I closed out last week with a rush of activity. I spent Thursday night at a business client’s location upgrading all their PCs to Office 2003. The objective was really to get Outlook 2003 on their PCs so that they could connect to their corporate Exchange 2003 server across the Internet sans VPN (RPC over HTTP). I had about fourteen machines to upgrade and a window of roughly five hours to do it (or come back to finish). Thankfully, I had been helping another company rollout Office 2003, so I’d learned how to use the Custom Installation Wizard tool from the Office 2003 Resource Kit. This great little utility allowed me to quickly setup a “hands-free” installation of Office 2003 Pro, which I then put up on a network share.
The result was that rather than running the upgrade from CDs, I could start the install on several PCs simultaneously. The most labor intensive part of the install was then configuring Outlook to connect to the Exchange 2003 server via HTTP. It was a little cumbersome at first, but once I got the hang of it, I was able to get everybody setup and got done by 8:30PM. The only “casualty” was somebody who had problems synching up their Palm device, which I figured was due to an old version of the Palm and PocketMirror software.
Friday, I went to a residential customer who wanted help rebuilding his beloved 5 year old Sony VAIO PCG-C1VN PictureBook. It was a tiny 2.2 subnotebook that he used when he traveled, and he was not quite ready to replace it if he could squeeze even another 6 months of usefulness out of it. So we got it re-imaged (alas, with Windows Me), but the end result was actually quite good. He will eventually replace it with another ultralight laptop, probably a VAIO TX series. I can see why he was so attached to it – he had a neat little travel case for it, barely bigger than my 50-CD case I keep all my software CDs in. With a Linksys Wireless card, it was a decent little laptop for basic e-mail and web surfing.
By lunch, I was finished with that gig and went to my afternoon gig. Remember my recent posting about the Cursed PC? Well, that client decided to tough it out and wait until I could get to them. I had brought in a replacement 80gb HDD for their Dell Dimension, figuring it would be quicker to drop that in, load up XP and apps, then copy their data from their original HDD. That worked pretty darned well as I had them back up and running in roughly three hours. I still don’t know what caused the XP registry to utterly self destruct on their original drive, but these things do happen. So that PC has now been rebuilt twice in six months, and has a brand new hard drive. If this thing tanks again, I don’t know how I’ll react!
Saturday was a planned “down” day for me. My wife had to attend a memorial service in the morning, then she went off to work that afternoon. I took the time to catch up on a bunch of TV stored on my two ReplayTV DVRs and generally be a lazy bum. Sunday was shaping up to be another “no-work” day, despite having several customers call me.
But before I could get too comfortable, one customer called me with a truly freaky problem with his brand new HP desktop. He suddenly was unable to do anything on the Internet, regardless of application. At first, I thought this was just an Internet Explorer issue, perhaps Spyware that snuck in, but other programs were failing as well. We quickly determined that his Comcast Internet was up, as other PCs in the house could connect. He took the Ethernet out of this desktop and hooked it up to his work laptop, it was fine. So it for sure was a problem on the PC.
Now the really weird part was that we could successfully ping other servers on the Internet… so at some level, the PC was communicating. After about 30 minutes of spinning my wheels on the phone, I decided to just jump in the Toyota and head up to his house. Part of me cringed at giving up what was a lovely and work-free Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn’t be able to get to him any time soon if I didn’t do it right then and there.
So I got to his house within 30 minutes and took a quick look-see. Nothing doing, no apps could communicate with the Internet. I disabled the Firewall in Norton Internet Security, that made no difference. Hmmmm. I then rebooted into Safe Mode with Networking and found that Internet connectivity was fine. OK, so maybe there is something loading at start up that’s the culprit. I booted Windows normally and found that the problem had just disappeared. Everything suddenly just worked A-OK. I ran a couple spyware scans and came up clean. Checked MSCONFIG, saw nothing alarming there. Weird. I rebooted 3-4 more times, everything continued working. I don’t really like it when a problem just corrects itself, but sometimes you just have to allow for flukes like that. I was kicking myself for not thinking of trying Safe Mode over the phone before I drove up, but I was there and back in roughly an hour.
On to the next adventure(s)!