Windows Wars

Stephen Yagielowicz
It's a pretty rare occurrence, but every couple of years my technology feels the need to give me a little reminder of just how vulnerable it, my business, and I, are. Here's some lessons re-learned:

I've never been a Windows hater. Until now, that is... I've played with all sorts, shapes and sizes of computers since 1980, and I have encountered all sorts of problems along the way. I've owned computers that required programming in BASIC and machine code since there was no real software available, and was an Amiga fan before buying a dos-based Compaq, then moving to one of those newfangled "fish-bowl" Mac Plus computers. It wasn't until I bought the original Compaq Presario (the one that the "iMac" gets it's styling cues from) that I started to work in MS Windows (version 3.1 at the time).

A brief flirtation with IBM's OS2/WARP operating system on my over-clocked and memory enhanced Presario notwithstanding, I've been on the Windows path since, moving to Win95, Win97, Win98 and Windows XP, across a variety of laptops and desktops; Toshiba, Dell, HP and Compaq, my machines have served me well – and have done so more effectively and reliably with each generation, and upgrade of Windows.

Through this whole process, I've watched the growth of Windows, and its enabled software, all the while hearing the voices of those who "hate" Windows (and more often than not, "hate" Bill Gates) – and dismissing their complaints offhand. After all, Windows *is* the best bet – even if it's not necessarily the best solution. It's the old "Beta Max is Better than VHS!" argument: Sure, Beta *is* better than VHS, but VHS beat Beta in the marketplace.

Anyway, that isn't what I wanted to talk about, what I wanted to talk about was how bad Windows sucks sometimes, but I wanted to let you know first that I've never really felt that way until now, and so I'll relate to you the tale of how I came to this little epiphany, and what you can do to keep it from happening to you...

A little while ago, XBiz board Moderator h2oh posted a thread entitled "How often do you backup your websites?" – a thread to which I replied, "Thanks for the Reminder!" – and to which I'll say once again, "Thanks for the Reminder!" At least I have a fairly current accounting of my sites and most of my necessary and vital files.

You see, my system took a dive this past Friday morning: I booted as usual, and was met with a screen telling me that Windows wouldn't start because some needed files were missing. This was of course a great surprise to me, as all was well with it the night before. I have a firewall, I have active anti-virus scanning, and I run Ad-aware too. I stop lots of Net nasties before they become problems, but you can't keep them all out, and I feared that a virus was somehow at fault.

I rebooted, said a prayer, and even asked my laptop "nicely" to just start up ok. It was all to no avail, so I went into "crisis mode," then I had a panic attack, running around the house screaming like a silly bitch. I called my friend Alec to see if he could help, and he was really cool about searching Google for my error messages and walking me through a few attempts at solving my problems, thanks HELMY! But it was also to no avail.

It became apparent that what I needed was the original Windows XP install CD. Well, Windows came installed on my Compaq Presario laptop, but there was a still shrink-wrapped, CD-sized "Windows XP" package that I had foolishly assumed for the past 3 years contained the Windows OS files. At this moment of crisis, I was of course proved wrong. It contained a piece of cardboard, and a note that my software's Certificate of Authenticity was on the bottom of my laptop. Another note stated that if I ever needed to reinstall Windows, I could send for a CD. Well, I didn't want to "send for a CD" I needed to have one now!

I've lived in some pretty remote areas, and I am often an hour or so drive from "civilization" and retail outlets that might carry a copy of Windows, but I was fortunate enough to have this happen with "Office Max" just down the street, and a quick phone call confirmed that they had both the Win XP upgrade ($100) and full install ($200) in stock. I drove on down there and paid my $100 (plus tax) for the upgrade – I only needed to copy the missing files from the CD, right? Wrong.

Booting my laptop from the upgrade CD, I was presented with the mysterious "repair" utility that Alec and I discussed but couldn't activate (it's on the CD). Running the utility, it became clear that I couldn't simply "repair" my software, I had to reinstall Windows – a process that could erase my software and files, which it did...

But this didn't happen right away, no... Because of some voodoo only known to Windows, it didn't recognize my current install (however corrupted) of Windows XP as "a qualifying product" for the upgrade, and so I was forced to drive back on down to Office Max and exchange the upgrade for the full install version of Windows XP!

That was 4 days ago, and I've reinstalled Windows a half-dozen times since, and I'm still nowhere near being "restored" in what has become a very personal battle of wills between me and Windows, and I will win!

As for lessons learned, the big one is to never assume the contents of shrink wrapped packages and to ensure that you always have the operating system and other CDs for any computer where the software comes pre-installed, and be sure to maintain a hard copy of your purchased software's registration codes!

Well so much for the therapy session, I have network issues to resolve... Stay "archived!" ~ Stephen