2008-04-11

We meet again, Mr Bond...

It was a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon two weeks ago. I had no plans and nothing else to do. So I thought, wouldn't it be cool to go to a museum, and learn something new?

And so, on the world-wide-interwebs I went and African American Cultural Complex (AACC) caught my attention. They were giving tours of the complex by appointment only. I called, and there was one tour scheduled at 3pm. Yay!

It turned out, AACC is run from a private residence (I almost drove away, afraid they'd call the cops because I was trespassing) by a retired couple. They mostly focus on African American contributions to US industries and culture, and have a hall of fame as well.

After the tour was over, I asked them if they needed help with their website (click at your own peril: last I checked, it had a 72 point heading with <blink> tags around it, courtesy of some well-meaning volunteer, I suspect). They said they did, but most urgently, they needed someone to help them set up the new Lenovo workstation that was donated to the museum. I offered to come next weekend.

The following weekend, I received a call from Juanita from AACC saying that some young man came out earlier and set up the new machine for them, told them they needed a bunch of upgrades, offered to purchase new software for them using his student discount and left them dazed and confused.

I tired to find out what software exactly was missing or needed upgrading, and it turned out to be Office. My mind went: "Hah! Perfect candidates for OpenOffice.org package!" So I said: "Don't touch anything, I'm on my way!" Jumped into my Batmobile and stormed off.

Upon arrival, I quickly uncovered that the new box was installed with Vista and a full Office package. How the "young man" who was supposedly IT-savvy missed it is beyond me. With slight disappointment (no open source evangelizing today!) I made desktop links to the crucial applications and was about to leave when I thought of asking where the old data went.

Turns out, nowhere. It was still sitting on the old machine, which was still sitting in the hallway, in pretty sorry state. One of the side covers was missing from the CPU tower, a bunch of loose cables and connectors dangling everywhere, all power cords and perifery cables missing. I asked if they wanted me to try and get the data off the old machine and onto the new one, and Juanita agreed, but said that the other guy said it would take hours to migrate. I had a 1G USB stick with me, and thought, How much data will they have on there?

First of course, we needed the cables. After 15 or so minutes, we could locate the most crucial ones. I connected the monitor, old keyboard and mouse, flipped the switch to on, and pressed the start button. Nothing. I looked inside the tower... Hard disk was disconnected, and a few other orphaned connectors were looking at me sadly.

I plugged in the hard disk, but could not find the components to which the other connectors belonged. Briefly considered yanking the hard drive and taking it to work to migrate in peace and quiet instead of on a kitchen floor. Mentally braced myself. Pressed the start button.

Beep! Whirrr!

Ahah! The machine went to boot. And boot. And boot again.

Poor thing kept rebooting.

To add to excitement, keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports were dead. The 2 USB ports worked though, so I yanked the mouse from the Lenovo box, and when login screen came, gingerly clicked on the Admin profile. For the first time in ever I prayed they did not set a password (would be hard to type without keyboard, and the cable of the schnazzy USB one from Lenovo looked hard to detangle from inside the cabinet they put the box in).

No password! Doing good!

Next step, using mouse only, open Windows Explorer and copy files onto USB stick. That worked. The old box only had USB1, so it took ages. And still did not finish. Machine went to reboot about 70% into copying.

When it finally tired of rebooting and settled on the login screen again, I did the same thing. Turns out, Windows does not have a prompt asking "There are identical files on the target file system. Skip all? Replace all? Cancel?" Instead, it would prompt me file by file. At least something more entertaining than staring at progress bar.

I will not bore you with many more times the box went down and up and down and up again. Three hours later, I had filled my USB stick to the hilt with what I'd think would be 98% of all data that was in the Admin user's "My Documents" directory. That considering that I did not move music and video and binary files probably saved in there by grandchildren.

Unstable as the old box was, I had no real chance to look through the files and only move the relevant ones. So some stuff (about 200 Megs worth) did not fit.

They had no virus scanner on the new box. I hope nothing was infected in the heap of old files I moved to it.

That took all of 5 more minutes.

At which point I offered to disassemble the old machine again, but they said they wanted to move the other files themselves later. So I pushed the old box under the desk on which the new was sitting and bid my farewells.

This was my first meaningful interaction with Windows in about five years. It's still as sad as I remember.

I don't mean the poor old box that wouldn't stay on. That box was a little computer that could. On its last legs, it stayed on long enough to move one Gig of data off it. But the new box, little time though I spent with it, failed to impress me. Same interface as I remember from Win 2000 (yeah, I refused to upgrade), same tired metaphors, and same obnoxious tendency to assume Windows knows what's good for the user.

Like making the "Programs" menu hidden by default, so you can't easily see what you got, unless you hunt for it. So I can't really blame the poor other volunteer for not finding the Office package: It was not where one would expect to find it!

And the morals of this story: Kids, Just Say No.

Use Fedora instead :)