Friday, June 30, 2006

Figured Out My Computer Problem...Microsoft Sucks!!!

Okay, so I finally figured out the problem with my computer. My computer locked up about a month ago when it tried to download a "critical security update" from the Windows Security Update site. The "critical security update" was actually something called the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Validation tool - a tool that allows Microsoft to test your system and make sure you are running a "genuine" copy of Windows XP, not a a "pirated" copy. The thing here is, the WGA Validation tool is not really a "critical security update," but you can't download and install real security updates without downloading and installing the WGA Validation tool first.

Well, once the WGA Validation tool failed to install correctly, my system started to crash and burn on a regular basis. I informed Microsoft about the problem and spent four weeks trying to get the problem fixed through email with two different Microsoft tech guys. Neither was able to help me. Finally on Monday, my system completely crashed and I had to bring it to somebody who could do a full destructive recovery, take down Windows, and put Windows back up (I wish I had been savvy enough to do this, but I felt like my lack of computer expertise had been part of the problem with the WGA Validation issue, so I went to somebody with more computer expertise.)

To make a long story short, I went to the Windows Security Update site this morning because my computer informed me that I was missing critical security updates. I was concerned that the WGA Validation tool would download again but I also knew that I couldn't NOT download and install security fixes from Microsoft ever again either. So I allowed the system to download the "critical security updates," and sure enough, the computer tried to download and install the Validation tool again. And once again, my system locked up and crashed.

So here I am, with a Windows system that will not download and install security updates without the WGA Validation tool but won't download and install the Validation tool properly. I checked on the Internet and it turns out that Microsoft's Validation tool has created problems for some other Windows users as well. Here's on the "controversy" over the WGA Validation tool and the way Microsoft chose to send it out to its customers:

Microsoft released a new version of Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications on Tuesday and detailed how to remove the controversial antipiracy software.

The updated WGA Notifications package includes changes that respond to criticism Microsoft has faced over the software, the company said. It no longer checks in with Microsoft after each restart, for example.


WGA Notifications displays alerts on systems running a pirated copy of Windows and includes a separate tool called WGA Validation that runs a piracy check.

Microsoft has faced a lot of heat over WGA Notifications--in particular, because it delivered a prerelease version of the tool alongside security fixes, perhaps turning Windows users into unsuspecting guinea pigs. Also, WGA Notifications was found to ping a Microsoft server after each system restart, a behavior the company did not disclose.

While Microsoft is responding to some of the criticism, it said it will continue to distribute WGA Notifications via the Automatic Updates feature in Windows as a "high priority" update, even though it is not a security update. Some critics had argued that Microsoft should find another way to distribute the tool. Automatic Updates is a service intended to keep users secure by delivering software updates and drivers that help protect against the latest publicly known security threats and reliability issues.

"By using Automatic Updates, Microsoft is able to reach the greatest number of PC users," a representative of the software company said. "Microsoft believes it has a right to know whether systems using a service intended for licensed customers are in fact licensed systems."

I don't mind that Microsoft wants to know "whether systems using a service for licensed customers are in fact licensed." I do have a problem with them treating their customers as guinea pigs. I have spent countless hours on this problem, some bucks, and the short of it is this - the problem is with the Microsoft Validation tool, not my computer. The Microsoft tech guys would not tell me this, of course. They also couldn't fix the problem either. But I can see from reading around the Net that other people have had problems with the WGA Validation tool and until Microsoft fixes the problem (if they ever do), some computer users are going to have issues with the WGA Validation tool.

As I said before, I am done with PCs and Microsoft. I will look at Linux today, but I doubt I will go that route. I don't have the time or energy to become Linux savvy. Frankly, all I want is a computer that works the way it is supposed to. When I went to the Apple website this morning, I saw this piece of advertising copy:

Your toaster doesn’t crash. Your kitchen sink doesn’t crash. Why should your computer? Think of the countless hours you would save if your PC worked on your time — not the other way around. Then think about a Mac.

If you spend more of your precious time figuring out why your PC crashes than you spend taking out the garbage every week, you need a Mac. Still not convinced? Just ask the millions of people who use and love a Mac why it’s become such an integral part of their lives, and most will tell you the same thing: it just works. Letting them do what they want to do. When they want to do it. All the time.

That’s because a Mac offers absolutely flawless integration of hardware and software. Only with a Mac do you get a system built by the same people who make the OS, applications, and the computer itself.

Take a Mac out of its box and you experience that hand-and-glove fit from the get-go. Plug it in. Turn it on. And you’re ready for anything. With a Mac, you’ll find all of the essentials built right in. USB. FireWire. Ethernet. Every new Mac comes with built-in antennas for wireless networks, so getting on the Internet from anywhere is a mere matter of turning on your Mac. No reconfiguring your network settings. No plugging in some clunky wireless card.

The real secret behind the Mac’s crash-resistant performance lies deep within the operating system itself. Beneath the surface of Mac OS X lies an industrial-strength UNIX foundation hard at work to ensure that your computing experience remains free of system crashes and compromised performance. Time-tested security protocols in Mac OS X keep your Mac out of harm’s way. Most Fortune 500 companies, governments and universities rely on UNIX for their mission-critical applications. And now, so can you.

Of course, should you happen to experience the occasional hiccup with your Mac, you won’t get the runaround. Because Apple makes the whole enchilada, one phone call — or better yet, one visit to the friendly Genius Bar at your local Apple Store — can solve both hardware and software problems in one fell swoop. And when you add the AppleCare Protection Plan, you extend your support options to include three full years of free telephone help and comprehensive repair coverage. That ought to save you some time and sanity, too.

I'll tell you what - I usually don't post free advertising for companies on my website, but this Apple ad campaign I have posted above particularly resonates with me today. I don't know when I'm going to buy a Mac. I will probably take down the Windows system on my computer again this weekend, put it back up and see if I can live without the security updates for a while until Microsoft fixes the problem, if they ever do.

But when I am ready to buy a new computer, it is going to be an Apple.

Bye-bye, Microsoft...and good riddance.

UPDATE: Went to the Apple store on Fifth Avenue today. I looked at a Macbook Pro. I think it has what I want, it's small enough and light enough to carry around with enough power to do what I need it to do. And most importantly, for an extra $239 (30% off for educators), I'll be able to get a 3 year warranty that will allow me to take the computer into the Apple store if something goes wrong with it and get them to fix it.

I want to get another 7 months or so out of what I'm running now and then I'll buy the Macbook Pro. I wish I could get more out of my current system (AMD FX-55, 2 GB RAM, ATI Radeon x8500 Platinum, Sound Blaster Audigy 2.) I haven't had any problems with the hardware and I really do like the computer. It's the goddamned operating system that's causing all the problems. Unfortunately, even if the current problem with the WGA Validation tool gets solved (which is doubtful), there will just be another nightmare problem coming down the Microsoft road next. It's time to move on from Windows and I am more than ready.

Thanks to everyone who offered empathy and suggestions. I appreciate the help and commiseration. I know that this computer thing is really just a luxury problem. I have watched all these folks who have been flooded out this week here on the East Coast (some very close to where my sister lives in Pennsylvania) and I have realized what I'm dealing with is nothing but a little frustrating. I feel the same way when I think about all the soldiers over in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of their families who are here at home. And then, of course, there are those soldiers who won't be coming home anymore. Those are really problems.

I'll run the WGA Validation tool past some people.
You know Microshaft are in the process of some mega software changes?
One of the key targets is to stop piracy, but in the meantime old buggy systems probabnly won't get much attention.
They will have their work cut out for them just implementing the new stuff with its own set of fresh problems.
What can I say; get a Mac!
Thanks for your help with this, cartledge. it's amazing how buggy this Windows system is. I'm going over to the Apple store on 5th Ave today just to price computers. Apple also gives discounts to educators, which is another reason to like them. I won't be buying one for a while, but I want to spend the next few months learning about them and figure out what model I want.
Well, enjoy your new toy, when you get it.

There are a couple of sites I always check for computer bargains. You'll have to copy and paste them into the address bar:

I have seen bargains on Mac notebooks, but unfortunately most of the stuff is windows-based. They're good for digital cameras too.

Slickdeals is a good daily check, because there are incredible things that pop up every now and then. Keep your eyes peeled for a special Mac deal.
Thanks for the tips, nyc educator. I think I'm going to go with the Apple Store though. I like the idea of 3 year on site service for both hardware and software problems. And they give a 10% discount on hardware for educators and a 30% discount on service for educators. That really helps.
See if they have some kind of interest-free payment plan and maybe you can do it sooner rather than later. It certainly sounds as though your mind is made up.

And there's always cool stuff on those sites, so you ought to check them anyway. I occasionally come across great gifts for my wife and daughter, and I actually own a fancy monogrammed leather wallet that cost approximately nothing whatsoever.

Now that's what I call reasonably priced.
I will check out those sites, nyc educator. As for the interest free loan, Apple does have one for 90 days, but I'd rather not do that. I have the money to purchase one anyway, but I'd rather get a little more out of my current system before making the purchase. I spent nearly 4 grand on this current computer a year ago and I'm having a hard time letting go! I will probably keep the current computer for the sound system and video potential for a while, but I will be loathe to go on line with it if I can't update the security.
we live in seattle. my wife says she hates microsoft even tho we run on windows xp and have had some minor problems. someday, we will escape this cyber babylon. btw, I'm a native new yorker.

I used to live down the road from you in Portland, Howard. Not quite Microsoftland down there. More like Paul Allenville! Anyway, I liked Seattle and Portland but eventually the NW felt too small to me and I needed to come back to Manhattan
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