Monday, October 15, 2007

Safe For Another 365 Days

So, apparently, Norton Internet Security is designed to protect your computer by rendering it useless.

Explanation: I'm sorry, but I have to rant about this. I just have to.

A couple of days ago, my annual subscription to Norton Internet Security expired. Since then, I have received a daily nastygram saying "Your computer is no longer safe and may explode at any minute!" So, I decided to install a new copy. This actually isn't a big deal. Well, it shouldn't be. I have a brand new copy of Norton Internet Security 2007 lying around from tax time, when I got it on the cheap with a TurboTax rebate deal.

So, I took out my new CD and put it in my D: drive. The D: drive powers up, sounding like a jet preparing for takeoff, but never reads the disk. It never takes off, either. This kind of thing has happened before. After a few minutes (literally) of wrestling with it, I managed to get the CD out and get it into my E: drive. Problem solved.

I started up the installation program from the CD, typed in my product key, and the install was off and running. It suggested that I perform a scan before starting because some threats could cause installation problems. A full filesystem scan takes about 2-3 hours on my machine, so I was hoping that it was going to do something a little less thorough. I bit the bullet and told it to go on its merry way.

The scan window was unique in that it did not show any indication of progress. It was a yellow bar that emulated the red lights on the front of Knight Rider - back and forth, back and forth. In fact, the machine gave me absolutely zero indication that it was doing anything AND the hard disk was not making the usual thrashing sounds that accompany a full filesystem scan. No problem, I just let it go.

An hour later, I still had no indication that anything was happening, so I tried to stop the process. Did I mention that there was no "Cancel" button? I went to click the "X" in the corner of the window, but nothing happened. So, it was time to play the Control-Alt-Delete game and see if I could kill the task from Windows. That worked (although it took several tries and didn't go down without a fight) and allowed me to continue. So, I went ahead and reran the install program, only to be told that "Another instance of the installer is running. Please close it and try again." Lovely. The program apparently didn't die gracefully and left some sort of breadcrumb telling other instances of the installer to also piss me off.

Next I tried to uninstall the first version of the program through "Add/Remove Programs" only to discover that it saw the same breadcrumb as the CD. So, it was time for the almighty Windows cure-all: the reboot. After an efficient 15 minutes or so, I was still staring at a blue "Jeremy is logging off..." screen. It was time to use the power button. After about two solid hours of work, my computer was now off. Not that this had anything to do with my original task, but at least the powered-down computer was not vulnerable to any internet threats.

Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I turned the machine back on. After a normal boot, I managed to get the installer up and running - the reboot must have cleared away the breadcrumbs. I was up and on my way. This time I took the liberty of skipping the scan, and the installer was working its magic. Twenty minutes later, the installer asked me to reboot my machine to continue. I obliged.

When the machine came back up, nothing happened. I went to try running Norton Internet Security only to find that it WAS NOT ON THE MACHINE. The twenty minute install had uninstalled the old version and that's it. At this point, I'm thinking maybe I should have some Lindt chocolates to calm down. But noooo, I decide to re-run the installer. This time, after twenty minutes, it asks me to reboot, and I do. And this time, after the machine reboots, the program is successfully installed! Hooray!

...But wait. When the program was installed, it wanted to download updates. So, I sent it on its merry way, and five minutes later, I had all of my updates. Life was good. Oh, and after another reboot it also wanted to scan the filesystem. Great. Knowing I had to wait two hours for the million or so files to be scanned, I decided this would be an excellent time for a lunch break.

When I got back from lunch, I had regained my grip on sanity just in time to see that the scan was complete. "Life is gooooood," I thought. Now I just had to configure the settings the way I had them before, and the machine would be good to go. Except, I couldn't find a couple of features that I used to use, most noticeably the spam-blocking. I searched all over the internet, only to find out that it wasn't shipped with Norton Internet Security 2007. But, have no fear, they have an "Add-On" I can download to get those features! Oh joy! More installation! (At this point, I believe I was drowning in irony because my own company routinely ships advertised features of our code releases via service packages.)

So, I went onto the site to find the patch, and what did I discover? Norton Internet Security 2008 is available to me for free! Well, I avoided a similar offer before, late in my service subscription, knowing I'd be upgrading in a few weeks anyway. I really didn't have that excuse anymore, seeing as I had 366 days left to my new subscription (minus the half day I'd already spent trying to install the damn thing). So, instead of putting a patch on the 2007 version, I figured I'd just throw on the 2008 version. At this point, you as a reader are probably having the same reaction as the horror movie viewer has to the person who decides to investigate the strange noise in the haunted house instead of jetting for the front door: "You idiot! Why on earth are you going in there? WHY???" But, I digress.

I spent the five minutes it takes to download the installer, only to be told that I had other users logged on and that the installation would be aborted. After much profanity,* I logged off the other account, and to its credit, the installation continued without having to download the program again. Again I had to deal with an installer that used the "Knight Rider" style of status meter. Then, after it churned for about ten minutes, I saw a window had popped up indicating that it was "Gathering error information". Not good. That churned for five minutes and then asked me if would be OK to send that information to the good people at Symantec.**

I said "OK", knowing it would never be seen and pretending that it was instead an obscenity-laden email to the developers of this installer. The installation kept going (with absolutely no mention of the fact that an error had occurred) and asked me to reboot again. Hey, why not? I rebooted the machine and voila! Norton Internet Security 2008 is ready to roll!

My first screen said "Security Status At Risk" in large letters. There were a bunch of things like "Protection Updates," "Inbound Firewall," and "Advanced Firewall" that all had "At Risk" in alarmingly red text next to them. I also had several amber (and slightly less alarming) "Attention" items. Luckily for me, the window also contained a big "FIX NOW" button. With everything the installer put me through, it was nice to have a clear, intuitive user interface to make things right. I clicked the button and a window blinked up on the screen and then vanished. Nothing on the screen changed. I was pretty sure I could make out the Knight Rider status bar in that window, too. This is the best part: After clicking the window several times, I saw that it said: "Please wait while Norton fixes your problems." Are they firing their developers??? That might help.

Not one to be easily discouraged (if you couldn't tell already) I found the only thing in the window I could click - a tab which took me from "Home" to "Norton Internet Security". Under that tab, in alarmingly red bold text, it said, "Configuration is not complete." Luckily there was a large blue "Configure" button just waiting for me to click it. If my configuration was not complete, it seemed intuitive to me that configuring was the way to go, so I clicked it. It did nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not even one of those quick blinking windows. At this point, I had no idea what to do.

After hunting around the screen for anything, ANYTHING to click, I noticed that there was some clickable white text that said "Run Live Update". There was absolutely nothing about this text that would have drawn my attention to it other than the fact that I had run out of other things to click. So my download began.

Things went nice and smoothly after I clicked on the magic text. Here's a brief summary:

  • Several minutes of downloading
  • Rebooted
  • Configured NIS 2008 to my liking
  • Turns out with NIS 2008, I STILL need an "Add-on Pack"
  • Attempted my own lobotomy
  • Downloaded the Add-on Pack
  • Installed it
  • Rebooted
  • Downloaded more updates
  • Realized that I could have watched all three Lord of the Rings movies in the time it took to do this. Hell, I could have taken my own ring to Mount Doom.
  • Rebooted
  • Collapsed
So, I'm here to tell you that in nine easy hours and only eight reboots, you too can renew your subscription to Norton Internet Security. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a Windows security update that I need to take care of.

*I have a unique configuration in that my machine automatically logs in as one user (me), but Norton was installed under another user (Administrator). So, every time I rebooted, I would switch users (annoying), only to be yelled at later because other users were logged in (infuriating). I probably saw this message about ten times during the whole ordeal.

**Perhaps "good people" is a bit too polite. I try to keep these posts as clean as I can. Maybe I could get away with "rhymes with 'wig trucking snow gallant pass downs'"...


Willie Y said...

Isn't Norton Ralph Kramden neighbor?

sam said...

I particularly like the fact that right below the article where you call the developers at Symantec 'wig trucking snow gallant pass downs' there's an ad for renewing Norton Antivirus. You have to love context-sensitive web advertising.