Wednesday, 10 February 2010

In which the author retraces his steps… slowly.

I don’t think I’ve ever really truly been ambivalent about anything before. In high school and university I garnered a reputation for being almost unflappable; that I could let anything slide. Something went wrong, and it wasn’t a big deal. Never really experienced ambivalence, as it’s properly described—that the subject feels strongly about the object, but in opposite directions at once. Not until now, not until tonight.

I have never been simultaneously so happy to have largely abandoned Microsoft’s operating systems and Web browser for my daily use and first-line development testing, and so spectacularly frustrated. I’ve been having some difficulty with the Windows XP partition on my main computer at home for a while now, mainly because I was using a particularly poorly-designed firewall (Comodo Personal Firewall, for those keeping score—I’d advise you to never install it)… I’d attempted to upgrade the software, but the previous version refused to be removed first. Deleting it didn’t help; there were still innumerable system hooks that actually wound up making it impossible to use the Internet! I thought perhaps the firewall had rewritten the network stack, and hypothesised that upgrading the operating system to Service Pack 3 would help. Needless to say, it didn’t, but I eventually managed to excise the demonspawn firewall. Somewhere in here, I also upgraded to Internet Explorer 8—after even Microsoft started actively encouraging the switch, for safety reasons, I knew its time had finally come and I could stop supporting it.

Unwisely, I tried the new version of the firewall, and now explorer.exe has become quite possibly the least-responsive piece of software on the computer. I can’t be 100% certain that these are causally related, because I can’t find any trace of the firewall on the system, and I’ve followed the same removal steps as the last time, and Windows Explorer hasn’t improved any.

This is all just context… a secondary source of frustration, because it means my computer is running far slower than it ever normally did prior to all these changes. The real frustration is that I’m jumping through all these hoops (all the while trying to install Subversion, Apache and MySQL on a FreeBSD 6.0 server with a 500 MHz Celeron processor in PuTTY) so that I can track down an IE-specific rendering bug in my new contract. Unfortunately the bug is so specific that it’s only appearing in Internet Explorer 7! At this point, anyone who’s intimiately familiar with how deeply-tied Microsoft’s browser and operating system are knows exactly what’s become necessary: In order to install IE7, I have to first uninstall IE8. However, in order to uninstall IE8, I have to revert the SP3 upgrade. This is a large and significant problem, because the upgrade itself cost me more than two hours! That process is currently running in the background as I write this (and checkout the current branch of the project to the small Celeron machine, dubbed mouse). I am, nonetheless, quite distinctly far from amused by Microsoft’s decision to make IE8 and SP3 so deeply integrated that, if IE8 is installed prior to SP3 (which I’m fairly sure is what happened; while Comodo had disable the majority of my connectivity, Windows Update continued to operate), then removing the former requires removing the latter by design. It’s certainly further motivation to move to Europe!

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