Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Thursday, 30 October 2008

Have you ever clicked “cancel” during an installation wizard, or managed to hose something on your computer or one of your servers by manually messing around with settings because you think you’re smarter than you really are? If you’re like me, you have. :)

Yesterday when I was messing around with SharePoint Services 3.0 on our development server, I managed to not only hose IT, but I also hosed our Windows Software Update Services server.

WSUS is like having your own Windows Update server. Rather than have all your computers check and download updates from Microsoft’s servers (chewing up all your bandwidth and/or ISP’s quota) you download them to one central location and then having all your computers download from that server on your network. As the Administrator, you can approve updates and they will automatically be available to your clients, but new updates that you haven’t approved won’t be available. In the event that you come across a Windows Update that breaks an application on your computer, you can prevent your computers from downloading and installing it.

It runs as a web site, it uses a SQL database for it’s backend and then it uses some local storage for the actual updates (in whatever languages you specify you will support)

If one of those parts gets hosed (like when you’re mucking about in IIS admin and break the WSUS website, or you manually delete the database instance that it’s using), then there’s not much you can do but uninstall and reinstall the application.

What happens if WSUS has disappeared from the Control Panel’s “Add/Remove Programs” list? If you think you’re a smart cookie, you’ll re-run the installation program which (depending on the program) will give you repair or uninstall options. In the case of WSUS, there’s no “repair” option and re-running the setup program launches the uninstall routine. If some piece of WSUS is missing however, then it fails with a generic error. Stumped.

I found a similar post on Experts Exchange and the accepted solution was a Microsoft Office utility called Windows Installer Cleanup Utility. The utility’s home page on Microsoft Support explains that it wipes out the registry information for uninstalling. If you have a corrupted installation or un-installation it MAY allow you to re-install the application successfully. With nothing else to lose, I downloaded it, installed it and fired it up.

It showed a list of all the programs that were installed on the server, based on the registry information. I found Windows Software Update Services v3.0 SP1 in the list, clicked on it and then clicked "Remove”. It ran successfully and then I closed the application before I did any other unintended damage and then ran the WSUS setup program again. This time instead of starting the uninstallation routine, it came up with the fresh install screen. Choosing the same locations that were set up before installed the software “over” the old locations. The installation created the web server over again using the same ports and the downloaded updates are in the same place.

Because all the clients were either pre-configured or receive their Windows Update configuration info via Group Policy, everything “picked up where it left off”

The Windows Installer Cleanup Utility is a last-ditch effort when you’ve exhausted every other process to remove a corrupted installation. It’s a nuclear attack on the registry and Microsoft’s warnings and as-is and disclaimers highlight that. If you find yourself in this kind of a situation, it makes a handy addition to your Bat Utility Belt. If you try it and you do more harm than good, well, too bad. :)

Thursday, 30 October 2008 13:41:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Microsoft | SharePoint#

I referred to it earlier, but haven’t elaborated on it (at least on here) but I did land a job earlier this month after spending a month re-adjusting to Vancouver. I waited to look for an apartment until after I started working so I could find somewhere that wasn’t a huge PITA to commute. I had a 15km radius in mind so as to reduce my auto insurance footprint as ICBC has a “15 km or less” category.

As I did before, whenever I refer to work, I’m only going to refer to it in a general sense without any specifics or names (to protect the innocent… and compared to me, everyone is an innocent!)  People who know me well or know me through other social networking sites will be able to figure it out pretty easily but people who end up here randomly or from a search engine, I’ll still be somewhat anonymous. There’s no HR policy on blogging in the Employee Handbook, and I don’t want to force them to make one.

At my previous job, we deployed a small-scale SharePoint Portal 2007 site. Those of you who are familiar with SharePoint are probably laughing right now but seriously, it was a small deployment with one site and only a few pages. At least it was when I left!

When I took an Exchange 2007 course in December of 2007, the instructor referred to SharePoint as a cancer. It starts off small… one site, a little collaboration but as people start using it and hearing and reading about some of the things it can do, then the feature requests start coming in and the sprawl begins. Before you know it, you have an entire datacenter just to support SharePoint.

That portal we set up was mostly about a KPI dashboard for the Board of Directors. We had a specialist from Toronto fly down for a few weeks and help us set it up and do some custom coding to draw specific data from our SQL databases (Mo Paul represent!)

At my new job there was already a SharePoint portal in place. In fact it there were a couple. There was a SharePoint Services 2.0 portal up and running using an Access database as it’s backend and some serious line of business applications custom-written to run on it. There was a SharePoint 3.0 portal running that we are slowly migrating to that was SQL Express based but each of those line-of-business applications had to be re-written to run from SQL instead of Access and because they were so intertwined, we couldn’t migrate them one at a time, but rather all at once so it became a pretty gigantic project.

There were also some other sites and a document management system in place that was running either WSS 2.0 or a custom application that those authors wanted integrated into SharePoint as well.

All of this required me to get up to speed on SharePoint pretty quickly. In the past, my experience with SharePoint was “it’s a cancer upon my network, growing uncontrollably and sucking up all my resources.” I referred to it to my brother as “the ominous black cloud on the horizon of IT and developers” and went so far as to quote Colonel Kurtz “Horrors” soliloquy to a friend via IM who then remarked that “being this far north is affecting my mind”

I’ll probably start posting more stuff about SharePoint as I learn it and cross-post it to the IT Team Blog I set up in SharePoint (See? the sprawl is starting already!) to help document my descent into madness.

Thursday, 30 October 2008 09:00:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Microsoft | SharePoint#
Sunday, 26 October 2008

I've got a bunch of posts in the pipeline and maybe one day I'll get around to finishing them and posting them.

Last night some fucktard sideswiped my car and sheared off the driver's side mirror. This morning Laurie and I went to get a coffee at Giancarlo's on Commercial Drive and I saw something sitting on the sidewalk that didn't look like the normal kind of litter the fucking hippies and homeless around here leave around. It looked like the 'guts' of a mirror... Laurie saw me looking at it and went to investigate, and said "yup, it's a mirror". I looked at my car and thought "well at least it's not mine."

As she was further down the sidewalk, she could see the other side of my car and said "yeah actually it is" so I went to look and sure enough, some fucktard clipped it. The housing was sitting on the street next to my car and somehow the mirror ended up where it was, IN FRONT of the car. Since there was nothing to do about it, I picked up the pieces and put them in the trunk and we went for breakfast.

When I came back, armed with only a Leatherman, I removed the remaining pieces of the mirror and brought it all inside to see if there was a way i could use some moxy and epoxy (or Gorilla Glue) and put it back together. Nope... There are some plastic pieces missing to fit the jigsaw puzzle back together and some of the plastic looks "stretched" rather than a clean break that might have been able to fit back together.

Upon further inspection, there's a scuff or three on the front window pillar but they're really superficial and will probably just buff out. It looks like it was a mirror-to-mirror collision, but the person was going fast enough that it sheared off the screws inside the housing. there doesnt seem to be any scuffing or scratching on the housing itself, which is weird.

I checked my insurance papers, as I found out this is something that falls under "comprehensive" but the deductible is $500, so that pretty much torpedoes that idea. I have no idea what a replacement mirror will cost. I emailed a Honda dealership loally that had a "parts request form" online and I googled around for some OEM replacement parts. They were all in the 60-100 dollar range, but they were all black. The trim level on my car has color-matched bumpers and mirrors so I may get hosed.

The good news (if there is any) is that since I bought this car, I've seen LOTS of other Civics with the same color and head/tail light design as mine so there should be a fair bit of parts at the wreckers.

What pisses me off the most about the whole thing, aside from the hit and run, and aside from being out-of-pocket when I really haven't even received a paycheck yet (I landed a job, btw, but that's another post) and aside from the fact that I USE my mirrors and rely on them for you know, safety is that now there's a fucking HOLE in the drivers side door/window that's going to let COLD AIR in and probably blow right onto my hands while I'm driving!

Sunday, 26 October 2008 15:20:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Vehicle#
Wednesday, 08 October 2008
If *I* had that much trouble "fixing" the streaming from WMP11 to Xbox360, how the hell are mere mortals expected to be able to figure this out? Ork had a similar problem and he ended up installing TVersity to make it work, and I initially installed Orb to get around it before fixing it the first time, too.
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 14:45:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Links | Tech | Gaming | Microsoft | WWW#
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