Thursday, April 09, 2009

Uh Oh!

(“C” Alert!)

Les and Linda came to visit us. Who are they, you ask? Well, scroll down all the way to the very bottom of my sidebar (where it says, “Click HERE to view my web site/home page.”) and click the link, then select the number 1 link on the left side, “Africa Trip with Pictures.” Les and Linda are the couple we travelled to Africa with.

Side note: If you haven’t ever scrolled through our Africa trip story, there are a bunch of cool wildlife pics.

Linda wanted me to help her load some anti-virus software onto her laptop computer. Well, actually she wanted me to DO it for her. She’s not comfortable with computers in general and usually gets friends to install things for her.

But I was happy to help, and got started by first removing from her hard drive all the programs she never used. As she and I scanned down the list (in the “Add and Remove Programs” function in the Control Panel), I saw that most of the programs had never been used since she bought the computer in 2005! She uses the computer for almost nothing except email, and for that she uses Juno – a web-based program that does not store archived emails, address book, etc., on her hard drive. That’s a real plus since she’ll often stop during their travels at a library and email from its machines.

Anyway, we deleted a BUNCH of unused programs, then started loading new applications.

What applications, you ask? Mostly Anti-virus, Internet Security, Anti-spyware, and the like. Linda is one who believes that the more of these protective measures you use, the safer you are.

Well, okay. But my experience has been that often these various programs (from different software companies!) interfere with each other and prevent you from doing what you want to do. She had her internet security set so high that she could hardly view any web site without seeing pop-up warning messages about potential hazards, no digital certificate, potential phishing, and similar cautions.

Oh, she also complains about slow performance. Go figure.

Well, after loading all this stuff so she’d feel secure, I noticed that the machine had not downloaded any Windows updates for over 6 months. That’s unheard of! Well, except among you Mac users, who don’t understand these things.

I navigated to the Microsoft Windows update web page and tried to start the process. Nope. The machine couldn’t seem to communicate with the site and presented me with an error code.

Undaunted, I Googled the code and soon found a list of steps to try, in order, to fix the problem. After each attempted fix I had to restart the machine.

Well, after restart number three or four (who’s counting?), the computer refused to boot. One of the “protection” programs, a Norton (Symantec) product, had inserted itself into the Master Boot Record, corrupted it, and prevented Windows from loading at all, even in “Safe” mode.

Ah, but eventually ANOTHER error code appeared on the screen! Thus armed, I hustled back over to Google (on my own desktop computer) for some research. My search results took me to Symantec’s own web site where the problem (apparently not all that uncommon!!) was addressed with another step-by-step solution.

Okay, I KNOW you’re already bored with this, so I’ll cut to the chase: Symantec’s fix did NOT work, and I was out of options. The next day I took the machine to my professional IT guys at work and pleaded for help.

First answer (with a grin): “Oh, no problem! I’ll boot the machine to a Windows program CD, swap out the corrupted Master Boot Record for a good one, and it’ll be good as new!”

Next answer: “Uh, that didn’t work. I got Windows running but couldn’t get rid of the MBR. I can view enough of the hard drive to see a “Restore” sector, which OUGHT to put everything back. Let me try that.”

Next answer: “Damn, I can’t access that Restore sector. I KNOW it’s there, but I can’t get to it. !#@%!!**#! Norton software!”

Next answer: “!#!&%!*@!!*! !#!**$!!%^#! *!!##!!@*%$##!!!"

Final answer: **SIGH** “No choice. I’ve got to wipe the hard drive and re-install Window from scratch. She’ll lose all her data files and you’ll have to reinstall all her applications software. It’s that or she buys a new computer.”

Two days later, Linda can again read her emails on Juno. The computer is still slow, and still has too much “Security” software installed (which she’ll never need or use). But all that is a LOT cheaper than a new machine.

So, is this a Norton (Symantec) problem? Is it my fault for trying to get the machine to “talk” to the Windows update site?

(Or is it the “C********y” doing what it does best and laughing it’s a$$ off at me?)

I think all my regular readers know the answer to that question!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Shameless promotion

You gotta go over to Christina's blog and read about my grandson's "tea party."

It'll crack you up. Well, it cracked ME and Carol up.