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Sunday, November 20, 2011

UPGRADING COMPUTERS AND THE HASSLES THEREOF

My Windows XP computer finally died last week after six years of loyal service. The symptoms began with a fluttering screen which made everything appear to be swimming and caused some rather serious eye strain on my part. I also noticed a strange whirling of my hard drive caused by my swapper file (which is used to handle virtual memory). At first, I thought it was nothing more than the monitor going out, but discovered the video card on my motherboard was dying. In other words, it was time. Wanting to ease its pain, I pulled out my .45 and shot it square between the hard drive thereby ending its misery. Fortunately, I had everything backed up to a portable external drive so I knew I was safe.

Our company is probably better than most in taking care of our equipment, thereby stretching out the longevity of the computer. We still have operational hardware and software that is more than twenty years old, much to the chagrin of the various vendors. No, we do not believe in regularly contributing to their cash flow. In this case though, the hard drive and video card died and it was time to upgrade, like it or not.

The machine was replaced by a new box which quadrupled the amount of memory, and hard drive space, not to mention processor speed. I took it to the office and swapped out the old with the new and booted up the computer. The machine came with Windows 7 Professional pre-installed and the start-up time was surprisingly nominal. After using Windows products for a long time now I had grown accustomed to a lot of "hurry up and wait" time. If you haven't guessed by now, No, I am most definitely not a fan of the operating system as I consider it a necessary evil that suits the masses. I view it more as mass mediocrity as opposed to state of the art. Nonetheless, Bill Gates and company laughs all the way to the bank.

After the computer started, I registered the product on-line and installed an anti-virus product, a lesson I learned the hard way years ago. I then moved my files over from the backup device, downloaded new Internet programs, and organized the desktop. So far, so good. Next, I tried to install some older programs I actively used for a number of years, one of which was Lotus SmartSuite which competes with MS Office. Consequently, I wasn't too surprised when Win7 informed me Lotus could not be installed. Next was a copy of Adobe Pagemaker which was also prohibited from loading. And finally, a DOS based financial package we've used for years. Admittedly, we probably should have upgraded these products over the years, but we didn't as they satisfied our needs. Nonetheless, we had thought Win7 would provide a migration path for such older programs but they do not. We also tried to change the "Compatibility" settings to run these programs under Windows XP which, of course, did not work. Basically, we were stuck. Other than these programs though, everything operated properly under Win7.

My next dilemma came when I tried to print a document on our Lexmark wireless printer which is about three years old. Unfortunately, Win7 wouldn't connect with the machine. I installed the printer driver numerous times before researching the problem on the Internet where I discovered there was an incompatibility issue for this particular printer. I went to a Microsoft web site who claimed to have a correction for the problem. Alas, it was the same drivers I was installing earlier. In other words, if I wanted to keep the computer, it was time to purchase a new printer, and the price of computing kept going up.

All said and done, installation of the new computer took approximately two days of my time which I could have obviously spent more productively elsewhere. I finally came to terms with my new computer and am now using it as part of my daily business life, despite its inadequacies and incompatibilities. I think we're all familiar with Microsoft commercial where users proudly proclaim, "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea." Frankly, if it truly was the idea of these ignoramuses, they're not particularly bright. I for one am NOT a PC, and Windows 7 was certainly not my idea but, as usual, we're stuck with it.

Having been in the systems business for over three thirty years now, I am probably more adept at upgrading computers than most people. However, the thought occurred to me, if I am having this much trouble, imagine what John Q. Public is experiencing. No wonder everyone is depressed as we are all made to feel inferior by our technology. I only wish the people would Occupy Microsoft as opposed to Wall Street.

As to my older programs I can no longer run on Win7, I have moved them to an old WinXP machine where they keep chugging away. I really resent being extorted to upgrade. As for my office suite of programs, I guess I'm off to Google Docs. Meanwhile my 20 year old OS/2 computers sit quietly in the corner, still running, and no crashing. Yea, it is possible to build a reliable operating system, but don't tell Microsoft.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

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