Thursday, December 20, 2007

OK, I'm giving up -- Oy vey Vista

I tried. Lord knows, I've tried. I took a perfectly decent Windows XP Professional set up and applied an "upgrade" using Vista Home Premium Academic Upgrade. Ever since that moment, sometime in spring 2007, my very decent Core 2 Duo, RAID0 arrayed, HP digital media desktop has given me nothing but heartache.

But I like the challenge, that's why I do these things. You see, I fancy myself a bit of the techy wonk. I'm the guy people call -- offering the requisite bottle of single malt in exchange for an actual paycheck -- to come over and fix their computer problems. (One time I actually was able to "fix" someone's lack of connection to the internet by placing her Ethernet wire in the ethernet jack, because she had loosely inerted the wire in the phone jack on the modem card).

To put it simply, I know how to troubleshoot.

Sometimes I will discover a recently applied update to Vista will cause something to misbehave. No problem -- I've been using System Restore for years without any serious problems. Just to make sure, I recently bought a USB hard drive and Norton Ghost 12.0 (even though I despise Norton products) to make certain I've got a backup in case everything catastrophically fails.

Well, yesterday afternoon, in a cascade of minor compounding stumbles, everything catastrophically failed. It all started when I noticed that my system font seemed "funny." I rebooted. Same weird font appearance. Then I looked at the recently applied updates (I learned about a month ago to quit automatically upgrading Vista -- now I look at the pushed files one at a time and only selectively update my installation). I decide to use System Restore to bring my computer back to the state it was in 4 days ago. And then all hell broke loose. When the time travel "restoration" was finished, my user account files (with my administrator level password) were gone; there was no way to enter my operating system and no way to turn the clock back. I was cooked. Thank God, said I to myself, I had started using Ghost!

And guess what? Norton Ghost 12.0 doesn't restore my computer. I've reached a point now where -- having decided, a la the funny Mac commercials, to downgrade back to Windows XP -- I can't even install Windows XP. The nice polite on-line support guy at Norton (named David -- is that an Anglicization for Devdas?) told me to essentially wipe out my partition table. Sounded reasonable. Now I can't even format my hard drives. I think my Master Boot Record is a goner. Essentially, I've now got a 35-pound fan with little lights. OK, I do have all my data on the USB hard drive, which I'm starting to move over to my laptop (ironically pre-loaded with Vista). But the experiment with Vista is now officially over.

Avi, you were right.

Update (Dec. 26): I had a set of system restoration DVDs which brought me back to the pristine Windows XP Media Center system I got when I bought my desktop. It took a few days, and it turned out the Norton Ghost files were very useful, but I am now running everything just fine under XP. There is no doubt in my mind that Vista is a disaster, akin to the unspeakable piece of crap that was Windows ME. Lesson learned: never try upgrading to Vista. I guess if it comes pre-installed it might not be that bad (as in my new laptop) -- and I do miss the much better Search Files function and Widgets in Vista -- but I'll do without, just happy to be back in business.

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