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Windows Operating Systems Software Bug

The Broken Design of Microsoft's "Fix it" Tool 165

Posted by kdawson
from the teething-problems dept.
$luggo writes "Curious about MS Fix It, I recently went hunting in the MS knowledge base for articles that provide the new EZ-button. After locating on few, I decided to click the button to download the Microsoft Installer package containing the executable and/or files that automatically enable the DVD Library feature in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate — on my XP Media Center. 'Surely, MS will use some scripting, HTTP User-Agent sniffing, or even Genuine Windows validation to verify that I am running Vista,' I thought. It did not and I canceled the download when I received the prompt to save the file. So, I wonder: is there a Fix-it for Fix it? Because I can easily imagine someone doing what I did without scrolling to the bottom of the KB article and verifying that the article applies to their OS/version. This is a great example poor design. Why not simply use the download approach that other articles / fixes / service packs use, whereby the user must select the appropriate OS?"
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The Broken Design of Microsoft's "Fix it" Tool

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  • fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:54PM (#26753983)
    did you try running it?
    • did you try running it?

      Why try running it when you can write a snippy anti-MS screed at Slashdot that will be embraced and accepted as more evidence of MS incompetence?

      As for me, I can't imagine wanting to install this thing even if I had Vista. I mean, this from the people that brought us Bob and Clippy? Dinking with my system settings? I don't think so.

    • This slashdot post is just too full of errors it never should have been posted in the first place.
      Wolf, boy, cry or something on that line.

    • by trcooper (18794)

      Of course not, because the install would fail and he wouldn't be able to claim it's broken anymore.

      If he wasn't able to download it he'd say it's broken because MS doesn't allow him to download software he might want to use elsewhere.

      After all, its obvious that some time you may want to use another machine to download a fix. What if there is an issue with your network driver, what if you're trying to fix a machine off the network?

      God knows I've had plenty of situations where I had to download something to

    • by mypalmike (454265)

      I ran it. On my Ubuntu box. And my cat died. This download killed my cat. I should have been warned!

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Of course not. This is slashdot, home of the irrational MS critics. Hell, i dont like MS, but I feel that someone should rail against FUD and bullshit on here, regardless of who is the target.

      Look, if the file wouldnt download you'd have taco posting "I CANT DOWNLOAD A FIX FROM A LINUX MACHINE TO COPY TO A BORKED VISTA MACHINE. EVERYONE GET OUTRAGED."

      But if it does download its "HOLY CATS, IT DIDNT USE MY USERAGENT STRING TO FIGURE OUT IM ACTUALLY ON A COMMODORE64!!!!"

  • Maybe it does (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Salamander (56587) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:55PM (#26753995)

    How do you know it doesn't change that when you run it?

    • by fo0bar (261207)

      How do you know it doesn't change that when you run it?

      Considering the registry change to enable "DVD Library" is the same in XP MCE as it is in Vista (except it's called something different, "My DVD Movies" I believe, but the registry key is the same name), I'm guessing he didn't.

  • Not post worthy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trracer (210292) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:55PM (#26754011) Homepage

    I haven't tried just this specific "fix", but the MSI the OP almost downloaded can check the installed OS version... so this is not news-worthy.

  • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:56PM (#26754021)
    Link in summary takes me to an XP Service Pack 3 page, not a DVD library support thingy.
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:56PM (#26754039) Homepage Journal

    After locating on few, I decided to click the button to download the Microsoft Installer package containing the executable and/or files that automatically enable the DVD Library feature in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate -- on my XP Media Center. 'Surely, MS will use some scripting, HTTP User-Agent sniffing, or even Genuine Windows validation to verify that I am running Vista,' I thought. It did not and I canceled the download when I received the prompt to save the file.

    Is this guy really that big of a dumb-ass? Does he really think that Microsoft should forbid the *downloading* -- not running, downloading -- of a file because of the operating system string?

    Maybe, just maybe, I might want to download a file on a DIFFERENT computer and transfer it to my broken computer.

    How did this article make the front page?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      Aren't the Knowledge Base articles usually specific to a particular OS anyway? I suppose an end user can stumble across a KB article that describes a similar problem, but on a different operating system version, download the file, and find out that it's the wrong one.

      Certainly you wouldn't want to prevent someone from downloading a patch because they're not currently using the OS the patch applies to. It's a little silly to present you with a "Pick the OS" selector when there would only be a single choice.

      • Aren't the Knowledge Base articles usually specific to a particular OS anyway?

        I don't know, I was searching for problems with WPA on XP and one of the articles that came up said it was for Vista. RL intruded and I didn't look any further, but if it was for both it wasn't at all obvious.

        Certainly you wouldn't want to prevent someone from downloading a patch because they're not currently using the OS the patch applies to.

        I've had that happen. Was after XP SP2, tried to download it at work for obvious reas

      • They generally specify the versions they apply to. They can be as specific as a single version or as general as pretty much all of them. It says in the article which versions it applies to.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by esocid (946821) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:06PM (#26754219) Journal
      I'm also following your line of thinking. Why should it automatically detect your OS. I could be downloading from Fedora laptop to give to Win desktop b/c my network drivers are fried.
      If it really isn't for your OS version, it won't work, end of story.

      Why is this on the front page? The link isn't even the correct one...and unless I'm not reading this all correctly, it seems like someone is searching for a problem, rather than presenting an obvious one.
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by esocid (946821) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:14PM (#26754375) Journal
        It took 1s to find the correct link fix-it [microsoft.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrPepper (23664)

          If even says that you might want to download it on another machine:

          "Note If you are not on the computer that has the problem, you can save the automatic fix to a flash drive or to a CD and then run it on the computer that has the problem."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by causality (777677)

        I'm also following your line of thinking. Why should it automatically detect your OS. I could be downloading from Fedora laptop to give to Win desktop b/c my network drivers are fried. If it really isn't for your OS version, it won't work, end of story. Why is this on the front page? The link isn't even the correct one...and unless I'm not reading this all correctly, it seems like someone is searching for a problem, rather than presenting an obvious one.

        Yeah, that's exactly what bothers me about this posting.

        There are legitimate grievances against Microsoft, concerning both their business practices and their products, to where there is no need to grasp at straws like this. For the purposes of this post I'll define "grievance" as "anything you dislike badly enough to refuse to do business with them". Maybe you really don't like Windows, maybe you see that they were convicted of monopolistic or anti-competitive practices in several countries and don't c

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Informative)

      by markov_chain (202465) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:19PM (#26754455) Homepage

      Then there is the title- broken design? Wtf does the downloader have to do with the design of the tool itself? He didn't even run the tool! This editor needs to go...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How did this article make the front page?

      It's simple really: MS-bashing + kdawson = front page

      Note that in this formula, facts and intelligence are strictly optional.

      • I'm pretty sure that facts and intelligence are strictly prohibited where kdawson is involved.

        Seriously, is there anything the lowly /. readership can do to get rid of kdawson? Just about every article posted by him/her/it is garbage. Surely the rest of the slashdot editors and employees are embarrassed by having this rot on their site?

        I'm having to seriously contemplate abandoning the site altogether after this article. My mind just cannot grasp how a serious news site can post this kind of crap at all; mu

    • Not to mention if the user has a corrupted user/system string in addition to whatever he's downloading a fix for...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      $luggo I hope you are sat at your computer with cheeks burning from embarrasment. You fuckwit.

      I'll be the first to agree the MS download site is not always the easiest to navigate and find the downloads you want, but come on man, have you never installed anything that doesn't do the system checks when run? You tit.

    • I can already imagine the slashdot story: I tried to download a fix-it patch on my Ubuntu box and it failed. What if I wanted to copy it to the Windows machine on a USB key!?!? This is a broken design!!! Windoze sucks!!!

    • by Altus (1034)

      sure, that reasonable, but this is still probably not the best way to design this.

      Would it be so hard for them to pop up a dialog that says "hey, your about to download an installer for a different version of the OS than what you are running. This installer wont work on your computer. OK, cancel, download the correct installer."

      This is supposed to be a resource for people who are not particularly computer literate. Its usually a better idea to force the knowledgeable folks to click an extra box and make

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spiedrazer (555388)
      Yes, this bozo is a huge dumb-ass, and so are the editors for approving this story!

      I'm 99% sure that if he had tried to run it, it would have siad "This program is intended for a different version of Windows...yada yada yada" and closed.

      Are the editors losing their minds?

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Well when I ran it, this was the result: small window titled "Install Failed" popped up that said This "Fix It" does not apply to your system with a button labled "OK". I clicked on "OK" the window was replaced by one titled "Enable Media Center DVD Library" that said Enable Media Center DVD Library has stopped.

        Below that are two links(?)*
        "For information on this or other "Fix it"s", click to visit our blog:"

        and
        "To provide feedback on this "Fix it" tool, click to send us an..."(has area marked as 'EmailBtnJ

    • No kidding. However, having said that, this method is a good way to get around validation for software that need it prior to download, if you happen to be temporarily running a corporate keygenned copy out of necessity until your order of Windows licences comes in.....

      Have a copy of Win2K running in a VM, and do all your downloads on that one. Win2K always passes all validation checks.

  • by nlewis (1168711) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:02PM (#26754153)

    User-Agent "sniffing" is a bad approach under any circumstances - it's too easy, not to mention common, to fake. And since all script-based approaches I am aware of rely on User-Agent detection, they would be effectively broken as well.

    If I were doing it, I would put the OS detection in the setup EXE itself. That way, the setup program could *authoritatively* determine what OS was in use, and block installation onto any invalid systems. But we may never know since you didn't finish the download and give it a shot. ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It IS in the setup EXE itself. Setup executables, at least Microsoft's .msi ones, check the OS version and CPU architecture to make sure they are compatible.
    • by owlstead (636356)

      "If I were doing it, I would put the OS detection in the setup EXE itself."

      Well, as long as the setup.exe is not called setup.exe. I've already got a thousand setup.exe's on my computer, thank you very much. Try the name scheme (--.exe) instead. I mean it is one file, so I can guess that it's an installer alright after downloading. Also, I can store it without any renaming so that the whole company can use it.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Well, it's named "EnableMediaCenterDVDLibrary.msi", if that helps you out.

        • by owlstead (636356)

          So no platform or version number in there, but at least a name. Sorry if my text came out wrong, obviously I would had better written [name]-[version]-[platform].exe instead of using the lesser than / greater than signs. Stupid slashdot, I'm typing in plain text mode only, so don't use tags.

  • So, um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:03PM (#26754171) Homepage

    'Surely, MS will use some scripting, HTTP User-Agent sniffing, or even Genuine Windows validation to verify that I am running Vista,' I thought. It did not and I canceled the download when I received the prompt to save the file. So, I wonder: is there a Fix-it for Fix it? Because I can easily imagine someone doing what I did

    Yeah. It would be terrible if someone could do what you did: Download a patch and then throw it away. If you wanted to be scared, why not actually run it and see what happens? That's the right time for it to check your operating system.

    Here's something to think about. What if the file you were trying to download was the one you needed to fix your network connection? Wouldn't you want to do exactly what you said you did, and download it on another computer first? Or do I need to make a car analogy about how your BMW keys don't prevent you from sitting in the back of a Ford Crown Victoria?

    • by Coopjust (872796)
      It's Slashdot. The car analogy is mandatory. You have 30 seconds to comply.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cephus (1471105)

      If you are going to make a car analogy, do it right!

      This is like when my BMW broke down and I drove my wife's Honda to the auto parts store:

      Me: I need a starter motor for a 2005 BMW 325i

      Clerk: I'm sorry sir, I can't sell you that part

      Me: Why not?

      Clerk: You are driving a 1998 Honda

      Me: Yes, but I need a starter motor for a 2005 BMW

      Clerk: Sir, I clearly saw you drive up in a 1998 Honda Accord

      Me: Of course you did. I couldn't drive my BMW because the starter motor is dead!

      Clerk: It's not dead, it's just pining

  • Wow. (Score:2, Troll)

    You guys are really hitting the bottom of the barrel in the MS jihad movement, aren't you?

    You mean MS lets you download a patch even though it doesn't apply to the machine you download from?! CRAZY!?!

    What next, going to claim Bill Gates is the antichrist and is just trying to somehow make money off of giving away most of his money to charity? Oh...wait, you already do that. Ahahaha. Jackasses.

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:05PM (#26754211)
    I know, using a Microsoft automated support tool is an instant deduction on my geek points. However, I had a registry issue caused by a botched Office update, and the tool automated a bunch of registry edits and menu navigating, and it actually worked.

    I've also had a few friends (of course, I do the PC repair for them) use it with positive results.

    One of the first things that it asks you is if you're using it on the PC that is having the issue. If you hit "a different PC", it asks you to run it on the other PC, or it gives you step-by-step manual directions.

    Having a friend with an inverse situation (Vista issue, XP fix-it - network related, if I recall correctly), he ran the fix-it tool and hit "problem on this PC"- and it refused to run (wrong OS error).

    The Fix-it tool can fix a lot of errors that would prevent proper internet access too- and not every Windows PC has internet.

    Since the submitter never even tried to run the file (because someone running Ubuntu, or even XP would never need to download a Vista fix-it for his friend), this is really a nonstory.
    • This new iteration of the tool is somewhat different; however, most of what I said is relevant.

      On most issues, it doesn't seem to do anything manually anymore. I tried a Fix-it for a job stuck in a print queue (a network printer on a different network) for XP- it worked fine. I tried a Vista fix-it regarding log files: Open it, it opens a dialog that says "This fix-it does not apply to your system" and closes.

      The page even says:

      Note If you are not on the computer that has the problem, you can save the

    • by bjourne (1034822)

      The sad thing is that there is no Linux equivalent, which seems to be the sole reason for all the criticism. :/ My Ubuntu has been broken for months because PulseAudio butchered the sound system. For some reason, the Ubuntu team has not been able to push an update through the update manager to fix it, despite this being a "Long Term" release. Possibly, the fix involves editing configuration files which is hard to automate using the apt system. For situations like these, a FixIt script written in bash or som

  • While you can download the FixIt on any OS (after all you may be grabbing it on a different machine, at work, at a library or so if your internet at home is down because of a problem you're trying to FixIt) if you run the FixIt application you got on the wrong OS.. it simply tells you the Fix is not meant for you. If it's already applied it silently churns away says, the fix is done and doesn't change a thing.

    Sniffing for user agents basically means you're restricting your fixes to systems which accurately

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:17PM (#26754427) Journal

    I tried to download a Linux program to my Windows box and it let me. This is obviously a bug in the Linux program.

    • I think this is probably the most correct analogy in the set. OS validation at download time is tricky at best and rarely if ever reliable.
  • by Spatial (1235392) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:22PM (#26754531)
    Curious about Brain-Repair, I recently went hunting in the Slashdot Brain Repository for summaries that provide the new brain-repair-button. After locating on few [sic], I decided to click the button to download the Slashdot package to automatically enable the the Consider Actions feature in Idiot OS - on my brain.

    "Surely, Slashdot will use some pupil dilation measurements, phrenology, or even invasive surgery to verify that I do in fact have a brain," I thought. It did not and I stopped in my tracks when I received the prompt to read the study materials into my brain myself.

    So, I wonder: is there a repair button for Brain-Repair? Because I can easily imagine someone doing what I did without scrolling to the bottom of the Slashdot Brain Repository and verifying that the Consider Actions package applies to their brain. This is a great example poor design. [sic] Why not simply use the Brain Preview Jar approach that other Repositories use, whereby the user must select the appropriate brain?
    • by hAckz0r (989977)
      Just imagine the chaos that would ensue if by chance a right-brained person accidentally clicked on the left-brained-repair-button? We might need to bootstrap a live distro alternate reality recovery module to help us restore the original image before it does permanent damage to the hardware. Better prepare those WinBrainPE(tm) disks in advance just in case.
  • by jernejk (984031) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:30PM (#26754677)
    you had a headache (your original problem), went to a drugstore and saw an menstrual pain reliever, which neither applies to your (male) platform nor describe your symptoms on the package, you bought the menstrual pain reliever anyway and now you're ranting that clerk didn't ask you if you were buying it for yourself. With all due respect, sir, basically you're telling us you're an idiot.
    • That looks like it might be a good analogy, does it come in cars?
    • by bcmm (768152)
      I nearly bought a menstrual pain reliever called "Ibuprofem" or something after noticing that the only active ingredient was ibuprofen (I am male and take ibuprofen for headaches).

      Oddly, it was the cheapest brand of ibuprofen in the shop, and was packaged and marketed solely as a menstrual pain treatment.
  • What a great idea that would be.

    Because no one ever downloads things on their work machine and takes them home to their own machine on a ucb thumb drive thing. Or have network issues and want to download something on their laptop and copy it to their desktop machine (say the router died and they have a cell phone network internet pc card on their laptop). Or just plain old happen to be using the XP machine to download something they are going to run on the 3 vista machines.

    No much better that the web site c

  • by Tarlus (1000874) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:47PM (#26754923)
    From TFA:

    This is a great example poor design.

    Seriously, get the fuck off of yourself. People in this community will use any, any excuse to bash Microsoft, citing "bad design" when there are... I don't know, millions of software download sites that don't check details about your computer.

    "Bad design" would be if the software itself didn't first check important details about the system before making any serious changes to it. And it appears to me that this Fix-It program was well-designed to take these things into consideration.

    Valid arguments about how MS may do something poorly is one thing. Extremely common around here. But nitpicking an "issue" as stupid and trivial as this made the main site is just pathetic.

    • by urbanriot (924981)
      No kidding. The OP is now asking for traps to prevent you from downloading tools for OS's that you don't have? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I can download Linux tools on Windows, Windows tools on Mac's, Beos tools on OS/2... this isn't an issue!!! The OP should be moderated troll.
  • Can I have... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jason.sweet (1272826) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:52PM (#26755013)
    the last 90 seconds of my life back, please?
  • by Ironica (124657) <pixel@NoSPAm.boondock.org> on Friday February 06, 2009 @02:00PM (#26755123) Journal

    I'm sure that what happens is you download it, run it, it says, "Oh, I detect that you're not running Windows Vista! Let me FIX that for you!...There, $104.99 has been charged to your credit card. Where else do you want to go today?"

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday February 06, 2009 @02:04PM (#26755183) Homepage Journal
    81 posts so far, and none mention "fucks it". Slashdot ain't what it used to be.
  • by Conficio (832978)

    Isn't this a case of Fix-Your-Expectations?

    First to say, I'm oblivious to what the Fix-It tool is.

    But I'd think I can download a fix, onto a machine that is not the target machine I want to fix. The tool itself should safely check if the fix is applicable, not the download.

  • Curious? (Score:3, Funny)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Friday February 06, 2009 @02:38PM (#26755721) Homepage

    Curious about Ms Fix It

    Not after what Ms. Pac Man did to me!

  • I realize that other posters on here can be that stupid, but this has a certain odor about it.

    Also, kdawson sucks. He needs to go wherever Zonk went.

  • This is like saying MS lets you download XP SP2 patches from a Vista machine. Maybe i have an XP machine I don't want to plug into the net yet?!
  • You can't trust the browser agent string to correctly identify the OS the browser is running on because that value can be tweaked by the client or user in many cases -- some browsers allow it to be set to a custom value! The suggestion that Microsoft should not download a piece of software to a computer over the Internet is absurd. Submitter fail. Story promotion failure big time. I mean, how much information do you really wish a server over the Internet can know about your home computer!?
  • story translates as: "i was allowed to do something that i have no use for, something must be wrong!"

    protip to the author: your imagination is not the limit of all possible cases.

  • I thought I'd seen it all. OMGPonies... a front page filled with nothing but XP bashing... etc etc etc...

    But, seriously. A front page story complaining that you could /download/ something? Sweet zombie jesus on a stick, WTF is wrong with you guys??? "I could download this thing... I think I'll write to /. about it!".

    Articles like this make me firmly believe that we should start allowing natural selection again.

  • Identify the problem and FIX IT [hulu.com]!

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