The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Imagination Technologies's MIPS group, in the past of other companies such as Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More Software Installation Tedium

A couple of weeks ago, it fell on me to write a new version of a specification document. Since the previous author had used Word 2007, I thought that it might be best if I updated from Microsoft Office 2003 to 2007, on the chance that there were 2007 features that slightly broke the document in 2003.

Company IT's software distribution web pages warned that Office 2007 was unstable on Thinkpad T42s, but ran on T43s, albeit with occasional performance problems. I have a T43p - an obsolete laptop, but one of the most up-to-date laptops that my company gives engineers to use - so I decided to take the chance.

(The Thinkpad T43 seems to have been introduced circa April 2005 - at least that is when reviews seem to be dated. It was considered pretty good ("Wow!") at the time of introduction. I believe that I have had this model for circa 3 years.)

Installing Office 2007 took circa half a day. It ran. Frequent hangs, at first, typically when saving an auto-recovery file. But once I disabled that, it ran well enough for me to update the document.

However, the performance problems that IT had warned about did afflict me. I could not prove that they were due to Office 2007, but it seemed likely.

Therefore, at the first opportunity where I was not rushed for time, I decided to uninstall Office 2007 and revert to Office 2003. The IT web pages indicated that might take 30 minutes to half an hour. I started at 3pm yesterday. It just finished this morning at 9am.

Of course, during that whole time I was unable to get any computer based work done. I.e. I was able to get almost no work done at all, except reading some PowerPoint foil sets that I happened to have printed out. Worse, I could not go and exercise - because the ^%&$^ uninstall/reinstall process required me to hit a button on a dialog box about once every half hour. After I had exhausted my supply of work-related printouts, I read a Margaret Frazer mystery, but only after I had taken my computer home.

While at work, my options were limited. At 7pm, I decided to take m laptop home, and let the install continue while I ate supper. I then read my book while watching the display until midnight.

I do not know how long it lasted past midnight. For all I know, it might have blinked "finished" right after I went to bed. However, since I had, by that time, just started the automated reinstall of Office 2003, I suspect it kept busy for a few hours.

In the morning the Office 2003 installation was complete. I had a few more software upgrades to install - a patch here, a Communicator update there.

Did I mention the half hour Outlook spent "updating personal preferences" and the like?

Finally, by 9am, I am complete.


I suspect much of the slowness was due to virus scanning. I considerd disabling the virus scanners, but IT has denied me the ability to do this from the console. I could have uninstalled the virus scanners and then reinstalled them, but I wasn't sure if that would ave been netly faster or slower.


As is my wont, I wonder what can be done about this?

Certainly, if the upate process interacted better with virus scanners. E.g. it one were authenticaed to the others.

Much time could have been saved if I could have installed bth Office 2003 and Office 2007 on my system simultaneously, changing only which was the default.

Overall, though, I keep coming back to the thin client / properly administered system model. E.g. if these documents had ben written on Google docs rather than on my PC using Microsoft Officde.


Anonymous said...

andy, what are you working on at this point? it seems like you're sort of fiddling your thumbs arguing with IT, screwing with word, etc.

seems crazy for a guy as smart as you.

AndyGlew said...

I am busy, but I can't tell you what I am working on. I hope that you will hear it announced in a few years' time in some future Intel product announcement, although by that time I expect to have left Intel for a company that provides a better computing environment to engineers.

I will say, however, that what I am working on now is probably the most important thing I have ever worked on. Bigger than Intel P6 out-of-order. Bigger than MMX/SSE. Bigger than AMD multicluster multithreading. Probably even bigger than the "multi-star" microarchitecture I've been working on since Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, more important means proportionally harder to get built. But I am confident that the world will want to buy it when I and my co-conspirators persuade Intel to put it in a project.

I will admit that this last week I was thrashing a bit, since I was having a bit of a disagreement with the aforementioned co-conspirators. A loud, flaming, disagreement. Since I am such a shy personality - hah! I hear you say, but, yes, really, I am *not* the sort of Type A aggressive personality that is so common at Intel, nor even the sort of politically savvy type that Intel hired when so many other computer companies (DEC, IBM) downsized - I have stressed out this last week. Couldn't sleep without walking 5 miles or swimming two hours.

But, apart from that: in this blog you see me post only on the things that I will not get in trouble about posting. My freedom to post has declined dramatically over the years: whereas 1990-1995 I was able to post about many, many, technical topics on comp.arch, nowadays posting about nearly anything technical, where my opinion does not match the party line, will get me in trouble at Intel. Larrabee? MultiCore? Nope, I better not comment.

This leaves few topics safe to post about.

Bitching about the slow computers that Intel gives me is one of the few relatively safe topics to post about. It allows me to vent, and, sometimes, as I post I morph the topic into something relevant. as you can see from this post, it starts me thinking about virus scanners, centralized Google-style computing versus PCs, etc.

Probably even this will some day get me in trouble. I imagine Intel IT will accuse me someday of being disloyal by posting my compliants, instead of working the issue through Intel processes and procedures.

Maybe so. But I've given up hope of ever getting fast, functional, computers at Intel. For many years I was allowed to buy my own computers on which to do my work, but nowadays even that avenue is cut off, by corporate IT's fear of malware.

I hope it seems crazy that a guy as smart as me should waste so much time on PC stupidities. Multiply this by 100 million, and you see the time wasted in the world by lousy PCs and software.

Surely there must be a business opportunity here?

Anonymous said...

good to know.

I've been reading your stuff since comp.arch in the nineties, followed the intel-amd-intel stuff, etc.

:-) you work at bigger companies than I ever will. try a startup next time (in the networking space).