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Microsoft, you still surprise me

I use Windows XP at work (not by choice) and I've been continually saying "no" when it tried to install SP3. Why? No tangible reason other than that decades of experience with Windows has shown me that any time you touch any system files or settings in Windows, crap breaks. When it comes to Windows, you set things up and then like a teetering house of playing cards, you back away slowly and try not to breathe.

Which brings us to the other day. I first noticed something was up when a got a popup dialog on my work machine asking me every 15 minutes whether I wanted to Reboot Now or Reboot Later. Confused, I clicked "later" but again and again and again this prompt appeared. After hours of this interrupting my futile attempts at work I relented; I laboriously shut down my half-dozen command prompts and carefully-placed Vim sessions and various server daemons and all the tools I got to look forward to re-opening after Yet Another Unnecessary Reboot, and then I rebooted.

So then XP left me alone and all was well with the world. Ha, just kidding, it started doing the same thing again almost immediately. Reboot Now or Reboot Later? I hatefully tolerated this for as long as I could but it was a futile battle. Microsoft won in the end and I rebooted again.

A few other people at work reported the same thing on their systems, so I thought maybe it was a virus, but I checked a few things and noticed a shiny new SP3 installed on my system (so my initial guess was close). Somehow SP3 was forced onto my machine, not sure if it was the sysadmins pushing it out or Microsoft's doing, but either way: why was it possible to install a Service Pack on my machine without my even being aware it happened? I do not consider this a good thing.

In any case, after the second reboot, strange things happened. My taskbar settings were all reverted to defaults and I noticed my Address Bar was missing. The Address Bar is a little URL/file path bar in the taskbar where you can type a file path and open an Explorer window quickly. One of the very few semi-useful bits of the XP interface.

But it was gone. What happened? A short Google later and I learned that Microsoft removed the feature in SP3 permanently, by design. Why? Because of anti-monopoly regulatory concerns.

Wow. So it turns out I wasn't disappointed, and a few dozen cards toppled from the shaky tower as I watched, helpless. Not the end of the world, but what an annoyance.

The reason I bothered blogging this is because, hilariously enough, you can still add the Address Bar back in SP3. As I read somewhere or other, probably here, you simply 1) Drag a "My Computer" icon to the top of the screen to make a useless "My Computer" toolbar, 2) Right click that and add the Address Bar, which is still an option there, 3) Drag that Address Bar to your main taskbar, 4) Remove the useless toolbar from above. And then you have your Address Bar back. Oops!

So, in summary:

  1. Two forced reboots via 20 repeated un-ignorable popup prompts.
  2. Service Pack installed without my knowledge or consent.
  3. Useful piece of functionality removed.
  4. Item 3 caused by a history of monopolistic business practices and the resulting legal fallout.
  5. Functionality in question removed so incompetently that it can be added back anyways in a matter of seconds.
  6. Another hour of my life sucked into the black hole of the Microsoft Windows User Experience?, forever lost.
May 11, 2009 @ 4:18 PM PDT
Cateogory: Rants


Elias P.
Quoth Elias P. on May 11, 2009 @ 5:03 PM PDT

To prevent this message box popping up again and again:

? Meta/WinKey+R

? cmd

? net stop wuauserv

Regards, Elias P.

Quoth Brian on May 11, 2009 @ 5:32 PM PDT

Too late now. Thanks though, there's always next time.

Quoth Betelgeuse on May 11, 2009 @ 7:50 PM PDT
  1. I agree this can be annoying but usually you don't want other people remotely taking over your machine so it's best to update.
  2. If you were using Linux, the people with root would be deciding the update schedule just like with Windows they can. It's a communication problem if your IT department doesn't let you know properly when they are pushing updates.
  3. In GNOME they removed the ability to configure GDM in a release.
  4. Nothing here for Linux
  5. They want it to be easily added back. Most users use the defaults so just making it hard to enable is probably enough to satisfy the legal requirements.
  6. One hour is nothing when you start to battle with Linux but you usually don't blame anyone for the lost time.
Quoth Bleys on May 12, 2009 @ 6:26 AM PDT

SP3 is not a virus. A virus is clever, well-written code.

Dion Moult
Quoth Dion Moult on May 12, 2009 @ 11:42 PM PDT

Added a good laugh to my day.

Quoth Hamming on July 21, 2009 @ 6:58 AM PDT

My laptop stays on SP2. As long as it works just fine, I don't wanna upgrade.