fAIL

I gave Mandy and myself a new computer for Christmas, an eMachines T3065. I’m reasonably happy with it so far — it sure beats the 300MHz Celeron that it replaced — but there have been some annoyances.

For starters, the machine comes preloaded with all sorts of useless cruft: software for getting started with AOL or Compuserve; AOL Instant Messenger; the Bigfix Patch Manager, a glorified version of the Windows Update service; and Norton Antivirus, which technically isn’t useless, but I prefer Grisoft’s free version of AVG. This in itself is not so annoying. One would expect to be able to repave the PC, installing only the software that one needs. The annoying part is that the people at eMachines don’t provide the software in separately installable disks. Instead, the software comes packaged as a Norton Ghost disk image, leaving people like me with an all-or-nothing proposition when repaving the machine.

One of my first tasks, when setting up the machine, was eliminating the cruft, which, in typical Windows fashion, involved many remove-reboot cycles. Once I acheived a reasonable value-to-cruft ratio, I ran the windows update service to fix up the OS, including the installation of SP2. After the associated install-reboot cycles, I also installed some essential software: vim, cygwin, and Firefox.

Finally, I created user accounts for Mandy and myself; limited accounts to minimize security risk. When I logged in with either of these accounts, I was greeted with an untitled message box, the text of which read “fAIL”. What a nusance!

For a while I couldn’t figure out the origin of this mysterious message box, probably a debugging aid for a developer who failed to test all the corner cases of his software. It wasn’t until I tried to log off while the message box was displayed that I found the clue that would help me determine its source. Thanks to the “This program is not responding” message box, I learned that the name of the application was Sunkist. With some searching through the registry, I soon discovered the culprit: the memory card reader software from Alcor Micro, shwicon2k.exe.

I still don’ know how to resolve the problem, but I have submitted a request to eMachines’ tech support. I’ll post when I have a solution.

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