Sysadmin Day “Best of the Worst” Contest Winner

As you may already know if you have been following this blog, we recently announced a contest for Sysadmin Day which was on July 25th this year. We had a load of entries for the contest which were great fun to read, not to mention educational! However there can be only one winner this time and so after much deliberation we have chosen this epic story of sysadmin woe by “kaltag“…

Sorry for the novel. This tale starts last Tuesday. I got a call to go set up 2 new workstations and migrate their data from the systems to the new. I arrive onsite and discover the systems are bottom of the barrel Acers with 7 Home. They have a 2008 domain so that’s not gonna work. They order 2 copies of 7 Pro and I get called back Thursday when they arrive. I install 7 Pro and join the systems to the domain. At this point I look at the old systems to see what programs will have to be re-installed. Note: This is a printing company and they are cheap as hell with everything they possibly can be and their software reflects that. They have an addressing/routing program that runs in DOS (no go on 7), 2 other programs designed for win 3.1 which I could not get to work under 7, and a mail database app that was designed for NT4 which would also not run in any compatibility mode. At this point I decided they are going to have to use XP mode under 7 and do a physical to virtual migration of their old systems to get this software working. They agree and I start the disk2vhd process. The old systems are going to take several hours to finish so I set to downloading/install Windows XP mode. I discover they have a 256kb DSL service so I left and let everything finish over night.

Friday morning I go back and install XP mode (virtual PC) and get to work setting up the VMs with their VHDs. When I get to actually creating the machine and point it their existing VHDs it fails with an error. After some digging I find out disk2vhd creates a VHD the size of the entire drive which was 150GB instead of just the volume which was 80GB. Virtual PC won’t attach a VHD larger than 127GB. So I downloaded vhdresizer but it won’t let me shrink below the disk size either. So I attach the VHD in disk management and resize it which then allows vhdresizer to do it’s thing. Again, resizing both drives will take 4-6 hours so I get some information I will need and leave it to run. I have remote access so I can finish it from home over the weekend.

Friday night I login and the resizes have finished. I created the virtual machines and boot ’em up. Both hang at hte XP boot menu. WTF?! I ran chkdsk and fixboot/fixmbr with no success. I eventually gave in and decided to run an XP repair install. I created an ISO of my XP Pro CD and started copying over their 256kb DSL line. I left it to copy over night ;).

Saturday morning the copy is complete. I ran the XP repair which got them booting and after logging in I get the activation error that it won’t login until it’s activated. I tell it to activate but the activation window never comes up. Some more digging and I find that internet explorer needs to be re-installed after a repair install sometimes. So I shutdown the VM, mounted the VHD, copied over the IE7 installer, detached the VHD and booted the VM back up with safemode with command prompt. I installed IE7, rebooted, and the activation window works now. Yay! Now I’m logged in and start checking that their applications still work. They all work with the exception of one program that uses the Access 2003 runtime. The office 2003 installer keeps trying repair itself and bombs out. Installing just the 2003 runtime fails so I make another image of my office 2003 CD and start copying it to their systems. This takes most of the day.

Sunday morning. The copy has finished. I repair the office installs and verify things are working, printers etc. Yay!

Monday morning (today) I go back on site to swap out the old and new machines. At this point I discover they have a time clock that uses a serial port connection and 3 HP laserjet parallel printers with only parallel connections. These new systems only have USB ports…perfect. So I run down to the local PC shop and pick up some USB to parallel/serial adapters. Installing the printers works fine. I check the timeclock program and verify it is talking to the time clock. They run a test download of the punches and halfway through the network link drops for an unknown reason. The timeclock program crashes magnificently. Restart the program and it now says there are no punches for the last week. FML. With everything else working they decide to call the timeclock people and let me move on.

I finish up and as I’m about to walk out the door they ask if I can do “one last thing.” They want one of the old systems moved to another employees office to replace an even older system. Cool, no big deal. I set up the old machine in it’s new location and plug it in. POOF and a big puff of magic smoke comes out the back…great. I tell the owner and he is understandably upset. He eventually calms down and asks that I just swap the keyboard on the old one as the even older one is nasty. I swap the keyboard and fire it up. Nothing. No power! How can I get 2 bad Power supplies!? I figure out the power cord has been bent at a right angle so long there is a short in it. Fiddling with it you can here it spark and the system gets power. So I grab a spare power cord from the car and go back in. I unplug the old cord from the wall and when I go to plug the new one in the socket broke THROUGH the drywall and fell into the wall cavity. Turns out someone had just cut a hole in the drywall and screwed the socket directly to the drywall with no box. It took barely any pressure to break through the 1/8″ drywall. Cue upset owner again. I ran an extension cord to another cubicle and get it up and running again but now there’s no network link?! At this point I’m about to kick a puppy. More troubleshooting and find out the network cable suffered the same fate as the power cord. A new cable fixed it right up. I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible after that.

TL;DR: Someone’s got a case of the Mondays….

The winner receives the Professional Services Automation software, as described on the contest page here, which we hope will be put to good use. Congratulations!

Until next time,
Success Team


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