Subtitle: I suspect Vista will become the new bane of my existence.

This one is for the designated “tech guru” in any circle of friends/family. Bear with me while I give a bit of backstory.

About a year and a half ago a friend brought me their defunct PC and asked if I could get it up and running again. She just didn’t have the money to buy a new PC at the time, so she was hoping I could use my Mojo to bring it back from the dead.

Now, this PC was a real piece of work. It was already 6 or 7 years old at this point, and various pieces of the motherboard had failed. A few add-on cards got past the worst of it (the onboard graphics and networking were shot – among other problems), and the thing had a wacky BIOS that was seriously un-fun to deal with. On top of that, it was a “hard soldered” motherboard – nearly everything was soldered in – including the processor and other chipsets that normally you can just pull and replace.

I spent my spare time over a couple of weeks tinkering with it, partly for the challenge. In the end, I managed to get it up and running by disabling different parts of the motherboard through the BIOS, and then installing Ubuntu Linux on it, because Winblows couldn’t deal with the remaining FrankenComputer that was left over.

This person was in many ways perfect for Linux. She used her computer for surfing the web, doing e-mail, and using basic office type applications. She isn’t a gamer and isn’t prone to needing to install everything that some flashing banner ad asks her to install. Within a few days, she was more than used to the new operating system, and was quite happy with it. Linux was running better on that machine than Winblows ever had.

I did advise her that it was a stopgap solution, that given the rapidly degrading hardware, she might get six months or a year more out of that computer.

Then I pretty much forgot about it. Funny thing about Linux. When I set someone up with a *nix box, I don’t tend to hear back from them. When I set someone up with a Winbox, I usually hear from them once a month or so, usually because of some spyware or virus related problem. (And yes, I make sure they’re set up with decent anti-virus and anti-spyware software, but if the monkey clicks on the flashy thing on the screen, quite often, the best anti-virus/antispyware software on the market won’t help you.)

Anyhoo, last week the gal I’d set up with Ubuntu finally gave me a call. After a year and a half of trouble free Linux living, the hard drive had given up the ghost. The boot sector had become corrupted, and the machine was finally and irrevocably fekact. She wanted to know two things:

  1. Could I get her files off the hard drive.
  2. Could I help her pick out a new computer.

I said I’d see what I could do.

For problem the first, it turns out she was extremely lucky. While the hard drive was in the process of having a mechanical breakdown, the only irrevocable damage so far had been to the boot sectors. Pulling the hard drive from the case and inserting into a cooled external case, I hooked it up to to a separate Linux box and managed to keep it alive long enough to pull her personal files. Well, all but 5 files out of over a thousand. A pretty good recovery rate.

For problem the second, I spent a couple of hours online going through the deals of various local retailers, looking for a decent pre-build at a reasonable price. It turns out that the best hardware deal around last week (and it will be different this week, I assure you), happened to be a machine that came with Vista pre-installed. Usually, I can get a bare-bones, no OS machine for cheaper, but one of the retailers was blowing out one of their models at a ridiculously low price. She lucked out.


I took the machine over to her apartment, and hooked everything up. Even though Vista was “pre-installed,” it had to go through the “booting for the first time” process, gather user information, yadda yadda, and it actually had to re-boot something like 5 time before it was ready to go. I hung around long enough to install Firefox and OpenOffice, then put on my jacket and got ready to go. I’d been drinking too much coffee, so I had to hit the biffy.

The only reason I mention that, is because in the time it took me to put my jacket on and have a tinkle, Vista had managed to achieve it’s first brain fart and completely lock up. It actually made me smile.

Less than 5 minutes to first crash. Impressive.

It turns out it was a driver conflict for the mouse. Now, how any modern OS can fuck up anything quite so simple as a mouse driver is beyond me, but there you go. It took a couple of minutes, and everything was up and going.

I made for the door a bit more quickly this time. It was my day off and I had things I wanted to get done. Sitting around fucking with Vista wasn’t high on my list of priorities.

(NB: The Vista “Aero” interface is quite pretty – no doubt about it. But I could tell by looking at it that it would be a horrible resource hog.)

Now, this friend is also a co-worker. She works in a different building, but on the same shift. Last night I happened to be on the phone with another supervisor, and at the end of the conversation, they added “Oh, and by the way, I’ve been listing to Jax bitch about how much Vista sucks for the past half hour.”

I told her to tell Jax I’d give come over and put Linux on the machine.

Now, Jax isn’t a super-user. Jax is just an average user. But after a year and a half of having a machine that just worked, and the operating system not getting in her way, Vista just pissed her off. It took less than four days.

So, over five years and hundreds of millions of dollars for Redmond to come out with an OS that terminally pisses off and average home user in under four days.

The Open Source movement couldn’t ask for better advertising.

2 Responses to “Windows Vista – not exactly “wow””

    LOVELY story! Gave me several chuckles…. As it happens, I’ve had various windows machines that are about the same vintage as your friend’s – I’ve kept them going for YEARS on older versions of windows (for me, not for others – I’m just about done with “machines for others”…. ick….)

    As it happens, I’ve got two programs on my “black hole” list (that’s the stuff where I go, “not now, probably not EVER”) right now: Vista, and WP2.1+….

    WP 2.1.1 was the one with the problem… haven’t tried 2.1.2 yet.

    Yah, my whole “machines for others” list keeps shrinking, but there are a few friends I still help out. The list only includes people who aren’t technically savvy, but at least they know enough not to do “dumb” things.

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