Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Installers that don't

I am the final line of support for our product, and I've been informed of a machine that will not install .NET 3.5. It gives an error message, which I googled and found every possible suggestion from logging in as a local admin, to sacrificing a goat. It appears that the error message is meaningless, and I need to read the log files to find out what is wrong. Which means, I need to log in to a client machine and dig around, trying to work out why they can't install .NET.

Why is it so hard to give a meaningful error message ? We also are not distributing .NET 3.5 SP1, because it is 300 MB and can take hours to install, because it installs every possible windows update along the way. This bit me, because I wrote an app which shows video thumbnails in WPF, which I stress tested for hours. I had installed .NET 3.5 SP1 and wound back to 3.5, so I can test on the same environment our users will have. Well, when I deployed, that screen would crash within a few minutes, I guess some sort of memory bug in Windows Media Player that was fixed by a patch that was not uninstalled when I removed SP1. I fix this for .NET 3.5 by using the memory stomping code I've needed for every WPF app I've ever written that uses resources, the subject of a future blog entry.

I am currently trying to install SQL Server 2005. I can't install 2008, it installs .NET 3.5 SP1., which I can't run for the reasons stated. So, the installer runs fine, but at the end, the client tools are not installed. They are just not there. Now when I try to run the installer, it warns me that I should use a command line switch if I am upgrading versions. Why make it that hard ( why not, press 'here' to install an upgrade, for example ), and what version ? All I am trying to do, is make the installer install what I asked it to, and what it falsely claimed to have done. I've found several fixes on the web, so this is happening to other people, too. But, none of them have worked.

How hard is it to write installers that work ?

Update: I have given up and am installing SQL Server 2008. Wow, this install has got to a lot to be a more work than in the past. Tons of screens where I need to provide a login and other details, lots of user hostile error screens, and now I need to install VS 2008 SP1 before it will continue. How many of these service packs are actually needed to make these programs work ? Not many, I am betting.

Further Update: The VS 2008 SP1 took 90 minutes to download, and is close to taking an hour to install. This machine has 8 processors and 20 gig of RAM, the 1 TB drive is almost empty, so the machine is not the issue, nor do I have slow internet. 7 hours of trying to install SQL Server and counting.......

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