Tag Archives: hotfixes

How to slipstream updates into Windows 8.1

I need a Windows box, so I figured I’d experiment with Windows 8.1. I know it’s terrible, but I want to see just how much less terrible I can make it.

The first thing I wanted to do was figure out how to slipstream updates into it. I recommend slipstreaming because you get a faster performing system, you get the system up and running a lot sooner, and you save a lot of unnecessary writes to your SSD. It’s very similar to slipstreaming Windows 7, but not quite identical.

Continue reading How to slipstream updates into Windows 8.1

Microsoft’s bug bounty is a step in the right direction

Last week, Microsoft announced it’s offering a bug bounty program. Find a working exploit in Windows 8.1/blue/whatever it’s called this week, and Microsoft will hand over $100,000. Find a mitigation for that exploit, and Microsoft will pony up for that to, up to $50,000.

I think I know what they’re up to. Continue reading Microsoft’s bug bounty is a step in the right direction

Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model

I saw this phrase in a job description last week: Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model. That sounds a bit intimidating, right?

Maybe at first. But let’s not overcomplicate it. Once you get past the terminology, it’s a logical way to locate and fix problems. Chances are you already do most of this whether you realize it or not. I was already troubleshooting at at least four of the seven layers when I was working as a part-time desktop support technician in college in 1995.

Continue reading Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model

We’re just about ready for an era of 64-bit browsers

Adobe released a new Flash player this week. As almost an afterthought, they mentioned there’s a 64-bit version included.

That means Windows users can finally have mainstream 64-bit web browsers without using any beta software. I can put one on my main machine, and Gmail and Youtube and anything else that relies on Flash works the way it’s supposed to work.

What about Firefox? Read on.
Continue reading We’re just about ready for an era of 64-bit browsers

How to slipstream IE9 and hotfixes into Windows 7, step by step

Normally, after you install any version of Windows, you have a ton of patching to do. And that patching takes as long, or longer, than the installation takes, while leaving the system vulnerable to exploits in the meantime. Slipstreaming your hotfixes into your installation media sidesteps those issues, and reduces fragmentation. You get a faster performing system, you get the system up and running a lot sooner, and you save a lot of unnecessary writes to your SSD.

So I wholeheartedly recommend slipstreaming.

Continue reading How to slipstream IE9 and hotfixes into Windows 7, step by step

64 bits or bust

I’ve resisted the pull to 64 bits, for a variety of reasons. I’ve had other priorities, like lowering debt, fixing up a house, kids in diapers… But eventually the limitations of living with 2003-era technology caught up with me. Last week I broke down and bought an AMD Phenom II 560 and an Asus M4N68T-M v2 motherboard. Entry-level stuff by today’s standards. But wow.

If you can get one, an AMD Phenom II x4 840 is a better choice, but those are getting hard to find. And if you can’t afford a $100 CPU there are bargains at the very low end too: A Sempron 145 costs less than $45, and a dual-core Athlon II x2 250 costs $60.  The second core is worth the money.
Continue reading 64 bits or bust

Dreaming of a Windows XP CD that recognizes almost all known hardware?

For about a month after a new version of Windows is released, it supports just about any hardware you’re likely to throw at it. And after that, you’re on your own to find drivers for stuff.

I stumbled across Driverpacks back in March, and I’ve finally had a chance to spend some serious time working with them. What they mean is that if you’re willing to do some work, you can make a disc that will install Windows with functional drivers for virtually any computer in existence.

Continue reading Dreaming of a Windows XP CD that recognizes almost all known hardware?

Why you don’t want to be the first to install a Microsoft service pack

And, like most Service Pack 1 releases, it seems Windows 7 SP1 isn’t flawless. Under some circumstances, SP1 machines hang during the boot process with a C00000034 fatal error. Or sometimes it goes into a reboot loop with Error C000009A applying update operation 120782 of 367890.

Microsoft doesn’t yet know what’s causing the problems.
Continue reading Why you don’t want to be the first to install a Microsoft service pack

What to do when a Microsoft patch won’t install

So, Microsoft KB947742, an old .NET 1.1 fix, refused to install on one of the servers at work. When I ran the executable, all it did was pop up the window showing the Windows Installer switches or parameters. Searching Google turned up a number of people having the problem, but no solutions that worked, although reinstalling the .NET 1.1 Framework and the latest version of the Windows Installer are always good ideas when you run into weird problems. .NET 1.1 is extremely fragile anyway, and reinstalling it along with all applicable hotfixes has worked for me in the past to resolve weird issues, such as permissions issues showing up in the security log. Or .NET applications just suddenly not running anymore, even though they ran just fine yesterday.

I tried everything I could think of and finally stumbled on a solution. I have absolutely no idea why this works. First, I opened a command line, changed into the directory where I had stored the patch, and I ran the following command:

NDP1.1sp1-kb947742-x86.exe /extract .\947742

This extracts the update to a directory called 947742. Inside that directory, I found a single file, named NDP1.1sp1-kb947742-x86.msp. When I double-clicked on the file from Windows Explorer, it installed.

Ive applied this patch on more than 100 servers and I recall only having the problem on one of them. And, oddly, all other .NET patches and for that matter all other recent Microsoft updates apply to this machine just fine.

I suppose the same fix could work on other Windows updates that supply only a window full of switches instead of installing, or other weird installation issues. Its worth a shot if nothing else works and you cant (or would rather not) open a support case with Microsoft.

This is a strange case. If you’re running WSUS or (better yet) Shavlik Netchk and a patch refuses to install, try logging in, downloading and running the offending patch manually and note any error messages. Maybe, just maybe, this fix will help you. Or better yet, maybe the patch will tell you what you need to fix, but don’t count on it.

When absurdity strikes, try extracting the patch and poking around inside, like I did in this case.

Slimming down Windows XP for SSDs and nettops

I found a very long and comprehensive guide for using Nlite to reduce the size of a Windows installation.

The guide is geared towards an Asus Eee. But it should work well on pretty much anything that has an Intel CPU in it.A couple of tweaks to his settings will make it suitable for AMD-based systems. Just remove anything Intel-specific, and add back in anything specific to AMD, and there you go.

And if you have a multi-core or hyperthreaded CPU, leave multi-processor support in.

I also recommend slipstreaming SP3 and all the hotfixes you can. Then you don’t have to run Windows Update, them, and you don’t have to clean up after it either. I haven’t investigated all of the whys and wherefores, but I’ve noticed that the more you slipstream ahead of time, the smaller your Windows directory ends up being. I have some systems at work that are constantly bursting at the seams on their system partitions. Other systems, which were built later from a copy of Windows with more stuff slipstreamed in, have a lot more breathing room.

Using the i64x.com instructions, you can pretty much count on getting a Windows XP installation under half a gig in size. That makes life with a small SSD much more bearable, since a typical installation tends to take a couple of gigs these days.

I’ll add some tips of my own. Inside the Windows directory, there are some subdirectories named inf, repair, and servicepackfiles. Compress those. That’ll free up some more space–at least a couple dozen megabytes in most cases.

If you’re really cramped, compress the whole Windows directory. Boot time actually decreased by a couple of seconds when I did this (down to 12 seconds from about 14), but software installations slowed considerably. But for everyday operation, you could almost consider NTFS compression a performance trick. It makes sense; an SSD can sometimes saturate the bus it’s connected to, so data compression lets it shove 20-50% more data through that saturated bus.

The downside is that when you install something that lives in the Windows directory, it has to not only copy the data into place, but also compress it. Installing the .NET Framework on a system with a compressed Windows directory takes a while.

A good compromise is to install pretty much everything you think you’ll need on the system, then start compressing.

It’s difficult to make a case for compressing the entire drive, however. Most modern data file formats are compressed–including all modern media formats and Office 2007 documents–so turning on NTFS compression on directories storing that kind of data gives no benefit, while introducing overhead.