Yesterday, I worked on a pair of laptops. The first is the battered G4 Powerbook of a client of mine; it’s about four years old, and it’s been through the ringer. When I first started working with her, it was intermittently hanging and crashing, and I was able to resuscitate it twice (once with FireWire disk mode after a particularly hair-raising death), so she bought a new hard drive for it and handed it off to me yesterday. After following some remarkably clear directions on Apple’s website, I had the bottom of the case cracked and the drive installed in about ten minutes; an hour later I had a brand-new, up to date install of OS X happily humming on the machine. Case closed.
The other laptop is my Thinkpad, which has been running a ghosted copy of Windows 98—which is about as useful as a hatchet in my neck. Every other time I start up the machine I have to go through some kind of recovery process to get it to work, half the applications I own don’t run on it, and the network support is abysmal. I picked up a copy of Win XP yesterday in the hopes that I could upgrade the OS to something from this century. I popped the disk in and loaded the installer, which helpfully informed me that it needed a CD to “verify” my upgrade path, something the back of the box failed to mention. It listed pretty much every lousy OS Microsoft has published except the one I have a legal copy of (Windows NT Server), and refused to recognize that disk altogether. So I decided I’d upgrade the OS I have, figuring it would be better than nothing.
I was wrong.
Three hours after I started the “upgrade”, I found myself in Windows XP, and figured things had gone smoothly. There were various driver issues to be resolved, so I went to the Lenovo site and started downloading the updates for my particular system, installed one, and rebooted. It was then that I knew I was in trouble, because I got some screen that mentioned something about the FAT file system, windows/DUMP.temp, and that my “first allocation unit is not valid”, and then sent me into some kind of a low-res Windows XP screen, and then I got a blue screen that showed up for about one second, and then I went right back to the black BIOS screen for another cycle of the same crap all over again. I resisted the urge to scream, because it was 1AM and Jen was asleep upstairs.
This morning I booted off the install CD and chose “repair installation” from the menu, thinking I’d get something that would help me troubleshoot the problem. Again, I was too optimistic. I was greeted with a black command-line screen full of cryptic commands that were supposed to “help” me with my problem. CHKDSK is the one I recognize, so I ran that, and it told me there are errors on my disk. Yeah, no kidding. So what do I do about it? Got any suggestions, you stupid piece of shit? All the other “utilities” wanted to do stuff like repartition my drive or re-order my boot sequence, something I can do in BIOS already. Where’s the command for “fix that shit you told me was broke?”
I put a call into my Dad, who has several Win 98 discs laying around, and hopefully he can send me one so I can spoof this shit software into thinking it’s OK to do a clean installation instead of doing it ghetto-style on top of Win 98.
It’s not that I’m mad at Microsoft for making piracy hard; I understand, to a point, where they’re coming from. My anger lies in the incomprehensible installation process, made difficult for people who are not CS majors or CompUSA employees. Would I be able to walk my mother through this process remotely if I was trying to troubleshoot her PC (If I was stupid enough to recommend a PC to my Mother in the first place)? Not a chance. Would I recommend this software to anyone else? Not on your life. One of the reasons I decided to install it myself was because I’d heard that the big computer manufacturers are bundling spyware and other crap on the computers they sell, and I want to have as little of that shit to deal with as possible. It looks like I have a whole other mess I have to deal with instead.