Today I made a big mistake…

It was understandable really. I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. But after goodness knows how many years in the computer industry I should never have forgotten the cardinal rule for survival: “Don’t ever do what Microsoft suggests unless you absolutely have to!”

It happened like this: My wife Rose uses her elderly PC heavily every day, for word-processing, email, and the web. That’s it. Nothing very fancy, and it’s worked reliably ever since we installed Windows 2000 some time ago. So reliably in fact, that I was starting to think quite highly of the operating system.
I, in the meantime, had switched to a Mac and had installed several different operating system versions without incident.

However, the large number of security holes found in Microsoft’s software recently made me think that I ought to run ‘Windows Update’ to get the latest patches. I’ll just quickly do it over breakfast, I thought. It suggested I install Service Pack 3, and after an hour or two (it’s only a 300MHz Pentium, after all), the installation was finished. I rebooted and everything came up just fine. Except for the network card. The device manager said it couldn’t find enough resources (IRQs, I/O ports etc) to install it. Suddenly, by trying to bring myself right up to date, I had thrown myself back into the bad old days of interrupt clashes.

I will spare you the details of the hours I spent downloading new drivers, trying new CMOS settings, removing other peripherals. Having to use a machine with Internet Explorer on because Microsoft’s support site requires it and doesn’t work with other browsers, when the machine with Internet Explorer on had just been killed by something I downloaded from that site. And so on…

Suffice it to say that in the end I fixed it. I found a page somewhere on the web which told me that some similar cards needed a registry patch to work. In particular, one had to set
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Services\Pcmcia\Parameters\DisableIsaToPciRouting
to zero. This had been fixed in recent service packs. It had certainly been ‘fixed’ in mine, and so I guessed that perhaps all I had to do was to unfix it by setting it to 1. I rebooted and it worked! Obvious really. I then just had to rebuild the machine.

Rose’s next “Service Pack” will have an Apple logo on the box, I think.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser