9 July 2016

Installation probation...

My PC has been a bit slow for the longest time. Let me correct that - my DESKTOP PC has been slow for a long time despite me not using it. Why wasn't I using it? Well, that's mostly because I didn't have a desk or desk area to use it in or on. As a consequence I've not been playing many PC games since my laptop is pretty under-powered, nor have I been recording music or creating graphical art. 

So, slowly, over a period of a few months (because of a combination of work, laziness and lack of focus) I have set up the area for these endeavours and now it is almost complete; the PC was still slow - slower than when I had assembled it. 

Of course, I decided to give it a fresh install.
I've not performed a fresh install on a non-laptop computer in around five years. Little did I know that it was simultaneously easier and more difficult than I would have ever imagined.

I started by backing-up everything important - this took me approximately 16 hours of non-active time. Next I thoroughly cleaned the inside of the case, including the heatsinks and fans. Then I disconnected the drive with information to be retained* and rebooted the system with the Win 7 64 bit DVD in the combination disc drive.

Windows was 'done' in approximately 30 minutes. Installation of the motherboard systems was similarly quick. This was, however, the point at which the 'ease' of modern systems began to break down...

You see, in the old days, your installations of software took a long time and often failed for some obscure reason. In the more recent past of the mid-2000s, installations were simplified by the advanced adoption of internet delivery by companies to provide their drivers; you downloaded a piece of software and then installed it. Now, it seems, we've gone a little backwards.

I was approximately a third of the way through installing the graphics card driver when I noticed that it was no longer advancing and was stalled on downloading/installing '.net'. Now, fair enough, maybe the graphics driver needs .net to work (a bit strange but okay!) but it wasn't downloading anything. It wasn't working. If it needed .net then .net should have been included in the driver package!

So I had to end that installation task and download .net. Navigating to the MS page I got the choice to either just have .net or have a free version of visual studio - knowing I might need some of those features I chose the VS package. Big mistake.

You see, it turned out that VS would try and install from the internet - downloading packages as needed but it also wouldn't specifically determine whether everything that was needed in Windows was present before initiating the installation.... nor did it download its required content before beginning the installation.

So, once again, I was stuck in a limbo of a download not continuing because something it needed to work was not yet ready. Seriously, developers, let users download everything they need! I mean, goddamn, I'm on a 30 Mbit connection  and although download speeds are good (depending on the server feeding my PC) it doesn't make sense to begin an installation procedure when you don't have everything in place. Games of multi-gigabyte size don't do this because they realise that it takes time to get everything onto the consumer's system.

Then, during the stalled install of Visual Studio, my screen goes black. I'm still not sure what caused it or what was going on because the system itself did not power off or restart. However, even upon restarting the graphics card would not output to the screen after POST... Luckily, I had on hand a cheap testing card I use to see whether a system is good or not. This did work after being plugged in place but it turned out that the graphics drivers for the normal card I use do not include drivers for this older model which came out two years before it, meaning a fresh download (oh, I forgot to mention that despite downloading and installing Java, neither Chrome or Firefox would use the Java extension on the Nvidia website to autodetect my configuration! Not useful!).

In between this, I had to restart the PC because windows had downloaded some of the myriad updates that it will install over the next few days: I can't find any way of hurrying this process up so I am at the complete mercy of Microsoft as to when and how these things are installed! This, in turn, also affects my ability to install third part options or even MS's other programmes that rely on these updates.

I feel so helpless.

I thought we had gotten to a golden age of freedom that allowed people to achieve their optimum when it came to computing... but apparently we passed that point and have instead removed people's ability to affect their own lives. The Apple model has become the defacto model outside of the hardcore 'linux et al.' environments and I think that's a sad state of affairs...

Will I cede this position and switch to one of those operating systems? Not likely; not until they have the level of support that MS had during the mid-2000s from both hardware and software vendors or until they have the ease of use of Windows 7 when it was first released.

So I'm stuck with this multi-day installation procedure that I cannot truly affect, nor can I escape the ecosystem that has been built by Apple and Microsoft. I lack options other than consoles (which I have in my stable already)... so what can I do?

I realise that the hardware vendors would prefer us to just discard our 'stuff' after a few years when it becomes slow, mistakenly thinking it is because of the hardware 'going bad' and that they would also love to make it so that the most clueless user can have their system 'just work'. Unfortunately, for those of us who have at least a partial clue, the systems put in place work against us.

There was no auto-install of my graphics cards or other hardware, there is no ability to download important updates in a quick package (or at least I could not find those options) and installations on-the-fly over the internet are a 'bad idea'™ because multiple things can go wrong during said installation.

I suppose that I just have to grin and bear it. I have to wait for the system to take its time and update itself (checking it to make sure it restarts and then logging back in again so that it can continue to the next step - another annoying log jam!) and then and only then can I proceed to install the programmes that I wish to use because otherwise it appears that I'm not guaranteed working versions of them if I install them before it's time!

I guess I should be thankful that I have the option to install anything myself through choice at all, right? I mean, it's so pugnacious of me!

*Ever since that one time I accidentally formatted the drive I had meant to keep in 2006 because both of the two installed drives were the same size!

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