on Mar 22, 2006
The following is a long diatribe on my former computer. There is no need for you to read it. It’s boring. Just don’t buy an HP and none of this will apply to you.
I warned you.
Back in 2004:
I get myself an HP Pavillion. My company buys me the machine for use out of my home office. The goal is to have a reliable and affordable machine. I don’t need to play games on it or do anything fancy, I just need it to work.
I bring it home and plug ‘er in. Here is how HP greets me:
Click for biggie view
A challenge: How would you go about closing that goofy window right in the middle of the screen? You can’t move it. There is no close button. Right-clicking does nothing. The answer? Click in the white area to launch the wizard, then tell it you don’t want any.
Then hope the window doesn’t re-appear next time you boot up.
I should add that when this sales pitch for internet providers popped up, my cable modem was already connected and working properly.
Anyway, what a mess of icons. Before I go installing any of my software, I need to clean this stuff off.
Before I can do that, yet another popup appears letting me know I need to create my restore discs. It turns out that HP did not provide the restore disks. I have to go out and buy blank disks and burn them all myself. All ten of them. I really should make the restore discs before I go on my un-installing binge, in case I remove something important, or one of these nagware programs makes a mess of the system during un-install.
So I run the restore disc creation program. The process is tedious and tiresome, with an long-winded wizard that chews through a lot of time before getting around to asking for the first blank disc. I put it in. The program reports that the disc is bad. It aborts the process. I throw the disc away and try another. Run through the wizard again. This disc is also bad. Abort. Two bad blank discs in a row? What are the odds?
So I insert a regular music CD into the burner. Nothing. I mess around with it for a while, always assuming that I was doing something wrong. I have to reboot several times. Every time I reboot, the system pummels me with various “offers” and other useless windows. Windows open up, unbidden. My “favorite”:
Click for biggie view
This is HP organize. The thing is just a huge confusing container for a bunch of sales icons. Note that these are different from the sales icons that litter the desktop. In that center window a little movie begins to play, welcoming me to HP and telling me abut HP Organize, a ridiculous contraption made to replace the familiar windows interface with something more gimmicky and convoluted. It does this every single time I reboot, until I give up and hunt around in the options and find the one to shuts it off for good.
Remember, I’m just trying to install my software. Before I can do that, I have to clean all this junk off the machine. Before I can do that, I have to create restore discs. Before I can do that, I have to figure out what’s wrong with the CD burner. Before I can do that, I have to figure out how to disable this HP Organize monster before it drives me mad.
But it doesn’t end there.
Windows with nonstandard layouts (read: the close button isn’t where you expect) appear regularly. They fade in, slide up, and otherwise animate in a distracting manner. HP organize. Updates from HP. Some picture viewer thingee. Configure your new ISP. Join the HP club. Each one is totally different. They eat up system resources, greatly slowing the machine. Boot-up takes ages.
These programs seem to wait until I try to accomplish something and then leap into view. It’s madness. If I were to go to the mirror universe, Steve Jobs would have an evil goatee and all of his computers would act just like this.
I finally get that stuff shut off and out of my face so I can get back to finding out why I can’t burn or play CD’s. Eventually I realize: This CD burner doesn’t work. It’s busted, right out of the box.
I get on the phone with them. It is, as you’d expect, a long process of assuring them that yes my computer is plugged in and no, I don’t have it submerged in water and I have not set it on fire. I’m in a hurry. I don’t care about the CD burner. I don’t need it. This machine is for work, and I don’t need to burn CD’s. I just need the restore discs. They agree to send some in the mail. Fine. Bye.
I’m happy I don’t have to spend an hour swapping discs to burn these things, and they’re glad I’m not demanding they do anything expensive like make sure their computer actually works.
I spend some time un-installing all the crap. It’s a long and thankless task. I’m not even installing my own stuff yet: I’m just trying to clean off the machine so it will leave me alone. There is a lot of useless stuff tucked into the various corners of the OS. I clean out the system tray. I clean off the desktop. I clean out program files….
(Let’s skip ahead here,. This took a while and you get the idea.)
I put in a music CD. Because the CD drive is rubbish, I put it in the DVD drive. It doesn’t play. Instead, a new popup appears, prompting me to register (pay for) MusicMatch, some sort of music provider. But I don’t need to buy music. I have some, and I just put it in the drive. All you have to do is play it! I can make this thing go away, but I can’t get windows to make with the music-playing. Musicmatch comes up whenever an audio CD is inserted.
One of the windows that was jumping in my face a while ago was a link to the HP Help Center. I imagine my current problem is a common one. Rather than fight with it myself, I sign on and see what the help center has to say. I fire it up. Instead of just some FAQ or webpages, the help center is yet another fancy-pants application. It’s sluggish. It prompts me to create my account. Create an account? Are you kidding? I just want help with my HP computer! Are you afraid non-HP users are going to leech help from you or something? I go through the motions and the help center locks up. I can’t believe this. I try a few more times, but that’s all the help center can do.
I give up on help center and deal with this Musicmatch program myself. It’s tricky because the program itself doesn’t offer any way to deal with it. I uninstall it, but then windows doesn’t know what to do with audio CD’s. I have to go into file associations and re-assign audio CD’s to Media Player. I know that a very small percentage of the people out there know how to do this. As far as I can tell, this is the only way to get my computer to play audio CD’s without paying for MusicMatch.
I’m enraged on behalf of all the people out there (the proverbial moms and grandpas) who buy one of these as a first computer. Just imagine if this was your first experience with a personal computer. This experience almost turned me into a luddite.
Eventually I get the thing fixed up and working right. The annoyware is gone. My software is installed. I’m getting work done. Then I decide to watch a movie. The DVD player is an annoyware demo. Figures.
In any case: The DVD player doesn’t work right. Movies stutter and pause at regular intervals. It sucks.
Again, DVD playing wasn’t on the list of stuff we needed the computer to do, so from a business perspective there was just no point in making a big deal out of this. It would just eat up a bunch of time and in the end I doubt they would get it right anyway.
Two years later:
Amazing. My standards for this computer were quite low, and yet it ended up disappointing me anyway. Even if the hardware worked like it was supposed to, this was a miserable machine. It was crippled by horrible software that was so unhelpful that its actions bordered on sabotage. I weep for the poor people who bought this machine. I had the knowledge required to clean off the machine and make it perform as it should, but I’m far from the average user. I’ll bet there are still hundreds or perhaps thousands of people out there right now who have simply accepted that part of the boot-up process is closing HP Organize, and the picture viewer. They are used to seeing a half-dozen blinking icons in their system tray. Icons about which they know nothing, which they have never used, and which have been needlessly clogging up the works since day one.
I don’t have any sort of denouement for this tale. I don’t have anything witty to add at this point. After two years with the machine my opinion of it has not improved. I admit my tale isn’t as bitter or frustrating as Jeff Jarvis in his adventures in Dell Hell. I’m only putting it here so that maybe someone in the market for a computer will read this and think twice before buying HP.
I’m also putting this here as a way of shaking my fist at the loathsome people at HP who put this thing on the market. You guys are scum. You could see how the machine performed and what it did, but you put it into boxes and sent them to stores anyway. Every dollar you made from this model was stolen, as far as I’m concerned. You cannot concieve of the misery you spread and the endless hours of your customer’s time you wasted with this terrible, irritating, useless, nagging, slow, and piggish software.
Okay, I’m done. I don’t know what posessed you to read this, but thanks for your indulgence.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.