Stupid user tricks: IT admin follies

IT heroes toil away unsung in miserable conditions -- unsung, that is, until they make a colossally stupid mistake

Let's just call it "boot.ini"

Incident: Although not as wildly popular as World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer game Eve Online has developed a dedicated global following in its first five years of existence. But even its most ardent supporters had to roll their eyes at the cock-up the game's developers perpetrated on players this past December.

As part of a patch the company called "Trinity," developers offered an optional graphics update. But instead of the promised dramatic improvement in the visual appearance of massive spaceborne warships and other in-game graphic elements, some players who installed the patch received an unpleasant surprise.

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The developers used a file named "boot.ini" as the configuration file for the update -- and an unfortunate extra backslash in the installer for the update. As a result, the installer overwrote the boot.ini file in the root of the C: drive that Windows uses to start up the computer, and then deleted itself after the patch was applied. When some players rebooted, Windows reported an error. A few PCs needed a Windows CD to affect repairs.

Fallout: In the end, the problem affected only a subset of players running certain versions of Windows. Moreover, it was easily reversible, though if you can't boot up your computer to Google a fix, you're kind of stuck there, chief.

Moral: The boot.ini botch is inexcusable. Having been located on the root of the C: directory since Windows 3.1, it's not like it's a little-known file. In other words, keep your platform knowledge within a decade of the latest developments, and never name your files after anything that appears by default on the root of the hard drive in Windows.

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Andrew Brandt

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