Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Remainder of My Week of Hell: Things Can Only Get Better

The other big frustration I had to deal with last week was the overwhelming sense of withdraw I went through as my new laptop was temporarily de-commissioned.

I am a creature of habit. I have certain things I need on me al all times (or at least access to). I like things to be in the same place twice (preferably regularly) and like things stacked in neat little piles where I can find them. I'm not anal-retentive, OCD, or maniacal about order, but I like to be able to accomplish my tasks quickly and efficiently.

As said creature of habit, I always need the following things on me at all times or I feel absolutely naked:

  • My Cell Phone (I get calls for quartet gigs, need to be available to handle emergencies with the kids, coordinate the schedule of my insane life, and able to be told what to pick up from the store on the way in from work)
  • My Wallet (Gotta have the cash or cards to PAY for the aforementioned stuff from the store, not to mention be legal to drive to and from it)
  • My Keys
  • My Watch
  • My pocket multi-tool and/or pocket knife
  • And now my newest mandatory accoutrement – My Laptop.

If I am without any of these, I am at loose ends and feel as vulnerable as a squirrel thrown into a shark tank.

Lately, the laptop has become more and more an integral part of my daily life. I connect with friends via e-mail and IM constantly, as I have little to no time to meet with anyone socially. I work on pet projects in my scant spare moments, such as music arrangements, blogs, and music, photo and video editing. My laptop has become the only way I can get any of my favorite things done, as scheduling time to sit and do them for long stretches at a desktop pc are ridiculously rare. Not to mention…my laptop is new and fairly speedy (well, NOW it is, anyway).

My only complaint about my laptop had been that is was preinstalled with Fucking Windows Vista. That is how I refer to it always, now: "Fucking Windows Vista". If you have any option, NEVER get Fucking Windows Vista. While it isn't particularly hard to learn or much different that XP in many ways – it even looks a bit cooler – it drives like a Sherman tank. I had half a gig of RAM in my computer and it took nearly 4 minutes to completely boot up. Applications ran slower than snail shit. Worst of all, most of the programs I had become accustomed to simply would not work with it at all.

While I was able to get the OS working a bit faster by buying another gig of RAM (to the tune of about $75), it still wouldn't run most of my handier programs and was extremely buggy with most new peripherals I purchased, if it worked at all.

A while back, a friend of mine mentioned that a friend of his was able to play with Mac OS X and, through some Linux magic, get it to work on certain PCs. This, I figured, would solve all of my problems. I managed to get a hold of one of these "Holy Grail of PCdom" discs, bought a bigger hard drive (just for the hell of it) and attempted to install it on my laptop. Sadly, but not wholly unexpectedly, it didn't quite work. Some driver for the monitor or something else it didn't like. Well, waddya expect for a Frankenstein attempt to stitch together 2 different systems and a computer made up of HP's leftovers.

"Oh well," I figured, "Guess I just throw XP on this new big drive and go to town with that. It won't be Mac OS X, but it'll be a damned sight better than Fucking Vista."

So I format the drive with the Mac program to the proper NTSC format and pop in an old XP disc from one of the defunct and butchered computers here at work.

Funny thing about Windows: anything that should be nice and simple, rarely is.

It wouldn't recognize the hard drive – at all. I figured maybe I had goofed it up by trying the Mac OS thing, and being it was an "open box" purchase, I returned it to the store and paid the extra $15 for a new one. Popped it in…nothin'. Windows STILL didn't recognize even a fresh new drive.

Finally, in utter frustration, I returned the new drive for a refund, backed up all of my files and programs from my old, smaller drive and formatted it, figuring it MUST be able to recognize the drive it CAME with. Popped the XP disc in…nothin'.

Most people don't consider me particularly mechanically inclined. I disagree. I can fix most anything mechanical or hardware related on most things. I can put most things together without directions, and even do so with no "extra" parts leftover. I know when I'm licked and when to get out the directions and ask for help, usually before I destroy something. I have a very analytical mind with great spatial perception. However, when you start talking formulas, math, and especially software configuration – I either study and research or go to the pros.

I started Googling like mad to try and figure out why the HELL Windows wouldn't recognize my drive. Everything I read said you just pop in the disc, it formats the drive and ya go. I finally got to the point where I Googled the make and model of the drive. "A-HA! Windows doesn't like SATA/SCSI drives!"

I then found several pages detailing how to manually put the driver on FOR Windows.

I went through step by step until I got to the last one: "put the files on a floppy disc and insert it into your floppy drive when prompted"

Floppy drive? FLOPPY DRIVE!!?? Who the HELL uses a floppy drive anymore!!!!???? I have a laptop!

"Okay. My work computer has the same kind of drive. I switch the hard drives, popped the XP disc in and…where's the floppy drive? Fuck!"

"Okay no problem. There are about 4 or 5 floppy drives in defunct computers around the office. Here's one! I'll just connect… Fuck! Not a SCSI drive. Wait…NONE of these are SCSI drives!"

"Okay...deep breath…Nooo need to panic. I'll just re-install Fucking Vista with…FUUUUCK! They don't provide install discs anymore!"

So, I take it to the nearest Computer Builder's Warehouse, hand them the XP disc and hard drive driver files on my jump drive and explain the problem.

"We can install it for $65, but you'll need a license. That's $125, extra"

Leave it to Microsoft…$190 to DOWNGRADE their software.

At this point, I'm ready to either clear a spot on my wall and hunt down Bill Gates for a trophy, or pull an 'Office Space', and drive the laptop to an empty field to pummel it with a baseball bat. This was rock bottom. It could only get better from here.

Deep breath…regroup…rethink.

I go back to work and peel the license for XP off the scavenged shell of the old computer, stick it neatly on my laptop just underneath the Fucking Vista license, and head back the next day.

I walk up, plop the computer and all the necessary accessories on the counter with a THUMP.

"There. Laptop, power cord, license, drivers. Drop the install to $55"

"Done. See you in 3 days"

Three days later, I walk in the store. This, of course, after 3 calls to them that day sounding like a kid in the back seat prodding, "Are we there yet?" He opens the computer and I hear the familiar chime of XP, like a chorus of angels taking flight…

…Ah…No more Fucking Vista!

After a week and a half, 4 trips to MicroCenter, 4 trips to Computer Builder's Warehouse, several hours spent Googling for solutions, and dozens of hours spent ripping open and arguing aloud with my computer, I'm finally HOME.

Then it occurred to me. I'm thrilled to have Windows XP? I'm actually THRILLED to go back to a clunky and unreliable OS that's 5 years old?! Leave it to Fucking Windows to find a way to make you BLISSFULLY GRATEFUL for XP!

Damn you, Bill Gates! DAAAAMN YOUUUUU!

The next 3 days were spent installing all of my favorite (or at least, most used) programs: Trillian, Firefox, Finale, MSOffice, Media Player 11, MySpace IM, Cool Edit Pro, my new PCTV toy, and a few games – ya know – for the kids.

So now, here I sit. The sun's warm orange glow is casting longer shadows into a beautiful cool evening, and I'm sitting comfortably at my patio set in the backyard, watching the kids play in the 10' inflatable pool, as I type – happily blogging again.

Life has gotten much better. I love my laptop again. :)

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