Let me tell you my wonderful story of how Windows cannot handle today's mobile computing needs.

All last night I was working on a spreadsheet for work on my laptop, the laptop being plugged into my LAN and accessing the work LAN through a virtual private network. Being the dim-witted fool that I am, I didn't save my work very often... Ah, foreshadowing, what an excellent literary tool...

At the end of the night, I was too exhausted to close every document and I really wanted to keep working just as it was set up on the computer, with all documents open, etc. So I put the computer into "Hibernate", in which the computer saves the state of your desktop to disk so you can power down, then restore it at a later time. This is different than the "Standby" option, in which your computer uses its battery sparingly to keep your session alive. I have no idea why I didn't save the spreadsheet I was working on before hibernating though. (Did you catch it? Did you catch the foreshadowing?)

I then unplugged the laptop and put it away. This morning, when I got into work, I plugged the laptop into its docking station (to which a larger monitor, external keyboard and mouse are attached) and powered on. The computer told me it was un-hibernating so I went to go get my herbal tea.

When I came back, the screen showed that the computer was up and the workstation was locked. Typically at this point, I press ctrl+alt+del, type in the password and I get my desktop back. However for reasons unknown, my computer refused to respond to any input: keyboard, mouse or yelling. I waited for a couple more minutes before deciding that the computer's un-hibernating abilities could simply not handle being now plugged into a different network (the corporate LAN) and was locked up in a state of misery.

Thinking I might possibly keep my session, I ejected the laptop from the docking station, opened it and found the computer was booting into Windows as if power had been cycled. Damn, lost the session, but I should be able to recover somehow, right? I was now late for a meeting so I quickly put in the wireless network card and let the computer hook up to the network, got the phone number I needed to dial from sluggish Outlook and joined the call. Netmeeting refused to connect to the chairperson, so I was locked out from that for the entire meeting. Thank you wonderful and reliable wireless connectivity... (sarcasm is another literary device).

After the meeting was done, I continued to work on the laptop, sending out a couple emails while keeping an eye on the battery icon. When the battery icon indicated half-empty (right now I'm not feeling like a "half-full-kind of guy") the computer suddenly went into hibernation saying that I needed to conserve battery life. Argh. It didn't even give me a chance to plug it into the wall, which I admit I should have done some time earlier in the morning.

Frustrated, I ejected the wireless network card and plugged the computer back into the docking station and booted it back up. Un-hibernation process begins again. This time the computer is not locked from input, but all things related to network are completely froze. Outlook is a big mass of blank and unresponsive windows. Web browsers refuse to connect out to internet sites. I open up a Windows Command Prompt and type in "ipconfig". No response, the command refuses to complete, CTRL-C has no effect. I open up another Windows Command Prompt and type in "ipconfig /renew all". Same thing, no response, a hung command-line. I open up yet a third Windows Command Prompt and type in "ipconfig /?" to see what my options are. Once again, a hung command-line. A fourth Windows Command Prompt and I simply type in "ping localhost". Yep, hung command-line. Grrrreat.

All this time, Outlook tells me that "Outlook is retrieving data from the Microsoft Exchange Server" and a progress bar SLOWLY creeps across the window. It's been going now for about 15 minutes and still not complete. Outlook still completely frozen and unusable.

While waiting for anything to happen, I open up a text editor to continue working on writing an email. It's only then, as I'm investigating, that I found out how far back I didn't save my work last night in the spreadsheet. Let's just say VERY far back. Of course it MIGHT be possible to recover my Windows state from a hibernation file somewhere, but I can't investigate if that's possible without an internet connection.

The absurdity of it all finally boils me over. I open up a blank document and begin typing this blog entry. I write this whole blog entry and still my Command Prompts are frozen and still Outlook is hung, still trying to retrieve its data from the Exchange Server. And if I power-cycle the machine now, I'll lose the email I was in the middle of typing that I can no longer access (I'm just assuming Outlook did not save a copy in my Drafts folder because I didn't tell it to).

I try to bring up the Windows Task Manager, ctrl+alt+del, click the "Task Manager" button and I'm still waiting for it. After 10 minutes now...literally... I've tried three times now to bring it up. I cannot bring up the Task Manager in Windows due to the computer not being able to detect when a network connection has been switched.

What a horrid piece of crap the Windows XP Operating System is. What an utterly miserable failure in terms of meeting my computer needs this morning. But I'm sure Windows Vista will just be frippin' fantastic... You know that video of that guy slapping his computer monitor to the floor (if not, here it is)? That's about what I feel like right now.

[Edit: I finally cancelled Outlook's attempt to retrieve data from the Exchange Server and saved a draft of my email, then did a clean reboot. That's how, my dear reader, I was able to post finally this entry to my website.]

[Happy Ending Edit: Although Microsoft Word presented me with around 6 recovered documents from last night, Microsoft Excel presented me with no recovered documents. However, looking through the help files, it said to go to Programs > Microsoft Office Tools > Microsoft Office Application Recovery. I then chose Excel and Excel was able to pull up recovered versions of the document. So despite all the heartache and stubbornness of the OS, I was at least able to recover my work]

§151 · September 7, 2005 · Technology · · [Print]

10 Comments to “Windows: A Hack Job”

  1. Rob says:


    I have to say that when hibernation works, it’s beautiful. When it doesn’t… well you apparently already know. So far I’ve had exactly zero problems with hibernation on my new machine. It doesn’t matter which network I switch to, XP figures it out.

    My old machine is another story. It also runs XP and used to hibernate without an issue. Then one day it decided that having a serial port means it can’t hibernate. Not only that, but for trying it I should be punished by removal of my mouse pointer. It’s been that way ever since and I just don’t bother with hibernation there anymore.

    Honestly, I’d blame your case on a device driver or network adapter that doesn’t handle sleep modes correcty. Of course that’s pure speculation and it’s next to impossible to debug.

  2. Mark says:

    No operating system on the planet can do what you are asking XP to do. You’re lucky you didn’t simply get greeted with a dialog that said “Your document is lost. You never told me to save it. Somehow this is MY fault, right?”

    To quote you, “What a horrid piece of crap the Windows XP Operating System is. What an utterly miserable failure in terms of meeting my computer needs this morning.” — Unforunately for you, Microsoft sells software, not common sense.

  3. Jeff says:

    Mark, did you even read the full post?

    As mentioned at the top, I was dim-witted in not saving the document more frequently and this is not the OS’es nor the application’s fault. As an ironic twist, Microsoft Word presented me with 6 or so recovered documents from last night, Excel presented me with none. However, upon checking the help files this afternoon, I went to Microsoft Office Tools > Application Recovery and Excel was able to recover the document. Nothing lost! So actually the applications handle this scenario reasonably well, and I have no complaints there.

    No, what I’m complaining about is that Operating System ceased to function fluidly even if the network has changed from one session to the next. This is my major complaint. The fact that the mouse and keyboard refused to respond upon an un-hibernation – is that MY fault?!? The fact that upon another un-hibernation (is there a better word for that?), I was forced to power down the machine and then boot up again to get the Operating System responsive. In case it was not clear in my post, there appeared to be no other way to do anything to restore the capabilities of the Operating System. Is there any logical reason why typing “ping localhost” should LOCK UP THE CONSOLE INDEFINITELY (or at least for the 30 minutes I decided to wait)?!?

    With Linux, you usually can at least kill processes and re-init them (provided you know what you’re doing of course). With Windows, I COULD NOT EVEN BRING UP THE TASK MANAGER! That’s what bugged the hell out of me.

  4. Jeff says:

    Here’s a link to a site (couple years old now) stating that Windows Shutdown issues are one of the major trouble spots for users of Windows XP (as Rob has stated, claim is that hardware drivers are the most likely culprit): http://www.theeldergeek.com/shutdown_issues_in_xp.htm

    And here’s hoping that Windows Vista delivers on its promise to improve these issues: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/evaluate/feat/relperf.mspx

  5. Mauriat says:

    That’s why I recommend Linux to everyone! Okay, I’m joking, but in all seriousness I personally feel its very bad to depend on those fandangled features (hibernate et al). I know the MS line is that those features are robust but experience proves otherwise. … In other news I had a million windows open today and decided to hibernate my laptop instead of shutting down like I normally do. Hmm, I should have read this yesterday. … In other news my brother once hibernated Windows2000 for weeks on end until it decided to delete half of the Administrator profile. That was fun to fix.

  6. Jeff says:

    Mauriat, Ironically I really WANT to rely on this feature because, as you state, it’s normal to have many windows (literally over 20) open with documents at specific points and it’s great to be able to pick up where you left off. Unfortunately this one bad experience has made me hibernation-shy…

  7. Mauriat says:

    What a coincidence. I’ve hibernated my laptop at least a dozen times before, but this morning my external keyboard and mouse wouldn’t work. Ack. At least I could save and close all the windows and reboot from the laptop itself. … It could be related to the fact that I ejected a flash card after I hibernated, but that doesn’t make much sense either. In any event, I plan to make sure I save everything before hibernating from now on.

  8. Rob says:

    The claim “No operating system on the planet can do what you are asking XP to do” is unfounded. Windows often fails when drivers fail. That’s nothing new. There are operating systems that realized this problem many years ago and reduced the privileges that drivers have. This prevents drivers from being able to do things that stop the operating system from continuing to do its job.

    The example I’m thinking of is QNX. It has a microkernal design that doesn’t trust any code outside the kernel, and it hardly even trusts code that is in the kernel.

    Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

  9. Raymund Arnado says:

    So what did you learn this time? he eh ehe ehe…

  10. Radar's Dad says:

    >>With Linux, you usually can at least kill processes and re-init them (provided you know what you’re doing of course). With Windows, I COULD NOT EVEN BRING UP THE TASK MANAGER! That’s what bugged the hell out of me.