Garrett (garote) wrote,

How I Spent My Thursday At Work

  • The payroll machine won't print to the local printers. It "sees" them, but won't print. Seven documents are lined up in the machine's print queue, going nowhere.
  • Actually, Windows claims to see them - but it doesn't actually. The printers are listed in the box, and one is even set as the default. But there's no way they could actually be "seen", because the network connection has stopped working.
  • I poke around in the device manager, check that the cable is seated and that the device light is lit, but Windows XP shows absolutely no trace that the card exists.
  • This is annoying, because it was working fine two weeks ago.
  • I boot in safe mode and look for spurious drivers to remove them. None found.
  • I open up the machine, remove the network card, and insert a different one.
  • Windows XP detects this one, but then complains that it has no drivers for it.
  • Can't get drivers off the network: No network.
  • I insert my Office Admin CD which is full of drivers, and it searches the whole CD, and finds none.
  • I go to my own computer, and locate a driver online from a driver download warehouse, after signing up for their service with a fake email address.
  • The file is an executable, so OS X won't open it. It needs to be de-archived and on a CDROM for the Windows XP driver search to succeed.
  • I boot Virtual PC and click-drag the file through a virtual folder. Sure enough it has a zipfile header, so I decompress it using WinRAR without even executing the file. Safer from a virus standpoint, that way. Not that anything from a download warehouse is safe to begin with.
  • I add the resulting folder to my driver collection and burn it in a new copy of the Office Admin CD. I shred the old one with a screwdriver and drop it in the garbage.
  • I insert the new CD into the Payroll machine, do another driver search, and it finds nothing. But that was the correct driver!
  • I say "okay, I'll choose the driver manually". Lo and behold, the driver actually is right there in the Windows XP listing. It just refused to find it on it's own. Very annoying.
  • I install the drivers, set the interface's IP address, and run through the Internet Connect wizard. No dice. Not a single packet is going in or out.
  • I look at "ipconfig.exe /all" using the command prompt. It shows the card's MAC address as FF-FF-FF-FF-FF. That is just plain wrong.
  • I turn off the machine, remove that card, and install a third network card.
  • Windows autodetects this one, but installs a "chip-based" driver that does not match the name of the card. Even so, no packets move.
  • I remove that driver and install the proper one. Even so, no packets move.
  • I try to reboot, to see if it will make things better:
  • The machine freezes in 'boot normally'
  • The machine freezes in 'safe mode with network support'
  • The machine freezes in 'last known good configuration'
  • The only way the machine will boot at all is in 'safe mode' with no network support.
  • I look for alternate OSes to start from. There used to be a windows 98 install, but it got nuked. The WINDOWS folder is empty.
  • I decide 'to hell with this machine' and begin installing Virtual PC 7 on the adjacent mac, to run the payroll programs in an emulator.
  • I locate the "install instructions", such as they are, for the payroll program, in my personal work folder on the network.
  • I install Virtual PC, copy over a Windows 98 install image, and copy over all the payroll files from my network folder.
  • I then begin running through the "install instructions". It's a text document with the following:

    Try each of these items in order, until the program works. Then stop.

      First you may want to run the installer for the shitty old version.
    • Then you'll want to copy the whole PCAccess2 folder onto the drive, in the root folder of C.
    • Replace the v1 shortcut on the desktop with a shortcut to v2.
    • Then you'll need to input the PCAccess_2_Reg_Entries (stored in Reg_Entries)
    • Then you'll probably need to throw in all the Borland DLLs (kept in "DLLs_to_add") into that same folder. They end in ".BPL".
    • After that you'll probably have to resort to manually schlepping in all the files and registry entries for the Borland Database Engine, so:
      1. Merge-Copy the "Program Files" folder found here, onto drive C
      2. Merge in all those "BDE_#" registry files found in "Reg_Entries".
    • You'll probably have to reboot after this.
    • You'll probably have to install the "generic" modem driver for your external modem, no matter what conventional wisdom claims, before it'll dial out.
    • If the BDE still won't initialize, you may need to install CP42TrialEnglishAnsi.exe (Located in 'Installers' subfolder), which is the trail version of an unrelated app that happens to use the Borland Database Engine. It may install some files or reg entries you're still lacking.

    At this point, if it doesn't launch, you're just fucked. Give up and call tech support.

  • I do everything suggested, but the PCAccess2.exe program still complains of a missing file: A306_R51.BPL
  • I can't find this file anywhere in my work folders or the Admin CD, so I boot the fried Payroll machine in 'Safe Mode, No Network'. The only mode it can still manage.
  • There's the file, in the PCACCESS2 folder on C. I drag it to the CDRW drive, and insert a blank CDR, and click "burn these files to CD".
  • Windows asks me to insert a blank CD. There's one already there. I just put it there. I click 'OK'. Nothing. I remove the CD and reinsert it. Nothing.
  • Safe Mode will not allow CD burns.
  • Summary: No network, no CD burning, no programs that will do serial-cable transfer, no dialup services, the machine is USB 1.0 and has no firewire, and I have no USB external drives (not even a cable for my iPod). What's left?
  • I find a floppy disk of LinkSYS drivers stuffed in a drawer in the basement.
  • I set the plastic tab on it to enable writing. At least it HAS a plastic tab.
  • I zip up the files I need - the DLL, plus the recently modified payroll files. It's going to take two trips, two zipfiles at a time.
  • I "quick format" the floppy disk, and copy the first two files onto it.
  • I take the disk downstairs to the other windows machines that are on the network, so I can copy the zipfiles up to the server.
  • Both machines I try the disk in show a dialog box I've never seen before, in all my hacking: "Cannot find address code on disk."
  • I try the disk in the payroll machine again. It reads fine and the files are there. What's going on?
  • I go to the one remaining windows machine in the office: The Test machine.
  • The Test machine is not on the network, and there is no network cable nearby, but it does have a Zipdrive. I can put the files on that, and move them onto the network with the iMac, which has a Zipdrive.
  • I boot it into Windows XP.
  • Oh look, the red channel doesn't work in the video cable. Everything's green.
  • A dialog box saying "generic win32 services support has encountered an error and needs to close." Looks like this machine's been smacked by a virus recently. Working on this machine will be fun.
  • I insert the disk into the drive, and open it up on the desktop. It works.
  • I copy the first two zipfiles to the desktop. I observe that the SCREEN DIMS with each track read off the disk.
  • I locate a Zipdisk and insert it into the Zipdrive. The light blinks and reads for an instant, but nothing appears on the desktop.
  • Additionally, there's no trace of it in the device manager.
  • That's when I realize: The Zipdrive is physically mounted in the machine, yes - but the interface cable between it and the motherboard is missing. I can't use the Zipdrive.
  • Okay, so this machine has a network adapter installed, which I've used before. I just need to get a cable hooked up.
  • I detach the one from the fried Payroll machine, and try to bring it across the room, but the cable's too short.
  • I exchange that cable for the one in the iMac, untangle the iMac cable from behind a pile of cardboard, and bring one end of that across the room. It reaches.
  • I plug in the cable. I look at the network connection in the network settings window: It still claims the cable is disconnected.
  • I double click on it, check the settings - everything looks fine - and then hit the OK button to dismiss the dialog.
  • I get the following message: "explorer.exe has encountered an error and needs to close."
  • I roll my eyes and try to click the 'start' button in order to restart the machine. It won't respond.
  • After a moment I get the following message: "DrWatson postmortem debugger has encountered an error and needs to close." Great. The crash reporter has crashed trying to report a crash.
  • I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL and select 'restart' from the task manager window. At least that works.
  • I notice on the boot screen that there's an install of Windows 2000 as well as the XP one I was just in. I try to select it from the keyboard, but my input doesn't register, because the machine can't recognize the USB keyboard until after some version of Windows has booted. Incredible.
  • I watch helplessly at the machine boots back into Windows XP. ... But this time, the network adapter seems to be enabled.
  • At this point I have to ask: If I want to get to a machine on the network, why is it that I have to first open the "My Computer" icon in the start menu, and then select "My Network Places", then "Workgroup", from a tiny list of crap in a column on the left? Each time I have to do something like this, I realize how spoiled I am by OS X, where actual thought has gone into the design and layout of things.
  • I log into the file server, create a target folder, and copy off the zipfiles.
  • I move the other two on the Payroll machine onto the floppy, and copy them up to the same folder via the test computer.
  • I shut down both machines. Hopefully that's the last I'll need of them.
  • I unzip and install the missing files over the network, through the iMac onto the Virtual PC image via a virtual shared folder.
  • Finally, both payroll programs open properly.
  • I set up the Virtual PC modem with the Apple internal modem, using a generic driver, mapped through the virtual COM1 port.
  • I discover that the old PC modem is a pass-through type with two connectors. To plug into the iMac, I'll need a phone line splitter.
  • I find one downstairs in a plastic bin in a remote corner.
  • Now the modem is hooked up, but the secretary's phone sticks up from the desk at an odd angle because the phone had the only socket I could fit the splitter into. The secretary's going to love that.
  • Other than that, the problem's "fixed" ... Except now we do payroll through a Virtual PC session instead of an actual physical piece of crap Windows box. Which was built by Compaq by the way.
And that's how I spent my Thursday at work.
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