If you’re been following my travails with my primary production system lately, you already know that I’ve been struggling to fix mysterious hangs and occasional bluescreens since the third week of July. On Wednesday, one of the two drives in my system drive mirror crashed. I not only replaced both of those drives, I also went ahead, bit the bullet, and did a clean reinstall of Vista Ultimate on that machine. The PC kept running properly through the night for the first time since my troubles began, so I got up the next morning to find a system that still responded to my attempts to log in (previously, leaving the machine alone for more than 2-3 hours would cause the GUI to freeze, and the Explorer interface to become inaccessible).
The second Tuesday of every month is also known as “Patch Tuesday,” because that’s the day when Microsoft normally releases its security updates, along with other patches and fixes for its various Windows operating systems, applications, and so forth. Yesterday was the second Tuesday in September, and Windows Update proffered 10 items, most of which are described in the Security Bulletin for that month.Here, I’m going to focus in on one non-security update entitled “Update for Windows Vista (KB955302)“.
This morning, I posted the news that circumstances beyond my control–a crashed member of the mirrored disk pair that makes up the system drive on my production PC–forced me to reinstall Vista on that machine. I’m now more or less finished with that chore, though I still have many more applications to dig up and reinstall to completely rebuild the desktop environment present before the crash. That said, I probably won’t reinstall everything anyway: I’ve become a believer in keeping my production machine simpler and less cluttered up than it had been in the months leading up to the crash. That’s what test machines are for!
If you’ve ever looked over the regular updates that get delivered the second Tuesday of every month (so-called “Patch Tuesday”) to your Vista machine, you can’t help but have noticed the regular appearance of something called the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool. As I write this blog on 8/05/2008, it’s only the first Tuesday of the month, so the latest version is dated 7/8/2008, as documented in KB article 890830 (there’s also a download).
OK, I have to start this blog with a confession: I’m an inveterate system tinkerer, and am always looking for something better for my system (if not for something rated as the best of its kind). For example, this approach has led me to skip using a good all-around security suite in favor of picking the best elements of each kind by itself (anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, anti-spam, rootkit detector, intrusion detection/prevention, system file and state monitoring, and so forth).
If you’ve been reading my blogs lately, you’ll know I’ve been battling mightily with some vexing and puzzling stability problems on my primary production PC. In the past two weeks, I’ve tried nearly everything I can think of to bring this problem under control. My failure to find a convincing resolution is forcing me to plan for the unthinkable last ditch for Vista system repair: back everything up, blow away the system drive, then reinstall Vista and all my applications. Ouch!
My production Vista machine is still acting screwy. When I leave it running all night, as I usually do, to let it run automatic updates for Windows itself, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and to conduct all kinds of automated housekeeping tasks (disk defrag, file system cleanup, and so forth), this PC hangs every night. Alas, I get no entries in the Windows event logs to tell me what’s causing the problem and I still haven’t been able to pinpoint a definite cause. But when I leave the machine alone for two hours or more, then sit back down to get back to work, the GUI essentially quits responding to user input, and I have to resort to extreme measures to get things working properly again.
In a recent blog of mine “Hot outside, hot inside too”, I reported on the effects of a failed air conditioner on the temperatures inside my PC. Now that repairs on complete and things are back to what passes for normal around here, I thought it might be interesting to see how current temperatures compare. Incidentally and interestingly, it seems my memory of how my PC works and how it actually works are reasonably close, if not completely in agreement.
Part of my daily routine consists of visiting online message boards for IT and technical classes for instructing online courses for companies that currently include HP, Sony, Radio Shack, and Motorola (I’ve also taught online courses for Symantec, IBM, Forbes and Business Week, and others). One topic that I’ve built courses for and teach regularly has to do with Windows Firewalls, not to be confused or conflated with the Windows Firewall Program introduced with SP1 on Windows XP, and now included with both Windows XP and Windows Vista.
In putting my production machine back together, I noticed that my disk drives and my passively cooled graphics card were running a bit warmer than I might like. So as I took the machine apart to replace the drives I also popped the front cover off and installed a ThermalTake 120mm TurboFan in front of the drive cage at the bottom of the case.