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Windows 8: the infinite yak-shaving

So I got a call from a friend who’s ms-windows 8 laptop was wedged.

Having set the machine up for him, I felt obliged to help, even though troubleshooting ms-windows ranks pretty on the bottom my list of favorite activities.

The hardware is a Lenovo G710, which I suggested because Lenovo has a relatively good rep for hardware. But it came with ms-windows 8. :-( So I installed “classic shell” to make it usable for someone used to XP.

In the mean time it had auto-updated to ms-windows 8.1. And now Outlook wouldn’t work anymore. After starting it would just hang. So close Outlook and try to “repair” the Office installation. This ran for over an hour with no useful feedback whatsoever. The only thing moving was a progress bar that didn’t show any progress. After some browsing we found a message on a MS forum that it shouldn’t take that long, and that a re-install was probably in order.

But not only did Outlook crash at the drop of a hat, also the “explorer” shell was more of an “exploder” shell. Browsing in the start menu or right-clicking in an explorer window would hang it. This was the first WTF moment of the day. Luckily it auto-restarts pretty quickly.

And it went from bad to worse. After talking to the helpdesk of the company where we bought the laptop, they recommended a restore to factory settings.

This laptop even comes with a special hardware button next to the on/off switch to do just that. In retrospect that should have been a big “run for the hills”-type warning. The fact that the helpdesk recommended this as a fix should have been the second warning.

I mean, what would you do if you called your garage that one of the electric windows in your car didn’t work anymore and the reply would be that the complete car needs to be rebuilt?

(I’m not trying to slam the helpdesk people here, they were really very helpful. Ms-windows gives very little useful feedback, that doesn’t help either. But that this is seen as an acceptable fix boggles the mind.)

This re-install kind of worked but took more than an hour. The usability of ms-windows 8.0 being less than desired, I re-installed the classic shell. And then I had to install and configure Office again. And of course the Office install hung at 89%. Ugh. Then there was the infinite succession of updates, with absolutely no indication what was being updated, how long it would take and if anything was even happening!

And than after nine hours and installing another 75(!) updates, a message appears that an error has occurred, and things will be undone. WTF²!

This is by far the worst software I have ever had to deal with;

  • Unhelpful problem reports, or no problem reports at all.
  • No feedback during restores.
  • No useful feedback during updates.

In all that time it took to not achieve a working ms-windows system, I could have installed FreeBSD, and recompiled the OS and all 560-odd ports on my main workstation from source. And most of that time (the ports install) it could have run without monitoring.

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