When I originally titled this article, I had no idea just how appropriate it would turn out to be.  Thanks to a series of events that has occurred over the past few weeks, this article has become a 3-time, self-referential do-over.  Self-fulfilling prophecy, or simply an application of Murphy’s law?

On September 28, I was confronted with the dreaded Blue-Screen of Death. Upon reboot I discovered that my P.C. wouldn’t boot. As I lacked the gear to dig into the issue myself; I took my box over to the local MicroCenter. While they didn’t have the facilities for a full scale data-recovery, after some playing around we managed to pull the data off of the drive using a Mac, which seemed blissfully ignorant of the partition table corruption. So, with that I had backup; but my primary machine was still unbootable; and my secondary had no DVD reader.

Considering just how often I find myself facing the B.S.O.D. on other machines, it is somewhat amazing to me that this machine hasn’t issued it in three years of service. It could be coincidence that it occurred just days after my sarcastic B.S.O.D. mention; but isn’t more likely that Bill’s minions have been tracking my keystrokes? Or perhaps his recent charitable giving has someone a bit higher up looking out for him. Either way, I was taken down.

Now, you folks from the *IX world will think I’ve been served justly for having succumbed to the beast of Redmond and allowing Windows XP into my home. There are times I would be inclined to agree. Just this once, I have to give Microsoft credit for something done right. As it turns out, the problem was actually in hardware; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I haven’t done much support-type work for the latest incarnations of MS-Windows; but I’m not exactly a neophyte, either. With backups in hand, and still unsure of the origin of the issue; I felt more confident to play around. The guys at MicroCenter had no good suggestions for disk repair tools; but there on their shelves I found a product called System Commander.V-com System Commander 8.0 [Multiple OS Management and Partitioning]

This little gem claimed to be compatible with all PC operating systems, and installable under Linux, and most varieties of Windows, among others.  It handles multi-boot setups and includes another product called Partition Commander, (also available separately)V COMMUNICATION Partition Commander 10, which does partition repair and dynamic partition resizing. Sounded like the perfect solution to my dreary little problem.

First thing to try was to see if my XP Installation DVDs would recognize the dead partition. I booted the DVD, and to my surprise was offered the “Recovery Console”. This sounded like a reasonable choice, so I bit. What I found was a limited DOS-like commpand prompt with some very interesting command choices. After a quick consultation to a couple of excellent power-user booksWindows XP Hacks, Second EditionWindows XP Professional: The Ultimate User\'s Guide, I tried the fixboot command and found myself with a completely restored computer. Life was happy! Hat’s off to Microsoft for that little-known utility.

Happiness ended about six-hours later, while I was entering this post for the first time. B.S.O.D. showed its ugly face again, and this time I heard a clear “click” that coincided with its appearance that told me this was a hardware issue. I was out-of-commission again.

As the machine is still under warranty, I took it back to MicroCenter for diagnosis and repair. Because of some special instructions I had given in a valiant attempt to preserve my harddrive, it took them a couple of days to arrive at the conclusion that it was in fact a hard drive problem. Meanwhile, I decided to pull an old Win98 Box out of mothballs. It’s my kids’ system, and I had left it for dead after a game install went bad leaving it unbootable. Because the old backup CD-R’s were beginning to go bad, it was a couple of days before I got up and running. Once I did, I began the second edition of this post, but it was late, I decided to finish it the following day.

The final chapter of the story begins when tried to enter my site on October 5th. I found that the site had been defaced by a bunch of worthless script kiddies, who don’t deserve to have their names mentioned publicly here. The next few hours were spent trying to convince my hosting service that it was there problem also; not just mine. They were quite condescending, suggesting that any site can be hacked, and that I might consider hiring an expensive security consultant. I finally had enough and, using very small words, pointed out again that the hackers scripts had overwritten areas to which I had no access; and that I suspect that every site on the server had been hit. They never acknowledged my assertion; but soon after I was notified that my site was being moved off the server. I quickly grabbed my latest backups, waited. By late that evening, I had my new server address and had updated my registrar record. I proceeded to start the process of rebuilding the site; but the latest undamaged backups were on my broken system, so rebuilding was quite an ordeal and took a couple of days.

Well, I’ve spent a while playing with security settings.  I’m satisfied that I’ve done about as much as I care to while operating foreign software on a foreign host. The site seems to be back in full operation, with a few minor additions.

My PC is back at home with a new and bigger hard drive. The guys at MicroCenter imaged the old disk to save me weeks of configuration and software installation. I never did get to try out that new software.

I’d like to say a few more things about the folks down at MicroCenter. During my dealings with them over this issue, there was some confusion and miscommunication about what I wanted done .vs. what they could do. I can be a tough customer, but they never lost patience with me. During that first data backup, three guys actually hung around for nearly four hours after store closing to finish it up that night so I wouldn’t need to drive all the way over there again. They did this cheerfully, despite missing a farewell party for a co-worker who was leaving. These guys were great. That’s a level of professionalism that I won’t soon forget. Speaking as a former technician, I think they need to have better equipment, software, and processes in place; but their commitment makes up for quite a bit. I’ve also owned a couple of their WinBook branded computers, including the one that was just repaired, and so far I’ve found them to be excellent machines; phenomenal for the price.

Now let’s see if I can get this posted before anything else goes wrD$G^BQWG%^$%S%^

About Max H:
Max is a father, a husband, and a man of many interests. He is also a consulting software architect with over 3 decades experience in the design and implementation of complex software. View his Linked-In profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pro/swarchitect