Microsoft Is Off My Christmas List...And Cisco, Too

I just wasted away my weekend trying to upgrade to Vista SP1, and I'm angry at Microsoft, and Cisco, too. If you revel in the pain of others, read on.
I just wasted away my weekend trying to upgrade to Vista SP1, and I'm angry at Microsoft, and Cisco, too. If you revel in the pain of others, read on.It's a beautiful summer weekend here in lovely Bolton, Mass. Unfortunately for me, I scheduled this Friday through Sunday to start reviewing Microsoft's new hypervisor-based virtualization engine, dubbed Hyper-V.

The weekend started out great until I realized that I couldn't move the mouse within a Hyper-V console via RDP. I know, some of you are preparing to write me to tell me to use the Integration Services Disk within my Hyper-V console -- well, for some reason that won't work for me. So I had a brilliant idea! I figured I'd take advantage of a new management pack that MS released that provides a MMC Snap-in for local Hyper-V console management.

So how hard could upgrading to SP1 be? Apparently, really hard. Things started out well enough, I downloaded all of the Microsoft-recommended critical patches and driver updates. And after waiting about a half hour for all of those OS and driver updates to complete, I launched the Windows Update control panel, again expecting to be greeted with the option to download SP1. But no dice, I was left with no option to download SP1. No problem, I figured, I'll just find it on Microsoft's Web site and install it manually.

After downloading the 430+MB file, I launched it manually and went to the coffee pot after being prompted that the update could take a long time. I came back 1 hour later and the update was still going. After 90 minutes, I almost thought I was in the clear. SP1 was at 100% complete on Step 3 of 3. Then my nightmare began. I was then told by the update that the Service Pack installation was unsuccessful and that it was restoring all changes made by SP1.

Here's my first beef with Microsoft. Why couldn't I have been told BEFORE the update nearly completed that the SP1 install would fail. So now I'm not only waiting 90 minutes for the update to nearly complete, but now I'm waiting another hour for SP1 to remove itself because of a problem.

Like all of you out there, I'm an engineer in the trade, so solving these problems often turns into a personal challenge for me. So after rebooting, Vista was at least kind enough to greet me with an error code and a hyperlink to a technote. Of course, the error code included a Hex memory location that was completely useless in troubleshooting the issue. The technote mentioned a few drivers, along with their associated version numbers, that might have caused the problem. It just so happened that I had a driver with a version number on the list! I figured I had this problem licked, although I found it strange that the SP1 setup didn't detect, IN ADVANCE, that I had a device driver loaded that could potentially bomb the SP1 install. Despite that, I upgraded the driver in question and tried the SP1 upgrade again.

Now its noon -- I started this process around 9 a.m., but I figured if I could just manage my Hyper-V consoles via an MMC snap-in, all of the effort would be worthwhile. Lo and behold, THE SAME THING HAPPENS AGAIN! SP1 says its can't complete the install right at the 100% complete point. Now it's 3 p.m.

At this point I contemplate switching from coffee to an alcoholic beverage. Determined to stay calm and keep my mind clear, I look at the Vista SP1 technote again. Ah ha! It turns out there's a tool which can help check for issues that might impact your ability to install SP1 prior to actually starting the upgrade. I download the SP1 Update Readiness Tool, install it, and then nothing happens. Nothing. No shortcut on my start menu. No automatic launching of the tool that would help me unearth the problem and save my day.

It's now 3:30. I NEED to install SP1, and I'm starting to contemplate the death of my Operating System. I haven't had to rebuild my OS for 2 years, and I'm dreading having to backup my data and wipe my system. I've got an idea! I'll upgrade one of my other lab laptops to Vista SP1 so I can manage my VM's from another system. That worked! So I install the management pack for Hyper-V and I load the snap-in, and as I try to connect to my Hyper-V server, I get an access denied error. I expected that, this other laptop isn't joined to the domain where this Hyper-V server resides, and I'm working remotely.

What to do? No problem, I figure, even though I'm working remotely, I'll just join the domain via my VPN and configure my Cisco VPN client to start before logon so I can get an initial load of my domain profile.

Now the nightmare gets worse. Vista was released in late 2006. It's now mid 2008, AND THE CISCO VPN CLIENT STILL DOES NOT SUPPORT THE START BEFORE LOGON FUNCTION?!?!?!?!?!. Cisco blames Microsoft for breaking this functionality by changing the GINA in Vista, but after almost 2 years, Cisco CLEARLY has no desire to address the issue.

So now I can't manage my Hyper-V consoles from laptop 2 because I can't logon to my domain remotely via the Cisco VPN client, and laptop 1 refuses to upgrade to SP1 at all and MSFT is offering no helpful information as to why.

I've given up. My only choice was to wipe and reload laptop 1 with a version of Vista with SP1 built-in.

I'll just have to wait until I get back to the office on Monday to start my Hyper-V testing, and, to make matters worse, the Red Sox just lost again today.

I miss my old 386SX/16 with DOS 3.3 and my 5 ¼ floppy drive. Life was so much simpler back then.

And by the way, if someone smarter than me out there knows how to get the Cisco VPN client to launch before logon in Vista, I will gladly send you a bag of your favorite coffee in exchange for your knowledge.

This never-ending blog ends now.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing