In previous blog entries I took some time to vent about Apple’s silly choice to install the Mac Dashboard, and IPhone/Ipad “ish” interface into their desktops and they continued the trend with their newest OS, Lion.  And sooner or later I’m going to tear into Ubuntu’s latest disaster with their “Unity” interface which has not brought their legions of fans together….  but that is another blog for another day.  Today is the day I get to vent about the nightmare that is Microsoft Service Packs.

Future is hard to Look At

Die hard XP users please don’t go any further… your future is hard to look at.

It all started with Vista and SP1. Vista SP1 came out in March 2008 and it had….issues. In all fairness, the service pack wasn’t entirely to blame. Vista sucked (it still does), but over the past couple years I have had multiple cases where Vista simply would not take a service pack installation, and what is worse is that in rejecting the service pack for some obscure reason or another (code 1800313 or some other obscure code that led to obscure results on Microsoft’s web site (which in every case of mine never worked).  This left both me and my customer with a dislike of Vista in general.

The Triad of Desktops

This is the part where the plot thickens….I am OS agnostic which for means  I love/hate all 3 members of the triad of desktops equally.  I use them all more or less on a regular basis as I deal with a lot of aspects of computing, from user management and training to building servers out of spare parts to keep a file store in operation until a proper replacement can be purchased.  So for Me, there is an expectation that this far into the game all three major operating systems should “just work” under most circumstances.

Failure Configuring

So I am at a customer’s location where, I’m expected to get the customer’s computer to quit acting funny.  This generally involves a chkdsk run,  install CCleaner & run, run the AV software, install Defraggler and run (and schedule), install Spybot S&D+immunize plus a run and a second or 3rd possible run in safe mode and then after all of this is done an update of the OS, drivers and critical software.  This is all routine stuff in any PC repair shop with similar software and routines.  In this particular case all of the sweeps led me to find the usual suspects.  Regardless at the end of the sweep comes the OS updates… and yes  its time for the service pack…which does in fact fail and kick back a generic error code.

I investigate this code with all due diligence on both the Microsoft sites and the web at large and my searches lead me down quite a few rabbit holes…all from this one error code.  I’m turning off the AV,   running in safe mode, patting my head and rubbing my belly all at the same time…nothing.  I spent a day working on getting this service pack to install and in the end I was left with a system that not only would not take the service pack, it would also not install new printers and some new software.  At the end of the day I explained the customer’s options to him:

#1  He could consult with a specialist which he has dealt with before.  However, the specialist will more than likely tell him the same answer as my #2 option.

Micorosoft Certified

#2 We can wipe out the machine and reinstall it back to factory specs and then update it with the service pack and have the system completely updated before we install any of his additional software.

#3 We can do nothing (for now).  His system is still functional for most of what he needs to do.   He can’t run updates and sooner or later this will become a problem he can not overcome and we will have to return to option #2 or option #1.

In the end the customer opted to do nothing (for now).  His hopes are that the system will somehow fix itself over time and that he won’t have to reinstall.  Now I am fairly certain that his machine will not “fix itself” but this is what the customer decided to do.  And at the end of the day, it’s my job do do what the customer wants.

3 Months roll around and there I am again at the same location at another desk with computer acting strange.  The scenario is slightly different. This is a Win7 machine. Auto-update was enabled and a SP1 install attempt has happened with “less than favorable results”. Not only did the SP1 not install, it appears to have changed some system files and not reverted the changes when it backed out.  Now I’m not sure what files have been altered…but the print spooler for this user keeps dying, something the user tells me didn’t start happening until after the machine attempted to install SP1.  I attempt to install SP1 and get the desired error codes and google them, and follow the results down the various rabbit holes that they lead me.  Doesn’t this sound a bit familiar to you? Good, because I was not imagining this was all happening again.  And again, at the end of a full day of diagnostic hell, I give the end user the options available to them at this point (see options 1, 2, and 3 above). The customer opts to do nothing and again I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth and an ulcer the size of a pancake in my gut.

Linux v.s. Microsoft?

I know I’m not a Microsoft System Engineer.  There are tons of things I don’t know simply because I’ve  not been to a MSCE class and I have no current desire to become a MSCE or even a MSCT for that matter.  My skill-set is in having the ability to be a “first responder” with the ability to fix the majority of the  problems and send the really bad stuff to the specialists.  But its starting to become apparent to me that Microsoft is really over complicating things under the hood.  I have to wonder where they are trying to go and at what point will they really start to loose customers in earnest. Both Mac and Linux are doing great things with their desktops and more and more companies are looking in their direction for systems that “just work”.  I’m not saying the other two members of the big Triad of desktop systems are without faults…but the scales are starting to lean in other directions.

It’s something to ponder and keep a watchful eye on for sure.