Delving into the black box yet again - Tactical Ninja
Oct. 24th, 2013
09:22 am - Delving into the black box yet again
I R FRUSTRATED
My general demeanour is usually cheerful (I think, anyway), but there are a couple of things that are guaranteed to get up my nose in a big way. One of them is gear failure. This one annoys me inordinately, because I expect things to just work and when they don't it confuses my lizard brain. This particularly applies to black box type things. I'm told that sometimes you should just trust that the black box works and not worry about how it works, but that means that when it breaks, you don't know how to start fixing it.
Coincidentally, Aristotal (my desktop PC) is a black box. Literally.
I've learned mostly by osmosis and necessity, to the point where last time I did a rebuild I did the whole thing myself, from backup to fresh installation, without a problem. I'm pretty good at troubleshooting and I've lost count of how many times I removed malware from the YoT's machine before he got internet savvy. I have never failed to get things working again.
So you'd think I wouldn't experience the black box confusion any more when computers go bung.
Last night Aristotal went bung. You know sometimes you get that "This page is running a script but it's a bit fucked up, do you want to continue or stop script?" message? And you stop the script and shut down that page and everything goes back to normal? It started like that.
Then it stopped working altogether. Then I got a black screen - it couldn't even manage blue. So I did a force shutdown because at that point nothing was happening.
The first step in troubleshooting is usually to work out what changed between it working and not working. In this case, I'd updated AVG. I'd been a bit pissed off with it because it used to be a pretty good free anti-malware tool, but this installation came complete with auto-checked boxes wanting to install toolbars and extras that I don't want, and I had to go through and uncheck them all before I could proceed.
Incidentally, this is usually the point where Geeks In The Know jump in and tell me I shouldn't be using AVG, I should be using XYZ instead, because lots of highly technical reasons. Fact is, I've been using AVG (free version) pretty much since it first came out, and this is the first time I have had a problem. But yes, it's enough of a problem that if I don't have to uninstall it to get my machine running again, I'll probably do it as soon as we're back in business anyway. Stealth toolbars are one of my pet hates.
Anyway, so I figure it's probably something to do with that. Perhaps I unchecked something I shouldn't have, perhaps the new installation is incompatible with something else, or perhaps a grinch ate one of the files on the way thtrough. It seems the installation didn't go smoothly, and when I restarted my machine it auto-ran a disk error repair, then said it was doing a system restore. Although I'm not convinced it's actually done it. It was doing this when I went to bed last night.
To complicate matters, Wednesday night is the night I have set for Windows auto-updates. I've no idea if these occurred, but this morning I woke up to the login screen. Sweet. Typed in password, waited. Waited some more.
Eventually I got a partial desktop with most of the icons, but it was really struggling to actually do anything - a lot of 'not responding' and just sloooooooooownesss. I couldn't open Firefox and that's when I got the message that a particular .dll was missing and my program couldn't open. No, don't ask me which .dll it was - it started with MSM but googling just that from work has brought me no joy. Luckily I have Socrates (wee netbook) and could google it from home (pretty much always my next step for troubleshooting). I found a bunch of sites, the most useful of which gave me a list of things to try, and a list of possible reasons, which ranged from Oh Fuck Malware!, through to hardware failure. The list of things to try is basically a diagnostic set of troubleshooting steps, and if none of them work then it's hardware.
I really hope it's not hardware.
Sadly, I had to come to work before I could get started and I didn't want to leave it running in that state. I had to force shutdown again because my poor machine couldn't even manage to respond to that in Task Manager. Now I'm sitting here going "But I have a knotty problem at home to fix!" And that's where my frustration is coming from. I like to think it's progress that I'm not actually tearing my hair out over the problem, but instead over being prevented from tackling an interesting puzzle by my need for food and shelter.
Meanwhile, I need to cut some stainless steel dog whistles that are too wide for the job I have for them. I have a hack saw but surely there's an easier way? One that doesn't involve buying a laser, that is. Any ideas?