Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vista Hell, or XP Hell?

The lesser of two evils

As far as I'm concerned, using computers has one purpose in life: to get things done. Now, "things" is a very broad category, and "done" is a highly relative expression. But there are things you can do on your computer that you just can't do out there in real life. What's more, I think, are the things you can LEARN.

Anyway, for someone who sees his computer as a means to an end, rather than the end itself, I think I spend far too much of my time maintaining and fixing my computers.

At this present moment the issue is: which Hell do I want to go swim around in: Vista or XP?

It all started when I got my new computer. I spent 6 months installing and configuring everything exactly the way I wanted to get things done on XP. I had bought both operating systems with the idea of being dual-boot eventually. I wanted 64 bit Vista, becasue it should be faster, and I wanted to try out Halo2 for the PC.

Everything was going fine until I made my Vista dual boot. And, even THAT was going fine for a while.

Vista never did install correctly: the boot loader didn't get written right to my hard drives, and the only way I coudl boot to Vista was with a bootable DVD in the DVD drive (but not actually booting to the DVD.)

Well, along came one of MS illustrious patches, and suddenly every time I booted my computer, Vista wanted to run checkdisk on my XP drives, and XP wanted to run checkdisk on my Vista drives.

I carefully avoided this for weeks, but one day when I wasn't actually sitting at my computer when it started up, I came back to find Vista was running check disk on my XP drive. I crossed my fingers, prayed, crossed myself, and sat down to watch the fireworks. A few minutes later it said that Vista was changing file permissions on all the files on my XP boot drive. There was really nothing I could to about it until it was over.

I waited, rebooted, and sure enough: no longer possible to boot into XP.

Okay, I though, if Vista can do that to my XP drive, perhaps I can get XP to run checkdisk on it's own drive and it will convert everything back. So, I made that happen, and WHEW! I could boot into XP again.

Well, sort of.

XP never really "came back" - I could boot into it, log into my account, but half the operating system wasn't running. The only way I could get an explorer windows was to ctl-alt-del and bring up the task manager and launch one manually. I could launch programs if I typed them in at the run menu (knew the whole path) but not if I double clicked on them. And I had no taskbar at the bottom of my screen, so I couldn't get to any of the memory resident programs. Only bits and pieces of control panel worked, and one important one that didn't was the Services cpl!

So, I growled, and went back to using Vista for a while. I figured out what the bare minimum was I needed to use my computer, and installed those things on Vista. (I'm still not done, actually...) Meanwhile I contemplated two problems:
a) getting vista to boot without a DVD in the DVD drive, and
b) somehow fixing my XP install

Well, after spending about a week working on "b" I think I've given up. At this point, I even attempted a re-install of XP to the same drive, but decided against it. It is too risky. I will either rip that drive out and put it in some other computer, and THEN reinstall, and use remote desktop to manage that machine, OR I will install XP in a virtual machine. I only need XP for a limited number of programs that just don't work on 64bit Vista yet.

Meanwhile, there was problem "a" - well I finally fixed that, thanks to this web page here:

I'll let you all know when I'm back to happy computing once again. Meanwhile, if you've tried to email me in the past 2 weeks, you've been sadly out of luck.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Help! Microsoft Navigator is Driving me Mad!

Imagine, if you will, hearing a little electronic-robotic voice repeat that above statement over and over again. Then add to that the fact that it is Microsoft Navigator itself reading this sentence to you in it's annoying little robotic voice!

I have had many windows problems in recent weeks (mostly VISTA problems, but some XP problems - nevertheless ALL of the problems caused by VISTA.)

Well, this problem was by far the most amusing!

Several weeks ago I accidentally hit some key combination that turns on Microsoft Navagator in VISTA. What happens is suddenly your computer starts reading to you everything aloud. Emails, web pages, key combinations, you name it. A nice thing to have if you are blind, but otherwise very annoying.

I turned it off right away, but soon thereafter discovered that it comes back on every time I reboot. So, today I got fed up with that and went out and found out how to turn it off once and for all (at least until next time I accidentally hit that magic keystroke combination.)

I landed upon this page here to help me figure out what to do:

Then I busted up laughing, because my Microsoft Navigator kept reading to me over and over again: "Help! Microsoft Navigator is Driving me Mad"

Anyway, so much to say the instructions on that page are incomplete, at least with respect to VISTA business edition. You have to go to that page, as in start >control panel>ease of access>turn off - but when you do there is only a "turn on" option and no "turn off" option. I had to dig a little deeper by clicking on "make computer easier to use"- where I finally found a check box that lets me turn on and off individual features.

Have fun with VISTA, and don't let the Navigator drive you mad!

~ Basil