Adam Jarvis has posted an excellent article commenting on some of the things I wrote about in my rant about Windows Update. As I am not able to post a long comment on his blog, I am writing another entry here, to discuss some of the excellent points he brings up.
First, I absolutely agree with him 100% about making an image copy of an installed system, as the first step with a new computer and after every significant upgrade/update/patch. Unfortunately I am what I have heard my friends and acquaintances refer to in kinder moments as "a soft touch". People bring me broken, dying or dead computers fairly often, and I do what I can to restore them to good working condition, or at least to salvage what I can for installation on their next computer. Those people, at least the first time they come to me, basically never have image backups (but they always do when they get the system back), I count myself lucky if they even have the OEM Recovery disks. So I am often forced to reload from scratch using the procedure I described in my blog.
Yes, Vista SP2 is the "Holy Grail", it is the only version of Vista that I will allow any of the systems I work on to have when I am done with them. I still try my best to convince the owners to use XP (preferably) or Win7 (if they must), but frequently Vista is the only choice, which means slogging through Windows Update to get to SP2 is the only choice. As I have said before, it i a sad commentary on Microsoft that it took them three years, hundreds of patches and two Service Packs to turn Vista into something that is at least marginally usable.
Adam hit the nail squarely on the head with his comment about "having a laptop around that they can use while you work on theirs". Those who know me will know that there are plenty of laptops and netbooks around here that can be lent out in emergencies. I go one step further, though. I make sure the laptop I lend them is running Linux, and show them how to get on the web and do email with it. It is no surprise that I get a fair number of Linux converts this way (saying "Wow, I didn't know there was an alternative that is so much better than Windows"!)
I have tried to get up-to-date disks from Microsoft, and they would be happy to sell me some, of course. But the absolute last thing I will ever do again in this lifetime is give money to Microsoft for anything. In addition, the kinds of computers which are brought to me were invariably bought with an OEM Windows license, so Microsoft won't even talk to me about that. As I said in my blog, I have contacted several OEMs and asked about getting updated Recovery media, and the answer has always been "No". Of course, creating the Recovery DVDs when the notebook is new is certainly a good idea - but that only gives you an image of the system as it was delivered. As soon as patches are out, and especially when an SP has been issued, you're back on the Windows Update merry-go-round with those disks.
Adam makes another excellent point about not being able to upgrade to Windows 7 even when you are willing to pay for it in some cases. A friend brought me a laptop a couple of weeks ago, and said point-blank "This thing is running Vista and it is garbage, it hangs or crashes several times a day. Please upgrade it to Windows 7". I tried, and found that it was going to be a hopelessly tedious job because Dell doesn't provide Windows 7 drivers for that model. Of course I could have tried to scrounge something up that would work, but the risk is far too great when it isn't my computer. The only thing I could do was reload Vista from scratch, and bring it up to SP2. He has reported that it is working much better since then, at least.
Finally, while I would never compare any version of Linux to any version of Windows, I do get what he means about Ubuntu 9.10 and 10.04. There were still a lot of rough edges when 9.10 was released, and it caused a lot of problems and howls of protest for the first month or so. It looks like 10.04 is shaping up to be a lot better, at least functionally. If the controversy about the interface changes, and the decision mechanism behind them, doesn't derail it, I think Adam is right, 10.04 is going to be an excellent release.
Thanks again to Adam for reading and commenting on my previous blog posting, and for writing an excellent entry of his own.