The Hours of Service Pack 2


Remember the laptop that got its Windows partition hosed by Windows Update and that I tweaked to run Fedora Core 4 properly?

Well, it's back to running Windows XP. Fedora was working great, but I needed to test stuff that only runs on Windows and requires direct hardware access, so VMware was not an option. I also needed to back it up properly, so I decided to do all of it in one go today while going through my e-mail backlog.

It took un ungodly amount of time, and I'm beginning to regret it.

Here's how it went:

  • 20 minutes to copy my Windows VMware image (where I run Office and do most of my work) to my Mac (roughly 4GB over a 100Mbps link using rsync).
  • An hour or so to hunt down and sort through files from my NTFS partition, rsyncing them over to the Mac as well.
  • 30 minutes to restore the factory install of XP from the Toshiba recovery CDs (which use Ghost to restore the system in one fell swoop).
  • 5 minutes to install VMware Player.
  • 2 minutes to grab the new RealVNC client, which supports smooth scaling (oooh, neat).
  • 15 minutes to install Google/Pack (I figured that since I wanted to run Firefox and Earth, I might as well get Acrobat and anti-virus as well in one go). It was painless and worked first time.
  • In the meantime, I had the Cygwin installer and Windows Update going. Cygwin took another 30 minutes or so, since I wanted to pick specific packages (I'll have to build some, but those are in the backups).
  • Service Pack 2 and the remaining updates (up to and including the WMF patch) took six damn hours.

I've now finished copying back my Office image (which runs fine, obviously), and am locking down the machine:

  • Killing extraneous services (such as file sharing, which I don't need)
  • Killing Google/Desktop - which I don't fancy at all
  • Creating a separate unprivileged account for myself
  • Making sure that that account can run VMware Player, use Cygwin, etc.

Those are quick (should be done in half an hour, including tweaking desktop colors), but I'm utterly amazed at the waste of time involved in updating an XP system.

If it weren't for the fact that I have to run it, I certaintly wouldn't do this of my own volition. And I'm glad I set up that VMware image - I'd hate to spend another six hours installing applications and the like...

As it is, I now have two completely separate environments on my laptop: a hardware-bound environment for testing, with full hardware access but practically zero applications (if you discount the Google/Pack), and a work environment with all my stable, locked down Office goodies inside VMware (that doesn't need the hardware access anyway).

Ideally it should probably be the other way around, but there's no getting around hardware access. And it's nice to know that I can restore (or move) my work VM without much fuss.

Still, you have to wonder. Six hours? No wonder most people don't bother, even with broadband.