Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

When A Rose Is Not A Rose


I have four computers running Microsoft Windows XP, but no two run the same. Each runs, and looks, very different from the others. While each serves a different purpose, I try to keep all four as compatible as possible. Fat chance.

Each runs a different version of the XP Operating System, but not by choice. Two have unique hardware configurations needing a customized OS. The other two are generic, but use very different hardware—and still can’t share an OS. Microsoft doesn’t allow it: each machine must have its own separate OS. This policy is aimed at corporations with many computers. They get a bulk rate, however, while we small users pay full price for each OS Microsoft demands we buy.

For an example of how differently these machines run, I recently tried to install Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on two of them (it was already running on a third). Wouldn’t install on one. On the second, this one, it installed but looked completely different from the MSE running on the third. Huh? If there was a newer version, why didn’t the program try to upgrade? Baffling.

Harder to understand was why running a newer version on this machine took well over twelve hours. Yes, it was a complete scan (recommended when changing antivirus programs), but the previous complete scan with Avast! took less than half the time. Not the worst part. When MSE finished and tried to quarantine a few things, it churned for over an hour and then the progress bar froze. Rebooted. Looked. None of the items quarantined. Unacceptable.

Not the worst part. Starting up the next day, my desktop had no icons! Apparently, a glitch in MSE had brought my startup to a standstill. Tried the obvious. Nothing. Tried, in Safe Mode with icons, to delete MSE. Can’t. Microsoft protects it. Resorted to some old DOS tricks. Took nearly two hours to get back my machine. Without MSE.

Not necessarily the worst part. Installing MSE, Microsoft decided to change things on my machine! It changed how I ran MS Word. It tried to (or did) install an unidentified update. Worst of all, it reset my Windows Update to Automatic. Hey, you MS morons, I have that set the way I have it set for a reason. My reason. Hands off!

Making these machines productive is tough enough without such glaring inconsistencies and abusive treatment. Next week: more inconsistencies—on a single machine!

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