Annoying SQL Server 2008 Bugs That Are Kinda Ridiculous

by Jon Davis 25. February 2009 13:06

Generally, rewriting an interface is supposed to take all of the previous interface's measures of quality, or else it shouldn't be done. That rarely happens because it's no fun to go back to last year's drawing board when reviewing next year's software. But when “quality standards” are measured so acutely as in enterprise software, there’s no excuse. On this one, I have to give Microsoft one deserved thumbs down.

SQL Server 2008 is a really big software product--big in its feature set, big in its quality standards, big in market footprint and prevelance, and big in terms of just sheer size on the hard disk, in RAM, and in Windows config munging (registry bits, services, etc.).

To be fair, I haven’t come across many serious SQL Server 2008 runtime bugs; the only one I found was the Ctrl+Shift+M editor bug I blogged about earlier.

No, this bug is in the installation process. SQL Server 2005 had an annoying installer bug where the services wouldn’t be shutdown before service packs installed, resulting in a reboot warning, and the services wouldn’t be restarted before the Vista user configurator ran (which was difficult to find to retry after failing the first try due to the services being down). Even the most recent service pack had this problem.

But SQL Server 2008 has a new installer.

No, I take that back. SQL Server 2008 requires a new installer. This is complaint #1. After sitting and waiting for one or two minutes for SQL Server Express 2008 w/ Adv. Tools & services to extract, it finally pukes and says “Sorry, you have to have a new version of the Windows Installer” (equivalent text). And then it unloads. No links, no help, just leaving you out in the cold. WHY ON EARTH DOES MICROSOFT REQUIRE THE USER TO TRACK DOWN A NEW INSTALLER RUNTIME BEFORE SQL SERVER 2008 WILL EVEN INSTALL?!! One big, fat “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!” for Microsoft. That thing should have been bundled with each and every SQL Server 2008 installer option, including SQL Server Express, et al.

Once the new Windows Installer version is found, and the computer enjoys the tiresome reboot it demands, and I sit through the one or two minute extraction again, I have expectations for it to be a rock-solid installer and experience. But no, it looks and feels like a Windows 98 Active Desktop window; DHTML style links everywhere.

But the biggest “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU, REDMOND?!” moment comes when you fire up the Installer, from within the DHTML-esque launcher window, and then as you start to see the progressbar work its way across the screen, you Alt-Tab to the first window—the launcher window—and close it, to clear up screen resources and desktop space. It closes fine. But a few seconds later, suddenly the real installer (the one with the progress bar) pukes in your face, as it complains that a bunch of files are missing. Ohnoes! Is it a corrupt CD/DVD image or download?

Nope, Microsoft just let their QA staff take a vacation when the brand spanking new installer that Microsoft DEMANDED that you install was actually put together.

What essentially happens is the launcher app is what the initial extractor is waiting to finish before all the extracted installer files are cleaned up. Once the launcher app with the DHTML-esque interface is shoved in your face, and you click on a link, the launcher window is neither minimized nor hidden until the launched application finishes. Failing that, the launched app would need to be in a modal window so you can’t close it. But none of this is the case. So you have to learn by being burned that closing the launcher app will destroy the installer in progress, including potentially its rollback files. Wee.

But, once installed, I’ll give it to Microsoft that I’m still excited about SQL Server 2008. It’s yesteryear’s news, but I have a lot to learn about it still—post-installed.

UPDATE: In addition to restoring this post (not sure why I deleted it) I wanted to mention also that some people, including myself, have struggled with another problem with SQL Server just taking forever—as in, like, 24 hours-ish—to install. I found the cause of this in the SQL 2005 days, and the same cause probably still exists in 2008. Basically, the ACL (Windows Access Control List) of each and every DLL and registry addition is manually verified by the installer against Windows Security / Active Directory. On a standalone machine, this is instantaneous, but in an Active Directory enterprise environment, what happens is the verification is sent to the AD controller, and the AD controller then echos the verification request to every tree in the forest!!

The official workaround to this for AD admins is to configure AD not to replicate the verification requests (it’s some weird setting buried deep in the AD settings, I don’t remember the MS Support link) when the forest is deemed too large to handle it. This will allow the AD controller to be self-sufficient in replying to these verifications all on its own.

But my own workaround was simpler: disconnect the network cable before installing, and reconnect it after it is installed.

The official workaround should have been that Microsoft just go give itself a spanking and come back when it is truly red-faced sorry for verifying the ACL on every single file and registry edit that it imposes.

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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