Why is it so hard to move in to a new computer?
A month ago, I built a new computer
. It was a two-weekend project: The first weekend, I ordered the parts. They arrived over the course of the following week, and on the second weekend, I bolted everything together. Total time spent actually assembling and testing: only about four hours. Installing Windows took another hour.
Although the machine works beautifully, I still haven't completely moved into it. First, it took a week of after-work evenings to get the applications I use most frequently up and running on the new machine. And I'm still discovering oddball applications I've forgotten to migrate. When I discover one of these that I can't live without, I often have to kiss an hour good-bye to get it running on the new machine.
This really bugs me. The computer industry is constantly hitting consumers to upgrade their machines, so I believe it owes us a better way to move into our fancy new boxes.
Microsoft does have a Files and Settings Transfer wizard. The wizard actually did a good job setting up my desktop icons the way they were on the old machine. But it's slow (I eventually used LapLink), and it did nothing to help me move non-Microsoft applications such as Quicken, games, or other weird little apps, including My Wedding Organizer (I was going to let that one slide, but my wife reminded me that I still owe a few thank-yous).
I'm sure there are many plausible technical explanations for why applications are so hard to move, but I don't care. I think it's a crime that software manufacturers don't make it easier to move their applications from machine to machine.
And for every vendor who wants to tell me that all machines are different and that registry settings have to be carefully updated every time an application is installed on a computer, I say baloney. On a Macintosh, even Microsoft's own Office suite can be easily moved to a new computer just by copying over the application directory and all the files in it. It settles itself in the first time you run the application on the new machine.
So I'd like to issue a call to Windows software vendors: Make moving easy. Don't pepper a bunch of obscure system directories with oddball little files and DLLs your apps need to run. Store them with the application itself. Likewise, if the application needs to worm its way into the operating system, make it smart enough to do so the first time you run it. In essence, build the installer into your apps themselves. Applications are already too big, so some extra code won't hurt anyone.
And once we have our applications installed on our new machines, I'd also like to see an easier way to manage software licenses. Once I had my old apps installed on my new machine, I still had to convince several of them that I was a rightful licensee of the software. In most cases, I just typed in the authorization key from the CD or the authorization e-mail that followed the download. You do save those keys, don't you? I store them all in a password-protected file, and I keep a printout of it in a fireproof safe--seriously. But a few stubborn apps still require you to make a phone call or send e-mail to reauthorize your app every time you move it (the Home & Business feature of my Quicken 2002 installation, for example). It'd be much easier if instead of requiring a cryptic key that you have to hope you've written down somewhere, there were a way to authorize your application with a personal user ID and password.
I know I'm glossing over some technical issues and some real digital copyright concerns, but I am convinced that these are solvable problems. I'd like to see some creativity applied to them.
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