Monday, May 19, 2008

Steve Ballmer Owes Me Money

...or at least my Sunday back. For the most part we've avoided Vista but I did buy a Dell laptop for J last year that came with Vista Home Premium and it has certainly had more than its share of problems. Some of them are no doubt familiarity, which makes one ask why Microsoft thought it prudent to take a lot of the management controls and user controls that we've all become accustomed to with XP and essentially hide them. Much worse are the constant cases of the laptop locking up and other problems - the known issues with Vista make it difficult to tell what's a Vista problem and what is potentially a hardware problem.

Sunday was the topper though, as I tried to install SP1 on the laptop to see if it would alleviate some of these problems. While SP1 has been out for two months, it has not been presented to everyone yet via Windows Update, so I downloaded the almost half a gigabyte executable and, after backing up J's files, gave it a go. Halfway through it blew up with an error message so I rebooted to reset things and to start my debug. Then things got interesting. Well, if by interesting I mean frustrating as hell.

When the system started back up, I was presented with a message that the laptop could be running an unauthorized copy of Vista. My choices were to check it out or close. Knowing that this was clearly due to the failed SP1 installation, I hit "Close" which instead of letting me bypass the notice, shut the machine down. Wonderful.

So I started the laptop back up, got the message again, and hit the button to check it out, which opens a browser to the Microsoft "Genuine" page and, after the 8 Microsoft security messages I had to respond to for the ActiveX control from THEIR website to load, it told me that there was a problem with our installation of Vista and gave some suggestions for things to try, all of which required access to the "Start" button which at this point I did not have since Windows had never completed its initialization. So back to shutting down - laptop is currently unusable.

Next step was to bring the laptop up in Safe mode and try to do a System Restore. Took a few tries to figure out the right key to hit at startup to stop Windows initialization but finally got there and restored back to the earliest restore point, which had been 2pm Sunday. This took awhile but allowed me to boot the laptop all the way up into Vista and to find that the frickin System Restore hadn't considered the "Download" folder to contain personal files, so I lost the damn executable.

Downloaded the exe again, this time from MY laptop, and burned it to CD. I had also installed an outstanding patch before trying to load SP1 and thought maybe it had caused a problem, but now with the system restored it was no longer there, so I tried installing SP1 again. No luck. And once again I couldn't boot due to the Windows Genuine Advantage message. Reboot, Safe Mode, System Restore.

In the meantime, from some of the reading I'd done I thought there might be some previous optional patches that I had not installed that might be needed for SP1, so I went back in to Windows Update and decided to install all of the optional patches that were presented. Each of these steps is taking a considerable amount of time of course, so by this time it is well into the evening after I've taken a break to take J to evening services at her church and I've slammed down a couple of Bass ales at my "church" while watching LeBron James and Paul Pierce duke it out. I've been doing other things at the same time, but this is really getting annoying and I've gotten no closer to getting SP1 installed.

So, patches are on, I reboot and before I've even tried to reinstall SP1, I've got a Windows Genuine Advantage violation again. Unbelievable. Reboot, Safe Mode, System Restore. It's 1am and I'm no closer to having SP1 installed than I was at 2pm.

So now I'm exploring other options - blow Vista away and install XP, set up a dual-boot with Vista AND XP or even install a user-friendly Linux distro with OpenOffice since the primary uses of the laptop are web, email and document editing.

As far as Vista goes, I've bought three machines in the last 9 months that were preloaded with Vista. One was the Dell laptop - lots of problems. The second was a refurbed Gateway desktop for me - I immediately blew Vista away and started playing with various Linux distros but I've since reinstalled Vista to try to do some troubleshooting for JennySlash and for the third system I bought, a similarly-configured Gateway refurb that I gave to Mom for her birthday. She had no end of trouble with it and finally gave it back hoping I could get my money back for it. Not a good track record. As J said last night, what do people that DON'T have an IT professional in the family do?!

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At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just bask in the glow of their bright business model.

Sorry you had to go through all of that. It's good that linux has so viable solutions for most basic computing needs. Unfortunately, it probably falls a bit short with many things you've been used to using on Windows. Stories like this tends to be the kind of push that narrows that gap, though.

All the Best,

At 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ballmer got egged in Hungary.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Special K said...

Sorry this happed to you, Tony. It's pretty frustrating on this end as well. I'll pass this on to folks who should hear it here at MSFT if you don't mind. I hope that will help them get their (our) act together.


At 11:07 PM, Blogger Tony Plutonium said...

Thanks for the comments - it's been interesting. CK, I forgot you were working for MS - certainly feel free to pass my experience on but it is pretty well reflected by a number of other anecdotes on the web. Despite what I may say over a couple of beers, I honestly think that MS really is trying to make computing easier but they're about as delicate as an elephant. And unfortunately I'm afraid they're in many cases they're fixing problems that don't actually exist.

At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow I am not the only one that hates Vista, my husband's DELL laptop is so slow even after the purchase of 2 gig of memory from staples, that I rarely touch it. I am really enjoying my refurb(used)? VAR book that he picked up 2 years ago. Even though its screen is pretty faded now. We only use our laptops for email and surfing the web, and his is so sloooowww that you can feel yourself age. Good luck!

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another reason I own a Mac - it just works. I run all my Windows needs (work requirements) in a VM. Sorry to hear you had such problems, but if it helps you are not alone. Vista has move more fellow IT folks I know to other OSes than the entire time I have been a computer geek.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Tony Plutonium said...

I know it's not particularly practical, but I still have real issues with the proprietary nature of Apple's business model. Yes, it is at the core of why it "just works", but philisophically it bugs the heck out of me. Of course Microsloth does too, but that still points me in the direction of Linux as an alternative, where I will likely be just as frustrated as I am with MS but it won't cost me nearly as much money...

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time is money....hours, days, stress and frustration... ;-)


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