Thursday, May 28, 2009

spawn-of-satan redux

This isn't usually a tech blog, or a work blog, or a whining blog, but I'm going to have to make an exception today. Remember how I once described Windows Vista as the Spawn of Satan? Alas, the demonic saga continues.

For the last year or so I've been saddled with a Vista desktop box, because I was tasked with making one of our apps run on Vista & Win2k8. Yesterday I noticed the damn thing was running even slower than usual and generally acting weird, and I decided it was time to reboot. Only to discover I've got a couple of corrupted registry hives, and the "backups" Windows allegedly makes are unreadable. And, as a result, the machine is unbootable. Fie!

Possibly the backups are unreadable because I BSOD'd the box a few days ago, while trying to update video drivers so I could rotate my 2 monitors into portrait mode like my WinXP-using colleagues can do. (Ok, technically there *is* a way to do that in Vista, hidden away in the Tablet PC Settings control panel, believe it or not, but it only knows how to rotate the display in one direction, and the Dell monitor only rotates in the other direction.) And I didn't even install any new drivers -- the box BSOD'd while the installer was trying to detect existing hardware. But I digress.

We had an iso for the Vista install DVD on the network, which is good since my MSDN subscription seems to have changed in a negative way while I wasn't looking, and it won't let me fetch the iso anymore. While that was downloading, I went off in search of some DVD-R's -- I don't often deal with physical media anymore and didn't have any handy, so I had to run off to Office Depot for that. The downtown Office Depot was really empty, with a bunch of extra-clingy employees asking if there's anything else I could, please oh please, possibly need or want. My only machine with a DVD burner is a Macbook, actually, but at least that part of the process is pretty straightforward.

That part accomplished, I quickly realized that the various "recovery" options on the Vista install dvd are utterly useless, as far as I can tell, and it looks like nuke-n-pave time. Fortunately, when it's nuke-n-pave time, you have many options when it comes to the "pave" step, and Vista is just one of many. I've pretty much settled on the latest Ubuntu instead of a fresh Vista install this time around. (And no, I don't plan on buying myself a SCOSource license for it, in case anyone's curious.)

Now, to be fair, it may not be strictly Vista's fault. I can't yet rule out the possibility that the disk itself is on its last legs. But the registry being a single point of failure -- total failure -- is something I'm more than happy to point fingers over.

I'm not in a position to swear off Windows entirely at the office, what with being the resident Win32 coding guru and all that, but right now I'm thinking that if I ever have to do any more fresh installs, I'm doing them inside VMWare, and never again on the bare metal.

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