with version one of anything from Microsoft - but by the time they had the bugs ironed out (I guess) they want me to pay full price for their version. So I’m still using a very old edition of iView Media Pro for one task (creating my web galleries).

When I have time - I’ll get into using Lightroom for this. I have found one template that makes use of paypal and Lightroom templates, but I needed to customize it, and haven’t launched into that yet. There may be a later Paypal Lightroom template out by now; so I’ll look around for it.

But really - Service Pack III - and you can’t boot; even with all the peripheral devices disconnected? I do think that’s going too far. In other words - what got me wasn’t so much that it wouldn’t boot (I’ve been through that drill before) but that it was so late in the development cycle of this OS and they took something that was working and added a major bug.

Comment from JeffK
Time: September 3, 2008, 12:42 pm

Dave, that code is so bloated that they are forced to let me and you debug it for them! There must be near infinite variables they can’t possibly test for. It really is insanity. You were lucky enough this time round to have some magical combination that locked up.

Apple has its own issues that may or may not get you.

It’s a crap shoot, no matter the system.

Good luck!

Comment from Craig Nisnewitz
Time: September 3, 2008, 1:25 pm

This is what I did on my new computer to avoid the Microsoft heart-burn:
The computer has three hard disks, C, E and F.
C is the boot drive with XP Pro. Recently upgraded to Service Pack 3.
E has all the photos on it. It also has Windows XP Pro installed with the ability to be used as a boot disk. If drice C doesn’t boot all I have to do is go into the bios and designate E as the boot drive. At least this would get the machine up and running to figure out the problem with drive C.
In addition, I have Norton Ghost installed on the C drive which I use every so often to make a mirror on the F drive. Worst scenario I can re-install Ghost and use it to move the bootable mirror imade to the C drive.
Thats my backup paranoia for the home setup.
In the office the server runs Misrosoft Server 2003 on a raid. Another workstation backs up to an external NAS all the important data and also to an outside site via the internet.
While XP/XP Pro has some problems its still quite stable. My office computer people refuse to use Vista for any business application.
Dave, my suggestion is to use some configuration where you can boot from another drive just in case.
Drive F

Comment from Craig Nisnewitz
Time: September 3, 2008, 1:26 pm

Forgot to mention that for the home setup I have external USB drives which I use for data backup including the photos with Microsoft Synctoy.

Comment from Craig Nisnewitz
Time: September 3, 2008, 2:35 pm

BTW, I am running an AMD Dual Core chip on the home machine. Had no problem with Service Pack 3 upgrade. Something else gave your computer the problem. I have an external USB drive that sometimes on a re-boot will not be found. The solution is to turn it off and than on again. I have heard of problems with the external USB/Firewire devicesevgen after being disconnected. Its possible the computer still saw it. Just a guess.

Comment from Lester
Time: September 3, 2008, 5:02 pm

Obviously none of you so-called techies have heard of FlintStone 5.0. It’s a brand new operating system based on quantum electrodynamics that has never had a single failure or VI (viral incursion). You turn this machine on and in 2 nanoseconds it relives all its past states, linking to the user’s real-time Weltanschauung, whether it be Fredness, Wilmation, or Barneydom. Its best feature is the BamBam Cam, which is directly linked to Sarah Palin’s cell phone, so you can spy on her conversations with God and Moses [mooses].

Comment from John Setzler
Time: September 3, 2008, 5:40 pm

If you haven’t found the fix yet, let me know. I have a VB script that will fix your problem and allow you to install SP3 on your AMD machine without any further problems. I have been through this problem with my father’s computer already and found the solution…

Comment from Craig M. Nisnewitz
Time: September 3, 2008, 10:25 pm


Yabba, dabba, do!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment from Dave Beckerman
Time: September 4, 2008, 4:31 pm

John - thanks for the offer. I’m not going to upgrade to SP3 unless there’s a good reason. For now I’m just going to leave it with the previous service pack.

Comment from Steve Rosenbach
Time: September 4, 2008, 10:45 pm

Sorry Dave - what at PITA! I just did the XP SP3 upgrade (but an older AMD Athlon) and it worked fine. And on the other hand, our son, who recently bought a MacBook, *loves* it… even after his hard drive crashed and he lost a lot of data - after only 6 or 8 months from buying it used. I think JeffK’s right - somehow your combination of hardware hit the unlucky lottery.

Having said that, I’ve had enough annoyances (mostly with Vista on my much newer laptop) that even I’ve been thinking about a Mac.

Comment from Eugene Z.
Time: September 7, 2008, 10:47 pm

Craig makes a good point - you need to have an image of your system drive to restore just in case. If you don’t want to waste HD space for it, burn it to DVD - either Norton Ghost or Acronis TrueImage would take care of that.

Comment from Stephen BRAY
Time: September 10, 2008, 12:55 am

Microsoft wanna upgrade my machine to Service Pack 3, but advise me to back up my system. I tried to do this with an external hard drive but after two and a half hours the backup failed because the external drive is FAT32 format and will only make 4GB files.

This is an incredibly valuable post and thread for me right now. I’ve just bookmarked it.


Comment from Stephen BRAY
Time: September 10, 2008, 12:57 am

PS Mr. Nisnewitz’s paranoia seems healthy. I may well adopt his belt and braces.


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