Computer Migration Blues

I recently decided it was time to replace my 5-year-old Sony laptop while it still has some resale value, and after extensive research, decided to go for another Sony Vaio — the VGN-AR320E model.

This huge “desktop replacement” laptop is a relatively recent model and has most of the features I want (big screen, big hard drive, Centrino Core Duo processor, 2GB RAM, USB 2.0), yet it was recently discontinued by Sony, and so was significantly discounted by many online retailers — prices were about $1,600, which is about what I spent on my last Vaio laptop.

Unfortunately, the first two retailers I ordered from came back telling me it was on “back order,” despite claiming that it was in stock on their websites. Although this was frustrating and wasted a couple of weeks’ of my time, I eventually got one from an eBay merchant for $1,390, so I saved a couple of hundred bucks for my (lack of) patience.

I have a couple of gripes with the new machine; firstly, it came pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Premium, which certainly looks nice (thanks to blatant plagiarism from the Mac OSX interface), but everything has moved from where it used to be in XP, so it takes ages to find anything. I’m also not convinced the new start menu is an improvement from a usability standpoint — it seems to take more clicks to launch programs than it used to — although perhaps I’ll get used to it. I do like the gadgets sidebar a lot, though (another OSX rip-off).

Secondly, it also came pre-installed with tons of crappy trial versions of software — a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Works (is that still around!?), various bits of Sony tat and lots of AOL crap. It even has some MS SQL Server components installed — I have no idea why. I removed most of it.

Thirdly, there are no recovery disks; there is a recovery partition hiding on the hard drive somewhere, should I ever have to return the machine to it’s “out-of-the-box” state — which I hope I never will.

But perhaps the most annoying aspect is User Account Control, a new Vista feature that pops up annoying additional warning dialogues all the time to “ask permission” to do routine tasks, like launching applications or downloading software updates (which of course a new computer does ALL the time).

Also incredibly frustrating and time-consuming is the process of moving data and applications from one machine to another. I have a 60GB external hard drive for the process, so it should have been comparatively straightforward, but it’s an old USB 1.1 version, which doesn’t always mount properly (on either computer) and is incredibly slow. I tried to set up a peer-to-peer wireless network, but that didn’t seem to work either.

Apart from all the regular work (office files, websitre setc.), there are also all the “digital assets” that invariably have some kind of complex system to manage them; images (I somehow need to migrate my ACDSee 9 database, something my father failed to accomplish after literally months of support dialogue with company), and music (iTunes) being the biggest two.

Then there are all the device drivers for the myriad peripherals I’ve acquired over the years; a Canon digital camera, my aging iPod, two HP printers (an All-In-One and a photo printer), a scanner, my Nokia cellphone, a USB floppy drive (just in case!) and the aforementioned external USB hard drive. I also discovered the U3 Launchpad on my flash driove isn’t compatible with Vista at all (and i don’t think I’ll even bother installing drivers for my old Minidisc player!).

And then there are all the programs that spray logfiles all over the place; Skype, Windows Live Messenger, etc. etc.

I did start playing with the “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard,” but got cold feet half-way through — I find those wizards notoriously unreliable, and more often than not they simply bring old problems to an otherwise new and pristine computer. Besides, I’m a control freak where my computer is concerned, and I like to know EXACTLY what is going on, so I decided to take the manual route — which will be many, many hours of work.

In the push to hide complexity from the user, software designers have attempted to automate more and more of the functions of software — the point that they are now so complex, that it’s now almost impossible to move smoothly from one machine to another.

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