On Friday, rather than the dull conventional: Go to office / work / eat lunch / work / go home drudgery, I had a little excursion to the warehouse in Dandenong. I was to meet some colleagues there at 10:30, and since my home is not too far (in the grand scheme of things), I decided to go straight from home. In other words… a late sleep-in!
So, I dawdled to bed on Thursday night, finally hitting the pillow at about 12:30 (don’t ask me what I was doing; I have a knack for filling time with useless activities), with my mobile phone turned off, but set to wake me at 8:30. (No, the new alarm clock hasn’t shown up yet).
The whole plan was foiled when the home phone rang at 7:10. 7:10! Bloody, bloody. No sleep-in for me. Was it important? Hmm, moderately I suppose.
Anyway, my task at the warehouse was to fix up a computer that wouldn’t boot. Why wouldn’t it boot? Long geeky explanation follows.
It’s a Windows NT 4 machine. A brand new one. Yes, NT4 is ancient (8 years ancient) and should be extinct by now, but it’s still the corporate standard. Well, for the next few months anyway. They’ve just announced they’re finally going to catch up and start using Windows XP.
NT4 has a limitation whereby it can’t handle hard disks of 7.8 gig very well. If certain system files go beyond the 7.8 gig mark, the machine won’t boot. In fiddling with it, a colleague (well kind of — he works for a different company, but that’s irrelevant detail you don’t need to know) had installed a printer driver, then run a Service Pack, and that had moved a vital file (HAL.DLL, if you care. I’m sorry HAL, I can’t do that) into No Mans Land.
Fortunately there is a fix for this. Boot on a special floppy disk (remember them?) and then run a Defrag. Nothing easier, right?
So I roll up to the warehouse with my special floppy disk, and boot up. For some reason there is no mouse plugged-in. I find a spare mouse but too late for it to be recognised. Okay, I can survive on just the keyboard for now.
Then I login, which takes an inordinately long amount of time, as it pointlessly grabs my special roaming profile thing from a server some 30km away. Finally the icons come up, along with an old desktop wallpaper I stopped using months ago.
No problem to Defrag, right? Windows Explorer, right-click on the C: drive, Tools, Defrag. Nup. No Defrag. Not installed on this shiny new computer. Presumably the warehouse people would never need to do that. Grrrr. Go to Add/Remove programs. Windows components. Looking pretty bare there. No defrag. Almost nothing, in fact. Just useless crap like Accessories. Great. (Did NT4 even include a Defrag tool? My memory is hazy.)
Okay. Could call support. Would take ages to get an answer/result. What else can I do? Ahh… hit download.com and see if I can find a simple defrag package to try. If it’s Trialware, I can legitimately use it once then forget about it. Clickety-click. Here we go… what’s on the list? Diskeeper. Click through… oh, it wants registration info. Name, address, all that guff. Try something else. Power Defrag. Nope, doesn’t support NT. O&O Defrag. Okay. Download, check licence very carefully for any mention of spyware (let’s hope they’re honest), install, run.
It doesn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? Try as I might, I can’t tell it to Analyse/Defrag. It won’t do it. Oh, I can’t click on the button. It can’t handle not having a mouse. Okay. Reboot (with that special boot disk). Recognises mouse. Run it again, go to click to Defrag. No, the button’s disabled. The button to make it Defrag. What kind of crappy Defrag software is this, that won’t let you Defrag? Okay, remove that, start again. Oh, it won’t remove. Well that’s just perfect. Bloody hell.
Manually kill it, go back to download.com. All right, Diskeeper. I tell a white lie, say I’m a home user (I don’t feel so guilty once I remember the company has a corporate licence for Diskeeper Lite anyway), and it lets me download without grilling me for my job title. Miraculously it asks for an e-mail address to send a download link to, and the e-mail comes through straight away. Download, check licence, install. Run. Defrag. Hooray! It works! Well, not straight away of course; it takes half an hour or so, and I find the cutesy colour map of the disk so I can see what it’s up to.
Finally it finishes. I reboot the machine without the disk and… it works.