Lather, rinse, reboot

At a previous employer, we had a software utility, wcheckdb, whose purpose was to clean up all of the object database-cruft leftover from day-to-day use of the product. Its output was initially a series of cryptic diagnostics that only the lead engineer could appreciate. We often redirected these to a file. The program had a function that printed period characters to standard output as an indication that it was still working. Unfortunately, sometimes the object database it was de-crufting would take an impromptu leave of absence vacation, leaving wcheckdb to merrily print dots ad infinitum.

Internally, this utility soon became referred to as wprintdots. In frustration, I wrote a spoof advertised as “Now with 50% more dots!”

while (1) {
printf STDERR ".";

Having not inflicted the full level of sarcastic wrath I had felt, I extended this to include command line switches to control things like the number of dots printed and, eventually, a mysterious “-K” switch that spewed comparable diagnostic-like messages in the native language of object database applications, Klingon. Some of the phrases I remember adding:

qaStaH nuq jay — what the @#$! is happening?
naDev qaS wanl’ ramqu’ — there is nothing happening here.
Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam — today is a good day to die!
nuq Daq yuch Dapol — where do you keep the chocolate?

What reminded me of this was some problems I’d been having with Windows. After about a year of use, the security patches, unpatches, trial software and uninstalls left enough crumbs that my machine was not as reliable as it had been. I reinstalled the OS and current version of all of the applications.

After the Dell-supplied OS completes the core operating system and driver installation, it spawns the “added value” installer. This super-crufter adds trial online games, sample media files, links to AOL, and upsells to applications. In other words: crap I’d eventually remove anyway

I had previously observed the second installer hard codes its path names instead of referencing %SystemRoot%. Most machines would be installed assuming a ginormous “C” drive spanning the entire disk, and most would get the full suite. By repartitioning the disk such that there was a 50 megabyte “C” drive, a large-ish “D” drive, and the rest for a stealth Linux partition, magic happens. The Windows installation is happy with being on the “D” drive. The Dell Bloat-o-matic fails silently because there’s insufficient free space on C:bloatmeamadeus. Bling be gone!

Once Serenity was overthe OS was done installing, it was time to configure the wireless network and download updates. At first bat, Windows needed to update its updater. Lather. Rinse. Reboot.

On the second shot, it identified 78 “serious” and “critical” security fixes. Mercy! Before it could force another reboot, I installed most of my pet applications: Photoshop, Acrobat, iTunes, Perl, Python, and Cygwin. Reboot, pop in the Office 2007 DVD, hit install, and I was done for the night.

The only problem I had was the touch pad’s near-TSA hypersensitivity when an external mouse was plugged in. Finding this obscure driver, the only one I hadn’t already pre-downloaded onto the external disk), was the hardest part of the reinstall.

1 thought on “Lather, rinse, reboot”

  1. Gardner Cohen

    While I was in the hospital I took the opportunity to clean install XP Pro SP2 on a dell two year old XP home SP2 machine that was suffering from windows rot, which for me tends to set in after a year. It was quite refreshing. The dell disk I used had a separate dell bloatware disk which I threw away.

    Of course once the install was done there were no ethernet, wireless, sound, or video drivers, but I was ready for that with a thumb drive.

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