Genuine Disadvantage

Written by Dan

Published November 1, 2007

I’ve been a Mac user for pretty much my entire life. I have never owned or maintained a Windows PC (I barely know how to navigate one, though I can figure out the basics easily enough), and generally despise most things related to Microsoft. Yet in a cruel irony, I’ve become something of the de facto “expert” on running Windows on the Mac. Go figure.

Since I do a lot of maintenance on many of the machines at work, including software updates, it fell to me to do the distasteful job of installing Windows on several units. Both Boot Camp and Parallels. So I’ve become distressingly familiar with the requirements and process for installing and setting up Windows.

As a wise Russian once said, I can only conclude that I’m paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate. So I’m just going to take a moment to vent about a couple of absolutely charming “features” that I’ve encountered when installing Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 2), from the perspective of someone who’s used to managing the Mac.

First, that wonderful feature known as activation. I can certainly understand the need for anti-piracy measures, considering how frequently people all over the world choose to make unauthorized copies of the system. That being said, could it be humanly possible to create an activation system that’s not more annoying than it already is? When the serial number gets rejected, they give you a simple 54-digit code (yes, 54 digits!) to verify that you really don’t have a pirated copy of Windows. Then you have to manually call that code in. And these days, you don’t even get to talk to a human being while you’re doing that; it’s entirely automated. So why the frell can’t it be automated on the computer instead of over the phone? Sigh.

So once Windows has been activated, it’s time to make sure the system is up to date. Still, the process is ridiculously tedious, even if you choose the “Express” option. Before you even run the updates, you have to update the updater. That’s a really reassuring prospect, that there are problems with the update program itself!

So once you run the updater (and reboot), you download the next batch of updates, usually three or four (depending on the system). Okay, not so bad. Then reboot again. Run updates. ...Wha—?! There are now 88 more updates? Okay, granted, Service Pack 2 is over three years old, so it’s accumulated a fair number of updates. But has Microsoft ever heard of the concept of a combo update? Jeez! Put all the damn patches into a single package for quicker downloading and installation!

And finally comes my favorite error. During the install process, Windows prompts you to install Internet Explorer 7. Fair enough; it’s comparatively a worthwhile update next to IE6. So you install the IE7 update, and the various patches continue in the background. Until you get a message that the security updates for IE6 have failed. Well gee, I wonder why?

Fortunately, there’s one good thing to come out of this whole debacle. It makes me all the happier to come home to my beloved iMac!

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