The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

All because I unplugged a network cable from a running Windows box.

I had a few entries on the laptop computer that I wanted to transfer. Not having an extra network cable I decided to use the one in my Windows box.

That was my mistake!

I unplugged the network cable while the machine was still running. Now, I've done this before and never had a problem. But the major difference between here and now over there and before is that I was unplugging Unix workstations and not a Windows workstation.

I didn't realize I had a big problem until after I plugged the network cable back into the Windows box. I had a small problem in that I couldn't get the laptop onto the network, but that I attributed to a bad PCMCIA adaptor cable. That was bad enough.

The five hours of getting the Windows box working was horrible.

At first, the Windows box (named KILLJOY) wasn't responding to the network. Okay, I thought, Windows can't deal with the network suddenly disappearing on it. Reboot time. Only it wouldn't shut down. It wouldn't even respond to the Vulcan nerve pinch. Sigh. Power off. Reboot.

RAM Error! NMI happened on block F000. Press F1 to ignore NMI F2 to reboot,” said the computer. Well, as much as a computer can say by printing stuff to the screen.

I said some pretty nasty things towards the computer and Bill Gates' lineage. Power down and reboot. Same error. Power down, open case, reseat everything, swap the two memory sims. Close case. Power up. Same error. More swearing at Bill Gates. Talk things over with Rob. Take out network card. No error. Still more swearing. I had fried the network card.

In my sixteens years of poking about computers I've never once fried anything. I've plugged in serial cables, monitor cables, keyboard cables, printer cables, what have you, into live systems and never had a problem even though you are told, “Never plug a cable into a live system!” I've never had a modem fried and I live in a state that is the number one state for deaths by lightening strikes.

I go to pick up Spring from work and in talking with one of the NT admins over there, learned that when something like that happens, just reboot Windows a bunch of times and the problem will be fixed.

We get home and I get back to work on the Windows box. Put the network card back in, power up. No error. This is good. Only it doesn't see the network. This is bad. I check the settings. Okay, I see the network driver and the IP stack listed twice. I delete the spurious entries and of course Windows has to reboot.

Upon rebooting, it finds the network card and wants to install it. Only I can't find the drivers for it, nor can I find the Windows 98 CD-ROM. At this point, I'm thinking to myself, People actually want Windows XP where they don't get a CD-ROM in case something happens? I tell Windows to skip files it most likely already has installed. And again I find the double interfaces and IP stacks.

I think I went through the same thing twice more (and believe me, it gets worse) before clueing in. I delete all things network related and reboot. Scramble through an attempted install of the drivers (okay, this file is here … this file is here … this file … I don't know where that file is so we'll skip it … this file is here … ) and finally I have one network interface and one IP stack. Configure those, and reboot and finally I'm back on the air.

Only with no sound.

By this time Spring is slowing inching away from me, with a look of concern on her face as I'm swearing up and down, wishing vile and evil things to happen to William Henry Gates, III. I never swear unless I'm really upset at something.

Windows doesn't see the sound card. It doesn't show up on the system devices list. I then try to add hardware. Windows still doesn't see it. I tell it “You have a sound card! It's a such-n-such.” It dutifully tells me it wants the drivers disk.

Of course I can't find that either. Remember, we just moved so things are still a bit crazy around here. I do the same trick I did with the network card, point Windows to where the drivers have already been installed so it can copy over the files in place.

And of course I reboot.

And of course it still doesn't work.

But I have net access! I find current drivers for my sound card, and install those. And reboot. And it still doesn't work because Windows just can't seem to find the sound card.

Power down unplug all cables open case remove sound card plug in cables power up shut down unplug all cables insert sound card plug in cables power up Windows finally sees new hardware install drivers reboot and …

It works.

All because I unplugged a network cable from a running Windows box.

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