Thursday, February 1, 2007

Microsoft Vista:
the wait, the package,
the junk, the junk food, the joy,
the zapping of Apple,
and the silly stuff

I've installed lots of versions of Microsoft DOS, and lots of versions of Microsoft Windows. I did 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME and XP; probably every recent OS except Microsoft Bob.

In ancient times, I'd have to sequentially stuff a dozen or more floppies into my PC, and I knew that when I reached about 44 minutes into the 45 minute sequence, the installation would stall, and I'd have to start all over again.

I assumed the installation of Vista, with five years and 86 gazillion Microsoft dollars behind it, would also take about 45 minutes (at least until the first fatal error). Cynical Cousin Dave and I agreed to start the job when the little hand on the office clock tapped ten.

There were two minor setbacks.

I couldn't figure out how to open the super-cool new package. I got frustrated and threw it to Cynical Cousin Dave to open. (Despite his left-handedness, he's a more dexterous geek than I am.) I aimed wrong and the package hit Dave's shoulder, and it conveniently opened right up and two DVDs spilled out.

The next problem was caused by the unexpected presence of the two discs: one labeled for 64-bit PCs and one for lowly 32-bitters. I assumed that my superduper PC with a dual-core Athlon "64" CPU would use the 64-bit Vista...but it wouldn't load.

After I shoved in the 32-bit DVD, the installation got started. There was no stall, no unexpected crash, and much to Cynical Cousin Dave's surprise, no smoke spewed out of my hard drive.

I let Vista check online to see if there were any updates (UPDATES? Sheesh, the software had just been released the day before, and Mr. William Henry Gates The Third wants me to check for updates? I doan need no steenkin updates.)

Next, I had the opportunity to accept the licensing agreement, which I did, without reading it, just as with 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME and XP. I probably wouldn't have read the Bob agreement, either.

And then, Microsoft wanted to check my compatibility. I hoped it wouldn’t be like an online dating service where people lie about height, weight and affection for things that they assume potential mates would like. Fortunately Microsoft found me to be compatible. (For $259.99 plus tax, I damn well better be considered compatible).

At 10:18, I was informed that "potential issues were detected with installed applications." Even Microsoft’s own Windows Messenger 5.1 – which I never use and didn’t know I had – had a potential issue.) None of the apps were important enough for me to abort Vista, so I told my machine to move on.

At 10:19, Vista started copying files, and I reached the important 50% milestone at 10:20, and hit 100% at 10:22. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 10:23, I was feeling really good. My screen told me that Vista was "gathering data." Then Cynical Cousin Dave pointed out a notice on the screen that said "Your upgrade may take several hours to complete."

I didn't think the warning applied to experienced and talented data processing wizards like me, and my drives were humming along smoothly; so my original 45-minute target still seemed reasonable. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 10:35, I hit the 69% mark for file gathering, and I remained optimistic. A dual-core Athlon should be able to accomplish a lot in the remaining ten minutes.

At 10:40, Vista was saving my settings. I was feeling really good, and aimed a "see I told you so" smile at Cynical Cousin Dave. Then the screen went blank. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 10:49, (four minutes into overtime), my screen lit up again, and told me that my files were being expanded. It took just a few seconds to reach 23% expansion.

At 10:55, I was up to 70%, and 11AM looked like a possibility. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 11:00, I was told "that's all the information we need right now." (Had my compatibility testing continued without my knowledge?)

At 11:01, Vista told me to "wait a minute while Windows prepares to start for the first time." Vista told me this with crappy white type on an ugly DOS-like black background. I was not impressed. Where were all the pretty Vista colors?

At 11:05, I watched an army of dots crawl across my screen ................ ........... ................... ................. .................... ........................ ............ ............ .................. ......... ....... Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 11:10, 11% of the upgrade had been completed. (What the hell was Vista doing during the previous hour?) Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 11:15, I reached 34%. I was a half hour past my deadline, and starting to get pissed-off. I had finished reading the good magazines in my in-box, Jerry Springer was a re-run, and I had nothing to do. It wasn't much fun watching the dots crawl.

At 11:26, I realized that the "several hours" warning might actually be right. Horrified, I looked for something to keep me busy. I swiveled my chair around, loaded paper into two printers, replaced a fading black ink cartridge, and even re-connected the USB cable for my long-dormant scanner.

The printers and scanner sit on a cabinet whose doors have been blocked for many months by a growing pile of crap. This seemed to be the right time to start my spring cleaning. I shoved the crap pile aside and pried open the sticky cabinet doors to inspect my hidden treasures.

My first prize was a bag of KitKat bars, surplus from Halloween 2005. They were individually hermetically sealed and deemed safe. I found two pieces of Riesens chocolate-covered caramels. They were of unknown vintage, and a little bit hard, and the brown was beginning to fade to gray... but Hungry Brother Marshall and I managed to ingest them without too much effort.

At 11:31, I completed 43% of the upgrade. I also found a microwaveable Dinty Moore's chicken-and-rice meal, a Maruchan instant soup, three AA batteries, and an un-opened box labeled "time sensitive" which was shipped on 8/4/06. It contained some obsolete business cards. I also found some Werther's Original caramel candies, two dollar bills, an old passport, some embarrassing pictures, and my 2004 appointment book. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 11:39, Vista noted it reached 50% of the upgrade. I found a box of Zwieback, a Costco statement, an obsolete Sirius channel guide, an ancient party invitation list, and a menu from Buffalo Wild Wings. The menu was the first thing that made Cynical Cousin Dave happy.

At 11:44, the upgrade had reached an impressive 53%, and I found a directory of Connecticut hospitals, an open bag of Tostito Scoops (my favorite variety of tortilla chips), and a Simply Asia sesame teriyaki noodle bowl. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 11:45, Vista hit 57%. I read that the Scoops were guaranteed fresh until 12/20/05, but I tasted them anyway. They were pretty good for an opened bag more than a year past its prime, but at the urging of Cynical Cousin Dave, I put the Scoops in the trash can.

At 11:47, my new operating system reached an impressive 64%. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" I found un-opened sauce pods from KFC, Taco Bell, and Arby’s; plus soy sauce and duck sauce from unknown Chinese restaurants. I took a break from my cleaning and glanced through a Vista preview magazine, and learned about applying thermal grease to a CPU. I’ve never used thermal grease before. I wonder how it compares to Arby’s Sauce. I then went back to the cabinet, and found a charger for a long-gone Moto, a broken headset, and broken sunglasses.

At 11:51, the screen still showed 64%. I replaced a light bulb, made sure my UPS was alive, and went to the fridge for a Devil Dog. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At noon, two hours into the ordeal, we were still at 64%. Ignoring the warnings of Cynical Cousin Dave, I tried some Cheetos from an open bag marked “guaranteed fresh until 1/24/06.” They were still pretty crunchy, and (IMPORTANT REVELATION) old Cheetos didn’t mess my hands nearly as much as fresh Cheetos.

At 12:02, we were way past my 45-minute estimate, but the completion percentage jumped to 73. I found a bag of dog treats. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" Three minutes later, Vista hit an impressive 78% completion.

At 12:08, the PC restarted all by itself. The screen was blank, and the LED on my DVD drive was flashing frantically. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 12:10, I was asked to choose an operating system to start my PC. Since I had invested $259.99 plus tax, plus two hours and ten minutes of my valuable time, I chose Vista. My next decision was whether to order food from the outside, or open one of my new discoveries. I decided to play it safe, and get something freshly cooked.

At 12:12, I had the opportunity to verify the time and date, and tell Microsoft that I would be using this PC at work, not at home. Microsoft thanked me. An ethereal turquoise screen with a white horizontal line appeared. This looked Vista-ish, and I was encouraged. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 12:18, nothing on my screen had changed. I was tempted to move my mouse or press Enter, but Cynical Cousin Dave warned me not to. I checked the weather report on another PC, and decided to try to take a nap.

At 12:24, I was still awake. Nothing had changed on my screen. I started looking through the take-out menus.

At 12:26, I answered a wrong number call. My screen was unchanged, but I did dare to move my mouse. My screen didn’t change. I picked a menu, and read lustily about the “Big Manny Burger.”

At 12:31, I was excited – and relieved – to see some words: “Please wait while Windows checks your performance.” Uh-Oh, am I in danger of having my compatibility canceled? Apparently I still met the standards, and I was encouraged to “Connect, Play, Have Fun.”

At 12:42, my screen went black. I didn't connect, play or have fun, but I did hear the first Vista sound from my speakers. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

At 12:45, exactly two hours beyond my estimated completion time, my screen looked normal. Vista seemed to be alive and well, I got a pop-up message from Yahoo urging me to re-finance my mortgage. Is this what I got for my $259.99 plus tax? Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" I said that I thought so.

At 1:00, we hit the three-hour mark since I first tried to open the Vista package. My screen showed that the new Windows Mail program was transferring accounts and messages from the ancient, archaic and obsolete Outlook Express (which had worked just fine). I had 18,483 messages in my deleted file, so I was prepared to wait.

At 1:20, I could finally tell Cynical Cousin Dave that the installation was officially finished. The screen was gorgeous. Translucent windows are impressive. The WAIT hourglass has been replaced by an animated light spiral. A movie demo was amazingly crisp, with lots of possible visual enhancements to compensate for the viewing environment. A year-old graphics problem that made diagonal letters look ragged was miraculously fixed. There are a bunch of new sound effects, including some really annoying aquarium sounds. The preview of opened files was a real crowd pleaser. We could even see a miniature moving version of Jon Stewart interviewing Bill Gates at the same time we watched the full-size YouTube video. Program windows open with a zooming expansion, and zoom down to close. It feels Stark-Trekish, even though there's no whoosh sound (I'm sure someone's working on the add-on). A new feature, called just computer, replaces the old my computer. It shows the PCs on your local network, and the space on your drives, and favorite links, in one window. The "all programs" list is in alphabetical order -- about ten years overdue.

At 1:31, after poking around, sampling, and experimenting, I checked my email for the first time in 214 minutes.

Windows Mail has a new "Junk" file that collects evil email. The first blocked email was from Apple. Yup, Vista has some amazing technology.

Silly Stuff:
  1. Even though Outlook Express no longer works, Vista kept a "favorite link" to it. When I clicked on it without thinking about it, I was told the item is unavailable and was asked if I wanted to remove it from the list. I did.
  2. The "all programs" list is now in alphabetical order, but with two sequences. Mine goes from Adobe through Yahoo Mail, and then starts again with Accessories, and goes down to Yahoo Messenger.

No comments: