Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rage Against The Machine (or Laptop)

So besides MET taking up most of my day, I've also sort of been goaded into coxing again by the possibility of coxing Fairbairns M1 and the fact that I actually can for most likely the last time ever. It also allows me to feebly attempt to justify a place on the training camp to Banyoles, but that's a different issue.

The off-set of this is that I basically have no time for anything properly any more. I wake up at 6am, go rowing, go to lectures until 5pm, and then I get back absolutely knackered and have a few hours to eat, shower and unwind and then I sort of need to be going to bed because I have to be up at 6am the next morning.

I'm totally cool with this existence. It's pretty good fun to be back within the rowing squad, the morning outings are generally OK, MET typically doesn't give any work outside of lecture hours, and I just spend my evenings mindlessly shooting the crap out of people on Call of Duty instead of playing SC2. Or I was cool with it, until my laptop got virused to shit.

I have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with my laptop. I provide it with a loving, caring home and electricity, and it provides me with internet, television and gaming. If my laptop feels bad, I feel bad. And holy shit was my laptop feeling awful.

I seemingly picked up some badass trojan from an image hosting site. And I'm not using "image hosting site" as some sort of euphemism for a porn site, I literally mean a site like photobucket or imgur except apparently far more dodgy and virus-riddled. I had one of the typical adware "your Computer is volnurable to Viruses!![sic]" messages in the bottom right and a fake scan ran, and I instantly closed Firefox and disabled the wifi. Then I got rid of it. Or so I thought.

As it turned out, this wasn't just the standard sort of adware crap that typically only takes me about 10 minutes to manually remove. This was a proper trojan, and the moment I reconnected to the internet it did a whole fuckload more than the adware program. Something was constantly trying to write stuff into the registry, ping.exe would constantly run in the background, taking up a shitload of CPU and memory, and would restart whenever I killed it. Firefox was behaving weirdly. Things were not cool.

So I defaulted to my plan B. Start in safe mode, keep the wireless permanently off, and kill this shit with fire.

Many aggressive virus scans and combing through startup lists later, I was finally in a position where I was fairly confident the virus crap was gone. I'd had networking disabled the whole time, so I rebooted and restarted it. Except it didn't restart. Apparently the no-nonsense kill it with fire policy had caused pretty serious damage to the Windows services that my computer actually needs to connect to the internet (Winsock, TCP/IP etc for people who actually know this shit) and absolutely no amount of effort on the command line or reinstalling of stuff seemed to fix it. Bollocks.

At this point I managed to have what was probably the shittest day I've had in a long time, which included a 6am start, an outing, lectures from 9am-5pm, some bullshit Analysys Mason competition that was opt-out and I'd not read the email properly and therefore hadn't opted out from and which went on until 9pm, giving me about an hour to get home, cook and eat dinner, shower and then get 8 hours of sleep. Except the veg in the dinner I cooked was off and vinegary, and I managed to knock half of it off my desk and onto my floor/keyboard anyway.

By now I was in a mood probably most accurately described as "completely fucking fed up with this bullshit" and had two options that seemed viable. The first was a repair install of XP, the second was that I just cut my losses, format the drive and then reinstall all my shit functional and virus-free. The preference was obviously for the former because I couldn't be bothered installing everything, so it's what I tried first.

First problem I encountered is that my Windows CD is XP SP2, and my laptop now runs XP SP3, meaning the disc doesn't do shit because I apparently now have a newer version of Windows. So first task was to slipstream an SP3 disk from my SP2 disk (props to this guide which worked fantastically). Done.

Second problem is that when booting from the CD it wouldn't find my hard drive. At all. Some faffing in the BIOS led me to discover that I apparently had my drive set to a SATA type that XP doesn't natively support. After changing that, it found my hard drive and started the repair install. Awesome.

So the repair install ran some stuff for a bit and then said it needed to reboot before resuming the install. It did, apparently working fine and booting like my computer usually does, until it got to the point at which XP should start and instead it gave me a BSOD about my graphics driver. I tried booting into safe mode, and apparently I couldn't because XP was still being installed.

Some Google-fu led me to a solution involving deleting files from the recovery console, which worked, and it successfully started the second half of the install. A this point it was fairly late at night and I had an outing the next morning, so I figured I'd just go to bed and let it run overnight. Sure, it said it only had 39 minutes remaining, but whatever.

I woke up the next morning with it on 37 minutes remaining and seemingly crashed at some point through the install. FFFUUUUUUU. Would it be OK if I just turned it off? Did I actually have a choice? The answer to the latter question was no, but the answer to the former question was apparently yes, and it ran the install fine a second time with no issues. And after having to reinstall a ton of windows updates and many nights of screwing around and making very little progress I finally had a working computer again, and one which was seemingly free of viruses too.

The real stupid irony of all this shit is that only a week earlier I'd made the claim that I thought NoScript was a waste of time, because constantly having to allow stuff and faff with settings was way more trouble than the hour I'd maybe have to spend removing the virus I'd get every one or two years from not using it. TEMPTING FATE, MUCH?
Though I still don't really want NoScript, so I guess the real lesson from this whole escapade is that I'm a fucking idiot who won't learn his lesson.

On the bright side, last week was made somewhat tolerable by the fact that my course was awesome. We were doing an assembly robot lab that was good fun, and was something I was actually pretty awesome at. The entire day spent tinkering around successfully in the lab was certainly a shitload more enjoyable than the entire evenings spent tinkering around unsuccessfully with my laptop at least.

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