Microsoft repair/support: Still generous with resources and advice, still largely useless
As usual when I manage to dig myself a big hole I figured a way to get out of it, mostly, though with a lot of lost time, effort and physical danger (editors at three different publications are ready to strangle me right now, which is only fair considering how I feel about Windows. Luckily we all work remotely so it's hard for them to get here. I told them I live in Ohio, Iowa/Idaho. To East Coasters for whom Central Pennsylvania is The West, Ohio, Iowa and Idaho not only all sound like the same state, but can be mistaken for the proper name of a town if you say them fast enough. It's a stupid trick but has kept me unchoked up to this point.)
Also as usual I depended heavily on tools and directions from Microsoft and the generous actual expertise in advice from MSPs and other Microsoft product experts on Technet and Microsoft.com support forums. I almost never have to talk to one. All the problems I run into have shown up and (mostly) been solved before.
What those solutions are and how to make sure the solutions fix the problem you have without creating a new one, however, is just as hard as it ever was.
Windows 7 is a lot easier to run and maintain than anything else Microsoft has ever built, but it's just as full of nooks and crannies as any of its other operating systems and, because it's designed to keep more of the nuts and bolts behind the scenes, more complicated to fix once you do get behind the scenes.
With Windows XP if you uninstall a service and scrub it out of the Registry, it's gone. Reinstall and you're golden. With Win7, something of it is left that raises itself like a rotting corpse to create the same problem anew.
"Backward Compatibility" = "not killing off the virus, in case we need it again."
Microsoft has run often enough into the problems I had that it released to the public – not just the certified MSPs and techs who know what they're doing – apps specifically designed to scrub (not just uninstall) each of the different layers of .NET from a PC and do the same for Outlook or Exchange. Everything goes except the mail files, which you can scrub or fix on your own before importing clean versions into a new profile.
The result shouldn't even remember it ever had a problem.
The actual result is a karmic full circle – all the way out on a long, painful journey that, because of your incessant swearing and threats of violence against the inanimate (holding a big magnet in your hand makes those more effective) , the journey eventually returns you to your starting place. Barely functional, crashing every few minutes and forced to go back to Microsoft.com for more advice when you get far enough away from deadline to make sure you stay unchoked when the editors eventually figure out that Ohio, Iowa and Idaho are not only different states, but that I don't live in any of them.
I'm just hoping they don't know how to trace IP addresses and are too afraid of accounting – as all wise people are – to go ask them what my real address is. You have to tell accounting the truth or you won't get your checks, and, they imply heavily, will eventually go to hell.
I suspect that was the real cause of my computer problems; it wasn't sloppy software design, a slipshod approach by the vendor toward frequent patches and updates or the unimaginably complex mesh of interactions among services, apps, drivers, data, executables, large pictures and small rodents that inhabit our miracles of modern computing.
The real cause is that I pissed off the people that cut my checks, who used the direct line all accounting departments have to the karmic backplane of the universe to send me a recurring, humbling little kick in the pants.
Doesn't matter, though. Once I'm done here, this laptop is still going to get it.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.