Windows Server 2008 “Stage 3 of 3” Fixes

Lots of chatter on the web about this .. of course, who uses Windows Server 2008 when Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 have been released?

Well, unfortunately, I do .. if only for a little while longer (famous last words, for a production server).

Anyhow, these symptoms appear from a routine update operation:

  • You order a system restart.
  • The system displays the “Configuring Windows Updates – do not unplug .. “.
  • The system goes into POST operations.

From here, all is well, until it displays the message: “Configuring Windows Updates – Stage 3 of 3 0% Complete”, from which it never recovers.

There are several unrelated causes for this, per other aggrieved users .. your mileage may vary. However, you simply cannot fix issues with the system when it’s in the “3 of 3” state, so here’s how to get back to the console to debug:

  • Try pressing Control-Alt-Delete. In about half the cases, you will get the login screen, but it can take a few minutes to appear. If you can, log on and check your system logs for evidence of the hang (LSASS.EXE deadlock is a likely culprit .. try fixing that first).
  • If you cannot get into the system gracefully, hold down the power button until the system switches off. Restart the machine in normal mode.
  • If the system hangs at the “3 of 3” state, hold down the power button again until the system switches off. Restart the system in safe mode with networking.
  • Once restarted in safe mode, the system will likely show the “3 of 3” state, but this time, should get to 100%.
  • Navigate to C:\WINDOWS\WINSXS and look for a file called “pending.xml”. If you find it, delete it and restart the system in normal mode.

From here, you’re troubleshooting .. I like the deadlock reference above for starts. This condition was fixed in the hotfix referenced by KB2379016: “A computer that is running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 stops responding and hangs at the "Applying User Settings" stage of the logon process”, I’d give that a try first.

Facebook of the Future?

Well, not just yet. Extrapolating here. Online PhD has information about advanced programs that could provide you with the info you need to compete in today’s Internet market. People who think they could be person to develop the software or site that would bump Facebook out of its top slot may be interested in increasing their skills.

I just read “Using Facebook: One Teenager’s Story” on ExtremeTech and arrived a few interesting thoughts:

  • The student generation is beyond connected .. they’re embedded.
  • Facebook and the social lives / networks of students are so intertwined, those who choose not to participate “fall off the grid” in social interaction.
  • It’s not just just social: Facebook represents the conduit for a wide variety of student activities .. from Senior Skip Day (I remember mine .. there was beer) to school-sanctioned events, oh, like graduation.
  • As to graduation, some schools are distributing information to their students solely via Facebook.
  • It’s not just school activities: students are learning about current events at a pace and participation level not before seen .. students who cannot vote are getting involved. Remember Rock the Vote? This generation wields boulders.

While some of this may sound frivolous to an adult reader, there are some very interesting use cases and situations to consider .. things that didn’t exist when today’s adults were in their teens:

  • We passed notes, met in the cafeteria and made phone calls from our homes.
  • We heard about things from flyers, bulletins and garish signs in the cafeteria (well, it was the 70s).
  • We avoided the table with campaign signs and student volunteers (well, it was the 70s).

So .. what does Facebook (or, insert social network name here) look like in the future? I’m guessing:

  • Always connected, perhaps with surgically-implanted connectivity chips (okay, I’m kidding). Suffice to say that I don’t think the future will suffer a disconnected (or at least, a de-synchronized) user for long.
  • Always relevant to the user. This plays into my “Information Snacking” paradigm, where tomorrow’s home and personalized pages will truly be their own, containing information that is relevant to the page’s owner.
  • Insanely simplified interactive-ness .. the ability to “poke”, alert and engage with other users as a matter of course.

Functional expectations (read: demands) of the embedded generation will drive application development to include services from a variety of sources. if Facebook provides all the content and functionality to meet these demands, then Facebook wins. If they don’t, someone else will.

Original Post: August 20, 2008

TED Talk on Autism: The world needs all kinds of minds

Temple Grandin at TED this year, posted on YouTube: “The world needs all kinds of minds”:

More TED Talks.

Original Post: March 24, 2010

I’m a fan of words ..

.. which manifests itself as puns and re-wording, mostly.

On re-wording, I’ll grab the part of the word that tickles me the most and re-describe the meaning of the previous sentence .. to the joy / annoyance of my listener.

To stay sharp, I follow the Word of the Day RSS feed from Wordsmith.org .. this weeks’ theme was a special treat for me: Forgotten Positives .. positive versions of words commonly expressed in the negative .. you’ll get the idea:

Like these? Want more? Sign up for A Word A Day RSS feed, or subscribe to A Word A Day email newsletter.

Original Post: May 8, 2009

Okay .. I’m the last guy on the Web to hear about ChuckNorrisFacts.com

I’m certain that I am. Even Chuck Norris knows about this site!

For months, my kids have been peppering me with tidbits like:

  • There is no ‘ctrl’ button on Chuck Norris’s computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.
  • Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.
  • Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.
  • Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.

.. I though they were just being clever .. knight puns, anyone?

There’s a site with lots more. Some favorites from The Man Himself:

  • When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
  • There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.
  • Outer space exists because it’s afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • Chuck Norris’ hand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.

And my two favorites (du jour, anyway):

  • Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
  • Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding.

Get the Facts at Chuck Norris Facts.

Original Post: August 12, 2008

In the Realm of "I’ll play along"

I was looking for the calorie count of six chocolate M&Ms on the Web tonight. I had the pleasure of being redirected to Calorie Count on About.com .. who (after registration) promptly told me:

AboutCom20110615

Yes: according to About.com, I am slightly overweight. That said, 149 pounds is my goal weight? Have you seen my NSFW picture (50th birthday photo shoot)?

I would be heroin chique at 149. Really. What are you folks selling?

Even more fun: you have an interesting article on your site: "Skinniest Models Banned from Catwalk".

Mixed messages, much?

Original Post: December 30, 2008; updated June 15, 2011

Are we over-reporting the news?

By "we", I mean all of "we": the media, bloggers, individuals who write to the media and bloggers; anyone who tells (or re-tells) a tale.

I find myself in a quiet room today, where I can hear the news channel on the telly. The repetition got me to thinking:

  • It seems we’re second-guessing everything that anyone or anything (the stock market, for example) is doing.
  • It seems we’re fan-, celebrity- and politician-obsesses to the point that we’re reporting on the very act of following these people.
  • News stories are now the opinions coming from the common person-on-the-street.
  • Is the information being reported even news?

Should the new job of media include the condensation and aggregation all this information into something that can actually be consumed? Is media up to the task?

Is "reporting" enough? Should we plead for more analysis .. or should we plead for silence?

Seems like everyone is trying too hard.

Original Post: December 3, 2008

The HHB Weekend: Dinner at Marrakech

Thanks again (and again) to Jeannine Harsh for discovering Marrakech for the MIX08 team this past year. This is a follow-on post to “My Hedonistic-Healthy Birthday (HHB) Weekend” .. the restaurant and the experience deserve the extra attention.

Note that I love off-Strip stuff in Vegas; I drive like a local and am always ready for a new adventure, so please send me your suggestions.

Marrakech is only slightly off the beaten track .. less than a mile from the Westin Casuarina, and about a mile from The Strip. It is well worth the walk over.

The Marrakech Web Site says:

Dine on delicious Moroccan food served in the unique Moroccan manner enhanced by beautiful belly dancers. Stay as long as you wish, there is no rush here.

Service begins with washing each persons hands with lightly scented rose water. It successfully sets the stage for the highly anticipated, extravagant six-course meal offered by Marrakech.

And it does. But their brevity (a necessity in the modern Web) modestly understates the experience. Some pre-course details:

  • Once seated, you are presented a towel that will be your friend (and a necessity) throughout the dinner. You then engage in a warm rosewater hand wash and place your drink order (full bar, although no Maker’s Mark .. I had Jack in my introductory Manhattan). The servers will answer any questions about the menu and are especially careful to ask about any food allergies, which I found quite comforting.
  • On the menu: there really isn’t one .. yes they hand you a menu, but it’s essentially FYI. The restaurant serves a six-course Moroccan meal for a bargain prix fixe price of US$40.
  • The belly dancers are complimentary (and to be complimented).
  • The staff offered to explain each course to me as they served it, including describing how best to eat it. If that surprises you, please note that you are in a “no silverware zone” (save for the main course and fabulous dessert).
  • The server will describe the spices and as much detail as you’re willing to absorb about the preparation and history of the course.
  • The meal is served with a freshly-baked loaf of a neutral sesame bread. I was delighted about this, as was able to keep my hands relatively clean.

The courses (cobbled together with their site descriptions and my personal experience:

Marrakech_01_Scampi_20081101 A delightful appetizer of tender shrimp: scampi seasoned in lemon, wine, parsley and garlic. Outstanding. I sopped up the garlic sauce with their amazing bread. I wasn’t going to be speaking with anyone after dinner.

The scampi is followed with Harira Soup: a lentil-and-rice soup with lemon and other spices.

Marrakech_02_Salade_20081101 Then comes Salade Marrakech: hummus, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and peppers. Incredible.
Marrakech_03_Filet_20081101 Candle-lit Filet Mignon Shish-Kebob. Tender and delicious.

If you know how I eat .. I’m finished by now (in fact, I was finished after the salad). However, they kept showing up with food:

Marrakech_04_Cornish_20081101 The main course is a Royal Cous Cous platter served with Cornish Game Hen in a traditional raisin-vegetable sauce. This was a real treat (and I was happy to have a fork at this point).
Marrakech_05_BStilla_20081101 For dessert, B’Stilla, a Moroccan favorite served with a delightful mint tea. The highlight of the meal (for me, anyway). I came here tonight because I wanted another look / taste of this dessert .. it alone is worth the trip. it’s a fillo dough pastry stuffed with walnuts, fruit, cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Marrakech makes an impression. Don’t miss a visit the next time you’re in Vegas!

Original Post: November 1, 2008

My Hedonistic-Healthy Birthday (HHB) Weekend (2008)

Those close to me and read this blog heard me discuss the possibility of a gala event in Las Vegas, tentatively titled “Michael’s Hedonistic-Healthy Fiftieth Birthday Weekend”.

Yeah: I am about as effective at product names as is Microsoft.

:: runrunrunrunrun ::

I admit, I had lofty plans. A number of guys, a few stand-up broads, a-la the Rat Pack:

  • On the hedonistic side: Some all-night gambling and Strip-walking, a show or two, some terrific food.
  • On the healthy side: Walk a lot, sleep in a day or two, extra gym time, pool time, walk some more.

However, the lofty plans of mice and men can, well, deflate in the face of reality, schedules and real life. So, in short, the guy trip unraveled, the stand-up broads sat down; you get the drift.

In the end, I realized that I just didn’t want to be responsible for anyone’s good time but my own. Selfish? Yeah. I earned it .. for this one weekend, I get to play.

So, I set my own agenda. Here’s what I wanted to do:

  • Two one-hour sessions on the cross-trainer each day.
  • Pool time, complete with sun and Mai-Tais.
  • Sleep in and take an afternoon nap.
  • Multiple walks, including at least one all-nighter.
  • Dinner at my favorite steak house on The Strip.
  • Dinner at Marrakech (this is as much a fact-finding mission as a meal: I want to make that dessert at home).
  • Lose weight during the trip.
  • Spend only House money during the trip.

Lofty agenda. Here’s what I did:

  • Two hours on the cross-trainer each day; three hours on two days. :: strut :: Check.
  • Pool time: a bit of a disappointment; relatively bad weather for the pool (wind and temperatures in the low 60s). However, I still managed to get two hours in the last two days .. but, no Mai Tais. With an “A for effort”: Check.
  • I didn’t sleep in or take any naps. I know myself well enough to realize that I feel like I’m missing something when I sleep. Expected behavior.
  • I took lots of walks (check out My SportsDo Activity Blog for October 11-14th, 2008). Sadly, didn’t do the all-nighter .. if you can believe it, I found I was too tired with all the other activity. I’ll make that up on my next working trip to Vegas. Rationalized with reality behavior.
  • Dinner at my favorite steak house on The Strip: the Steakhouse at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall. It’s in the okay-to-decent realm; no where near over the top. Good food: some table side dishes and a reasonably-priced wine menu. The staff knows me there and takes very, very good care of me. It also has the bonus of being within a block of my hotel, the Westin Casuarina. Check.
  • Dinner at Marrakech. The experience was so much fun, I wrote a separate post, “The HHB Weekend: Dinner at Marrakech” which contains all the details. Check.
  • Spend only house money during the trip. Almost. Room, meals, tips, incidentals: covered with cash. I paid for airfare with miles and upgraded using my card; about $150. The rental car was on a complimentary weekend rental, plus one day at the weekend rate; about $45, with gas. I came home with $200 over my stake. Who da man? Check.
  • The car I hired to take me from the airport back to my hotel after returning my rental car: covered with cash (damn it). Why did I do that crazy thing? Well, left my wallet in the room. Who da dumbass?
  • The crazy crystal cube with my 3D visage in it (I’ll share it, if I can figure out how to take a picture of it): covered with cash.

All in all, a wonderful trip and the ideal way for me to have spent my mid-life-point birthday.

Original Post: November 1, 2008

More Frightening than "Three Little Words"

If you’ve heard me speak, you know I give a quick example (a diatribe, really) about how the new three little words strikes fear into everyone’s hearts. Those words?

On the Web“.

I mean pictures, videos, messages of, and about you, on the web. Scary? You bet!

For the record, the old TLW used to be “I love you”. :P

All that said, here’s some new scary words for you .. far more than three words, though. This came in last week via USPS:

We are writing to let you know that computer tapes containing some of your personal information were lost while being transported to an off-site storage facility by our archive services vendor.

Now, that’s scary. Let’s discuss:

  • They’re trying to avoid fault by stating “by our archive services vendor“.
  • They’re creating fear by stating “your personal information“, with all the issues surrounding identity theft.
  • They’re assuring us they have remote backups (John and Jane may not get this, but I do), which is usually a good thing.
  • Tapes?!?

Then:

While we have no reason to believe that this information has been accessed or used inappropriately, we deeply regret that this incident occurred and we wanted to explain the precautionary steps we have taken to help protect you.

Umm:

  • “.. we have no reason to believe that this information has been accessed or used inappropriately”: Optimistic, at best. How do they know if they can’t find the tapes? Are the tapes in their possession now, or are they still missing? If recovered, can they tell if the tapes were read or restored to a system?
  • We deeply regret“: Wow. An apology (sort of).
  • .. explain the precautionary steps we have taken ..“: Sorry kids, but precautionary means you planned something in advance, not reacting (as you are) to a situation you (oh, sorry .. your vendor) created.

Then comes some background into the kind of information that was lost; in this case, stockholder information for publicly-traded companies. They didn’t specify which companies, however, I’ve only worked for one publicly-traded company, and that was Microsoft.

Next (this was in bold, by the way):

Please note that while the timing of this notice was affected by our forensic investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, based on information received to date, we have no reason to believe your information has been or will be improperly accessed or misused as a result of this incident.

This is fun now:

  • .. timing of this notice was affected by our forensic investigation ..“: what the Hell does this mean? Did they anticipate the data loss and are sending this in advance, or did they want to get the notice into the mail as soon as they discovered the loss? In the finance world, “forensic” typically means the analysis of statements, and logs, cross-referencing them against the universe of facts, like date, time, location, who benefited, etc.
  • .. we have no reason to believe ..“: Folks: they have no idea. Not sure why they want to say this again (especially in bold).
  • “.. as a result of this incident ..”: “This” incident? There are others? Gawd.

Unbreakable” is a great film in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a physically-challenged cynic. He tells Bruce Willis that when someone has an offer that’s too good to be true it will follow with an ask for a credit card number.

Surprise, surprise. No free lunch, in other words.

Back to my letter. This vendor (yes; it’s from a vendor) doesn’t ask for a CC number .. in fact, they offer a two-year subscription to their usually-for-pay, identity-theft-protection and credit-notification service as a means to repay for their mishandling of my records.

This suddenly raised the question with me: Was my data ever actually lost, or is this just a come-on for their service? I’m a pragmatist, not a cynic .. but I can’t help to think something could be fishy here.

Further, what if their Terms of Service (which, nobody reads anyway) includes an indemnity clause that prevents further action against them if I accept the service. This was one ToS I read very, very carefully. Candidly: the cynic in me was (almost) disappointed that it didn’t. Would have made for a far more interesting post.

Did I sign up? Yes. I did sign up for the free service. Why? Well:

  • It was offered with no risk (they didn’t ask me for a credit card number).
  • It seems quite comprehensive (i.e., all credit agencies and credit-related actions).
  • It’s quite interactive, including alerts for changes to my credit rating, including inquiries, “potentially negative” events (I had to report a CC lost this past week, and the service notified me).

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Original Post: September 28, 2008

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