October 14, 2003

My Latest installation eXPerience

Today was the day of the turkey. Thanksgiving feast for us all. Or so I thought.

While visiting family for the holiday I helped my mother-in-law get her computer fixed up. She has an old HP Pavillion 6640C with 64M megs of ram, and wanted to get her computer to go faster. She bought some goodies (256 megs of ram and a new OS) and had them waiting for me when I arrived for Thanksgiving dinner.

No worries I thought to myself. This should be a piece of cake (or pumpkin pie as it were)

6 hours later, I finally finished up the hell that was to be known as this year's Thanksgiving feast.

Oh, this wasn't like any installation I had before. I was expecting this install to be easy. I even brought a CD with XPSP1 on it knowing I would need to do some patching. But I never realized how much patching I had to do.

It all started with the switch from Windows98 to XP Pro. It seems HP will not support such an upgrade, because it was never tested in their lab. They would prefer that you buy a new machine. Umm... no. Not gonna happen. They use their computer to surf the net and do the occassional email, which they even use on a browser via hotmail.

My first install of XP failed. Bios incompatibilities. No ACPI support. Ok, that sucks. Need to find a new bios. None exist. Google. Lots of complaints, but no solution to an updated bios. HP won't release an updated bios. Ok fine. Figure out how to get around ACPI. Ahh Microsoft has an undocumented secret key to do just that. Hit F7 as soon as the Windows Setup starts, and it toggles ACPI support. Guess I hit it one to many times as I toggled it off and back on. Install failed. Realize that I must of hit F7 twice, and reinstall again. Ahhh.. worked this time.

Now, this 6640C is pretty slow compared to what I normally use. The install took over an hour. Half way through an error occurs and COM+ can not be registered. Damn. Dinner time.

[Rush through my dinner in no time fast, not getting a chance to really ENJOY the festivities]

Ok back. Install still hooped. Reboot. XP recovers nicely and continues on, only backtracking part of the install. Install completes and I am thinking the rough stuff is over. Dumb assumption on my part.

So after reboot I set up the accounts, and throw in my XPSP1 cd I burned. I thought I was being smart because I thought ahead to download the huge (120+ Meg) service pack and wasn't looking forward to downloading something like that with a modem. I start the upgrade, minding my own business and reading more of the book I took along (Beyond Fear from Bruce Schneier. My second reading of it. Good book)

At about 90% complete something weird happens. A dialog pops up and says some RPC services are corrupt and are shutting down. A few more errors occur and I realize that I just got nailed with a RPC/DCOM attack. How the hell? Oh crap, there is a DSL modem on the floor. Parents upgraded to broadband and I forgot about that. The damn XP default network set up configured itself and Telus had this completely unprotected and exposed XP box for the glorious scriptkiddies to nail. And they did. Oh yaah... now I gotta friggin patch an exploited box.

Well, luck be a lady.. the service pack was installing and had an exclusive handle to some of the files.. the exploit didn't actually attach itself to much. And with nothing configured or installed yet... the malicious code had nothing left to propagate with. Oh thank heavens, I was not wanting to reinstall XP again.

So after I reboot (no choice, basic winservices died when the penetration happened and COM services were toasted) I unplug the DSL modem and let the service pack install. While its installing I clean up the residue from the attack, set up the XP firewall and prepare to plug this thing back into the Net. (At this point its a 'thing' now... it lost the honor of being a computer as I now regret agreeing to fix it during a fantastic thanksgiving feast)

So I go to do a Windows update. 27 critical security patches that are over 38 megs. Well, atleast there is broadband now, so that shouldn't take long. *sigh*

The download did indeed come down lightening fast. But then the patching started. This is where life became fun. It took over 3 hours for the 27 patches to get applied. I could do nothing... it just went on its way with the harddrive writing like mad and the CPU crying for some free cycles. Just when I thought it was freezing up, another HD write would occur and I realized this little machine was doing its best to keep up.

Finally contented with a 3 hour 'windows update' (and the luxury of looking through my wife's family photo albumns for the 3 hours) I finally was prompted for a reboot.

The restart was agonizing. It chugged and churned and I was sure the think was hooped. 5 minutes later, somehow, somewhere the gods looked down and said '"that's enought pain for Dana, he can have more torture tommorow when he needs to fix DCOM remote debugging issues on his own box". It came up. And it was good. It was FASTER than Win98. It was prettier. And it was now 11:30. Time to go home, and eat leftovers from the feast.

Moral of the story? I dunno, pick from the many veins this can be read from this eXPerience. I look at this as a positive experience though. I again am taught about the fallicies of human beings and the false sense of security I thought I had during the install. (Thanks script kiddie) I am so used to flawless XP installs on my machines in a 'clean room' that is properly firewalled and segmented off so I can go to town upgrading quickly. I also got another side benefit. I am trying to lose weight anyways, so I didn't have time to gorge on all the yummy food! Of course, just thinking about it has me hungry so I think I will go make myself a small plate and head to bed.

Hey, I hope your thanksgiving was better than mine. If you haven't had thanksgiving, remember not to get roped into fixing the inlaws computer during the upcoming dinner!

Posted by SilverStr at October 14, 2003 12:53 AM | TrackBack

Too late, I got ropped in as well. Till I read yours I thought mine was bad fiddling with TV Card drivers. For some reason "system" didn't have access to the driver entries in the registery. See this in XP, but never W2K. Of course the error messages as soo helpful making me think the drivers were corrupt;) argh.

On a side note I also did a fresh install of Redhat 9 on the weekend. Not sure how large the "critical updates" were, but updating everything to latest version with up2date: 197MB. YIKES! How can anyone live on dialup anymore?

First time I tried the GUI version of up2date and found it to be similar to Windows except for the lack of continual reboots (did have one for kernel upgrade:))

Posted by: VW Derf at October 14, 2003 07:19 AM

Wow, I'm so glad that longhorn will fix all of these problems, help us lose weight, end world hunger and give us a blowjob while installing. Oh, well, in 2006 or whenever it comes out anyway. Only another three years of this, with an extra SP in between! Yay!

I went through all this recently as well. Installing my new box from scratch, re-installing my old box to give to my dad with XP on it, and now doing the same to another old box I'm selling. Weee....

At least the linux update is less painful (apt-get update && apt-get upgrade) or at least, you can do stuff while it's happening.

Still stuffed from dinner last night as well. Urp.

Posted by: Arcterex at October 14, 2003 09:29 AM

A week or two I got roped into 'optimizing' a brother's computer in exchange for dinner. Decided not to go the XP route. It turned out that adding 256MB to the existing 64MB, plus doing the first defrag in 2 years did wonders.

I got so stuffed that all I could do was sleep until I could breath again.

Posted by: Wim at October 14, 2003 05:48 PM

I formatted my HP 6640C Computer and them I tried to find the drivers and restore disc! No Luck! I am now stuck and HP does not offer the restore pack nor the restore drivers. I have no idea what to do. I tried to download them but this does not work. Does anyone have the restore disc and would you please make me a copy I will pay you for them. Please e-mail me at rodneydt@san.rr.com Please help me..... Thanks Rodney

Posted by: rodney at December 13, 2003 05:22 PM

Thank you so much for your blog on XP Pro 6640c upgrade.

Do you do fee based credit card / paypal telephone tech support. I will be trying again this weekend to complete this upgrade and it would be cool if you offered this service. Normal business hours would be ok w/ me. I'm prepared for 35 per call.

Thx again,


Posted by: Craig Smith at January 16, 2004 08:39 AM

Thanks for the info. I was able to install Win XP Pro w/SP2 (slipstream) on a 6640C, once I toggled off the ACPI. Have not encountered any problems with drivers, everything working well with added RAM of 320MB.

Posted by: Joe at October 6, 2004 12:34 AM