Friday, February 25, 2011

Fortres Grand Cleanslate Review, Found wanting

Need for new softwareRecently we made the move from Windows XP to newer computers with Windows 7 64bit for our library. The software that most places might use Steady State never was setup to work with Windows 7, and has now been discontinued as a whole. Microsoft provides a couple of guides to allow you to do most things that SS did through other methods such as Group Policy. I was game for it but our librarian wanted to use some software recommended to her by another librarian.

Fortres Grand Clean Slate
I looked at the software and based on their website it would work. Grabbed a demo and tried it real quick. Seemed to do what it would say. Sadly I am an Army of one so intense time couldn't be spent testing it pre-purchase. The Academic pricing was great so I thought if it didn't work very well I would yank it off. So I approved the purchase of the software by the librarian.

After getting my computers ready then I installed the software on the computer. After configuring one just like I wanted I was able to export the settings to use with to easily setup the other computers. The feature worked great. Install went by fast I did notice that the software did not have my antivirus listed so I added my Antivirus program as an exception which was pretty straight forward. Left the computers protected and safe.

Problems - Don't logoff
Two days later I came back to resolve some problems with other software and while there someone sat down to the computer and when logging in to the user they went to click on an icon on the taskbar and pow a nice error popped up, "Can't open this item - It Might have been moved, renamed, or deleted. Do you want to remove this item?", and they couldn't do anything. I told them to use another computer and sat down at the computer.

The computer refused to do anything other than letting me open the Start Menu and logoff(We had changed the default to be logoff on the button since logging off is quicker than restarting and patrons are impatient just like me). I went to login as the public user again and the same problem. I then restarted and the problem went away. But after logging off and back in the problem occurred again. The long and short of it, Logging out and back in didn't work. Clean Slate wasn't doing all it needed through a logoff. It needs to restart to do all of its jazz it seems. Still working on this issue.

Setting the default button to be restart resolved the problem mostly but people would still occasionally find the logoff and then the next patron would be welcomed to a beautiful error. called support twice and had no luck so left a message. No go, so I relented and filled out their support form. They emailed me a link to the latest version and told me to update to it. After testing it on one, the problem didn't go away. the next recommendation was to Enable access to full C and registry and see if the problem went away. When it did I was to work down to the tightest it could while still working. I am busy and don't have the time to do this but have deducted that the HD can be left protected and that it seems to be something under the HKLM key. Haven't had time to finish due to another problem.

Problem - Some updates OK others not
Well a couple of days later I receive a support ticket that one of the computers was stuck at 35% update and a day later it still was sitting at the Configuring updates 35% complete. No HD light activity. I force shutdown the unit and restarted it stopped at the same point. I fight on this and while doing that I start updating all other computers 8 in all. 4 of them worked fine, 4 others had problems and wouldn't install all the updates which is what lent to my previous blog entry about the windows update error.

For some reason 4 of the computers were missing necessary servicing files. I was able to get the files and then get those computers going( read the previous blog post if you have a similar issue.) I then had 2 more join the 35% completion computer in the same forever udpating dance. I tried disabling antivirus and checked Clean Slate's Disable all security on this computer. Still no luck they were still saying configuring updates. I was able to restore them to a previous point and they worked but installing updates even one by one caused 2 of them to still have the problem. I left the out of order sign on the computers knowing SP1 for Windows 7 was coming out and hoped it would resolve the problem.

I assumed that since only the Public computers (and not all of them just most of them) were having problems maybe people were force shutting them down and that corruption was causing some problem. Weirdly a chkdsk and sfc /scannow which usually shows corruption listed no problems. Ehh wierder things have happened.

System Imaging also means Service Packs
So I download the standalone installer for SP1 and got it started on two computers. Weirdly after two hours it's still not finished. I check the log and see access denied errors on moving some files it had just extracted. Left the computers hoping the next day they would be good. No such luck. They had popped up with the following error you see to the right.

I closed them out and was quite irritated. Started working with Microsoft support through chat. While doing this. One of the computers had for some reason done a system restore before Clean Slate had been installed. It got my wheels spinning. Maybe it was Clean Slate. I start SP1 install on this computer. About 30 minutes later it is almost done, passing the spot where it usually hung on the other computers and there were no access denied errors in the SP1 Install log.

I then uninstalled Clean Slate on another computer that had not allowed SP1 to install previously. Long story short it installed fine. I then let the Microsoft rep know about this. He did a "Clean Boot" and still weirdly Sp1 failed. So I called with Fortres Grand they explained that the "Disable All Security on this computer" does disable all security, but that when it is such a big change as a service pack then you you need to use the option "System Imaging Support." This apparently disables the driver from loading, for clean slate. I went to System Imaging support and told it to disable Clean Slate for the next 10 reboots. Rebooted and SP1 installed. Did this on all the other computers and the updates that would cause the Configuring Update hang would install and SP1 would install fine.

So solution is with some updates(no way to tell which) and Service Packs to use System Imaging Support to ensure no problems.

System Imaging Solution not a solution
I disagree with System Imaging just disabling a driver, because I was getting access denied errors of copying files to locations, not SP1 hanging because of a goofy driver. So obviously "Disable All Security on this Computer" does not do just that.

Also there is only one place in the whole help file that mentions that you might need to use System Imaging Support for updates and here it is verbatim.

Other Uses
In rare circumstances it may be useful to use System Imaging Support to disengage Clean Slate for certain software updates.
So unless you read the whole manual, which since I don't image right now so I didn't read this section, which was at the very bottom of the help function for System Imaging. You may waste tons of time as I did before you even realize Clean Slate is the issue.

If this was a known issue which since the tech support guy said it right out as well as it is state in the help document(hidden deep within). They should have a Best Practices section that states this kind of info, and also before you buy it. Because the only working solution I can see is that I disable updates, and then every once and awhile I come down use system imaging support and install all the updates. I can't just leave updates enabled and let someone call me when one of them does a "Configuring Updates Hang"(Not really hangs the circle still spins), which then requires me Hard powering off the device.

I think the software is preventing Windows from doing final update steps, which causes Windows to sit there forever. This probably is also why(not for sure) that I was getting the missing manifest error from my previous post.

False Advertising
I am fine with software having a problem but it better be posted somewhere that makes since. Clean Slate is supposed to allow updating. As a matter of fact here is a picture from their site:

The Language there and in the manual conflict. As well as my experience conflicts with that.

You will be hit and miss on phone support based on my experience. Their email support is quick to respond though. Although both times I was told it was probably just a corrupt install and to update my software first without asking for further information like my settings, etc. Which corrupt install wouldn't fly in my situation since I have 8 machines having the exact same problem.

I will be working with them further to hammer out a couple more of my issues, so we'll see how it progresses.

Also Online update doesn't work currently. It failed on my installs so I had to update manually.

The software has huge potential but in it's current state I would recommend looking elsewhere, unless you want you and your patrons to be beta testers. Also you could go this route if you had lots of time. Which I doubt you have if you are reading this article. 

They need to correct their advertising, since it was some critical updates that was causing my "Configuring Updates at 35%" problem. Also they need to create a best configuration document or something so people don't spend the time I did before figuring out you need to use System Imaging Support.

At a future time I will follow up on the product and state my personal thought on the best running practices to keep it running well and see if future revisions fix my problems.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Windows Update Error 80073712 and fixing the problem

So I have a library that I support. Public Kiosk computers are way too much fun to support. While I was down fixing a problem I decided to update all the computers. After running through updates, half of my computers wouldn’t install the updates. I tried a reboot and still it wouldn’t work. I was getting an Error 80073712 and the updates would fail to install.

So I started searching around. I won’t bore you will all the fixes I tried that didn’t work. Below are the steps I took to resolve the issue.
I downloaded the latest Windows system Update Readiness Tool. You can download it from here:
After you download it run it. It will take a while but when it’s done it creates two log file. They are located here: “%SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Logs\CBS\” and called checksur.log (This is only results for this run of the tool) and checksur.persist.log(results from the last couple of runs maybe all of them).
In the log it mentioned missing manifests and said where they should be. I checked there location and sure enough they weren’t there. It said it was missing 296. I ran the tool on the other computers having a problem and one had four missing manifests. Four is a lot easier to work with than 296 so I started with this computer. I then went to one of the computers that was working fine. Found the missing manifests and copied them to a thumb drive. They were located in the folder “C:\Windows\winsxs\Manifests.“
I then went to the other computer and tried to copy them in that same folder. Access denied. I was administrator so tried it again and still a problem. I didn’t want to bork anything so I searched the net and ran across this document which will help you fix other windows update servicing problems as well:
It notates that for missing manifests that you want to copy onto a non-working machine you place them in “C:\windows\Temp\CheckSUR\winsxs\Mainfests” and re-run the System Update Readiness tool. It then will run through the same process and in my case fixed the problem. Make sure that the found errors and the fixed  errors match. If so it fixed all the problems.
You need to reboot the computer then rerun windows update install the updates that it finds. It should then work. Now on one of the 4 computers I had one other problem to resolve but the majority of them worked without a problem. (also one of mine sat at configuring Windows Update 100% for a while, just be patient, or try press Ctrl + Alt + Del)
When you are only missing like 4 files it is ok to search manually and grab the right files, but in my case I had 2 computers missing 296 files. I was not going to do that manually. So I created a script to take the list of missing files and grab them from a working computer. You can download it here. To get the list of files, just copy out the list of files needed from the CheckSur.log and paste them into
notepad. The list starts after “Unavailable repair files:”
You need to get rid of the space before all the files and instead of doing it tediously one by one here is what I did. Copy the text from notepad into excel. It will remove the blank space(a tab) for us by splitting the blank space from the actual filenames into two columns. Copy the Second
column and paste it back into the text file and save it.
Use the script I have uploaded and change the parts to the
folder locations. The Blue change to where you and what you list of missing
manifests is called. The red section change to the folder you want it to copy
the missing manifests. Run it and it should copy all the manifests that are
listed in your file. This prevents you from doing some time consuming
searching as well as most likely making mistakes.
After its done open the folder and Select all check the count. Make sure it matches your count from the error log. If not the computer you are using doesn’t have all the files. Also the link above from Microsoft warns that they Ensure that the computer being used to copy files from is using the same version of Windows and system architecture. To check this then go the link and it shows you how.
You will then follow the steps you I did above. Browse to C:\windows\Temp(It will give you an prompt asking for permission click “Continue.” Continue to CheckSUR\winsxs\Mainfests and copy all the
manifests from your removable media into the folder. Re-run the System Update
Redines tool.
After it completes, reboot and you then rerun windows update. Tell ith
to install the updates it finds.
This was a very unfun problem and I am unsure of what caused it. All the computers are the same and have the same software so why some and not others had the problem is odd. Also remember if you computer is missing files other than manifests than you will need to read the microsoft article and copy the files you find into a different location. Good Luc