Tuesday, November 18, 2008

.NET Framework corruption may cause Microsoft LifeCam installer hang. Java-vu?

It all started innocently enough, with corporate testing of Google Video chat.

In one test using a camera only on my machine my test subject couldn’t read my whiteboard. She was seeing a mirror image display.

It’s not supposed to work that way. I’m supposed to see a mirror image of myself in a small part of the screen, my correspondent is supposed to see a standard non-mirror image [1].

So I tried to fix things. That’s how I got Java-vu all over again, with flashbacks to the dark days of .comBubble 1.0 – when we were wrecked on the reefs of JVM version control.

First I uninstalled all other video conferencing clients, starting with Oovoo. Nice product in many ways, but it kept dropping my conferences. Can’t have that.

Then I tried adjusting the settings on my Microsoft LifeCam VX 6000. (Nice hardware for its day, horrid drivers.[2])

Oops, can’t find the software. Ok, I’ll just reinstall – time to see how much Microsoft has fixed.

So I download the LifeCam drivers and install. All is well until I get to the point where it’s say “Downloading and installing files..." . The progress indicators moves gradually to the end … and starts over again.

And again.

And again.

Time goes by. It seems to be hung. I kill the install and a search leads me to a Microsoft support site (emphasis mine) ..

Software Setup Malfunction in Start - Help and Support Feature Discussion

… My problem is similar. I'm trying to install the software but the install process won't proceed past, "Downloading and installing files..." The green bars at the bottom fill up, as if progressing, but it's been running for a couple of hours now. I thought maybe the problem was with the CD, so I tried  it with the downloaded version with the same result…

Hey PJB. After much frustration, and less than great support from Microsoft, my issue was tracked down to be caused by a bad file somewhere in my Microsoft .Net Framework software...I had versions 1.1, 2.0 and 3.0 installed on my computer...along with a SP 1 for version 1.1.

I found this link helpful: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923100/en-us

Try and use method one to uninstall your .net framework software. Method one did not work for me, I kept getting issues with removing both 2.0 and 3.0.

I then used method 2 which entails following another link and downloading a .net framework cleanup tool. I ran the program to cleanup ALL .Net versions. Then I went back to Microsoft Downloads and downloaded .net framework 1.1, 2.0 and 3.5 (not 3.0 - for some reason 3.0 would not download and created issues).

Once these .Net Framework downloads were installed I downloaded and installed LifeCam 2.04 software and my kid was up and running in 10 minutes.

It took me over a week to get this issue resolved.

One more thing, when you are downloading and installing your .net framework files you need to make sure you download in the proper sequence. Also, for some reason I encountered printer issues the first time through this. The second time I just unplugged my printer until all downloads were installed and I did a computer restart and the printer issue went away.

Yes, Microsoft has problems. Sure reminds me of my JVM versioning nightmares.

The kb article strongly recommends uninstalling from Add/Remove Software – but that only worked for .NET 1.1. The OS wouldn’t uninstall 2.0 or 3.0 because they were in use. It did uninstall 3.5.

So I followed the scary “method 2” and stripped all my .NET stuff away and rebooted. Scary, because .NET is XP’s 2nd brain now, so I was potentially breaking a lot of stuff.

I got lucky, no critical problems on restart. I decided to then use Windows Update to add back my .NET runtimes. It first offered me 1.1 and 2.0; I have no use for 1.1 so I just took 2.0. It then allowed me 2.0SP1. Each install took a fair amount of time.

I stopped there and tried running the LifeCam installer. I figured it would install 3.0SP1 if it needed it.

It seemed to hang again, but I figured it was installing .NET 3.0 and was using a very bad process indicator. I was willing to give it an hour, but it finished in about 30 minutes or so (I think our WAN connection is hurting).

I rebooted. Now Add/Remove showed me only .NET 2.0SP1 and .NET 3.0SP1. I didn’t bother with 3.5. Interestingly I used to also see .NET 2.0 and .NET 3.0 as separate entries, but now I only saw the SP entries.

Now I could use Microsoft’s control panel for the LifeCam. There’s a “mirror mode” setting there, I turned it off. I also set the resolution to 800x600 for what that was worth.

I then retested in Google Video Chat. Success – my correspondent reported the mirror problem had resolved.


Oh, and yes, I think there was something evil in my .NET 3.0/SP1 install.

[1] People are very distracted by non-mirror views of themselves. We aren’t used to looking at ourselves that way. So most video conferencing clients mirror our own image. Problem, is that inverts text. The smarter video clients let users turn off self-mirror mode, but Google doesn’t allow that (not sure about iChat). The remote person never wants to see me or my whiteboard in mirror mode.

[2] Google is reselling a nice Logitech webcam for $70.

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