Saturday, September 11, 2010

An average Windows XP day

You probably know by now that I don't touch anything but Linux in my private life. I got a Linux laptop, a Linux mini-laptop, a Linux eBook reader, a Linux television and an Android cell phone. However, in my professional life I do not have that choice.

In the Netherlands virtually every single company uses Windows. Windows is not a very secure Operating System, so everything is bolted down. I cannot install new programs, I cannot kill system processes, I cannot add any buttons or change the menu. The whole thing usually boots from the network. So, don't comment that "this program adds that functionality" or "open up a settings menu and change this or that". It doesn't work.

During the day, these are the annoyances I have to deal with:
  • Bootup takes up to twenty minutes. It probably has to do with the fact that my entire profile has to be transferred to my workstation. That's stupid. Can't you just mount a /home directory with all my settings already there?
  • I get a message I cannot be logged in. I scroll down and see that the harddisk is full. I call the helpdesk, they log in and wipe all those useless profiles that have been accumulated over time. Half an hour later they're done.
  • The desktop comes up, but clicking desktop icons doesn't have any effect. I have to wait for an additional minute or two. In the meanwhile I've started and shutdown my Ben Nanonote over a dozen times.
  • Finally Outlook comes up. I have to wait an additional minute or two before clicking any folders has any effect.
  • Firefox comes up, I have to import all Explorer settings all over again. My passwords are lost. I have to reinstall and configure all add-ons all over again, including the FTP accounts of FireFTP.
  • I don't have any usable "notes" program, so I use the Outlook notes. Which moron designed this? It isn't even a regular window, so I can't scroll down.
  • Anything that Outlook considers to be a "dialog" blocks Outlook entirely. KMail does that a lot better. Why can't I copy an email address from the recipients dialog?
  • More Outlook woes. Using Excel to send the spreadsheet as an attachment freezes the entire desktop. I can't even save the file and do it manually. I kill both Excel and Outlook and start all over again.
  • Opening an RTF file attachment of 2K in Word takes minutes.
  • Copying and pasting items in a message changes the style over and over again. I change to pure ASCII text again.
  • Even pure ASCII text doesn't work the way it is supposed to be. More editing.
  • Clicking the box "The attachment is still open in [bladibla]. Do you want to close the message anyway?" for the zillionth time today.
  • If you don't get that message you may be even worse off. If you happen to open the attachment, manipulate it, save it and then close the email, you may get the message "Do you want to save it?" If you answer YES, your original attachment is lost. If you answer NO your changed file is lost. Yes, even if you saved it to disk. Which moron thought that was a good idea?
  • Mailbox full. I have to create a .PST file, copy all my messages there, put the .PST file on my memory-stick, fire up my laptop, import the .PST in Thunderbird, harvest the resulting file somewhere hidden in the bowels of the C: drive, copy it to Pegasus Mail, rename it, transfer all the messages in the correct folders and delete the .PST file.
  • I copy a template SQL statement in the braindead Notepad editor. Now I have to fill in the parameters. Although my desktop is quite cluttered, I cannot minimize all windows, nor open a new desktop and transfer one of the windows there, nor tell one window to stay on top of all the others.
  • I've copied one of the parameters, but when logging in to PHPadmin, I forgot all my passwords were lost. Since there is no Klipper, I have to open up my password file (sorry, no KDE Wallet, it's an ASCII file), copy and paste the password in the appropriate box, open up the message again and copy the parameter again.
  • When selecting a file in the file dialog, it has forgotten all my settings. I want a detailed list, sorted by modification date. I'm not even mentioning the fact I have to resize the window each and every time, nor that it seems to forget all the time what my default directory was for that program.
  • While editing a Word document, it changes styles all the time for no obvious reason. I have to correct that all the time. God, I miss WP 5.1..
  • While creating a table of contents it inserts empty pages. The table of contents itself doesn't honor the margin settings. Trying to correct that, well, you catch my drift.
  • Word document looks really good now. I save and reload it, only to find that my images are all over the place now, partially overlapping the text.
  • It fails while trying to generate a PDF file, simply because I have the previous version still open in Adobe Reader.
  • It seems unable to remember my default printer, not even for this session. When I'm too hasty, it sends my output to the printer in the first floor. Hurray! Fortunately, I'm not working on the top floor of the Empire State Building.
  • It fails to mount my memorystick, because it overlaps a network drive. Another memorystick works fine. The same memorystick mounts flawlessly on another Windows machine.
  • Windows seems to freeze for the zillionth time today. I frantically press [CTRL]-[ALT]-[DEL] because clicking the taskbar doesn't work anymore. The virusscanner has obviously kicked in, eating away between 25% and 50% of my CPU. Can't kill it. Work becomes virtually impossible, since the machine takes seconds to comply after each and every command.
  • Windows asks me for the zillionth time, how it has to open a simple ASCII file. Yes, try to find the appropriate program on the web, you moron. Can't select an alternative editor because it has been installed as an .MSI.
  • Notepad garbles my file, because it can't deal with Unix ASCII. I have to save it and reopen it with Wordpad.
  • [CTRL]-T doesn't work in Explorer v6. I have to open a menu, select a new window and enter the link. More clutter on the desktop.
  • Explorer explains to me for the zillionth time that it is very dangerous to open a .SVG file. I have to open the options, allow it and then it will finally show me what I want. I made a small error and have to open the file again. Explorer explains to me for the zillionth time that it is very dangerous to open a .SVG file, etc.
  • I press [PRT-SCRN] and try to copy the image in a HTML message. It won't do it. I get some cryptic error message. I open up Paint and try to paste the image again. No problem. I save it as .PNG, include it as an attachment and off we go. When I open the message again to view the image (check and doublecheck) Windows complains it can't open the image, because it is an unrecognized filetype. Maybe I want to look for an appropriate program on the web which I can't install anyway.
  • Another messagebox pops up: "You copied a lot of data to the clipboard. Do you want to retain them?" Since when do I have to manage your buffers?! Who is the Operating System here?! Deal with it!!
  • After uttering more F-words than an average Jerry Springer episode featuring Gordon Ramsay, my workday is finally over. I try to shutdown Windows. It takes another five or so minutes. Others would probably run away, but I dutifully wait until the thing has closed. The tramway is gone. Now I have to wait in the rain for ten minutes until the next one.
  • Dripping wet I enter the tramway and fire up the Nanonote. After I finish sneezing it is there.
  • I wonder what is so "professional" about "Windows XP Professional". Seems rather lame to me. How much was it they spent on usability tests?
  • Whatever happened to the Windows XP Media Centers? Haven't heard about them for some time..

Update: I got a lot of feedback to this post, both verbally and in writing. Some commenters blame it on the setup of Windows XP in this particular company. But I'm not just writing about performance issues. A better implementation does not fix the usability issues and the obvious bugs (especially in Word and Outlook).

Due to this feedback, I can add the following annoyances to the list:
  • A document written in Word 2007 and saved as Word 2000 crashes Word 2000 consistently.
  • Access writes Excel files in a different (older) format and cannot subsequently read them without conversion.
  • Word 2003 shows only the first 11 pages of a 21 page document. A full uninstall of all addons, registry cleaning and other measures are required before it behaves again as it should.
  • Reading an alien format into Excel 2000 and subsequently trying to email it leads to a complete breakdown of Outlook.
  • Word 2000 cannot correctly read an RTF file. Tables get garbled.
Update: a new collegue asked me: "Can I work with LyX here?" I answered him: "Yes, you can. They should be used to it by now. Just don't forget to install Latex2RTF." "Great!" he said "That saves me 40% of my time. That's the time I usually spend to correct the layout." Nuff said. Scrap Word. 40% more productivity gained by using an application that costs you $0. Good ROI.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Crikey! If it wasn't for the Netherlands reference, I would have thought that we must work for the same company. ;-/

I'm no admin, just a regular(ish) desktop/HTPC user. Linux since 2002.

lefty.crupps said...

Can you run any of the portableapps.com stuff? they run from their folder without a real 'install' so perhaps they can be saved and restored with your profile, and (while not the awesomeness of KDE apps) they're all FLOSS apps...

Anonymous said...

OMG! Why don't you resign?
I have to take up that kind of s*it as at work as well, but not that much, lol.

Barista Uno said...

Is it that bad? My heart bleeds for you.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, most of that isn't Windows XP's fault, it's your company's rather control freakish implementation of how it's set up - I assume to try and protect users from themselves when it comes malware.

Chances are if your company adopted Linux they'd try and do exactly the same thing, customizing the code in a negative way if they had to.

I'm might upset a few Linux fans by saying this, but I generally think XP is an ok OS on a stand alone machine that isn't packed full of extra crapware.

It's big floor is it's security, of course - oh, and the fact that you have to pay for Windows through the nose when you buy a new PC. Other than that, it's reliable and perfectly usable.

Ihar Filipau said...

Divide all times by two - and the description fits my office laptop 100%.

But you obviously forgot the "black hours": when anti-virus on a whim updates itself and decides to rescan whole hard drive.

Thankfully, 90% of my time is spent in terminal emulator in some Linux/*NIX session, so I'm not that affected. Otherwise, I would have already bugged my manager to annoy IT to allow me a private laptop in office.

P.S. But that was XP. What about those cheap useless hardware corporation force us to use??

Anonymous said...

Wow! Did that ever bring back memories, some too recent to handle. For a time I worked in a small medical clinics IT department. Outlook and Exchange were nightmares! Initially the clinic used 1 Windows Server, 1 medial scheduling Unix based server, and 1 Linux based email server that handled about 160 workstations. There were 2 of us in the IT department and the workload was fairly manageable. Then.....the high and mighty mucky mucks decided we needed to move to a Windows based medical scheduling software and Exchange. By the time I got fed up and left they were up to 5 IT people and over 30 servers and SEVERAL MILLION dollars wasted on such crap!! No kidding! I hear now they have 8 people in IT and the workstations still number around 160. Amazing!
I vividly remember all the miserable hours wasted dealing with users messed up copies of Outlook, fighting with Exchange issues, constant fubars with Active Directory, and the waiting..... and waiting..... and waiting. Everything you mentioned in your article....all completely accurate. I saw it all day every day there.

Tux said...

What do u mean by "Windows XP Professional" what is it? :P

The Beez' said...

Scanning software eating my CPU is my companies fault. Locking up Outlook is my companies fault. Having my profile transferred is my companies fault. Overlapping my network drive is my companies fault. You're good..

Anonymous said...

I find it amazing that any company or corporation can function like that. As if Windows weren't bad enough, you also have to deal with a sysadmin who's clearly a moron for configuring Pcs and networks like that.

Tucanae Services said...

Heh anonymous had it right. You are living a world where the Wndows Admin has made his life easy at the expense of the user base. But its not uncommon, sadly. A division of my former company has a division in India.

Management was so freaked about any potential IP loses that when new PC's were delivered to the site they would have the USB ports packed with JB Weld so they could not be used. No joke.

When I pointed out to several people that the firewall had the ports of IPP print wide open and that several versions of printers would print raw to a USB port all hell broke loose!

When 'security' becomes that all encompassing one has to question management's decision to locate and hire there.

Unix Sys V 20 years, Linux 10.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much the same where I work. Boots are quicker because we have some stupidly strong desktops (my desktop got replaced two times last year, don't ask me who's paying for this).

My antivirus found a message with a trojan (which I didn't even read) and zapped my entire 5-year Inbox. "Fortunately", Windows eats HD space away and there was a shadow copy. Come to think, that's smart: if the antivirus destroys my files, there's no way a virus will destroy them. Makes sense.

The smartcard locks the screen; the problem is, 1 in 10 times, it won't unlock anymore. As my Windows version has no shutdown icon, I must power down the machine (i.e. press and hold the button).

After _months_, I figured out (thanks internet dudes) NTLM authentication so Firefox will work in our intranet -- except with a few pages which specifically check for IE and with Windows passthrough authentication (using the card data, not passwords).

We a local branch page. They bought Sharepain and our web guy now refuses to use it (he has other important work). The net result is Sharepain killed our local page. Noone is crazy to learn it, since it's weird and doesn't have gmail's killer look&feel.

I just saw an article about Qmail and Openldap. That's what we used -- until the morons forced Exchange on us. Some people now cannot send email neither inside the intranet and neither from outside (we simply don't receive the mails). Spam increased. I can still use Thunderbird (we still have some kind of mail server), but some folders are only visible in Webmail -- not on Thunderbird anymore...

Some monitors (shining anew from a big, famous brand) are not recognized in Windows 7. A "generic" configuration is used instead of the LCD native resolution.

Some work is too heavy even for these pumped up machines and I must boot Ubuntu to use command line utilities, because Windows doesn't provide equivalent tools.

I get irritated everyday when I try to middle-click paste... not to mention there's no focus follow mouse.

On the good side, I can compress files to .7z and the antivirus won't touch it (it can open .zip files, though). So, my backups are protected.

One of the main hurdles I see in adopting Linux is to find equivalent desktop administration software (like SMS) for a big number of PCs.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much the same where I work. Boots are quicker because we have some stupidly strong desktops (my desktop got replaced two times last year, don't ask me who's paying for this).

My antivirus found a message with a trojan (which I didn't even read) and zapped my entire 5-year Inbox. "Fortunately", Windows eats HD space away and there was a shadow copy. Come to think, that's smart: if the antivirus destroys my files, there's no way a virus will destroy them. Makes sense.

The smartcard locks the screen; the problem is, 1 in 10 times, it won't unlock anymore. As my WIndows version has no shutdown icon, I must powerdown the machine (i.e. press and hold the button).

After _months_, I figured out (thanks internet dudes) NTLM authentication so Firefox will work in our intranet -- except with a few pages which specifically check for IE and with Windows passthrough authentication (using the card data, not passwords).

We a local branch page. They bought Sharepain and our web guy now refuses to use it (he has other important work). The net result is Sharepain killed our local page. Noone is crazy to learn it, since it's weird and doesn't have gmail's killer look&feel.

I just saw an article about Qmail and Openldap. That's what we used -- until the morons forced Exchange on us. Some people now cannot send email neither inside the intranet and neither from outside (we simply don't receive the mails). Spam increased. I can still use Thunderbird (we still have some kind of mail server), but some folders are only visible in Webmail -- not on Thunderbird anymore...

Some monitors (shining anew from a big, famous brand) are not recognized in Windows 7. A "generic" configuration is used instead of the LCD native resolution.

Some work is too heavy even for these pumped up machines and I must boot Ubuntu to use command line utilities, because Windows doesn't provide equivalent tools.

I get irritated everyday when I try to middle-click paste... not to mention there's no focus follow mouse.

On the good side, I can compress files to .7z and the antivirus won't touch it (it can open .zip files, though). So, my backups are protected.

One of the main hurdles I see in adopting Linux is to find equivalent desktop administration software (like SMS) for a big number of PCs.

Bob Harvey said...

It's much the same in $MEGACORP. Fortunately, because my laptop is also an industrial programming terminal I have some administrator privileges. I have managed to install pdfcreator as a pseudo printer, and can run portable apps from a memory stick.

But yes, the 20 minute stand-alone bootup is quite common, and the 5 minutes to lift the compulsory screensaver.

I work with people from Switzerland who have all bought big fast laptops, installed suse, and put an image of their company machine inside a virtual box. I can't do that as I need pcmcia access and a vpn that won't run virtually.

So I carry a private linux machine for most jobs, and only turn on the company one when forced.

Anonymous said...

You are sooo lucky.
In my office, we still use Windows2000 and Office97. I'm Serious!

Martin said...

Just out of curiosity, what are the specs of the computer(s) you use?

Lee Mathews said...

I'm with Anon above. This isn't the fault of your OS -- the custom built systems I install running XP boot in 32 seconds.

Your IT guys have things set up the way they think they need to be set up. If it's causing a loss of productivity, it should be brought to their attention.

And yes, also agree on the Linux note: if they changed platforms, they'd probably configure the overall environment the same way and you'd still complain of slowness.

Matti from Finland said...

I have much, much better experiences with computer when i moved to Linux (May 2008). Using these distros now in my pc:

-Ubuntu 10.04.1
-Mandriva 2010 Spring
-Linux Mint 8
-Fedora 13

I'll never come back to Windows. Aufwiedersehen Microsoft. :)

Christophe said...

At my place they are currently replacing all the Windows 2000 (!) computers with Vista (!!). Most computers simply get re-imaged, and become nearly unusably slow in the process. I was lucky: I got a new laptop instead of getting my old one re-imaged. Still, I have the same experience as you have.

On the other hand, I've made a stunning discovery last Saturday: not all businesses in the Netherlands use Windows! Eyes+More (an optician franchise) is a Linux-only business, running their computers on OpenSuse (and their employees are quite savvy, the optician I talked to knew a lot about Linux :) ) . If I ever need glasses, you can be sure I'll go there to buy them (because of this, and also because their prices are so low :) ).

Anonymous said...

How very true. At my university and at work I have to deal with Windows XP. Seriously, all organisations' Windows setups have been nothing but terrible.

Copying the profiles is the biggest annoyance and it gets worse the longer you use it. Normally I delete my profile every month and only keep the backups. Temporary Files, System Settings: Thousands of small files which aren't really the best thing for network transfer and NTFS. Ever had a eclipse workspace in your documents folder?

I end up creating my own folder on each PC like c:\mypersonalstuff and put everything as portable app in there. This however is insecure and not at all portable. It's just absurd that the standard mechanism of windows works so badly. (Profile copying really? how came up with that? Better: Network mount with a descent local cache)

Dulwithe said...

Agreed with a previous poster. WinXP isn't that bad. It is truly a nuisance once you are used to the freedom of linux, but seriously, for work all most office workers need is email, web-brower, spreadsheets, and word processing files.

As some other people hinted, XP is not the problem. The problem is the administrators for setting up such a sh!TTy system.

I worked 8 months in a win xp networked environment. Although I couldn't use Thunderbird, everything worked well and quick - Outlook mail, access to online documents, attachments, etc.

Let me repeat, your IT admin staff are idiots!!

A cruel (but accurate?) metaphor. A courier company (a la FedEx, DHL, etc) that gives its employees donkeys to transport mail and packages instead of trucks. Of course it is going to be slow.

Did I say it yet, your system admins are knobs!!!

Tshann said...

Yup, have to agree with others. I have to use Xp in my work too. But I have to admit, other than the virus scanners, it runs very well. I've had very little problem with it over the last 8 years or so.
The title of your article should read " A day in the life of a windows domain hell!" The problem is clearly due to the way the environment is setup - F'd up

mariano said...

It fails to mount my memorystick, because it overlaps a network drive.


The same here!!.

Reevez said...

" After uttering more F-words than an average Jerry Springer episode featuring Gordon Ramsay, "

HAHAHA nice post Beez! I enjoyed reading every word of it.

Brad Fallon said...

How can i remove windows xp from my laptop and reinstall windows Me -the laptops original software?