Isn’t It Ironic

I’ve determined the cause of my recent PC problems, in which Windows XP gets hung up while rebooting: Windows XP Service Pack 3. I isolated the other variables and allowed Windows to download and install XP SP3 and reboot, and it never completed rebooting. It took another hour-plus to restore Windows to a pre-Service Pack 3 time when everything worked, and even with that I spent another half-hour reinstalling device drivers. Just another day in PC world. My fingers were itching to dial the Apple store during the entire ordeal.

PC: Problems Compounded

I am involved in my annual computer meltdown. Every year since 2004–every single year–I’ve had major computer problems sometime between mid-April and mid-May. This is a particularly bad time for me compared to, say, July–and yes, I have PCs. (I hear chuckles from the Mac users. You know who you are.) Over the years I’ve seen Blue Screens of Death (a Windows crash-and-reinstall and hard drive failures on a desktop and laptop), fatal driver incompatibilities, and this year’s endless reboot hang-up. I caused it, apparently, by moving the computer in my home office. I failed to replug all of the USB peripherals into the exact same ports they’d previously enjoyed and, when I turned the computer on again. Windows XP played the role of xenophobic INS agent to a non-resident alien. “This USB connection wants to be part of your computer. I don’t trust it. If you allow it then anything bad that happens is ALL YOUR FAULT.” It warned me thus about 20 times and, when I rebooted, Windows got hung up, the little progress bar cycling endlessly as if it was working overtime to compensate for my irresponsible ownership. Since Sunday I’ve fiddled with registry clean-ups, system restore points–a friend said that if I keep restoring to earlier points soon I’ll be using DOS (students may be too young to remember DOS. It was the earliest Microsoft operating system. One booted up by turning a hand crank)–and have twice installed Windows XP Service Pack 3. Right now I’m reinstalling Windows XP. I’m not optimistic. A sledgehammer might be next.

These problems are less problematic than in the past because I’m obsessive about protecting my data. My redundant backups have redundant backups.

I browsed Macs at the Apple store a few weeks ago. I’m not there. Not yet.

Vista Resista

One year after Microsoft released Vista, its newest operating system, I am like most Windows users. I continue to use Windows XP, and continue to resist the alleged upgrade to Vista. This story explains why resistance is a good move. It explains the woes of Jon, Steven, and Mike who upgraded or purchased what were labeled as Windows Vista Capable hardware only to encounter typical Vista woes: failure to provide drivers for printers, scanners and other peripherals, the need for brand-new graphics chips to operate at full capability, slow boot-up, inability to run XP-enabled software. The punch line is that Jon, Steven, and Mike are all Microsoft executives. Mike is the VP for Windows product management, Jon is a Microsoft board member, and Steven is a senior VP responsible for Windows.

Ouch.

Limited Vista from my Windows

From Information Week: Windows XPP Significantly Outperforms Vista, Tests Show. “[R]esearchers ran a mix of tests comparing existing versions of the operating systems — the original Vista and XP SP2 — and versions that had been patched with the latest updates — Vista SP1 beta and XP SP3 beta. Tests were also run on machines with 1 Gbyte and 2 Gbytes of memory. Windows XP trounced Windows Vista in all tests — regardless of the versions used or the amount of memory running on the computer. In fact, XP proved to be roughly twice as fast as Vista in most of the tests.” (Emphasis additional) From when I purchased my first personal computer in the late 1980s, I bought a new system and upgraded operating system about every two years. It’s been four years+ since I bought a new desktop. I keep patching this Windows XP machine with new hard drives, fans, cables, and disk drives because the prospect of a spanking new machine with Vista is so disheartening. If this system melted down tomorrow I’d seriously consider buying a Mac and using Boot Camp to run XP.

iTunes Fix

Before my trip I wrote about problems I was having with iTunes on my Windows XP system. Helpful reader comments and suggestions put my on the path to a cure. I (a) uninstalled iTunes, (b) uninstalled Quicktime, (c) reinstalled iTunes and Quicktime (I found no stand-alone iTunes installer), (d) uninstalled Quicktime, and (e) reinstalled Quicktime using the stand-alone installer. (I can’t believe I did all of that without throwing the CPU out the window, but I did.) Then I left for a week. The trip had nothing to do with the fix, but I did forget about the problem. Upon returning I synced my iPod and, for the first time in a month, it synced properly. I was afraid to play iTunes for almost a week because I couldn’t face it hanging again, but yesterday, crazy risk taker that I am, I opened iTunes, pushed play, and . . . it played. No problems yet. Sincere thanks to those who helped.

Music Mishegas

It started last week. I synced my iPod and noticed that a half-dozen podcasts failed to transfer from the hard drive. Around the same time iTunes started to crash without apparent cause: when I double-clicked on iTunes playlists, when I played music from the iTunes library, when I updated podcast subscriptions from the iTunes window. Within a few days iTunes would crash as soon as I played anything. I uninstalled and reinstalled iTunes three or four times (I lost count, it was so much fun). No change. I Googled “iTunes crashes windows XP” and “iTunes troubleshooting” and found a number of similar tales but no explanation or solution. I tried some of the suggested fixes–deleting the iTunes program folder, adding “.old” to the iTunes library program files–but nothing changed. I’ve updated and run my antivirus and antispyware programs and run Registry Mechanic three times in the past seven days. I’ve ignored the suggestion to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows XP, iTunes, and every piece of software, testing after each to identify the culprit. If it comes to that I’ll throw the computer out the window to have the satisfaction of hearing it shatter, and buy a new one.

Now it gets weirder. I wanted something to play music files and installed Winamp. I also installed Anapod Manager to manage the music library and iPod files. The first few times I played music on Winamp it worked fine. I don’t like the cluttered, busy, teeny-weeny interface but it worked. Until it didn’t. Last night, clicking on a file to play it, Winamp crashed. It crashed three more times, just to make sure I got the point: your music files are screwed up. The questions are why?, and how do I fix the problem?

Maybe I should dust off the turntable and pull the albums out of the basement.