Whenever a new software program or an upgrade comes out, you could bet your bottom dollar I would be one of the first in line at Office Depot. At least, that’s how it used to be – before Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) threw a cold blanket over my upgrade fervor.
I remember my first big upgrade. It was in April 1992, my Emerson 75MHz 16meg RAM machine was especially jumpy that morning. This company out in Redmond, Washington, had developed this software called Windows 3.1 that was supposed to turn your dull, “green screen” menu-driven interface into a magical menagerie of graphical icons, pop-up screens and even a color screen saver.
I raced to the store and having pre-ordered my copy was in and out in a jiffy. Sitting in my home office, I methodically arranged the 20 plus 3.5 floppy disks and for the next several hours, I watched with amazement as my little Emerson digested the floppies. Incredibly, everything worked as I had hoped it would. I purchased several applications touting Windows 3.1 compatibility and never encountered a single problem.
Three years later that same company in Redmond was ranting again. Its new software, dubbed Windows 95, was going to transform your computer one more time. Those 1992 feelings came roaring back, and I could not wait. Once again I pre-ordered my copy of Windows 95 and patiently waited. I realized at that moment I was becoming an “upgrade junkie.”
Two years passed, and the withdrawals started to set in. Then like clockwork, the announcement came from the far West corner of the United States: Windows 98 to be released June 25, 1998! As before, the folks from Redmond delivered. I installed and encountered no problems along the way. This pattern continued for the next several years as Microsoft released Windows 2000, Windows XP and XP Professional. In all instances, I was the first one on the block to implement the upgrade.
It has been a few years now since a major upgrade was released but the upgrade junkie in me has always been satisfied by the multitude of “patches” that Microsoft has provided. No longer do I have to travel to my local Office Depot. Nope, the folks in Redmond now deliver my “fixes” straight to my desktop. The feeling of going to a physical store has been replaced by a little globe that appears discreetly at the bottom of my screen politely informing me that new software is ready to be downloaded.
Over the past year, that little globe has begun appearing more frequently. When the function was initially added, I would get a notice every six or so months, but lately that darn globe seems to be barking at me once a week. Being the upgrade junkie that I am, I faithfully download each and every “patch” that comes my way. I’ve always been a champion of the Redmond crew. When hearing of other’s problematic upgrade installs, I would always attribute it to user error… my faith in Microsoft unwavering.
Fellow Gonzo upgrade junkies, it is with great sorrow that I now describe for you what happened to this upgrade junkie just a few short days ago. I had just returned from visiting a client who informed me that the new XP SP2 (service pack) was generally available. That is not the type of thing you tell an upgrade junkie. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I raced into the office the next morning and before I even sat down I noticed the globe winking. Without hesitation, I clicked on it and as I settled into my chair, I noticed the size of the download: 266 megabytes. For a split second, umm actually a few minutes, I sat there thinking this is the biggest “patch” I have ever heard of. Hmm… perhaps some quick research is in order. I paused the download (uncharacteristic restraint for a junkie), pulled up an online trade rag and read through some reviews of XP SP2. I admit that I read some negative comments but there’s always somebody out there on a soapbox bashing Microsoft for something. Right? That just comes with the territory when you are the biggest software company in the universe. Besides, I have been an upgrade junkie for 12 years and not once have I seen anything go wrong. Feeling self-assured, I proceeded to let the little globe work its magic.
XP SP2 downloaded, and then the familiar screen asking me to restart my computer appeared. Like I had done a hundred times before, I clicked the button. Blank screen. My computer did not restart. I waited. I waited a full, anxiety-ridden five minutes. I wiggled the mouse; nothing. I pounded the keyboard; nothing. Finally, in desperation I hit the power button, and my faithful computer came back to life. Ah, sweet relief… yet something just didn’t feel quite right.
On the surface, everything appeared to be normal. Security Center: check. Internet Firewall: check. Web Browser Pop-Up Blocker: check. Wireless Network Wizard: check. All systems go…or so I thought.
Returning to my tasks at hand (i.e. work), I attempted to open Microsoft Access to input a few more travel days into the Cornerstone workflow database. As I clicked the Access icon, a little window popped up that said “configuring Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003.” What?! (A cold chill streaked up my spine.) Only a day before the database was working normally. But now a little window prompted me to load my original Office 2003 CD. Luckily (and surprisingly), I was able to locate the CD and loaded it into my computer. The little blue bars began to move across the screen from left to right, indicating files were being copied to the hard drive. Then suddenly and without warning, the little blue bars began moving right to left, indicating what I wasn’t sure until I read, “Fatal error during installation.” Every upgrade junkie’s worst nightmare!
Next I attempted to open Microsoft Outlook and met the same fate as above. Word: same. PowerPoint: same. Excel: same Even Microsoft Streets and Trips (my favorite): Again, fatal!
When you are an upgrade junkie, the last thing you think about is the system restore feature. After trying to open a dozen or so applications, I realized I had no choice but to sober up. The system restore feature allegedly took my system back in time to a better day, erasing its memory of this present day nightmare.
Since then, I have installed and removed so many programs that I think I overdosed. I can honestly say I am no longer an upgrade junkie. Some of my applications now appear to be working. However, Access is dead as well as my beloved Streets and Maps. I am not sure if I, I mean my PC, will ever be the same. Lately I get nervous simply opening an application. It’s not that exciting nervous feeling I once felt but one that comes from wondering what is going to go wrong now.
So what is one to do? These so-called patches and updates are necessary to keep your computer secure. If I look at it strictly from that perspective, I would have to say the update worked. My computer is so locked down that I have but one choice…
Forget rehab. Can you say Apple?