Computing in the 21st Century

Before we actually get into this week’s post I have to say that I’ve reached a milestone for this blog. With this week’s post I have reached number 200. And I’m sure that there are many others that have far more than this. Still, for a weekly blog with most over 1000 words per post, and some quite a bit larger I feel that it is an accomplishment. And with this said here is my thoughts for this week:

This time I’m not going to be going into programs, different ways of working the computer, as so many other blogs and posts that one can find out in cyberspace on this subject, talk about. Instead I’m lamenting the fact that as one who has been a computer hobbyist since 1989 that paranoia has become so great that one cannot replace or upgrade a computer without the operating system complaining to the point that it becomes almost nonfunctional. And if your system happens to be out of warranty at the time of the changes – forget the idea of getting help from the manufacturer of your particular computer unless you are willing to pay them money to fix what is basically a problem of their creation.

I’ve been frustrated to the point of almost deep sixing a rather powerful system because of the failure of the operating system to function after having to replace a hard drive. Yes the system is 3 years old – old by computing standards, but it is far from outdated. With what I know, from working on systems all these many years, is that by upgrading certain components that I can extend the life of a system to up to 7 years (And beyond if I want to be honest. I have a 10-year-old system that I still use as a backup.) before it becomes under powered and very out-dated. So when a hard drive (3 years within these systems is an average to where you chance a hard drive failure) gave signs of failing I cloned the drive and replaced it. (And if someone mentions the clone and recovery feature in windows 7, while the transfer was successful, in another system set up similarly to mine, we have the same issues.) Oh, if we want to talk about “Xcopy”, or “RoboCopy” and supposedly the more powerful replacement to the former these did not work either.

In the past such an operation would have meant that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about the system or the drive for another 3 years. Instead I now have an operating system that doesn’t work, refuses to work, and screams that it is not a genuine operating system but pirated. Really? Same computer, same system, failing hard drive replaced, and now everything about the operating system makes it non-genuine? So what has stopped working? No updates, no uploads or downloads, failure of links, failure of saving links, failure of remembering, and too many other issues to mention here. Yet, if I install the old failing drive back into the computer everything works just fine.

The only difference in the system is a replacement hard drive. After the failure of cloning I have even used the recovery software that came with the machine which wiped my new drive clean and supposedly gave me a fresh install. Did this solve the problem or work? Nope. In fact after that I had to use the old drive to clone the data across one more time because it wouldn’t even boot. At this point I longed for the day when one actually got a real disk with the operating system when one bought a computer. But alas those days are long gone.

With the frustration mounting I called Microsoft, since it is their operating system. And as expected, they refused to acknowledge any wrong doing and it was the fault of the manufacturer who had a master disk and had added their own restrictions. I, by their statement, needed to go to the manufacturer and get the solution from them. But as stated above, the system was out of warranty , and “oh if you want to speak to us, the builders of your system, we charge for our time”. No email address, no way to contact them except to call and give them credit card information and be charged for their precious time.

So the recovery disks failed, Microsoft denies responsibility, even though I pointed out that it is their operating system – and by the way they would sell me a new key – and getting in touch with the ones who created the recovery disks i.e. Gateway, which is part of the Acer group, wouldn’t be interested unless I paid them. So where does this leave the hobbyist? The ones out there who work on their own systems? I really don’t know, but I have the feeling that we are going the way of the shade tree mechanic, for which once again I was one in the past.

Eventually I picked up a trial copy of Windows 7 from the net, and with the key I have should be able to solve this issue. Although, in the past, one could reinstall the operating system, repair the problems that was on one’s system and go on with life. It would not wipe the drive clean, and any programs that were there would remain. Now with all the advances it seems such a thing is now impossible. To install now requires a reformat of the hard drive, a clean install, and a complete reinstall of all your programs. Once again, really?

I really do have issues with this. Since many of my programs go back through a number of computers that I either built or bought in the past. Because of the wildfires of 2003, many of those program copies – the original retail copies –  were lost in those fires along with our home. So I do not have such a thing. And since all of this was transferred from one computer to the next, it only exists there. So now I have to forget about them since for whatever the reason, we can no longer simply repair (and this is why I have yet to reinstall the operating system), but must destroy? I really must ask why?

Then we get into backup software. What happened here? At one time when you backed up your system you had the choice of backing it all up. Data, programs, everything that existed on your hard drive. So if the unthinkable happened you could restore it to as it was before the crash. Now all these programs do is back up your data, nothing more. The registry – who cares? The programs, some from companies that no longer exist – not important. Yes within the operating system there is a way to backup everything on your drive and place it on a new drive (a disk image or clone), yet the same issue, the same problem ensues. Suddenly your copy of the operating system is no longer legal. So what gives, and what is the answer? I know that some out there would say it doesn’t happen with Apple, and any who work computers know that this is a lie. Apple is the most closed system out there, and will always be more expensive, and have its own issues. I could easily buy 2 IBM clone systems for the price of an underpowered Apple, and upgrading an Apple, forget that – let alone the limitations on software. So I will not be changing anytime soon, thank you.

At this point some would point in the direction of Linux. This open source operating system based on Unix has been evolving for a long time and is used on many servers. Yet, in the end and at this point in time it is more a minor operating system and as such there isn’t the support in software as there is for two major players out there. That’s not to say that over time that this won’t change. The future of any of this is unknown. Even DOS changed, became easier to work, and over time, and the front ends that were created to make the uninitiated in the use of command lines to work it like a pro. It was easy, in the time of DOS, to create the autoexec.bat and config.sys necessary to change the parameters of your system. And because of the time in PC’s that DOS existed it was necessary to create these boot disks. But all of this is in the past and the two, for now, dominate.

Have the companies gotten so greedy or paranoid that a person cannot legitimately, move his purchased programs to another newer system? Has it gotten to the point that something as simple as a hard drive replacement screams piracy? I don’t know, but I do know that this is stupidity beyond the Nth degree. If a company doesn’t want me as a customer, then by doing what they all seem to be doing will definitely drive me away.

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Next Saturday I look at aging. It is something that all of us face each and every day of our lives. Although from that perspective, each day, we do not see much change. Yet, when we meet an old friend that we haven’t seen in years it becomes obvious. Have a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday.

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