Being self-employed means, among other things, that I am not just using my computer systems, I am also responsible for managing them.
On the second Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases a batch of fixes. These fixes are important: they address known security issues among other things, and some of these issues may already be actively exploited by viruses or malicious Web sites. I prefer installing these updates by hand, because doing so allows me to test the updates on a test computer before putting them on “mission critical” machines. Also, my work is not interrupted by degraded system performance while an update is being processed, or by a sudden request by Windows to reboot.
A few months ago, I allowed Windows Update to install a bunch of Windows Live features on my main workstation, not because I needed them but, well, because they were available and they could do no harm, right? Well, they didn’t do any real harm, except for the annoying little issue of an Explorer window always opening up when I started the system, with the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft, which contained just one subfolder called Search Enhancement Pack. So yesterday, since I was installing updates and rebooting the system anyway, I decided to do whatever it takes (short of reinstalling Windows, that is) to get rid of this thing.
Having done some research on Google, I decided to try a few promising-looking solutions. First, I used a command-line uninstallation command to get rid of a component called Choice Guard, which supposedly caused this folder to be opened on startup. Reboot… no cigar, the folder was still there.
One file in the folder in question was SeaPort.exe, a service component of the Search Enhancement Pack. On a hunch, I disabled this service and rebooted. Again no cigar… the folder was still there.
Then, I found the command-line command to actually uninstall the whole Search Enhancement Pack. I was sure that this would do the trick… but it didn’t. After reboot, the folder was still there.
OK, I don’t have time for this silliness, I thought, it’s time to get rid of all this Windows Live nonsense that I won’t be using much anyway. I uninstalled them all except for the Windows Live Onecare component. Reboot, and… the stupid folder was still opened by Explorer on startup.
Time to get rid of Onecare, too. I did, and rebooted… and once again, Explorer opened the folder. Mind you, by this time the folder contained only one file in a subfolder, a file called SearchHelper.dll, which many sites mistakenly identify as malicious (I believe that there is, in fact, a malicious file out there with this name, but this one is from Microsoft and not malicious. Well, not intentionally, anyhow.)
The final solution was also the lamest, something I could have done earlier had I not insisted on doing things the “right way”: I got rid of the folder in question altogether, just manually deleted it. This did the trick, but I do wonder: if for any reason, the folder is restored, would it open up again in the middle of my screen upon the next reboot? And why does Microsoft do this to us anyway?
Between this, obligatory backups, and updates to some half a dozen computers plus some virtual machines, my afternoon and most of my evening was gone.
Meanwhile, my wife received yet another spam e-mail with her own e-mail address used as the sender address. This became a new fad among spammers: why don’t we send spam pretending to be the recipient, perhaps this will trick spam filters? Well, it was time to do something about it, so I did. Unfortunately, these things can get tricky and sendmail’s configuration file, while extremely powerful, is more idiosyncratic than intuitive, with command lines like this:
R$* $| $=R $* $@ OK
So it’s not easy to get it right (that is, filter out unwanted mail but still letting us send out e-mails with our own sender addresses) and I had to be careful not to disable legitimate mail service by accident. Eventually, since it was well past midnight already, I decided that I was too tired to do such delicate surgery, and I only finished it this morning.
Finally, I can now get back to doing something useful on these stupid computers. About bleeping time!