Sunday, November 04, 2007

Slave to the machine

The PC is not yet a utility. It is not a light that you turn on when you want to read. It is a seemingly-aware piece of machinery that likes to piss you off.

Is it the machinery, or is it the software inside the machinery that really likes to mess you up? That depends on whether you've ever had a hard drive failure, your new monitor doesn't turn on, or it does but the screen turns blue every time you click your email icon. Mostly it's just self-installing spyware, poorly installed applications, viruses, broken updates, and other software bugs that get the best of us. Usually we do it to ourselves, though it's easy to blame the PC for why we don't have a backup of our important files or haven't updated our virus definitions since 2001.

I spent 3 days trying to reinstall Office 2003 after uninstalling a trial version of Visio 2007. When I installed the trial to learn more about the software for an upcoming exam, the Windows Installer kept popping up whenever I checked my email in Outlook. Visio 2007 must have some powerful Outlook 2003 integration, because I could not get rid of that popup box for the life of me.

I uninstalled Visio 2007. Piece of cake, except that now all of my Office apps except for OneNote (my favourite app) stopped working. This wouldn't have been a problem, if I didn't need to use spreadsheets, email, and documents every once and awhile. Reinstalling Office just hung the installation package. Uninstalling office failed with an unexplainable error.

I downloaded the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility, which ominously warned that it shouldn't be used to uninstall Office 2007. No problems there, Office 2007 uninstalls like a champ. :) I ran the cleanup utility, checked off the Office 2003 install, and removed it.

Removing the add/remove programs link got me one step further, since I was now able to step through the install without it taunting me with a progress bar that went back and forth endlessly. I proceeded with the custom install (deselecting Office Assistant - die clippy, select everything else) and clicked the usual Next, Next, Next. As soon as it checked for free disk space, it told me I had 0 bytes free on the highlighted drive.

Since I have something like a terabyte and a half of disk space, I was a bit concerned. I checked the highlighted drive, and, sure enough, no disk space.

It was the DVD drive.

Not sure how you free up space on a DVD drive, but I put a blank DVD in anyway. No go. Not going to happen. I was not going to free up space on that one. There's no way I could find to disable the drive letter from software either. Power down the computer, unplug the DVD, power up. Run the reinstall. Now I was getting a failure on drive I:, my DVD drive. Search the registry for I:, see a bunch of references, give up.

Give up? Not quite. If the I: drive was missing, I had 26 other drive letters to choose from. Moving D: to I: solved the issue. Halfway through the install, the PC threw up another dialog in my face - can't find SKU11.CAB or something like that. Searching the install media I found no files called SKU11.

Searching Google brought me to a page where 1000 other people had the same issue. Apparently this is something to do with the DVD drive and caching of files during the installation process. Hacking the registry some more solved the issue, and I was able to reinstall.

Email? Check. Word? Check. Excel? Check. DVD Drive? Nope.

Power down, install DVD drive, power up.

My Leopard-meter just clicked over a few notches.

Link to Apple - Mac OS X Leopard

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