Installing Visual Studio .Net Beta 2: The Oddysey from Hell?

By Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.

Peter Bromberg  

I've been a Beta tester for Microsoft, off and on, for quite a long time. My first official stint was sometime around 1985 - when they released the BASIC compiler. For those of you expert hotshot programmers who are too young to remember what you were doing during the Crash of '87 or who don't know what a mutual fund is, the BASIC compiler was a deal that processed your GW-Basic non-gui, inline code that had a buncha GOSUBS and GOTOS in it, and this dealie would mangle it and turn out an EXE file that you could RUN - without the BASIC interpreter. In geek - speak, kinda like running a Java program without the Java VM. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool cause I was writing a lot of spaghetti code in those days. You know the quote, "The way to understand recursion is to understand recursion" ? -- well, my code was living proof.



Since then I've seen Microsoft turn this "Beta" thing into an industry, complete with marketing hype, advertising, road shows, and live presentations by none other than Mr. Bill himself. The next thing you know, they'll announce a Beta by bringing in Bill Clinton to play the saxophone (talk about torture!).

Well, having worked successfully with VS .NET Beta 1 since bringing it back from the PDC in Orlando last August, I kinda felt like an "old hand" here. Of course I did read the Readme (that's what it's for, right?) and I didn't particularly remember seeing anything much different from the usual stuff they put in there. You know, "Don't read Grisham during DISK 1 as it may blow up your BIOS", and other cryptic stuff.

So I uninstalled VS .NET Beta 1 and the Framework SDK as advised, and proceeded to install my new toy. The framework, including Front Page Extensions, Windows Installer 2, and all the rest, went in without a hitch. Then we start with the .NET IDE and all of its baggage. About 2/3 of the way through (and I can tell you, no matter how fast your machine, it will be a LONG one) I started getting error messages from some weirdo service I didn't even know I had- the Script Blocking Service! Sure enough, a check of Services showed the little booger sittin' right there, all turned on and ready to blast into action.

Turns out that Script Blocking Service is installed by default when you put in Norton Antivirus. What's worse is that if you go to the Symantec site and try to find out how to disable it, they have some old text and graphics that no longer apply to the 2001 version. So, you're sunk. It didn't matter if I disabled the service. All further attempts to get VS .NET Beta 2 working were futile. On top of that VS .NET removed my "Add/Remove Programs" Applet from control Panel. Not only could I not Install/unistall programs, I couldn't add/remove Windows components either! Not good.

The moral of the story is this: DO NOT attempt to install Visual Studio .Net Beta 2 on a machine that has Norton Antivirus, Black Ice, Zone Alarm, or any other similar program on it, because it's likely to mangle your machine, FUBAR! Now there is a warning in the readme from Microsoft, but it's not worded strongly enough. Especially the Script Blocking Service from Symantec. It's like Frankenstein - the second there is any type of scripting activity, be it friend or foe, this thing jumps out and KILLS IT.

And another thing - just because you see this last screen:


-- doesn't mean that setup worked! Let me humor you with a tidbit quote from one of the newsgroups that "says it all":


Subject: FAILURE = EATS ALL PROGRAMS WRITTEN WITH PAST VS6 or VS7
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 19:19:53 -0700
Newsgroups: microsoft.public.vsnet.setup

ALL FILES I HAD 1000+ hrs are gone due to a botched install of VSNET
BETA2.... CAN YOU F**King explain this???

There are a number of other issues as well, including the inability to burn CD's from the MSDN distro SFX's because most CD burning software can't handle folder trees nested greater than eight levels or filenames greater than 100 characters (not ISO compatible). So you'll end up with four coasters for your coffee table. Not a word on this in advance from Microsoft. "Who cares? We use CD's as alternative currency here in Seattle!"

But the bottom line is this: I reinstalled my OS as an update, I got back my Control Panel, I reinstalled VS .NET Beta 2, and it works great. And I even put back Zone Alarm and NAV, and everything still works great. And although I'm a little PO'd because Microsoft has had nearly a year to get this install thing right, I'm looking forward to continuing my studies with the newest Beta 2 version of Visual Studio .Net. So should you.

IMPORTANT UPDATE - POSTED 08/08/2001:

If you are installing Visual Studio .NET Beta 2 (Enterprise Version) - MAKE SURE you have completely UNINSTALLED MSXML 4.0 April or July Technology Previews!!! This includes going through the Registry with REGEDIT and Removing any and all references to MSXML4*.*!!! If not, you may experience the dreaded Error 1926, which occurs about 2 minutes from the very end of the install process! Check the MSFT newsgroup at news:msnews.microsoft.com and the vsnet.setup newsgroup for details. Kudos to Greg Kerr who first detailed a workaround for this!

Peter Bromberg is an independent consultant specializing in distributed .NET solutionsa Senior Programmer /Analyst at in Orlando and a co-developer of the NullSkull.com developer website. He can be reached at info@eggheadcafe.com