Sunday, June 3, 2007

Upgrading to my second-to-last computer. A case study.

This weekend I switched my home personal computer from one that was 7 years old, to one that is only 3 or 4 years old (inherited, sort of). It was enough to about double the clock speed, and finally have a video card capable of viewing YouTube videos at more than a couple of frames per second.

This is the last time I ever expect to have to go through the process of manually moving over to a new personal computer. I put off doing so for the longest time because I expected the process to be painful. The next time I get a new "personal computer" I fully expect it to follow a Last Computer model much like the one I described in the open letter to the ACME Computer Corporation.

I've recorded notes about this computer transfer, both to document the painful process that Last Computer hopes to avoid, and for historical purposes (since in the Last Computer future people will not longer follow a migration process to new computers). If you get as bored and frustrated reading these notes as I was writing them, jump ahead to the end.

Notes taken while moving from old computer to new computer:

  • Preparation This Week: I'm lucky enough to live near a Frys Electronics where they still sell software in boxes. I select "PCmover" which claims to move all my programs, files, and settings to a new computer. For just $30.

  • Friday: I drive to work so I can carry home a monitor. I figure that doing this transfer will be a whole lot easier if each computer has it's own monitor.

  • Saturday 12:20: Lug second monitor upstairs. Not enough space on desk, and not enough outlets, so find clear spot on floor to set up new computer, with monitors and keyboards and such.

  • 12:30: begin removing old programs and accounts from new computer

  • 1:30: still running windows updates on the new computer, since no one has used it in a year or more

  • 1:46: install PCmover on old computer

  • 2:00: click through all PCmover messages saying, basically "I agree that this may not work"

  • 2:04: install PCmover on new computer; new computer is ready to receive; old computer is ready to send; press "go"

  • 2:08: oh-oh, old computer has 2 drives, new computer only one; PCmover is not sure how to make this migration happen -- based on help screen I will choose NOT to transfer the second drive (D:), and instead will manually move the disk drive from one machine to the other after transferring drive C:-- hope this is not a mistake

  • 2:13: all dialogs have been set. decisions made; with fingers crossed I press "Next" and it begins.

  • 2:16: PCmover has finished analyzing systems, gives me last chance to run it saying it may take several minutes to several hours. I press "Next" and let it begin.

  • 2:24: 8 minutes into comes the fist "time remaining" estimate. 5 hr, 24 minutes. Ugh. Maybe it's time to go catch up on the Heroes marathon Tivo recorded last weekend.

  • 5:10: Almost three hours into moving the one drive (Now I sure am glad I didn't choose to transfer the seconds drive, drive D, which is much larger than C) and PCmover tells me there's another hour to go. (Time enough to watch another episode of Heroes)

  • 6:08: PCmover says it finished. "Done. Filling the moving van is complete." (whatever that means)

  • 6:14: I've turned off and rebooted my new computer. On startup it looks like my old system (same user accounts, backgrounds, desktop setup). Before going further I'll now transfer the old D: drive from my old computer to the new one because I'm sure items on C: are referring to drive D: and I want to have D: available before that happens.

  • 9:15: got so frustrated back then when manually moving the D: drives that I yelled and swore like a sailor (hard to know which is C: and which is D: on old computer, and guessed wrong the first time, then had helluva time squeezing the hard disk into slot on new computer among the tangle of cables). Was frustrated second time that none of the memory from old computer works in the new computer. Huffing and puffing, I went to have dinner and watch more episodes of heroes. Now the new computer boots and I'll try to turn on all the old software and see what works(PCmover disables startups the first time through because, as I agreed in the earlier dialogue, there's no guarantee they'll actually work).

  • Saturday 11:46 PM: I've been updating old programs for last two hours (windows updates, virus scan, programs I use most often). I'm tired. Going to bed.

  • Sunday 8:30 AM: Boot computer to continue upgrades and getting programs to work -- it's in a weird 650x480 4-bit color mode - dangit - cannot reset that - have to download video drivers or something - the whole things running incredibly slow -- (things were going so well, it seemed, and now the video driver is not working)

  • 9:26: graphics problems resolved - should have remembered my old policy of not trying to upgrade too many components at once

  • 10:24: - man, it takes a long time for MS updates to do all their stuff on a computer that has not run updates for more than a year... this is giving me too much waiting time to wander off into YouTube videos, slashdot links... idle hands...

  • 12:43: - most of my daily programs are now working -- time for lunch

  • Sunday afternoon: Most of the programs I use each day are working on the new computer. It is noticeably faster than the old computer, but just barely (I hope to buy more memory and see if that helps). The room is a terrible mess, with computer parts, screws, memory, all over the place. I'll need to clean this up before the wife comes home. Maybe I'll put that off by blogging first. But what am I supposed to do with all these old computer parts

A few comments on the status of this transfer:

  • I'm a little surprised at how few of the program I've tried so far, are failing. Most of them are working just fine. Still a few problems

    • Copernic has no indexed data, but the settings are OK
    • iTunes takes forever to start up, ending with a message that it must be reinstalled if it's to burn CD's correctly, but I don't burn CDs so not going to reinstall and lose all my setting
    • every once in a while about 60 blank IE windows will open up in quick succession--but after a few hours that stopped happening)
    • had to re-install virus-protection software (by the time this is installed the computer doesn't run as fast as it first did)
    • had to remove windows indexing settings that slow computer down
    • Mozy backup software did not transfer

  • The process that transferred drive C: took longer than I expected; almost four hours (I'm really glad now that I did not transfer the larger drive D: in this process, but just physically moved the drive--although that's the same thing I did years ago when moving this drive to my previous computer--this drive must be getting really really long in the tooth)--I'm going to have to revise my story that a new LastComputer can auto-configure itself over the internet while it's owner is making dinner.

  • Given all the work it took to make this move, and how minor is the improvement with the new computer compared to the old one, and how cheap fast computers are these days, I wish I'd forked out a few bucks to by a completely new computer and done the transfer to that.

Lessons learned from moving to my second-to-last computer:

Even though it was more successful than I expected (I haven't yet had to dig around for any old CDs to reinstall their old software of copy old license ID's) This process sucked! It took up most of my weekend, was at-times incredibly frustrating, and was at all other times tedious. I cannot believe that average people (who are not computer people, making their living with these things like me) would be expected to get through this process. I cannot believe that computer and software manufacturers expect to make their customers happy with this process.

I can believe that a lot of computer upgrades are not being sold because potential customers fear this upgrade process. I'm convinced that those customers would be happy to pay hundreds of dollars every few years for faster equipment if moving to that new equipment was painless. I'm sure that the industry is leaving a lot of customer money on the table.

    Imagine if it were this difficult to transfer to a new automobile. If instead of signing some papers and moving some crap out of the back seat of one car into the back of another, automobile owners had to reinstall all their settings, and spark plugs, and belts, and radios, and so on, and then, after all that was done, had to figure out how to dispose of the old car. Who would buy a new car then? The first auto-manufacturer to make auto-ownership quickly upgradable/transferable would own the market.

When the computer industry (hardware and software) moves to the Last Computer model we'll open paths to a huge revenue stream from screaming mobs of continuously-contented, continuously-returning customers at home and in the workplace.


Anonymous said...

get a mac.

Brent Noorda said...

By “get a mac” do you mean that it would be easier to transfer from my old PC to a new Macintosh? I assume not. I you mean that it would be easier to move from my old computer to my new computer if they were both Macintoshes.

Moving from Mac to Mac would be easier for these reasons:
· mac programs tend to keep their programs, data, and settings together in one per-program folder instead of using the insanely stupid registry that Windows uses
· macs’ unix-based file system has easier modes of mapping and copying than the archaic Dos-inherited drive-letter system
· mac programs tend to rely less-frequently on shared parts of the OS (e.g. DLLs or Code Fragments)
· macintoshes are all made by one company, with higher-quality parts, and so tend to get along very well
· far fewer mac programs are available than PC programs, so there’s less to copy
· a much higher percentage of mac programs come pre-installed from Apple, and don’t need to be re-purchased or re-registered
· Apple does not insist on total backward-compatibility over the ages, an Microsoft does, so instead of transferring every ancient program from the old Mac I would accept that some will just plain not work (yes, I do use a few old DOS programs and my paint programs is over ten years old)

Of those seven reason why it’s easier moving from mac-to-mac than from pc-to-pc, about half make the mac look good and half make the mac look bad. I haven’t owned a mac in a long time, and never used one on a daily basis, so I appreciate corrections of any of my wrong assumptions.

You may be correct, and this old-to-new transfer process could be simplified by living in a fully-Mac world. So maybe Mac is a better basis for the Last Computer than is a PC. But, AFAIK, if this were the situation where my old computer was totally broken (couldn’t boot or couldn’t read the hard drive), taking the Macintosh route would be just as hopeless as the PC approach. In either case me and all the data and programs I’d spent time and money on would be hosed.