12 Apr 2001 tripp   » (Journeyer)

I renewed my hatred for all things Windows this evening when I actually tried to do something with it. You see, in my dark, sordid past, I was a Windows developer. No, that's not quite accurate. I was a Windows zealot. Seriously. I used to rag on the Unix-heads at Interop, saying that NT was going to eat their lunch.

Here I am, a decade later, having matured. I now realize that all software sucks in its own, special way, and that we must choose which particular combination of suckage we want to embrace.

I tried to install StarOffice this evening on the snazzy dual-processor, half-gig of RAM, forty-bazillion gigabyte of disk monster machine that work sent me. You know, the one Irene reads her email on because I do everything on my laptop :)

Anyway, this monster runs Windows 2000, which, I must confess has been more stable and certainly prettier than any Windows incarnation I've had the displeasure to bend to my will. It runs Windows 2000 because my ultimate task for my present employer is to write a pretty wicked set of tests and benchmarks for some Java stuff, and I have to deploy my test suite on many platforms. Dur.

So, until I get to a state where I need to use it for testing, that box is essentially relegated to:

  • Surfing raverporn
  • Reading email
  • Downloading images from the digital camera
  • Watching DVDs (for novelty value and screenshots; I have a real DVD player for chillin').

Back to my story... Irene says she needs to work on her resume, and I don't have any "real" office suite loaded on that machine. So, being a reformed Windows luser, and an affirmed Free Software Zealot for quite some years, now, I go grab StarOffice. She's used it before, under Linux, and it's now open source, so at least I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, if I have the time, I can fix it :)

Have you played with "junctions" under Win2k at all? They are Microsoft's answer to symlinks. I'm not sure why they couldn't call them symlinks, but that's another story. Anyway, I never liked that whole C:, D: crap, so when I formatted another partition of the mammoth drive for Win2k's use, I went ahead and mounted it under c:\big_disk, instead of giving it its own drive letter. I figured that would work well for me. Sort of a "Unix" feel to things.

Tonight I go to install StarOffice, and the damned thing keeps complaining that there isn't enough space on drive C. Of course not! That's why I was putting it into c:\big_disk. But apparently, the StarOffice installer hasn't yet caught up with the notion of "junctions", so it didn't realize that c:\ had 99MB free, but c:\big_disk had 3.75GB free.

I can forgive StarOffice for that. After all, I have the source, so if it really chaps me, I can fix it. That's the kind of freedom I appreciate. What torques me is what happened next, when I tried to clean up.

I figured "well, gee, there's all this crap in Program Files, so maybe I can just move that over to c:\big_disk and make a symlink back so everything can find itself". So I started copying. Well, as you might expect, it didn't want to finish copying because some of the things in Program Files were locked by apps that were using them. No matter that the only apps I had running were Command Prompt and Explorer. Oh, wait, did I say Explorer? Right... Frigging plugins. You know, OLE/COM/ActiveX/?? objects that extend the Explorer interface to handle different filetypes, different actions, and different presentations? I mean, it's cool technology, but all I want to do is copy my files!

So I figure, "hmm, maybe Win2k has a decent safe mode in which all these extensions are shut off, so I can copy the files around without tripping over dependancies". So I reboot. What? Reboot Windows? Never...

I obligingly hit "F8" during the austere pre-startup screen. I'm asked which particular kind of non-standard startup I want. I pick "Safe Mode with Command Prompt", figuring that's as close to single-user as I'm going to get. Windows boots, and I get a 640x480 GUI with a single window that can only be described as "frickin' huge". Or, as Irene said, sarcastically, "can you make it any bigger?"

"Cool," thinks I, "I have a single-user prompt, basically." So I start out with the obvious command: move "Program Files" big_disk and am rewarded with Access denied. I won't bore you with the entire saga, but suffice it to say that I went through a few variations on the theme before I said "fuck it" and rebooted.

Ultimately, I managed to clear up enough space on drive C itself that I could install StarOffice onto big_disk without further ado. But what I want to know is:

  • What's so hard about single-user mode?
  • Wouldn't it be easier to use the built in character generator in the video card, you know, text mode?
  • Why the fuck does Microsoft still exist?

Seriously. I mean, in fifteen minutes of trying to do something ultimately quite reasonable, and even being willing to knock back down to single-user mode to do it, I was unable to. I'm not exactly dumb as a turnip, here. My blood pressure rose alarmingly quickly, and I've spent the rest of the night trying to bring it back down. Two years ago, I kicked the Windows habit and never looked back. Now I remember why. At least with the source I can only blame myself, ultimately.

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