I never understood how a typical user can troubleshoot Microsoft Windows. The solution are usually complicated and sometimes seemingly unrelated. Sometimes, I'm surprised that I've come up with a fix or workaround myself. Usually the only thing that drives me is that I know it should work.
For example, I have a nasty work around to get my Pager Cradle to work on my work computer, running Windows 2000. It's hooked up to the standard serial port, and it's essentially an infrared dongle. I need to disable one port on my Digi Classicboard (a 8-port serial device) sometime during the windows session. I can re-enable it, and it still works. I just need to make sure to disable, temporarily or permantly, any port on the Classicboard to get it to work.
Also, on the same machine, everytime I reset the machine, I have to go into device manager and hit rescan in order for Windows to recognize my external SCSI cd-rom burner.
Well, I got a really nasty problem on my laptop yesterday, also running Windows 2000. Apparently, Microsoft Installer got corrupted. All I got was a generic "msiexec.exe has caused..." and a cryptic error #1719. And everything nowadays requires Microsoft Installer to Install or Uninstall. Microsoft Installer apparently uses itself during its installation. And when it's corrupt, nothing works. In fact, I couldn't start Excel or Word, because apparently it uses Microsoft Installer to make sure if the requested application is installed already, and if not, offer to install it.
I've tried to resinstall Office XP, and got the error. I tried starting the Office Repair Utility, and got the error. I tried installing other applications, and got the error. I even tried installing Microsoft Installer runtimes, and guess what, I still got the error.
Through my research on google, I found the Microsoft Installer SDK on microsoft's page. I figured, maybe, just maybe it had documentation on what the error was. I installed it (which thankfully didn't use Microsoft Installer), and read through the documentation. I finally found a list of error codes, and it described error 1719 as the inability to communicate with the Microsoft Installer service.
What the hell? The installer is a service? I tried stopping it, and it wouldn't stop. So, I set it to "disabled" and did a reset. Afterwords, I tried a Microsoft Installer runtime that I found, and it finally ran without error. After that, installs, uninstalls, and Office XP started working again.
In summary, to troubleshoot this problem, I had to recogonize the software product causing the error, realize that the error number may be documented, realize that the documentation may be in the SDK, install the SDK, wade through and find the error number, realize that the installer may be a service, disable the service, find the installer runtime, and install the installer runtime.
User-friendly? I don't think so.
I'll think I use the slashdot journals as my computer rantings page. I'm really good at ranting. And I swear I'm the #1 expert at getting Windows 2000 to really fuck itself up.