September 25th, 2014


Less Than Helpful Error Messages

So... Windows XP is officially on the scrapheap of history. Sort of. There are still people using it and still some software supporting it. I might expect that Norton Antivirus 2015 could drop XP support -- Zone Alarm has. Or at least they've dropped support prior to XP Service Pack 3.

Still, it's been a useful operating system for me, allowing me to run both current packages and a lot of my ancient Windows 95/98SE/NT4 software, and even some MS-DOS programs. Windows 7 has some utility, but unless I put in a virtual machine to run XP or lower, 7 doesn't run all the stuff I need.

WINTER, my amazing Fujitsu Tablet PC, back from when that meant you could flip the screen around and fold it onto the attached laptop keyboard, got squirrely in the Spring and so eventually I brought in a spare laptop -- LARA -- an HP Mini 1000 netbook with a 16GB SSD drive. Yay -- no moving parts!

This spring I did some upgrades on LARA to make it work better. One, I was able to up the memory from 1GB to 2GB -- and from a supplier that offered to buy the old 1GB SIMM and that dropped the effective price considerably. And I found a supplier on eBay who had some of the special 4GB USB drives HP made for the Mini, which slides into a deep socket and fits conformally with the body. New, in HP packaging for like $5.95, and not the $30-40 I had seen elsewhere or the original $49 price or so when the netbook was new a few years ago.

I was able to move my work files onto a 4GB Mini 1000 USB drive, back it up and have my transfer files onto an 8GB SD card in another slot, so the 16GB solid state drive only had to house Windows and software, and not data.

Then came the end of May and I was in the hospital for a week, and it was some time before I got back to the office. The university has a site license for Symantec Endpoint Protection, something like a non-consumer Norton Antivirus. Ran LiveUpdate when I got back and it failed. This happens sometimes, and so you reboot and try again. It gave an error, and suggested reinstalling. Of course it did. It always does. Trouble was, there was a stretch this summer where I couldn't find the downloader on the GoWMU site anywhere.

So I put it off, running a McAfee product that basically said YES -- YOU HAVE A PROBLEM -- YOU DON'T HAVE McAFFE ANTIVIRUS INSTALLED -- SHALL WE FIX THIS FOR YOU? Damned shills. Got rid of that because it was conflicting with something else.

Then there was the error message saying that Drive C: was getting short of space. Really? 16GB isn't enough space for Windows XP, part of Office 95 and Office 97, Firefox, Chrome, Adobe Reader, ZoneAlarm, Symantec, an FTP program and GIMP?


Time to start going in and deleting temporary files. Lots of temporary files.

Still, it would boot with only 29-49MB free space. I should've connected the dots, but the error messages weren't explicit to tie the two problems together.

Huh. What's C:\hiberfil.sys and why is it 2,138,361,856 bytes long? 2GB. Oh crap, LARA has Hibernate turned on.

See, there's a variety of ways to not shut down your PC. Sleep, Standby, Hibernate. Hibernate actually powers off, so it creates a dump of the system memory. And I'd doubled the memory from 1GB to 2GB, so the damned hibernate file grew from 1GB to 2GB, leaving me with under 100MB free. And when I got back after a few weeks, Symantec Endpoint Protection, like NAV, doesn't update after so many days -- it downloads a whole version and installs it. Which is fine for the smaller pieces, Proactive and Network Threat Protection, but the big antivirus package these days is something like 225 MB long.

What the error from Symantec SHOULD have said is -- you don't have enough disk space to download the SEP update. What it should really do is say -- hey, you've got all these GB of free space on these other drive letters, can we borrow some as a temporary workspace?

But no. Of course no.

What I hate about crappy modern software programmers is that they just assume that the whole world, including them, is allowed to shit all over Drive C:, that everyone has 300GB+ of free space, and that there was a time when we installed things on more than one drive.

In Windows XP, harder in 7 and 8, you can just go into Control Panel | Power Options | Hibernate | uncheck the box. And poof! 2GB of free disk space on Drive C: appears.

Symantec Endpoint Protection LiveUpdate works flawlessly. Although I am sure by tomorrow it will decide I need to do a full system scan... (evil-grin)

Bonus: I also solved the Problem of the Disappearing File needed by the FAA to certify that some of my students actually attended my class last spring. The hard copy never made it to the WMU School of Aviation in Battle Creek MI. It's probably stored on WINTER, the machine that won't stay booted for more than a minute or two. And the file I was sent was in Word 2007 .docx format. I don't own Word 2007. I do have Word 2003 installed on several machines with the .docx read/write capability. But... my batch files for transferring files to and from machines via my Swiss Army Memory only copies *.doc . Or at least it did. Now it copies *.doc* to get .doc and the miserable .docx formats as well.

So, bottom line. Files fixed. LARA is a happy camper again. AND... OUEST, that's French for WEST, the used Dell laptop that the College is supplying me with FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, arrived in my office yesterday. I'll boot it tomorrow and figure out what I've got. As I finally found the special HP Mini VGA cable, in the next few days both LARA and OUEST will be hooked up to my Black Box Personal ServSwitch 4 and the ViewSonic VG510b LCD monitor and a fullsize Micron keyboard and mouse -- and I'll be back to multi-computer operations. And not brushing my thumbs against the trackpad and sending the cursor off to who knoews where.

Now if only these papers would grade themselves...

Dr. Phil