Still crazy after all these years


Part of tech reviewing means dusting off a Windows machine again. I haven’t done more than check email or run Quickbooks online on a Windows machine since I was writing my book in 2003. Remarkably, Windows XP is still the latest desktop OS available. But it needs updates.

Checking my update history, I had 37 updates installed, with Windows Update insisting on installing three more things including “Genuine Advantage”. Reboot. Yay, now I’m advantaged. Apparently the main new feature in Windows Update is a five-minute “Checking for the latest updates for your computer…” screen. Next Service Pack 2, which has to be installed separately.

This is taking a while, so I have time to re-appreciate the nuances of the Windows UI. In the system tray, I see room for six icons, but only four present. (Clicking the little arrow, though, causes a wiggle, with six icons showing in the same space; after a second, another wiggle and back to four). All of the icons are blurry, two of them enough that I have no idea what they’re supposed to represent.

I couldn’t make stuff like this up, but it blue-screened 73 minutes into the ordeal. Unbelievable. On the bright side, it did recognize that the whole Service Pack didn’t need to be downloaded again.

As an aside, the crash tool suggested that I run the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool, so it’s possible the blue screen was hardware related. Amusingly, the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool is exactly 640kb. If you don’t get the tragic coincidence, post a comment and I’ll tell you. :)

The second run through installing Service Pack 2…blue screens again, this time with some USB error. Upon rebooting, a Windows Setup screen draws little dots for several minutes while “restoring previous configuration”, and the desktop warns me ominously that the system is in an “unstable state”, and that I need to go to Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs and uninstall SP2. The uninstall program helpfully warns me that lots of programs, including “hearts” and “solitaire” toward the top of the list, might stop working, but I bravely press on.

Reboot again. 640×480 resolution, and all kinds of messages like “found new hardware — disk drive”. On the change resolution screen in Control Panel, the “OK” and “Cancel” buttons are off the screen. And another reboot to get networking set up again. At this point I’m three hours wasted, six reboots, and I have nothing to show but an even more unstable system and Genuine Advantage. Wheeeee! At what point does Microsoft throw the “rewrite from scratch” swich? The saga continues, check comments on this post. -m

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3 Replies to “Still crazy after all these years”

  1. >> At what point does Microsoft throw the “rewrite from scratch” swich?

    In fact, if not mistaken, the entire reason Windows XP *IS* still the OS on the shelf at your local CompUSA is that they reached a point in 2004 in which they both realized and were brave enough to decide “we need to start from scratch if we want to accomplish the goals we have set forth.”

    If nothing else, credit for making the right decision should be given. We’ll see if the “right decision” was in fact just that.

    I think it will… but we’ll wait and see before I comment further ;)

  2. I haven’t heard a single thing that makes me believe Vista will be better. Some of the UI stuff I’ve seen around security warnings is terrifying. (And I thought SP2 warning me to turn on automatic updates once per boot was annoying)

    It seems to me there are no benevolent dictators left at Microsoft. Too many committees and review boards.

    Anyway, I got SP2 up. Third time’s the charm. -m

  3. Wait till you see your first nag screen–“It seems your copy of Windows isn’t genuine”–while booting. On a brand new top of the line HP Pavilion, that ought to get your blood flowing. [I saw my first last night on a customer’s PC.] I’ve come across a couple instances where XP Pro on Dell or HP boxes validate as volume licenses and updates are then unavailable through normal windows update. Add to the fact that they usually stiff the consumer on recovery CDs for most “home” machines….(!) (Well you can call Dell and they’ll eventually break down and send you one.)

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