Never on a Sunday

I was thinking of myself as being a keyboard virtuoso this afternoon. On one side of me was the laptop that I described as dying the previous weekend and on the other was my desktop, where I was installing some software upgrades, kindly provided by Microsoft to replace the applications that lost their licences when XP had its seizure on the laptop.

It had taken almost a week to bring the laptop back to the state it had been in before it crashed. Thirty-two megabytes of security updates alone take over an hour and fifteen minutes to install, even with a broadband connection. Without one, forget it.

Meanwhile, I tried installing Microsoft Money 2004 on my first machine. Money to me, in every sense, is mission critical, so I was unpleasantly surprised when it decided that my Money 2003 files – which actually go back to 1993 – were unrecognisable. Fortunately, I finally remembered where the Money 2003 disk was hidden, so having uninstalled Money 2004 and loaded the backup of my personal accounts file, I was back and working with Money 2003 but no wiser as to why the 18Mb file won’t be recognised by the new version.

So while the laptop is happily chugging along, re-installing Encarta, the first machine is connected to the Internet and downloading the latest Windows Update. Eventually, a dialogue box appears and tells me that ‘Updates have been downloaded from Microsoft’ and would I like to install these now? Now comes the big mistake. Never, never run an update of any kind over a weekend, you’ll see why in a moment.

I hit the ‘Yes’ button and the update installs, asking me for a reboot when it’s finished its work. Re-start my system? Of course and now comes the fun part. The PC restarts, asks me for my login password and then tells me that my copy of Windows requires registering. How cans this be so, this copy of Windows was actually installed by Microsoft engineers when they rescued the same system in January.

OK, so I choose register over the phone and squinting against declining eyesight, I tap in the registration details from the screen in front of me. At the registration centre, a helpful chap reads backs seven, six digit numbers, for me to type into the boxes on my screen. So far so good until I hit ‘Next’ to finish the operation. ‘Invalid’ says the screen.

We double check but the number is right and the registration centre is baffled. “Call this number” is the suggestion. “It’s a single point of contact”. I call but it’s Sunday and there’s only a recorded message encouraging me to try again during office hours.

I’m writing this column on my rebuilt laptop, which works fine. The other machine refuses point blank to let me in and with it, the last three days of work which hasn’t yet been backed up to my laptop.

This brings us around to the problem of patching again. Something somewhere has changed in my PC. What this might be is anyone’s guess but a patch, the very last action that took place before catastrophe appears to have ‘broken’ my Windows. I should have known better. There is something about weekends that makes any kind of update a risky business, after all, who are you going to call when it all goes terribly wrong?

Not Microsoft but maybe Ghostbusters?


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