Blank Screen, Ultimate Boot

The three-year old HP Slimline started acting up on Monday evening. Eventually the whole works seized, locking up stiffer than an ice fishing zombie dangling a line in Coldwater Lake in late January. I mean, frozen st-st-stiff.

Now this is the machine D. uses for everyday stuff: work documents, email, trafficking photos of Is. The last piece–baby photos–explains why this freeze-up was an Instant Crisis: three years’ worth of digital images aren’t backed up anywhere.

Because the usual solutions (Ctrl-Alt-Del) weren’t working, I had no choice but to unplug the frozen PC. When I rebooted, it cycled through the HP welcome screen (with the full spread of startup function-key interruptions available) and the Windows XP startup screen before landing on a blank screen. The blank screen included the mouse cursor, but nothing else, none of the desktop icons or navigation options.

Various troubleshooting forums reported this problem is fairly widespread. Lots of people have suffered through Windows XP booting to a blank screen with a mouse cursor. And yet, the supposed causes were numerous: viruses, flawed hardware, glitchy service pack stuff, and so on. I had a PC Doctor CD burned, and I ran it through its cycle to at least confirm that all of the hardware checked out.

More than anything else, I needed to gain access to the baby photos, access that would permit me to back them up before I attempted to run Windows through a repair process. After talking through options with my brother, I used my VAIO laptop (along with µTorrent and InfraRecorder) to download Xubuntu and burn its .iso image to a CD. Xubuntu worked fine, but it wouldn’t give me access to the Windows files.

I rooted around in more forums, and I found that, unlike the lighter Linux OS, Ubuntu running from a CD would allow me to access all of the computer’s files. I downloaded it, burned the .iso to another CD, booted the troubled computer from the disk, and easily navigated to find the precious files. Next, I simply connected the Maxtor external hard drive I typically use to backup the aging VAIO, created another folder, and dropped 23GB of stuff from D.’s HP onto the drive.

With the data rescued, I only needed to restore the operating system. I could manage this either by A) reinstalling Windows XP or B) (a long shot) following instructions for a Registry Restore Wizard available as part of Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, which I read about in a forum as a solution to the blank-screen startup in XP Home. Figured it was worth a try.

Seems miraculous in retrospect, but option B went smoothly. I downloaded the UBCD4Win .exe, also copied the contents of the XP installation CD into a folder, then ran the UBCD4Win executable, built the .iso, and burned the Ultimate Boot CD. Within a few minutes, I was able to run the Registry Restore Wizard, pick a restore date from two weeks ago, and reboot the HP Slimline as if today was October 15 and nothing ever happened.

Of course, I went ahead and cycled through a few more steps, running cleanups and virus/ad-aware scans. AVG found a virus called “Defiler,” which may or may not have been the culprit. I didn’t bother to search beyond the “lazy 1-10” Google results for a backstory on the Defiler virus. Had no trouble assigning it to quarantine and, thus, putting an end to Windows XP “defilings” for the near future.

Harbinger: The Imminence of Failsafe Memory

A failure to retain email records is the basis of
Wednesday’s $1.45 billion
ruling
against investing giant Morgan Stanley (via).   Apparently, the judge
in the case regarded Morgan Stanley’s failure to produce records of email
correspondence to be conspiratorial. 

Banks and broker-dealers are obliged to retain e-mail and instant messaging
documents for three years under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules.
But similar requirements will apply to all public companies from July 2006
under the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform measures.

At the same time, U.S. courts are imposing increasingly harsh punishments on
corporations that fail to comply with orders to produce e-mail documents, the
experts said.

Where judges once were more likely to accept that incompetence or computer
problems might be to blame, they are now apt to rule that noncompliance is an
indication a company has something to hide.

I don’t know how these policies generalize to academic institutions–public
or private.  In various work situations (no need to name institutions), I
was within earshot of a few cases of email mishandling–events where this or
that person deleted email messages with certain implications, instances where
people claimed never to have received a message (even when the sender had
receipt confirming delivery), and problems with systems deletions that kick out
old messages because of limited capacities on local servers.  I suppose
we’re all familiar with cases like these, situations where the mysterious email
gnomes trick on our records systems.  If nothing else, it does call to mind
the efforts I’ve seen recently–especially in my teaching–to hear "I never
received it" or "I have no record of it," as a justification for being
uninformed.  So it’s interesting to me that in a broader, systemic way,
"incompetence or computer problems" are waning as viable excuses.  Lest I
be made accountable for reading too much into this, I’ll just say I find it
interesting because–in one example–it suggests still-shifting sensibilities
about the reliability of email.  $1.45 billion: quite a pile of chips.

Notably,
the Reuters story quotes the executive officer of a "provider of records
retention software systems" who said he anticipates this case will be viewed by
others as–in the hyperbolic blend of the week–"legal Chernobyl."  What the
heck does that mean?  Forced abandonment of email systems because of their
disastrous high-level toxicity to corporations that can’t manage fluid texts? Seems like
just the thing a provider of records retention software systems would want people
to believe.  Anything to avoid another Chernobyl.  And, sure, coupled
with the $1.45 billion ruling, a ruling that will certainly come under appeal,
many companies will be forced to rethink their records-retention processes.

Flummoxed

I’ve racked my brain for two hours now on the finer points of creating a second blog. This whole mess all started with an impulse to supplement the comp course I’m teaching this spring with a blog. Not this blog, but the other one I can’t seem to create. This whole project wasn’t die cast to be a simple, hosted-with-ease blog, but rather a full-fashioned blog of the earth, the sort that is the richest embodiment of the media.

Still, no second blog. Permissions error.

So maybe I need to get up to speed first. Blog for a while. Drive it around the block before tying on the speedometer, kickstand, extra soft banana seat…what’s that? Air in the tires? Oh, yes, I’ll need air on this tour.

I know blogging habits can survive in unimaginatively named spaces. I’ve been scratching, sifting, chewing around the Internet for a few months, perusing blogs, wondering what they’re all about, what compels people to attempt them, abandon them and so on.

Earth wide moth. -GS

So I’m puzzling over challenges of building a second MT-powered blog for a class I start teaching next Tuesday: EN106HOC Writing Purposes and Research. I’m puzzling over the aims and ambitions of this non-teaching blog (autodidactic experiment?). Puzzling over a new web host with funky permissions. Over my son who is puzzling over adding fractions and not asking for help. Challenges.

The dinner bell on the oven says the scalloped potatoes are done.