Activation sucks

Just when I thought Vista was actually working, it quit.

Fast forward through a few days of development on Window XP, blissfully unconcerned with Windows Vista for the moment. Having resolved the critical issues with Vista, I was able to wait until it was convenient for me to pick up extra hardware at the local computer store. See, I realized that it would probably be more efficient (and flexible for the future) if, instead of tearing into this system to replace the still functional (under anything except Vista) network card, I would simply pick up a USB wireless network card. So I did. (A fortunate byproduct of this is access to a second, faster, network from my development machine when and if I choose to use that capability.)

There I was, USB network adapter in hand, ready to finally get this Vista system connected. In the back of my mind, I was aware that I could also get rid of the activation reminder once that was done. That thought quickly came to the forefront, though, when Vista refused to start. Apparently, leaving the Vista system unplugged while obtaining the necessary hardware was not sufficient, and Vista wanted attention NOW!

I was greeted with a message (which I failed to document) that oh-so-helpfully gave me a few options, such as the ability register online (“I would love to, thanks”) or, if that was not working, a link to help… online, of course. Vista penalizes me for its inability to recognize my network card, and then there is no option that would allow me to install the new hardware in order to comply. After a fruitless search for the ‘Hey, this is your fault, Vista’ button, I had no choice (short of reinstalling Vista) but to call Microsoft.

To be perfectly fair, the telephone registration process is not as onerous as one might expect, and it is totally automated, but having to read (not type) numbers into the phone, one at a time, and then listen for a couple dozen digits coming back, while being required to respond “Yes” after every group of four, does get very tedious very fast. I am certain that any people monitoring the calls are likely to hear a whole range of creative expletives, including one or two stemming from my frustration. In the end, though, it only took five or ten minutes to complete the activation process this way.

Microsoft, unfortunately, left a rather obnoxious bug in Vista. As soon as one is warned that the operating system needs to be activated immediately (the next step from an almost ignorable balloon), Vista tattoos ones desktop bitmap with the friendly message, “This copy of Windows is not genuine“. Liar! This copy is genuine, merely unactivated. However, after activation, this message remains for the duration, until one turns off the machine, even though the copy of Windows is genuine and properly activated. Better still, Vista hides the option for actually shutting down a system, prolonging the farcical message.

My opportunity for being upset at Microsoft soon closed, as the next Vista surprise was served courtesy Creative Labs. Remember the beta sound drivers that I had to install (you know, in my last blog post)? Well, these expired, too, with a nice blunt error dialog and, of course, no sound. No warning, either. I figured that this was just par for the course, and that I could solve everything with my trusty USB network adapter.

Guess what happened next. You probably guessed incorrectly, as my new NETGEAR USB SuperG wireless 802.11g network adapter worked perfectly. There were no problems, very unlike similar products I have purchased in the past from a company whose name starts with BEL and ends with KIN. It took a little Vista familiarization to figure out how (or, rather, where) to select a network, and then how to make that selection automatic, but with a minimal amount of work to allow the adapter access to the router, thanks to the MAC address being shown on a sticker right on its side, I was up and running.

OK, with a smooth installation under my belt and a nearly working copy of Windows Vista Ultimate at my disposal (having accepted that the dualing video cards would not peacefully cohabitate), I set out to regain my audio. I exercised my base vocabulary again when I found that the Creative Labs web site had creatively gone AWOL at a time when all of the beta drivers had stopped working, too. This downtime continued for long enough (read: hours) that I was able to clean my office, the supplies cabinet, and the closet, where I finally found the original driver disk from a few years ago. Thankfully, the old installer functioned fine, albeit with UAC going ape throughout, and my sound returned.

I had a fully working Vista system! All that was left was a full test of all major functionality, including game saving and online high score/statistics reporting, of Pretty Good Solitaire, Pretty Good MahJongg, Action Solitaire, and Most Popular Solitaire. All passed the tests with flying colors, needing only the improvements already identified (such as new icons and HTML help files). There were no major gotchas. Whew!

One final discovery as I shut down the Vista system for a while: Not only did the NETGEAR wireless adapter work perfectly, but it also made a nice hand warmer as the winter air settles in (though that may not be a good thing).

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