In the heady rush of delight I get from a new computer, I forget the annoyance of setting up a new system. The annoyance factor on my new Acer laptop was exponential because of two factors: 1) Acer puts a metric fucktonne of bloatware on their systems and 2) It came with Windows 7 which is an utterly new experience for me. I suppose I should be used to the bloatware; it’s everywhere these days. But it’s such a major pain to get rid of, and somewhere along the line I managed to screw up my video control software. Because I feared it was having a negative effect beyond the irritation of having to close constant error windows telling me that the program had shut down and did I want Windows to shut it down (Really?) I went looking online for the answer. Most seemed not to address the question but I found a couple which looked like they might help so I gave them a shot and for about two hours today had to wrestle with a computer that was running on the generic video drivers that come with Windows. Yes, I made it worse. That’s what I do.
I never really mind making it worse, though, because in fixing what I’ve managed to screw up, I learn something about the system. And this time, what I learned taught me a little about how the video card works (I got it fixed, btw) and that it wasn’t the thing screwing up my desktop. Oh, the desktop… didn’t I mention that? Yeah, I’d changed the desktop photo right after I powered up for the first time and it stubbornly remained changed no matter what I did. Oh Windows was nice enough about it. It agreed with everything I told it to do, but then went off and did what it wanted to anyway. And of course the one place that really looked like it might have some answers was down for maintenance (on Wednesday afternoon? REALLY?) But finally the site came back up and I followed the instructions to get to a place where I figured I knew what the problem was, and I was right. So now I have my rotating desktop photos, a working video card and (fingers crossed) a pretty stable-looking system.
Windows 7 is another NannyOS. It won’t actually allow you to do anything much except make cosmetic changes (and even then not all the time apparently) because it assumes that you’ll screw your system up and blame Microsoft. IOW, it’s intended for business users who don’t like getting their hands a bit dirty on computer innards, soft or hard. Vista was like that, too, which was one of the things I hated most about it, but Win7 seems to have worked out a way to keep the tinkerers happy while protecting the timid. It has ways to over-ride the problems which subject you to endless screens that ask: “Are you sure you want to change the fribble on the freebistat? Some knutenvalves might not function properly if you do.” and: “Are you really, really sure you want to do this? Fribble is touchy.” and: “Look this is your last warning about the fribble, genius. You really should pay attention because if you change it, we’ll all laugh at you when you call us in tears.” In the end you can make your own mistakes, and be reasonably certain that you can fix them because they have a very efficient System Restore application, aka “We Told You So.” Only it didn’t work for me when I sent a program in to clean up unused drivers. Silly me, making a special restore point and all. Remind me never to believe Microsoft again.
Oh it all worked out in the end, don’t get so excited. And please don’t anyone tell me that it proves Mac is better because I’d definitely debate that. Apple cast its lot on the side of Nanny-ism decades ago with its first Mac, and I’ve never seriously considered one of their machines again. The IIe? Now that was a computer! You could dig in that one. You could blow things up if you weren’t careful, and you knew it was your own stupid fault. That was the golden age of Apple, IMO.
So yeah, computer hell is actually kind of fun so long as I have some spare time and don’t lose my internet connection. It’s been made harder by virtue of the fact that no one sends you the OEM software anymore, so if you completely fuck up your system, you don’t have any way to reinstall Windows. But that’s life on the edge, folks! (Yeah, I know, cheap thrills.) The thing is, I’m not any kind of hacker. I’m simply a curious end user who owes a big debt of gratitude to all those wild-eyed, disheveled early adapters who have spent years in various kinds of computer hell and lived to tell about it. Bless them all, even the trolls. Because even they have something to teach us.