in Computers, Daily Life

My Own Special Circle of Hell

David, the new salesman at Custom Box Service (my replacement), starts work on Wednesday. To prepare for his arrival, we’re buying lots of new toys: a new Honda Element, a new computer, a new office. (Well, the new office is still several months out, but it’s in the cards.)

Jeff took care of the car, but it’s my responsibility to set up the new computer. Should be easy, right? I’ve been working with computers all my life. I did computer consulting for several years.


It’s been a long time since I set up a new PC, and the experience hasn’t improved at all. This machine is a new HP purchased from Fry’s Electronics. I didn’t think setting up a new PC could get any more frustrating than it used to be. I was wrong.

First of all, Windows Vista is a mess. How did Microsoft even think it was okay to release this? It’s ugly, slow (even on a fresh out-of-the-box computer), and clunky. I’ve managed to revert to many of the “classic” (Windows 2000-era) display preferences, but not everything gives me that option.

Worse, there’s a mind-numbing quantity of desktop apps and taskbar icons. I tried to remove some of the taskbar widgets (Yahoo! search, in particular), but they keep coming back. Also, why is there even a caps-lock and scroll-lock indicator in the taskbar? That’s insane.

I’m also baffled by the number of security programs a new PC comes with. Do you know how many my new Mac comes with? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

After getting the machine set up today, I realized I needed another network cable, some speakers, and a copy of Microsoft Office, so I made another trip to Fry’s. Networking went fine. But when I went to install the speakers, I was shocked by how short the cords were. Am I expected to set the things on the floor? Nick traded speakers with me, but that didn’t help. His speakers don’t work on David’s computer. Neither do the backup set of speakers we have. Ugh.

Meanwhile, we couldn’t figure out how to open the goddamn Microsoft Office box. Why should it be so difficult to figure this stuff out? It took three of us ten minutes to open the thing. I’m not kidding.

Then when I went to install Office, I couldn’t. It was an upgrade version, which I already knew, but it wouldn’t recognize that I had a version of Works. At the Microsoft web site, I was instructed to download a patch that would force the installer to recognize Works. But the patch couldn’t find Works, either! And it wanted a CD! A CD that HP conveniently didn’t provide with the computer.

Finally I found a solution. We own a copy of Microsoft Frontpage 2000 which we never really used. Fortunately, it too qualifies for the upgrade. I installed Frontpage, and then installed Office. End of story, right?


Next I had trouble getting David’s e-mail set up. And the Visual Basic program that I wrote to provide quotes for customers doesn’t want to work on his machine.

Eventually I just gave up. We’ll fix this stuff on Wednesday.

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  1. I know a guy in England who has Vista on his laptop and loves it. I also know a guy in Australia who has dumped Vista off his new computer and substituted XP. Personally, despite my Dell desktop computer being in the range of 5-6 years old, I am waiting as long as I can to buy a new one. Aside from financial considerations, I would be wanting you to help set it up, and somehow I don’t have the heart to inflict more Vista on you after reading this — that is, unless you were able to put XP on the new one without too many difficulties.

  2. To be fair a lot of the extra programs and tool bar crap is there due to the maker of the computer (in this case HP). It took me a while to get all of the junk that Dell so kindly installed on my laptop a few years ago. There’s even a really anoying popup from Dell that I have yet to destroy.

    That’s why I prefer to build desktops myself. It allows my to install only what I really want on the machine. (and it seems to work lots better!)

    Not to get to anti-mac, but almost everytime Apple came out with an upgrade to OSX I was forced to patch or buy upgrades to all of my software and video hardware so that it would work properly…

  3. For those who have Dells and want to get rid of the “extras” you can head over to and do a search for “decrapifier” and it will get you a program that will strip out all of that extra garbage. Perhaps it will work for the HP, too.

    And now you know why so many people are bitching about Vista being rubbish, Mr. Mac Fanboy…

  4. Sounds like your biggest problem is all the extra stuff that was installed by HP. Go into the installed programs list and start uninstalling crap.

    The yahoo toolbar is probably getting reinstalled by one of the other “helpful” add on applications on the PC.

    As for the slowness, the biggest killer of PC speed is the virus scanners. Uninstall that action and make sure that you (or the new guy) do not run your everyday user account as an administrator.