This is a long entry, involving all of the nine circles of Windows Hell (DLL hell, Activation Hell, Windows Update Hell, File Associations Hell, etc.), so bear with me.

I received the USB Cuecat that I bought on eBay in the mail last Friday afternoon. Even though the Cuecat uses USB, it still functions in the same "keyboard wedge" fashion as the standard PS2 Cuecat. As a result, the good Plug & Play interface in Windows XP detected it as a "USB Human Interface Device."

This is when things turned sour. While Windows also detected it as a "HID Keyboard," it was unable to install the proper driver, failing with the cryptic error, "The data is invalid." Google searches turned up various registry fixes which did not work (since most new devices installed in computers are PCI cards, I was only able to find one person who had trouble installing a USB HID device and received the same error as me.

At this point, I was ready to assume that the problem was with the CueCat (perhaps the data it was sending to my computer was invalid, resulting in the failure to complete the driver installation?). Upon trying it on a Windows 2000 machine in the computer lab, and on my Mandrake Linux partition, I realized that somewhere in the last seven months since I had last reinstalled Windows, something had gone terribly wrong.

The repair installation that I attempted, alas, failed to complete, leaving me with about fourteen gigabytes of various data that I needed to get off before reformatting. While I had planned on reformatting soon, I did not want to do it during the semester, when there is a large amount of work to do. At that point, my hands were tied.

Booting into Linux, I used K3B to burn about twenty 700 MB CDs (documents, pictures, email since the year 2000, about 12 gigabytes of music I did not want to rerip, random video clips, etc.). Then I formatted my hard drive and reinstalled.

Then I reinstalled again (don't even ask).

The good news was, the CueCat worked. The bad news was, I had about 100 megabytes of Windows Updates to install. Unlike the first time I installed Windows XP Service Pack 1, the installation worked the first time, and did not freeze immediately after backing up all of the old system files.

After my computer was completely updated, I realized with dismay that my CueCat did not light up in Windows. It was being recognized! I wonder if the problem was with Service Pack 1, or one of the other updates.

Luckily, I took the less drastic measure of reinstalling my USB hardware drivers. In the first good event in about a day and a half, the CueCat lit up, and was able to scan barcodes. W00t!

While I was reinstalling software (and noticing that all of the files I had burnt had their filenames converted to uppercase and underscores), I found a mysterious program named SoundMan (with an accompanying service). While there is a soundcard utility by the same name, I do not think they are the same program, as most soundcard programs do not attempt to connect to random .edu hosts on port 5999. I think I will try submitting to Kapersky Labs; the last time I had a file that was suspected to be a virus, they were able to detect it as a variant of Sdbot, an IRC bot.

Also, while I have redone all of my partitions, I have not yet reinstalled Linux. I am thinking about leaving Mandrake, and trying out Debian or Gentoo.