Geekiest post ever

Installing Microsoft Windows Vista

Well, geekiest post from me at any rate. Probably.

My last two work days have been hectic to say the least. It was a relief when I handed my mobile in (then got it back and instructed to turn it off before putting it in the box) so I knew I wouldn’t be getting any more calls.

So what have I done? Out of the goodness of my heart, I fixed one of the child care worker’s laptops. It was stuck in an endless loop after downloading some updates. Yes. Vista. A quick Google came up with countless people with the same issue. And the only solution from Microsoft was to not let it happen in the first place. Well done, Bill.

In fairness, they did have three fixes on the website but none of them were any use as they all essentially led you to different paths to use the rollback function in Windows. Which wouldn’t work. Every time I tried it, it fell over. I think one of the files was corrupt.

I eventually ended up hacking together several fixes I found on the web. First off, booting to a Vista DVD allowed to be get on via a command prompt, run a disc scan and patch the registry as per some instructions I found on a Technet bulletin.

This allowed me to actually get into Windows “normally”. However, as several critical system files (a whole three that I was told about whenever I tried to run anything) were buggered, nothing would start. I couldn’t repair Vista with an install from the DVD as it was from Business edition and the laptop had one of the multitude of Home editions on it.

Besides, and here’s a clever thing, you can’t run a repair install (i.e. a restore-over-the-top of the system files) from a DVD boot as you can with XP. And 2000. And NT. And 95. And ME. And 98. YOu can only run this “upgrade” as it’s called from within Windows. So if you can’t get into Vista, or Vista is pooched to the point where you can’t run anything within it, you’re screwed.

Thankfully, it was recognising some devices shoved into the USB ports including my memory stick. So via a command prompt, I copied over versions of the files it was whinging about from Dave’s laptop (also running Home Premium) which allowed me to run the “Upgrade” option from the DVD he had for his machine. Not before copying all his files sideways and off the C: partition, of course. Can’t be too careful. That was a memory test in itself, trying to remember how to use xcopy.

Bloody hell, Vista takes a long time to install. I ended up leaving it overnight.

Finally, ta-da, bootable laptop. I then put SP1 on. Another overnighter. Then the 30-ish patches that sit on top of it. That ran most of the day.

After approximately 20 hours of processing (rough guess as I was asleep for a lot of it) we had a working laptop. Well, working and crippled by Vista.

I know I bash Vista a lot. And after this experience it honestly does deserve it. Every time you want to do something system-y it asks if you’re sure. Only the prompt doesn’t always appear at the front of the screen – it lurks behind other windows so you don’t know what’s holding up the whole process.

Oh, and I installed OpenOffice on Ben’s laptop as well. On an old 2000 box it takes less than 5 minutes. On Ben’s pretty new Vista laptop it was over 20. W…T…F?!

Another lad had less luck. His new Sony Vaio demonstrated its magnificence… by displaying a small green LED and making a quiet “whirr” when powered on. And that was it. And it wouldn’t switch off. That one’s heading back to the UK for a warranty repair.

Incidentally, what’s happened to Vaios? They used to be sleak and sexy. Now they’re chuggy big things in flexible, cheap-looking cases.

Next big job was to supply the hotel with a second PC. It would have to be an old clunker, but the child care manager was happy enough with that. Anything so she didn’t have to engage in armed combat with the hotel manager to get onto the main PC. Where he is usually busy playing Space Invaders or shooting zombies.


This took ages. I picked an old Windows 2000 box at random and set it up. Thankfully it still had an Office license on (version 2000), so no need to explain to another person that OpenOffice is just the same. The only hiccups were in getting the data off the main PC onto it, and converting her emails. The main PC runs XP and Office 2003.

Now there is a conversion utility for going 2003 -> 2000. But you don’t need it. Simply create a new PST file (File… New) in 2003, and select the option to make it Office 2000 compatible. Copy all your existing mail into this new set of folders, copy the new PST file onto the Office 2000 machine and run a simple Import.

Oh, yeah. The copying. The second PC wasn’t in a convenient place to have a network cable draped to it so I dug out one of the handy-dandy wi-fi dongles that Netgear include with their wireless routers. We’ve got a ton of them kicking about. I ran the disc, it installed, no problems. Nice little gadgets.

Problem 1 – no wi-fi. Someone had “knocked the router off the stool or something, I think” according to the hotel manager. Which reads to me that he did it… unless he happened to find it on the floor in which case I’ll believe him. Either way, this came with a weird symptom – the wi-fi broke.

OK, that’s not what’s weird. What’s weird is that when I logged onto the router it told me it was a Netgear DW834. When clearly on the case it says it’s a DW834G. The only difference between these models is that the G has wi-fi capability. There were no options in the menu for wi-fi or anything. Bizarre.

A quick scan on the internet told me that one problem is the wi-fi card inside the router being knocked loose. This isn’t an issue with v3 upwards, as it’s built onto the same board. But the v1 and v2 have a separate little daughter card.

So, easy. Open it up.

Not so easy. In their infinite wisdom, Netgear decided to use stupid little bevelled star-shaped screws instead of something nice and simple. No tool I’ve ever found will get these damn things open.

So I resorted to a subtle blend of psychology… and extreme violence (points for spotting the reference if you’ve got this far through the post!). I got one of the staff to help me rip the bottom off. Then clipped off the spare plastic and undid the screws with a pair of pliers.

Sure enough, the daughter board was loose. A quick shove and all was wi-fi with the world.

Next, to transfer files. I found out the hard way that even though the 2000 box pretended to install my USB stick, it crapped itself when I tried to access it. So dragging them from a share on the old machine… nope. Same problem. Open folder, no icons, machine craps out.

Next option, push files using shared folders over the network. Nope again. Every couple of meg (and I had slightly over 200 of them to shift… zipped) I got an error that the network location was no longer connected. Maybe I was overloading the wi-fi, or 2000 just couldn’t keep up. I don’t know.

Final solution (no, I didn’t gas the PC) – memory stick into XP box, copy data, walk through the snow to office, copy data to CD, back to hotel, load from there.


In amongst all this, I also sorted out a fax for one resort, fixed an Outlook error elsewhere, reconfigured email in Switzerland, had a printer delivered to an area child care manager, tested a phone line in Les Gets (it was broken), configured and sent out three routers, sorted remote desktop access on a contract manager’s PC, repaired a damaged Word install, flattened my desktop PC and passed it on to a colleague, got Twhirl running under Ubuntu on my laptop using the now non-beta Adobe AIR, documented far too much stuff…

…and developed a cold. Just in time for heading home.


As ever, I’m glad to be popping home for a short while. I’m definitely glad to be getting a rest. It’s been a lot of work here. But never boring! And it looks good on the CV.

Yes, I still have some stuff that’s not done, but it’s nothing too important and a lot can be done from the UK. Still, I’m out of time and no need to worry. In 12 hours from now I’ll be in a minibus heading for Geneva Airport.

And I’m really looking forward to it. I need a comfy bed to curl up in and someone to feed me hot fruit juice!

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6 thoughts on “Geekiest post ever”

  1. Are wireless dongles easy to come by?

    I need to get one for my home pc and the wankers at pc world don’t actually understand what I want and keep trying to sell me a wireless router.

    have a fun time mate – I am off home next week then off to Morocco.

  2. Bugger – if I’d got this message before I left France I’d have brought one back with me. We’ve got about half a dozen still kicking about in the office that we don’t need.

    We’ve purchased a *lot* of Netgear wi-fi routers over the last two seasons and the majority have one of these dongles bundled. The PCs we use them with are in almost every resort connected by cable. The wi-fi’s a bonus for staff using laptops. Hence, I keep the dongles in the office in case they are needed.

    The part number you’re after is a Netgear WG111. And the sad thing is I know that off the top of my head. The v2 is the most common, though I think there’s also a v3 which appears now and then.

    My only issue with the software is that if you’re using it under XP, for some reason it means you can’t use the “easy user switching” login screen. I can’t figure out why this is the case, but it is. If there’s only one use on the PC it’s not so much of a problem.

    If you go to PCShithole’s website and search for WG111, it’s the second item down. Overpriced (as ever) at £25 instore, Book it online for collection and you’ll get it for a more reasonable £14.

    Worth checking the router you’ll be using it with. If it’s a Netgear as well then go for it. If it’s a LinkSys or a Belkin or something, it’s worth checking out their own versions. I’ve heard of issues crossbranding routers and dongles.

  3. Gosh you are a geek, aren’t you? I never knew ‘daughter boards’ existed! (this shows I read through your post but didn’t necessarily understand any of it, lol!)

  4. I’m not good at many things, but being a geek is one of them. Daughter-boards are little secondary boards that hang onto the main one. But you probably guessed that. Makes sense when the main one’s called a motherboard.

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