in which I hurt myself for a day

I’m evidently a glutton for punishment because here I am trying once more to get Illustrator working on a Surface 4 Pro. Check out this wonderful mountain of bullshit I had to climb to find out it still won’t work right:

1. Unbox new device. Do the setup stuff.

2. Visit the software update panel of the preferences. Check for updates. There are some.

3. Download and apply them. Wonder, once more, what genius thought that having a progress bar fill up five times, in five different colors, was a sensible thing to do during a system update.

4. Go to the app store to get LastPass, so I can get the long string of garbage that I use for the password to Adobe’s services.

5. There is a little note next to the ghosted ‘install’ button that tells me I need to get the Windows Anniversary Update. It has a short URL. This URL is not clickable.

6. Check software update panel. It says I’m up to date.

7. Tell software update to check again. Nope! Up to date!

8. Manually type that URL into a browser. Get a page that gives me a “Windows 10 Update Assistant”. The assistant, once I download it, says it’ll update me to a version of the OS with a much larger number than the one that I currently have. Also it turns out to be a little program that checks if I need to update, then downloads the update.

9. Faff around while waiting for this to download, find a page with Surface-specific updates. Wonder if I should try applying these. One of them includes the “wintab” that everyone says I should delete to get Illustrator running properly, which I cannot find anywhere in the fucking system to delete in the first place. Maybe I should install it so I can delete it. I’ll probably do that once I get the Windows Anniversary Update in. But first I’ll see if Software Update says there are any new updates once that’s in; I will not be surprised if there are.

10. Go off to dance class. The Surface hibernates shortly after because it’s unplugged and I set some really aggressive power management to make sure it will never wake up in my bag and sit there burning through half my battery doing nothing. This is a thing Surfaces will do with the default power settings. This breaks the download and I have to start it again. This one’s partially my fault and I’ll own it. But good job resuming that download, Microsoft.

11. An hour or two later, reboot to let it finish updating. The progress bar only fills up with one color this time. And I get told the update failed. Yay! I get to do it all over again!

12. Store still says I’m not up to date, though at least there’s a clickable button instead of the raw URL.

Microsoft what is fucking wrong with you. Why does your app store tell me I’m not up to date when the OS says I’m not. How do you even do this.

13. Go to ‘downloads’. Run Windows 10 Update Assistant again. It agrees that I’m not up to date. It didn’t cache the file it downloaded, either. Sure, I’ll wait another two fucking hours. That’s why I bought this thing in the first place. I make damn sure it’s plugged in this time, go have some dinner, and start reading “Last First Snow” while I eat. It’s pretty good so far.

14. When it finally finishes downloading, I notice that despite the Update Assistant saying “you can choose when to start your update”, it went straight from 100% downloaded to a quick file verification to “updating”. Which in this situation is what I would have rather it did anyway but thanks for making me stick around so I can tell it to do something it was gonna do without asking me, Microsoft, thanks a ton.

15. Idly wonder if any of my friends are currently working at Microsoft, and if they could sneak me into the building so I can smack whoever is responsible for this bullshit upside the head with this goddamn Surface. Or at least tell them how shitty this out-of-the-box experience is for someone switching from Apple to what is supposed to be a shining example of What Windows Could Be If Only You Fucking Licensors Would Make Some Thoughtfully-Designed Hardware For Once. Sadly I think I only know ex-Microsofties. Also that might get me arrested for assault and I don’t wanna find out whether pre-op transwomen end up in the men’s or women’s half of Seattle’s prisons right now.

16. Finishes “updating”. Says it’s gonna reboot in a half hour, or sooner if I hit the button. This sure is an interesting definition of “choosing when to start my update”, I gotta say.

17. “Working on updates. 0%. Your PC will restart several times. Don’t turn off your PC. This will take a while.” Well at least they’re being honest about that last. It does. At this point I stop being pissed at this thing and start watching this whole process in morbid fascination. How many man-hours are being wasted every day because Windows’ update process is such a mess? How much time would be saved if Microsoft served tons of people single-file updates from, I dunno, the last year and a half’s set of Windows releases so that they only had to reboot once? And there’s still those Surface-specific updates I found.

18. At 30%, the screen goes blank. The system reboots. Which is mildly discomfiting until the update screen reappears, starting at 30%. Well I guess it wasn’t kidding about the “restarting several times” though honestly I expected it to count up to 100%, restart, then count up to 100% again. It does it again around 70%.

19. 100%. Reboot. Login. “We’re getting your PC ready”. For… a minute or two? My time sense is distorted.

20. I can download the things I want from the app store! But Illustrator’s still dropping the first half-second of my strokes.

21. Download that Surface update and the Wintab thing. Install Wintab. Reboot.

21. Illustrator responds even worse to my stylus strokes. As expected, really. Maybe some weird Microsoft magic will happen now that I have a Wintab to uninstall? I can hope?

22. Uninstall Wintab. Reboot. Illustrator’s stylus response goes back to where it was before: still unusable. Just garbage, as opposed to a flaming trash-heap.

23. Take the Surface and its packaging out to a Halloween bonfire, I’m sure there’s one going in some frathouse here in the U District. Burn that shit. Be free.

I’m goin’ to bed. Tomorrow I may poke at this thing a little more (fool with the Surface-specific update), or I may just throw it back in the box and bring it back to the store. I may also ask the Microsoft techs there if they have any clues about this. If they have anything I haven’t tried, we’ll try it. If not? Return it, and either attempt to buy an Asus Transformer 3 Pro, or wait a bit for the (pricier, heavier – though still lighter than my Air plus my Intuos) Wacom Mobile Studio.

Anyway. This week’s launches of the Surface Studio and the touch-strip Mac made me feel like Apple gives no fucks about OSX users any more, and that Microsoft is trying to make bedroom eyes at artists in a way I haven’t seen Apple look at us since like 1992. But Microsoft still has a giant piece of spinach stuck in its teeth no matter how hard it tries to pick it out, and keeps having these resurgences of acne… really, both of them are just hosts for my ongoing relationship with Illustrator and Wacom, I guess, and trying to get a Magic Sketchbook happening really highlights that.

  1. Microsoft’s OS relationship with their Surface products has always been really ugly. Probably because most were built with Windows 8 on them, which was basically an overheated, loosely coded, ridiculously heavyweight OS. Windows 10 has been a vast improvement on 8-point-sucking-1 but unfortunately, any device built on W8 specifications (which is almost every windows Surface in existence) will experience hardship until executives learn they are not capable of design expertise.

    This is the issue with Windows: Every time they apologize in the form of a legitimate operating system, they somehow revive the malevolent entities of the previous offending one. That & both Bill Gate & Apple Executives won’t admit to their tyrannical, hostile & bullish nature towards their creative employees. Until someone like The Woz takes the reins, these temperamental OS changes will likely continue. I know, it’s bad.

  2. This one has thought about getting a Surface Pro to replace its ageing iPad, but am put off by tales like yours. Have Windows 10 in a virtual machine on the iMac, and it’s… ok in short doses, and provided I don’t have to venture into the settings. Reminds me of Vista in terms of sheer quantity and level of WTF. (Let’s not talk about Windows 8. That was WTF squared, easily.)

    Mind you, it’s not all roses on the Apple or Wacom fronts, either. Upgraded to macOS Sierra last weekend, and then had the joy of finding out that the supposed latest version of Wacom’s driver software doesn’t recognise my Bamboo One. Reinstalled the previous version, which Sierra had claimed was incompatible, and tablet works again. Seems I’m not the only one who’s wondering what the Wacom techs are up to, either.

    Considering how much they’ve touted the pen/touch aspects of the Surface Pro, and are total BFFs with Adobe now, you’d think that Microsoft would want to make that rock-solid reliable, no?

    • Right now I’m thinking of checking out the Wacom Mobile Studio when that comes out somewhere near the end of this month. It looks good on paper at least. I figure it’s at least got a much higher chance of working with Illustrator…

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