So I got a new job doing embedded systems forensics - debugging medical devices that have possibly Gone Wrong.  Turns out my Phone on Fire book was an excellent calling card, as the position requires the same problem-solving brain twists as my own technical mysteries!

Pretty cool when your potential boss has read part of your book.

Anyway, we’d been working towards a Final Written Offer Letter for a little while.  I got a Verbal shortly after the interview, a Tentative Written Offer Letter a while later, and over the next couple months I completed two pretty comprehensive application packages about 1/2 a ream thick.  It would have been less stressful if Microsoft would have let me open my own thesis, but it got all registry passive-aggressive on me.

The final weeks we ramped asymptotically to 99.999% Goodness with the Tentative Official Offer Letter.  (My language, not theirs.)

So, happily, I get The Official Call from HR and I’ve passed all security clearances, have garnered the last 0.001% and am now officially 100% approved as a new hire!

… and (baited breath) shortly there after the long awaited Official Official Offer Letter arrives via email!  I double click, excited the day has finally arrived …

… and I can’t open the document.


Click to view







So, like a black fly in your chardonnay, I can’t open the Official Official Offer Letter.   It’s in Word 2048 or something, and my poor old Word 2003 can’t read it.

You know, my faithful little Dell Inspiron, providing thermal goodness to cats, implicated in emails from the cat to the FDA (oh, so THAT’s how they found out about me!!!), forced to glacial performance pleading with Microsoft for Help, warmly wafting Columbian Fair Trade Select coffee since my little spillage accident last month.

But my little trooper couldn’t open my offer letter.  Depriving me, unintentionally, of basking in the final 0.001%.

Following directions - always a good idea?

The error message suggests a “compatibility pack.”  So I downloaded it, noting its emphatic admonishment:

Users of the Microsoft Office XP and 2003 programs Word, Excel, or PowerPoint—please install all High-Priority updates from Microsoft Update before downloading the Compatibility Pack.

Okay, grumble, grumble, time to let the annoying New Updates Are Available suck all the life blood out of my productivity for a while.

Turns out it waded right in and FINALLY got to install Service Pack 3 behind my back.  I *didn’t* want this loaded on my machine, for reasons I can’t quite remember.  All I recall is SP3 was on my VERBOTEN list.

So, it’s already started so I let it go, fearing a user abort would leave my system (and me) in an Unhappy State.

After nearly 15 minutes of installation, it did it to me anyway:

I just love dialog boxes that are actually monologues.  Or rather, smack downs.

So after accepting the inevitable, the system churns for about 20 minutes, uninstalling everything it just installed.  It seems every DLL in the system was changed, along with a lot of other stuff I see scrolling by too quickly to read.

Then, too long a time later, I’m informed that the installation (and subsequent deinstallation) failed.  In a most Unhappy Way.

Windows XP … may not work properly.

… and what other choice do I have than to click OK, like this is some casual little oh by the way?

Quadruple Gaaaaaaa.  My To Do list is a 1000 items long - I do not NEED this right now!!!

Lessee … Windows forced an install, installed and halted, attempted to uninstall, failed, shrugs its shoulders at possible irreparably damage (self-inflicted), and wants me to reboot.

Reboot into what unhappy space, I wonder?

** you hear maniacal laughter in the distance **

Damage Control

At this point, good debugging is damage control.  I could have a virus or I could have a Windows Special Feature.  Since I’ve been slapped with the “Access Denied” before and found permissions issues, I decided to nix the virus possibility.

And as I pondered, I started to get those annoying popups every 30 seconds.

“Updating … is almost complete?!?“  Are you kidding me?

So in a concerned, yet somewhat controlled freak out mode, I grabbed my backup hard drive and launched Beyond Compare, which I love.  I have a script as a scheduled task that runs at 5 am every morning.  When the external drive is connected … which it hadn’t been for over a week.

“Unable to start task”

** bangs head on desk **

So I manually back up the drive, referencing my script to make sure (”Do you want to restart your computer now?“) I get all the good stuff stored offline.  (With fingers crossed.)

Planning for Additional Pending Disaster

Another aspect of Damage Control is thinking ahead.

How many times have you rebooted or turned off your machine to do something (like replace a keyboard (twice)) only to realize you’ve forgotten to print out the instructions?

Do you want to restart your computer now?

So I wanted to surf online to see what folks have done in this situation.  Just in case I have to journey into Safe Mode and tweek stuff I wouldn’t think of otherwise.

However, Firefox informs me I have no wireless connection.  View Available Wireless Networks gives errors.  When the periodic searcher finally presents networks in my area, I select my router only to find that all the info, WEP, etc. is gone.

Guess THAT part didn’t uninstall completely, hmmm?

Do you want to restart your computer now?

So I get the router info back in check and get to the internet.  Several articles mention that reboots drag the system to an absolute crawl, permission problems, all sorts of hell.

Do you want to restart your computer now?

So, everything backed up (not system files!), useful info printed from the internet, I took the plunge and said YES!

Prayers Uttered During Reboot

That sinking feeling in your gut as you slide the cursor towards the Restart Now button … knowing full well you may be voluntarily sending a seems-kinda-ok computer over the bit horizon, but realizing you have no other choice.

All this because I wanted to open my Official Official Offer Letter.

The reboot had a couple hitches but managed to get itself together.  So far so good.  Then I launched Firefox to find some more “Fix for ‘Access Denied’ error when installing XP SP3,” ‘you receive “access is denied’” etc., references.

Firefox took 10 minutes to load.

** facepalm **

I could go the route of the permissions problem and try reinstalling, risking warnings that I may need to find my original installation disks.  Or I could just hope I had a decent restore point, which it turns out I did.  Right before the attempted install.  So I launched the restore, went to clean the proverbial litterbox, and a long while later it finished without errors.

After another reboot, all seems well.


I decided to ignore the compatibility pack for accessing .docm files and in the end, I just asked them to send the Final Official Official Offer Letter to me as a regular old boring .DOC file.

And they did.

100% achieved.