Sunday, April 22, 2007

Technology Woes

Anyone who reads this column frequently knows that I’m in love with technology and gadgetry, at least when all’s working well. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out.

Here is a case in point.

Last week, I received an e-mail from a lady who is one of the support staff for my school district where I teach. The letter, which was sent to all the teachers, advised us that if we wanted a free copy of Microsoft Office and a free copy of Windows XP Professional that we could have one, since the school system bought a special site license.

I thought it was great. I could install an updated version of Windows. So I used my GPS navigator to find the lady’s office building. It sent me to a dead-end street and left me there for the coyotes. I drove around awhile and didn’t even see the street name.

So I went to the administrative offices a few blocks away and they gave me verbal directions. When I arrived, it was five minutes until closing. The lady said everyone has trouble finding them.

Anyway, I didn’t have the proper form filled out and she wouldn’t let me get onto my e-mail account and print it out, saying it was policy. With only a few minutes left, I decided to try again the next day. This time, I made sure I brought everything.

So, after receiving the software, I headed home to install it. Windows takes about an hour to install. About 40 minutes into the installation, I get this error message saying it can’t find a file it needs. I tried several times, but to no avail.

So, I decided to skip the file. Then I got a second error message for another file; then a third. By about the fifth time, the installer told me if I skipped this file, Windows wouldn’t work properly, so I decided to cancel the entire installation. But when I did that, the installer told me that cancelling the installation would render my computer dead in the water.

I had no choice but to go buy a new operating system. When I got to the store, I decided I’d just go ahead and upgrade my whole computer. It was nearly two years old anyway. So I bought a nice new machine with Windows Vista already on it.

When I got home and started to configure it, I got the dreaded blue screen of death. You know, the one that says “fatal error” and then shuts down before you have a chance to read the whole thing. It happened not just once or twice, but five times in the first hour. I took it back and told them I wanted a refund. I would just settle for a copy of the operating system to install on my old machine.

So I shelled out $160 for the premium version. When I got it home and started the upgrade process, the installer gave me the message that this version of Windows Vista could not upgrade from my old version of XP Professional. It said I had to do a fresh installation, which would erase everything on my hard drive.

It’s a good thing I had everything already backed up. But doing a fresh installation meant that it would take at least a couple of days to put everything back on. And, as I would find out, it took much longer.

Vista is not compatible with almost anything. I had to download new drivers and software versions of all my programs, my printer, my scanner, my mouse – everything. I couldn’t even find new versions of some of my old favorites.

As I write this, I’ve put most of my important stuff back on my computer. And yet, I still see this annoying icon at the bottom of my screen telling me one of the programs is hemorrhaging and needs my attention.

I’m thinking, let it die.

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