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Innovation

Using Windows Is Like...

A long time ago at a Usenix conference (I think it was the one in Salt Lake City), there was a "quiz" passed around. I'm going to update one of the questions I remember from that, because it is absolutely perfect for what I just went through.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor on

A long time ago at a Usenix conference (I think it was the one in Salt Lake City), there was a "quiz" passed around. I'm going to update one of the questions I remember from that, because it is absolutely perfect for what I just went through.

Fill in the blank: Using Windows is like kicking a ________ down the beach.

The correct answer is dead whale.

Here's the story. The son of a close friend called, because he had a problem with his computer. Without going into the gory details, I had to reload it from scratch. Of course, at the time that he bought the computer, it was ONLY available with Vista. So I started reloading from the DVD. About two hours into the load/update/reboot/update/reboot cycle, it puked all over itself and then couldn't install an update. I found something at Microsoft that purported to fix this problem, tried that, and it made the situation even worse, the computer then just looped through booting, saying "Installing updates 3 of 3 ..." and then rebooting, over and over again.

So I figured I had made a mistake. Started over from scratch. A couple of hours later, the exact same thing. Resisting the urge to throw the computer and the stinking DVDs out the window, I remembered that I still had a somewhat newer Vista DVD that another friend had left here.

I started again, with the newer disk, and this time it worked. Well, "worked" might not be the right word, especially for anything to do with Windows, but at least it installed without error. So after another 6 hours of update/reboot/download drivers/update/reboot/whatever, it was working again.

Total time wasted on kicking the dead whale down the beach: 20 hours. Likelihood that sooner or later that system will barf all over itself and go belly up again: very high.

What should I do to reduce that likelihood? Tell him (or his parents) that they should throw another couple of hundred francs down the toilet to get Windows 7? What do I say when they ask me if that will stop this from happening again? How do I justify it, anyway - with the standard description used even by Microsoft apologists, "Well, Vista was garbage, but this time Microsoft got it right - at least we think so, so far, maybe..."?

Anyone for a walk on the beach?

jw 7/11/2009

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