Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Order of the boot

When my employers wanted to experiment with Windows Vista, it was an easy choice to pick the employee whose work they could most afford to lose. Was it, they wanted to know, really as bad as people were saying?

It took me about two weeks to make up my mind about that. Yes. Yes, it was. If anything it was worse than people were saying. Not only had it reorganised some basic functions and obscured others, added enormous delay to simple things such as booting, file copying and even file deletion; it was prone to slowdowns and erratic pop-ups occurring for no discernable reason at all; it would make its own decisions about how to display a file folder (it's convinced that some of my application folders are full of MP3s, and others are photos, and no matter how many times I tell it they're not it always reverts sooner or later); and it broke some of what I considered the best basic features of earlier Windows versions, such as giving the user a warning when they try to delete a file that's marked as "Read Only".

Now, Vista has already been superseded, and I'm seeing the Internet fill up with people commenting "It's not that bad, really".

I have two words for those people: "Stockholm Syndrome". It is that bad, really. Two service packs, innumerable patches and 30 months of use experience later, everything I complained about in the above paragraph is still true. The big difference is that now I know how it sucks.

And so it was with a heavy heart that I rebooted my laptop this morning. See, Windows updated yesterday - presumably that security hole that everyone's been going on about - and that meant that when I woke it from overnight hibernation this morning, it reminded me to reboot. Options at this point are: "Remind me again in 10 minutes/1 hour/4 hours". No option for what I want, which is "Remind me when I click 'Hibernate' or some other shutdown option again, and in the meantime just shut up and work."

Just in case anyone thinks I'm exaggerating about how bad Vista is, I took the liberty of recording what happened next:
  • 8:09 a.m.: I click the "Restart Now" button in the "nagging" dialogue. The dialogue goes away and my cursor changes to the dreaded infinite-looping affair that says my computer will now not respond to anything I do for an indeterminate time to come.
  • 8:11: Dialogue pops up: "Windows Explorer has stopped working". Options are: "Check online for a solution and restart the program", "Restart the program", "Debug the program". No mention of "Just shut the fucking program down already." I ignore it, in the well founded hope that Windows will forget about it.
  • 8:12: Outlook pops up a dialogue asking if I'd like to auto-archive my old items now. Miraculously, this dialogue does have a "No!!!!" option. I click it.
  • 8:14: Screen goes black.
  • 8:17: I get back with coffee. Screen is still black.
  • 8:18: Part 1 of the Windows startup sequence appears. It looks superficially like a progress bar.
  • 8:19: "One of your disks needs to be checked for consistency. You may cancel the disk check, but it is strongly recommended you continue." Windows has said this on every single startup since a new hard disc was fitted about a year ago. CHKDISK has never found any issues. To be on the safe side, I humour it. (In fact cancelling is more trouble than it's worth, because it means pressing a key, which - since Windows is not yet aware of the external keyboard - means opening the laptop, which means Windows rearranging the displays, which would take another 90 seconds at minimum.)
  • 8:21: Screen goes black. Remains black for over 50 seconds.
  • 8:22: "Please wait". Well, that makes a nice change of pace.
  • 8:22: "Configuring updates: part 3/3"
  • 8:24: "Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to log on". I do so.
  • 8:25: "Welcome"
  • 8:26: Desktop appears, but cursor is still in circling "wait" mode
  • 8:27: Cursor switches to "ready" mode. I click to open Outlook.
  • 8:29: I can see my Inbox! Start trying to read e-mail.
  • 8:35: "Multiple problems exist with your computer security". This dialogue is another thing that keeps coming back like a vampire, no matter how many times I stake it. The "problems"? "Windows Defender is out of date. Update now?"

So, your recommendation is that I go through all that again? I'll pass.

Time taken from switching on to getting a usable desktop: 20 minutes. Time taken to anything like full functionality (i.e. Windows stops interrupting me every 2 minutes to nag about something): over 35 minutes.

I remember when booting a computer meant loading a program from cassette tape. It didn't take one-quarter as long as this.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, am I glad that I'm still using old Windows on my desktop. Maddening though it is .... I still miss good old DOS and UNIX etc. There is something about these modern clever 'puters that all think they know best what's good for you. Even my nice new Macbook Pro with its clever Leopard and silly iThisThatandTother drive me mad. I like to be the boss as you should know.

Nodressrehearsal said...

We got my son a computer about a month before Windows 7 came out, so it came with a free upgrade.

I just ended up taking it to a computer guy because of all I read online about the upgrades losing all your data and recongfiguring stuff. For $50 he'll do the back up, upgrade, and reload all the data.

Peace of mind? Priceless.

vet said...

Peace of mind is very nice, I agree. But some might carp that $50 is not a "free" upgrade...

Having said that, I'd pay that much to upgrade this machine. Unfortunately it belongs to my employer, so it's their call.

My home machine runs XP. Never gives trouble (touch wood)...