Installation Hell

I got a new PC and a new Netbook which quickly drove me into an installation hell, two-hit-combo for Windows and GNU/Linux

My Gawd, it’s not often that I can get annoyed at both a Windows and a GNU/Linux system at the same time but I managed to do it this weekend. You see, me and my girlfriend bought some new toys this Saturday: She got a new Netbook (Acer Eee 1001HA) and I got a new compaq PC (This time I didn’t build it myself). Both systems came with Windows (XP and 7 repsectivelly) which meant I had some tasks on my hands.

Specifically I needed to bring my Windows 7 system up to date to a gaming standard and then install my normal GNU/Linux workplace while I needed to wipe the XP from the Netbook and replace them with some netbook friendly GNU/Linux flavour.

I started with the Netbook and chose the Ubuntu Netbook Remix initially since I’ve lately been playing most with the Ubuntu distros. The installation went pretty smoothly to the point that the girlfriend could do it herself. However the problem appeared as soon as we tried to connect to the wireless. As always, the fucking wireless curse struck again and the card was not recognised. After some futile attempts, I ended up trying to the old favourite of searching around the nets for info on this. *Sigh*. I hate it that still not at the point where one ends up doing google searches to get a basic functionality from their PC. I knew what I was doing and I knew what to look for but by the Gawds, someone with less knowledge or patience than me would have given up far sooner.

Why is it so goddamn hard for the system to point out that a wireless card has been found but there’s some problem with it? Why do we still expect users to guess what the hell is going on or go to fora and ask. This is so fucking backwards! Can’t the system put a notice saying something like “A wi-fi card has been detected but we can’t get it to work: See Help (Insert link here)”. Something ffs! It’s better than pretending that nothing exists at all.

I recognise that this is mainly the fault of the hardware manufacturers die not giving any drivers but who do you think a user is going to blame? At least put some awareness out there!It’s even more annoying when looking at the Ubuntu Netbook Remix  Hardware compatibility page I saw my model as working perfectly out of the box. My Arse!

And of course, after I looked around for some solution, I did find a forum thread linking to another forum thread linking to a ppa-launchpad package for a new driver for this. Ok then, lets install this package and get this working. Repository Added. Trying to update my package lists…404. Repository not found. Aaaaaargh! Fuck that! Wipe Ubuntu, Lets try Mandriva (which I saw has a Moblin interface available)

Mandriva behaved a bit better. At least it recognised that I had a wireless card even though it was not able to use it but at least during the wireless setup wizard it asked me if I wanted to use the windows drivers (ndiswrapper) with it. Seeing at it wouldn’t work any other way I didn’t have an option. Unfortunately an online search returned crappy results (mostly the launchpad entry which didn’t work). Fortunately the Asus Eee came with a CD (which is weird because the Netbook has no CD drive) from which I copied the drivers to a USB disk and then loaded them up using the wizard for ndiswrapper. Score for Mandriva.

Unfortunately they’re very flaky. Wireless keeps dying at random (mostly if I try to logout or if it goes to sleep) and can’t be restored without a reboot. Then when you try to reboot, the system hangs just after halting and can only be restored with a manual power-off. Then I tried to create a new user for me in English, but I can’t install or activate the english language (it’s not even an option anymore). And finally the Moblin interface simply doesn’t work at all which is the most annoying part. At least my girlfriend is satisfied with a gnome interface so it’s not all bad.

Still though, the experience has left me a bit sour. But not as sour as the Win7 one did.

You see, my own PC came with Windows 7 Home Premium in German, which means I couldn’t navigate worth a shit and all programs insisted on installing themselves in a language foreign to me. There’s not way to switch the system language like you can in GNU/Linux, because MS expects you to pay 220$ for the privilege (You need to buy Win7 Ultimate). Fuck that!

Ok, I can live with crappy navigation. Maybe it will help me improve my German. But noooo, it couldn’t be that easy…

The first thing I tried to do was upgrade my Nvidia drivers. Seeing as the system was 64bit, I downloaded the appropriate package from Nvidia. However during the install progress, I noticed a weird warning about my new driver’s kernel (It was in Deutsch so I couldn’t parse it). Oh well, system seemed to work and I tried to play a game to check my new Power.

Queue Blue Screens of Death.

By one driver update, I ended up with around 4 BSOD. In desperation I tried to quickly replace it with the international version of the nvidia driver (just in case that was the problem). It wasn’t. After a few more BSOD, I tried to uninstall and reinstall. Only as soon as I tried to login and install the drivers that came with the PC, Microsoft tried to be helpful by automatically reinstalling the broken drivers without any prompts. Queue hair pulling.

Remember, during all this time I’m trying to nagivate a  German language system and can’t figure out almost anything.

In the end, the drivers were stable enough to play Half-Life 2 and I left it at that, as I started downloading an English version of Win7 Home Premium Super Awesome Aqua Force. Next day, I tried to install this using my current serial which fortunately worked. Unfortunately I didn’t notice it was a 32 bit one. I have no idea what the difference is between a 64 bit windows 7 and a 32 bit windows 7 running on a 64 bit processor. Most apps are 32 bit anyway so I have no idea if I’ll be missing anything. Nevertheless, I started a download for the 64 bit of Win7 home premium and still waiting. I fully expect that I will then have to pass through an activation hell.

Of course that doesn’t mean that the system is currently stable. I just had a BSOD when simply trying to open Computer Management…

There was also the sharing hell I had with Win7 which steadfastly refused access to my GNU/Linux boxes, forcing me to pull stuff instead of push as I wanted. The byzantine sharing settings did not help at all. And not to mention other annoying things like Electric Sheep not working, endless security confirmation dialogues and the like.

So here I am at the moment. With a Netbook which has a flaky wireless connection because RaLink can’t write drivers worth a shit and a WiP new PC because fucking MS wants to milk money for a simple language change. Hopefully soon enough things will settle down and I’ll at least get to enjoy my old PC as an XBMC.

But as always, things just couldn’t stay simple could they?

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