Monday, January 24, 2005


Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

The phone rang just after getting the driveway cleared from the massive snowstorm (it wasn't the worst I've seen by far, we got about 14"), and my frummie friend was calling to see if I could troubleshoot the recalcitrant PC. I signed up for the freebie of RemotePC, e-mailed the client over to my friend (the weird thing about this is that e-mail seems to work perfectly), and hand-held the installation. No cigar. RemotePC couldn't connect to the Internet. We decided to try GoToMyPC instead, and I gingerly handed them ye olde numero de plastico hoping that I'd finish before the 60 minute trial expired and billing kicked in. Again, e-mail and phone calls, but lo and behold, GoToMyPC connected, and I had control of the laptop.

Checked for the usual suspects, Discussion Toolbar, Working Offline, and ran AdAware again. Clean as a whistle. The laptop had a really weird symptom, being able to resolve some DNS entries, but not others. Obviously connectivity was fine, as GoToMyPC wouldn't have gotten through. Nothing in the Hosts or LMHOSTS files, and going out to a command line and pinging or telnetting would work about 50% of the time. Sites like CNN, IBM and Cisco would resolve, but some of my other preferred haunts wouldn't. This was starting to get seriously weird, and I poked into Control Panel for a minute just to see if anything was seriously farked in the configuration there. Other than both the wireless and the 10BaseT interfaces being live, everything was OK, and I disabled the Ethernet to see if by chance it was a funky Cat 5 cable. No such luck. Nslookup and dig were acting strange, able to find name servers, but not able to give me A records. After patzing through MSFT's Knowledge Base and Googling around, everything was pointing to a farked Winsock implementation. I tried the MSFT integrity checking (oxymoron alert!) tool, and everything came back copacetic, so throwing caution to the wind (and deleting IE's index.dat file to boot; some positive indications that that might've helped, but alas, no cigar) it was regedit time. I put in the entries to turn off negative DNS caching, no luck there. The only thing left to try after putting three hours into this beast was to force recreation of the Winsock registry entries (I found a small tool entitled WinsockXPFix to automate this for me), but time ran short for my friend and we had to call it a day. A reboot ensued, and when I checked back a few minutes later, IE still had the same bloody symptoms.

I should note that Firefox couldn't resolve stuff either, strongly pointing toward Winsock problems, but damn, if Winsock is farked, shouldn't it hose connectivity completely?

If through some improbable coincidence Mr. Gates reads this missive, I hope it proves instructive. I have no problem with MSFT when it works, and if it's the best tool, I recommend it. However, when something goes south and diagnostic tools are saying everything is cool, this isn't a good thing, and when my gut check tells me that the ultimate resolution of this is going to be a full OS reload, that isn't exactly cool. There should be some freaking modularity in the architecture to allow things to be decoupled enough to replace whatever corruption impairs functionality with minimal intrusiveness.

BTW, GoToMyPC functions extremely well. Their pricing model is well, expensive, and of course I was on long enough that billing kicked in, so I'm on the hook for twenty bucks a month until I cancel, but in a situation like this, it's well worth it (I figure it would've cost me a solid $45 in gas and tolls to get down there to fix it, and my friend has volunteered to reimburse me).


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