03/03/2001

Mailbag:

Napster; Pentium 333-II; OS and APP installations

Emergency Repair Disks are your friend. We have no company policy on ERDs. That needs to change. Yes, I know floppies are about as reliable these days as dear departed Royals closer Ricky Bottalico (nicknamed “Blow-ttalico” last year because of what he so frequently did to late-game leads). But an ERD created on a fresh floppy and then put away in a safe place ought to be reasonably reliable, and an unreadable ERD is less maddening than no ERD at all–at least you’re taking precautions, right? Besides, hopefully you’re like me and you grabbed a 386 off the scrap heap and put DOS and the old DOS version of Norton Utilities on it so you have Disktool and Norton Disk Doctor (run in that order) to fix bad floppies, right?

Why are ERDs your friend? Well, on a system at work Friday, NT must have asked the question, “Kernel? What’s a kernel? We don’t need no stinkin’ kernel!” because the NT loader couldn’t find it. So they brought me in. I asked if there was an ERD available, knowing full well what the answer would be. Well, I didn’t predict the puzzled look, but I got the “no” part right. So then I asked what the most similar system in the immediate area was. They looked it up in the database, so I grabbed a disk, went to the system, and ran RDISK.EXE to create an ERD to use. Then I grabbed an NT4 CD and got ready to go to town.

I booted off the CD, then chose the option to repair an installation. It asked for the ERD, which I dutifully provided. It then asked what aspects to check. I de-selected all the registry-related stuff because I didn’t want it mixing registries between the systems. I just wanted it to replace system files, preferably just the missing ones like, um, the kernel.

Luckily for me, the HD’s filesystem was in pretty good shape because it found files immediately and started prompting me to replace them. An awful lot of them. This bothered me but I let it do it. In the end, I had a bootable system that wouldn’t run Internet Explorer. I realized pretty quickly that the two systems had mismatched service packs, and that was the reason for the large number of files, and IE was my ticket to SP6a.

The moral of the story: Had the system had an up-to-date ERD, I could have had it back up and going in about five minutes. Lacking the ERD, I spent five minutes making one, five minutes repairing the installation, and about two hours uninstalling and reinstalling Internet Explorer and the myriad of security updates Microsoft’s released over the course of the past year.

Not that I’m complaining too badly–the user shares cube space with one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and she turned out to be friendly and interesting as well. But downtime’s not good for the company’s bottom line, and while I’m on the clock, the bottom line’s more important than my social life.

A correction from yesterday. It took several hours for my brain to warm up yesterday I think. At least one person wrote in to ask why I ran Windows Update so close to the beginning, rather than at the end. I have no idea why I wrote it that way. He’s right, you should run Windows Update at the end, in case something you install clobbers an updated file. Slim likelihood but hey, I’ve seen all kinds of weird things and seeing as MS doesn’t know where the OS ends and applications begin, better safe than sorry.

So I went back and changed yesterday’s post to reflect the correction. Far be it from me to add more misinformation to the Information Superhighway-turned-Misinformation Traffic Jam.

Mailbag:

Napster; Pentium 333-II; OS and APP installations

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