clearly fixboot and fixmbr were not the solution. my computer rebooted in my sleep friday night and there was a DISK BOOT FAILURE awaiting me. windows didn't want to boot for me. an hour and a half later we went to the grocery store and it still didn't want to boot after i got back. so the problem is most likely that my hard drive is failing.
i went to fry's and got a new drive: 250gb pata with whopping 16mb cache for $99. that's a big cache. i also grabbed a UPS/battery backup. took it all home and plugged in the new drive... though because of short cables i couldn't hook up all four drives at the same time. i'll need to decide how to solve that later: get longer cables, move the dvd drive within reach, or just yank the "failing" drive once i get all my important data off it. right now, the "failing" drive isn't connected.
i formatted the drive and started installing windows. i got a couple errors: "setup cannot copy file 3dsomething.cu_". i'm not sure what was up with that but i grudgingly selected "cancel" for those two files and windows seemed to continue installing normally. everything seemed to work fine; i ran windows update and installed drivers. then, after i downloaded the driver program for my m-audio 44 card, i rebooted and windows got stuck at the "welcome" screen. i rebooted a few times and it still stalled there; even when i tried to boot to safe mode, it stalled there.
so i guess i need to start over, and reinstall windows. so far i have no reason to believe that this is the same boot problem. the symptoms suggest that it's a totally new problem and the boot problem was in fact caused by the other hard drive. though i could be wrong.
clearly i am not writing this on my computer. i'm at virago's apartment now and probably won't have time to work on my computer again until tomorrow night, after work. right now we're getting ready to go to the fancy brunch at the scholar's inn on massachusetts avenue. the menu looks like it should be pretty good, and they have champage cocktails for half price.
then a few hours after that we're going up to muncie to see the 16 bitch pile-up/burning star core show at the talley (with local support by unszene and bobby vomit). see awia news for details: it's free and all ages. we'll be back late, which means no time for computer fixin'.
update: i'm pretty sure the missing *.cu_ files were compressed cursor files, which explains why windows seemed to function normally with them missing. so that doesn't seem likely to be the cause of my most recent problem. the new problem appeared right after i installed the latest m-audio delta 44 drivers. did installing those drivers cause the problem, or is that coincidence?
another thought: when i first installed the new drive, i didn't get the IDE cable hooked in just right (actually, it was fine, but i pulled it back out when hooking it into the second drive). then i started up the computer once and it wouldn't boot, because there was no hard drive at bus 0, id 0. i quickly opened it back up and plugged the drive back in, although oddly the result of this was that my second drive (label SECONDRIVE) came up as C:\ and the first partition of the new hard drive came up as F:\! it seemed very strange for F:\ to be my primary partition, but windows seemed to load and run normally even with that drive letter. so i left it that way, but i suppose there's some possibility that this was the cause of my problem... however unlikely it might seem. of course, now that i probably need to reinstall windows once more, this should be relatively easy to fix: just unhook the second drive before starting the windows installation. in theory, that should reset the drive sequencing so that bus 0 id 0 will once again be C:\. in theory.
at any rate, in about 4 hours i will finally be able to tackle this again. i will post future updates as things progress.¶