Feb 7, 2005

is a whistle really clean?

After reading the escapades of a friend, I decided it was that time of the year again. Computer enema time. Format, reload, download, update, configure, reinstall, tweak. I didn't have a really good reason for it. My system was clean, no spyware, no real gliches, performance was still good. So why do it? Anal retentiveness I think. I always get the warm fuzzies from reloading the OS. It's has a brand spanking new feeling to it. It's invincible. Everything is right with the world when you have a clean install on your computer.

No one has ever accused me of not being anally retentive. My friend above has similar tendencies. His extend to the 'everything has to be in the right place' variety. Mine is more along the 'there is a tiny speck of lint on the counter, better clean the whole thing' as well as the related 'everything must be put into drawers'. It's a simplicity thing for me. Clutter makes my brain go crazy. My wife oddly has a fourth version. The 'things need to be stacked against walls' version. This clashes badly with my desire to put things away. When we got married, huge mounds of boxes and paperwork and photos and invitations were all neatly stacked in multiple corners of the apartment like mold festering. Well in my mind it was festering. "Mmmmm, okay...ah, when do we think this mound might be put away?" I would ask in a voice scarily similar to the boss from Office Space.

And I'm generally apocolyptic in my cleaning approach where my wife is more incremental. I can attest that the incremental is far more conducive to living a normal life but by God when I clean, I mean it. Large furniture is invariably moved when I clean. Multiple solvents are used. Electronic/diesel/gas-powered machinery is preferably employed. Protective face masks from 3M are ALWAYS worn. My daughter will be sent to camp for a week.

So it's easy to see why I might reinstall Windows because I suspect there might be something messy about the file system. Reloading a new version of Windows XP is my way of purging the messy demons - crap lying around in system folders from a previous version of some questionable program you wouldn't want your daughter hanging out with. I wasn't actually sure that any of that existed but it's best not to trifle with small things like proof in cases like this. Best to eradicate every single bit and byte from the computer and start over. The electronic equivalent of using an industrial steam cleaner.

Of course wiping the counter twice a day is a little easier than reinstalling an OS. And I'm usually so overwhelmed by excitement once I have decided to put on the protective mask, that I fail to plan ahead. This time was different. I had a more measured response. I actually sat down and downloaded all drivers and apps beforehand, made a full copy of all devices and associated driver versions and made, not 1, but 2 backups. If I could have used it, I would have setup a timeline in Project. It's decidely ironic then, that at the moment I hit the 'format' button - effectively giving my computer carte blanche to lobotomize itself - I realized that I was fucked.

I have a wireless mouse and keyboard. I don't have a wired mouse or keyboard. Damn. The USB ports aren't going to work (surely they need drivers) and even if they do I'm sure the mouse and keyboard need drivers too. I'll be sitting there staring at a screen pleading with me to answer some simple question, like 'next?', while wondering 'why is this guy having such a hard time with this one? Dude this one's easy. It gets much harder' At best I'll be constantly booting off the CD in some Sisyphusian recursion while solidifying my computer's belief that 'this guy really is rententive. He's up to 3 reinstalls in that many hours.' All that planning and I still will reach an installation impasse. I knew it. When I got to that screen I gingerly tapped the mouse. Whoever at Microsoft saw to it to put enough code on that CD to make that damn mouse move that interminable cursor - I salute you.

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