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December 17, 2009

Chkdsk red in tooth and claw
Posted by Teresa at 10:16 AM *

Noted literary figure Charlie Stross has contributed an essay to that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.

For even more fun, see the second comment in the thread, which may be the best explanation of Sony engineering ever written.

Addenda:

Ajay comments:

that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.
Another few years and the genre will have its own accepted tropes and rhetorical divisions.

I. Exordium. The narrator introduces himself, establishes his experience in computing (ethos) and exhorts the listeners to gather round.
II. Prolegomenon. Customarily, the hardware spec of the machine is outlined here.
III. Praeinstallatio. The narrator describes his initial attempt to install Windows.
IV. Contrainstallatio. The installation goes wrong.
V. Descendo. The narrator describes his increasingly desperate attempts to get things to go right.
VI. Depilatio. The narrator is reduced to despair and frustration.
VII. Inertio. The narrator sinks into a horrified stupor as his machine gurgles and clunks to itself for anything up to three days.
VIII. Peroratio. The narrator rises into fury as he describes how long and painful an experience the install was;
which may be followed by
IX. Aptenodytes forsteri, the narrator switches to Linux.

To which Patrick replies:
ajay, #6: Somewhere between your VI and your VIII is the last panel of this.
Comments on Chkdsk red in tooth and claw:
#1 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:48 AM:

I'm surprised chkdsk actually completed.

#2 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:13 AM:

The essay was standard, par for the windows course. The second comment, however, is a nonpareil work of art, a paean to what is wrong with corporate american technology companies.

#3 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:29 AM:

Is Sony an *American* technology company?

#4 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:18 PM:

I didn't comment on this when I originally saw it on Charlie's blog, but I was tempted. The lesson that might be extracted from his experience isn't so much that Windows 7 is awful. It's that Microsoft users should be warned about upgrading in place from older Windows versions to newer Windows versions. This is usually a lengthy, tortuous process.

The upgrade did work, eventually (as Charlie reported). But most people who've used Windows for awhile have learned that if you want to install a new version, you're much better off doing a clean install and re-installing your programs afterwards. Charlie's not a habitual Windows user and can't be blamed for not having picked up on this bit of peripheral wisdom.

But FWIW, I installed Windows 7 x64 in about 40 minutes on a Dell laptop that's also quadruple-booting Windows Vista, Windows XP, Leopard 10.5 and Ubuntu. I put it in a clean partition. I had no system driver issues, because I searched in advance to see whether hardware drivers were available. (They were, for my two-year old Dell laptop.) I had no vendor crapware to deal with because I did a clean install.

I haven't seen any horror stories, yet, about W7 clean installs. I do realize this doesn't mean there aren't any. After two months of use, I don't actually like W7 better than XP as a desktop interface. It's less annoying than Vista, but it alters some perfectly good XP features that I like (such as "Search") so that they're now less convenient. (Also FWIW, I don't like the OS X desktop search feature very much, either.)

Windows 7 is faster than XP and much faster than Vista on appropriate hardware. I installed it to see what it was all about and because it offers much better x64 support than previous Windows versions. It's great for running VMWare virtual machines of any other OS versions you want. It runs most of the apps I was using in XP with no problem. I wouldn't recommend it if you have a bunch of legacy Adobe apps or older peripherals like printers and scanners that you want to continue using. Driver support is targeted toward the latest and greatest.

#5 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:39 PM:

Ooh, is this where we tell anecdotes about Windows installation?

Keith is not averse to the use of the occasional colorful curse. But I have never heard him curse so creatively and profusely as when he attempted to create a Windows partition on his Mac. And that was XP. It crashed during install. Then it crashed again when he tried to install anti-virus software, to an unbootable state, and he had to wipe it and do it all again. A stream of "&$%#&$(@*$)!!!" flowed from his home office all afternoon.

To be fair, when I did my Windows partition, it was relatively drama-free, even though it was Vista. Even if it did throw up a security warning about installing the security updates.

Charlie Stross's post reminds me why working with Windows used to make me want to stab myself in the eyeball on a regular basis, though. One understands why many users truly believe the computer has a mind of its own.

And the second comment in that thread is the best thing ever today.

#6 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:44 PM:

that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.

Another few years and the genre will have its own accepted tropes and rhetorical divisions.

I. Exordium. The narrator introduces himself, establishes his experience in computing (ethos) and exhorts the listeners to gather round.
II. Prolegomenon. Customarily, the hardware spec of the machine is outlined here.
III. Praeinstallatio. The narrator describes his initial attempt to install Windows.
IV. Contrainstallatio. The installation goes wrong.
V. Descendo. The narrator describes his increasingly desperate attempts to get things to go right.
VI. Depilatio. The narrator is reduced to despair and frustration.
VII. Inertio. The narrator sinks into a horrified stupor as his machine gurgles and clunks to itself for anything up to three days.
VIII. Peroratio. The narrator rises into fury as he describes how long and painful an experience the install was;
which may be followed by
IX. Aptenodytes forsteri, the narrator switches to Linux.

#7 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:46 PM:

Lenny Bailes @4: In fairness, it appears that the particular upgrade he had actually required the Vista restore partition to be there: "Reason for upgrading to Win7 first: because Sony's borked Win7 upgrade installer insists on the Vista restore partition being occupied by, er, Vista, or it refuses to run." Sounds like a clean install wasn't an option in this case.

So it was at least as much Sony as Windows.

#8 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:46 PM:

From experience, I can say a search and replace of "Sony" with "Toshiba" will work just fine on that comment.

On the larger point... I can't say if my personal sample is exceptionally good, and Charlie's is exceptionally bad (well, OK, with the exception of my once being a NOC engineer riding herd on 120,000 servers, mixed between Solaris and Windows) -- but Charlie has long seemed to me to be a Sad Sack of computing. He'd be great as a tester -- anything that can go wrong for him, does. I'll note this is platform-independent, as his Macs and Unix-based web servers seem to have neverending problems as well.

I'll also say I've never seen a Windows machine do a snow crash the way I've seen a Mac snow crash (which it still does).

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:56 PM:

ajay, #6: Somewhere between your VI and your VIII is the last panel of this.

#10 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:06 PM:

My single thought throughout the whole essay was "Why!?" But then, I'm a Mac-baby and a wimp. I'm also lazy. If I'm really going to do an upgrade myself, I archive all my data to CD (which I try to do anyway), then wipe and do a clean install.

(I've been taking bets for years on how long it's going to be before it's more efficient just to go back to hunting-and-gathering.)

(I'll also say that the Mac commercials have been a lot funnier since I started working in a Windoze env.)

#11 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:31 PM:

#10: Apparently, the W7 installer that Charlie got from Sony insisted on seeing the Vista Recovery Partition.

I haven't seen this particular OEM version, so I don't know if there's a hack around that to do a clean install anyway. Sometimes there is. FWIW, here's how to install Windows 7 without creating a recovery partition, if you have a product DVD where the installer can be persuaded to do a new install instead of an upgrade.

#12 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:33 PM:

I upgraded (not clean installs, upgrades) two Dells to Win7 recently and both processes went really well, actually. (Why upgrade in place? Because my boyfriend, who--like me--is a computer tech, always says not to upgrade in place and I wanted to find out whether I agreed. And it went beautifully the first time, so I did it again the second time. But in both cases I did careful backups first.)

The part that was frustrating was backing up all my files while still running Vista, what with its Very Slow File Transfer System. (It'd be neat if that matched the actual acronym, but it doesn't.) I did find out how to speed it up a little--turn off Remote Differential Compression--but it was still slower than I wanted.

The organization I support is still on XP and will probably skip Vista entirely. I find I'm actually looking forward to the day we start switching to Win7 because it's got some features built in that will make tech support easier. :-) But yeah, I do appear to have drunk the kool-aid: Win7 is just neat!

I'm very sad to read that about Sony, though. How dreadful if it's anything like true!

#13 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:51 PM:

It amuses me that when Charlie has this much trouble with Linux he doesn't then write an essay about why he doesn't (normally) use (pick your Linux flavor). A classic case of why anecdotes are not evidence -- human beings attend more to events that reinforce our biases.

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:52 PM:

Last week I nuked and paved a new installation of Windows 7 to replace it with another new installation of Windows 7. (Why? Dell ignored our instructions and shipped a Dutch language version. Not even the native speakers in my office use Dutch Windows.) That was stupid easy.

For Windows trials and tribulations I have to go back in time and talk about the time the 3.1 disk compression software fell into the habit of write protecting my entire hard drive.

You know all those .tmp and .log files? Windows throws a serious hissy if it can't write to them.

#15 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 02:33 PM:

Ajay:

I thought IX was more likely Spheniscus demersus.

#16 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:26 PM:

#10: Apparently, the W7 installer that Charlie got from Sony insisted on seeing the Vista Recovery Partition.

I haven't seen this particular OEM version, so I don't know if there's a hack around that to do a clean install anyway. Sometimes there is. FWIW, here's how to install Windows 7 without creating a recovery partition, if you have a product DVD where the installer can be persuaded to do a new install instead of an upgrade.

#17 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:32 PM:

Hey, I recently got into shark-attack territory with a K/Ubuntu upgrade, though a lot of that was My Own Damn Fault (I *should* have done the backup, nuke, and pave route).

#18 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:40 PM:

Jacque @10: Why am I doing this? Well, because I refuse to be Steve Jobs' bitch (even though I'm typing this on a Macbook Air, and the machine on my desk is an iMac, and the machine on my wife's desk is an eight core Mac Pro, and ...). My data belongs to me, not to Microsoft, not to Apple, not to Google. And I want to be able to get into it on any major platform, from NetBSD through consumer-grade Linuxen through OS/X through the Great Satan of Redmond. And no, "run Linux" is not an acceptable final answer to the question: "how can I own my data?"

Hal @8: I think you may have a rather selective memory about my computing woes. (Long acquaintance and too many spare hard disks will give you a false impression of frequent failures. Although I have had unusually bad luck with Linux boxes in colo centres over the past three years -- hardware failure, exclusively.)

Ulrika @12: I don't usually have this much trouble with Linux. That's because the last umpty-zillion distro upgrades I've run on the herd of Linux boxen went smoothly. (The bad memory on the colo boxes? You won't see me posting about that because, er, where would I be posting?)

#19 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:38 PM:

abi @ #13: Last week I nuked and paved a new installation of Windows 7 to replace it with another new installation of Windows 7. (Why? Dell ignored our instructions and shipped a Dutch language version. Not even the native speakers in my office use Dutch Windows.)

I liked that in Windows 7. On first run I got the opportunity to choose language. I prefer using my computers in English.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:41 PM:

My Vista-running laptop got hit with a rootkit trojan --Rustock or something like that -- on 11/25.

After a few evenings I thought I'd gotten rid of it and all of the opportunistic infections.

Then I thought I might as well perform the Vista SP2 install that had been downloaded and waiting for several weeks.

Baaaaad idea. The system wouldn't boot afterwards. The repair feature, didn't. And the system rollback points were gone. (Including the one that the SP2 installer had made.)

Since my data was intact, I booted the system up with a Fedora 12 Live CD, copied the data to an external drive, and then installed Fedora 12.

Some multimedia-heavy things, like the videos on The Onion, don't work. But that's a small price to pay for not having to worry about viruses and trojans.

Fuck Vista.

I maintain one Windows system, to run games. I'll keep it running XP until its protons decay.

#21 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:38 PM:

I tend to be conservative about MS OSen, mostly because I have a long-standing distrust of their testing process (which, come to think on it, came about when I bought a PC with Windows 3.11 on it about six weeks before Windows 95 launched, and realised I was having a lot less trouble than a lot of other people were reporting). I have the strong suspicion the marketroids at MS tend to override the developers, and send out the beta version of things as the finished product. Certainly the fuss over Windows 95, 98, 2K, Me, XP, Vista and so on gave me a strong sense that the best way to deal with MS OSen is to pick up the one they're just about to stop selling (or whichever one is now up to Service Pack 2 - Service Pack 1 tends to be an "ohshit, we couldn't patch these gaping security holes before the marketroids took it from us" bundle; SP2 tends to be the one which actually makes minor improvements) and install that - even if it means going backwards.

Or it could just be the season for it. We've just moved house, and Himself has been spending multiple days trying to get all three of the wireless network, the gateway box, and the computer in his den working at the same time. Part of the fun was trying to come up with a Windows boot floppy, because my laptop (the one and only system which has been working consistently the whole time) doesn't have a floppy drive, and none of the systems which did have working floppy drives were running a version of Windows which would behave itself for long enough to complete one. However, he's now got things working and the number of wookie growls from the den has dropped off significantly.

#22 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:48 PM:

Stefan Jones #20: Fuck Vista.

If you insist, but please be safe.

#23 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 06:08 PM:

#21: That's Standard Microsoft Operating Procedure - wait for Service Pack 2 before upgrading any machine you actually need to use ...

(still running XP Pro here)

#24 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Earl Cooley III @22

You owe me a perfectly good mouthful of red wine and a new keyboard!

#25 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 07:10 PM:

After the virus episode on My Freaking Birthday, I bought two new computers, each an HP p6212f, with Win7 preinstalled. One I wiped with Fedora, to host all the files off the old machine in a safe environment while I triage them and discard all the executables, and the other became my new desktop.

I freaking love Windows 7. I really didn't expect to, but I do. Part of that love is the new monitor, which is big and bright and entirely not a laptop, and part of it is that the new boxen are 64-bit machines and just run my stuff faster - but it's really a very nice OS.

Don't get me started about the HP cruft on them, though. The default program for JPEGs is a horrible, horrible HP picture viewer bloatware thing that takes seconds and seconds to load, even on this fast machine. It's ludicrous.

#26 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:02 PM:

Exultatio:

One late night in the fall of 1995 I was typing away at an academic paper (in Word, on Windows) when a friend stopped by to say hello. Knowing my penchant for doing odd things to my computers, he pointed at the Reset button and asked what it did.

"That's the Go Faster button," quipped I.

"Cool!" quoth he, and pressed it.

The machine promptly started a reboot sequence, did not finish it, and trashed the disk. The paper, theoretically saved and autosaved, was gone.

A dozen hours later, I gave up on restoration efforts and rewrote the paper from scratch. Then I installed Linux and swore a mighty oath not to give money in exchange for any software, the source of which I was not to see. Now many years have passed, and I have held to that pledge, and it stands me in good stead.

#27 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:30 PM:

Sylvia #24: Well, if you didn't practice safe keyboarding... :-)

#28 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 01:32 AM:

dsr @ #26, did the friendship remain?

#29 ::: Ommegang ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:12 AM:

I think it's amusing how Hal @8 becomes an example of what Ulrika @13 says about personal bias, as does she, when Charlie @18 offers actual data. (NB: They're married.)

#30 ::: Xopher sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 04:17 AM:

Nonsense from "flyff penya."

#31 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 04:55 AM:

I thought IX was more likely Spheniscus demersus.

Eudyptula minor, in fact, according to wiki. Tux is a Little Penguin, or Australian Fairy Penguin.

26 actually made my blood run cold for a bit.

#32 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 05:34 AM:

Xopher @31: I wondered what that was. Saint Google tells me it's a Korean MMORPG, and the second word is what they call their money.

#33 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 07:08 AM:

Linkmeister @28: Later we took a house together, and a few years after that I officiated at his wedding. So, yes, I guess we've remained friends.

#34 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 09:21 AM:

Ommegang @29: NB: They're married.

Charlie is in a ménage à trois with Ulrika and Hal? Does Feòrag know?

#35 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:12 PM:

Well, the machine of which I had reason to speak of earlier is now needed a hard drive transplant, so we'll see how things go. I'd be going to Windows 7 were it not for the price tag; we need this machine for that WoW thing some of you may have heard of.

#36 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Is Sony an *American* technology company?

If Sony was a US company, the story would be exactly the same, except _without the engineers_.

#37 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Ajay, You forgot

X - Ricercar Nerdosity Argumendum, The Audience Ignores Ajay's Brilliant & Humorous Metaphor About Classical Music and Goes on to Argue About OS Tribalism

#38 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 09:54 PM:

To be fair, my effort to install Mac OS X Server 10.5 on a PowerPC Mac Mini did encounter several setbacks and took the better part of a week.

#39 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Really it's about large electronics companies. It's not a US thing it's a corporate thing. They all want you to buy their widgets which fit with their dongles. Now you have a company like Apple which bills itself as selling end to end products but which also works to adopt and push standards in a pretty good manner (USB,Firewire, H.264). Then you have Sony which pushes it's own stuff and is not very good at actually making standards overall (Betamax, TRAC, UMD).

Sony, in regards to their PCs, suffers from the same thing all the white box makers do. They rely on volume sales versus higher margin stuff. Apple can afford to be very specific about what it bundles on the system since it doesn't need the revenue from the crapware. Sony, Dell, all the rest need the crapware to help them cut the pc cost to be competitive. It's a crappy situation that just hurts the consumer.

#40 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 04:42 AM:

Ommegang:

Umm... Perhaps so. I can only comment on my own observations. I don't have the time do the required fact check of Charlie's assertions by going through the three years or so of Charlie's LJ and tabulating the entries where he reports computer problems. (It'd be helpful if he used tags, but he hasn't chosen to do so.) I can only say that in our own household, with all its myriad systems, said problems have been zero over that three year period (except for the Mac snow crash thing). That means if he's had any positive integer of problems at all over that period, he's had more than we have.

And that's just personal systems. I note Charlie doesn't dispute my experience with 120,000 servers almost certainly exceeds whatever sample size he's observed.

To put it another way: Charlie didn't actually provide any data. He said he believed I have, "a rather selective memory about (his) computing woes." {shrug} So does he. So do we all. And?

I like Charlie, and I don't want to beat a dead horse, which is why I had no previous response. OTOH, while I'm more than willing to concede the faults I do have, I'm reluctant to concede faults I neither have nor have been demonstrated.

#41 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2009, 01:21 PM:

Well, here we have a business whose internet upgrade was failed by ATT a week before Christmas.

#42 ::: Debbie sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 07:22 AM:

Opportunity knocks! @43

#44 ::: Raphael sees Dutch spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2010, 01:19 PM:

...

#45 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 11:23 PM:

The spam it falls alike upon
The snarky and the staid
But this one has not so much payload
I wonder how spamboy gets paid

#46 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2011, 01:44 AM:

albatross, #51: Not bad, but you seem to be using different sources for your first and second couplets. Or is it just my imagination that the first 2 lines are "the rain falls equally upon" while the last 2 scan perfectly to "My God, How the Money Rolls In"?

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