Horses, Vista, and a Guy Named Stan

My bundle of various Adobe CS3 products arrived Friday evening and my initial excitement was quickly squelched by the realization that it wouldn't install on my computer. Oh, it should have installed without trouble, but after attempting the solutions detailed on over a dozen "knowledge base" articles on Adobe's website, I came to one that simply said, if nothing else works upgrade to Vista.


I also picked up the Infinity Pro HDMI capture card on Friday and knew a Vista upgrade was going to be required to get that running -- and to maintain friendships with a certain local MS employee -- so I spent Friday night preparing for the dirty deed. I copied everything and anything I can think of onto my external 250GB harddrive. And by everything and anything I mean everything except for the all-important product activation keys I would need to re-download electronic software purchases. And email. Oops.

Saturday morning came as it always does and I rushed over to Staples and picked up an upgrade version of Vista Ultimate. I intended to do a clean install rather than a straight upgrade. I knew the odds of catastrophic failure on my part were greater, but I really wanted to at least feel like I had an uncluttered new PC.

The install would have to wait. We had a date at the race track with friends for the opening weekend. Emerald Downs is only about 30 minutes away and is a pretty fun way to spend the day. Kristin and I brought $100 and intended to nurse it through the ten races and, if all went well, enjoy a few beers and hotdogs along the way without having to make a run to the ATM. We typically bet about $12-14 per race and were lucky enough to win about $18-20 on each of the first few races. Things got even better after that though. We hit the trifecta in the 5th race and won $256 on a $2 bet. That was exciting, save for the realization that if not for a totally bone-headed maneuver on my part, we would have won close to $2000. In addition to a random assortment of $2 bets for each race, we also made a couple of $1 superfecta bets. Winning a supefecta bet requires you to predict the first four finishers in order. Some call it a sucker's bet, but I don't see it that way. It's only a dollar, and you're guaranteed to win over a thousand if you hit it. You mean to tell me you wouldn't risk a latte on a couple of chances to win a grand? The odds are steep, but they're still a zillion times better than winning the lottery.

Anyway, we did have the correct four horses picked for one of our superfecta bets for that race -- but rather than just adding the fourth horse (#6) to the tail-end of our winning trifecta pick, we jumbled the four horses up in a totally different order. Had we have simply stuck with the trifecta-winning order and added the fourth horse to it, we would have pocketed over $2000 on a total $3 bet. I hate even typing that. We won some more during the final races, but also bet larger quantities too and ultimately went home with $320 in our wallet and a belly full of beer and snacks. Our friends won a couple of $2 show bets, totalling about $5 in winnings. Between me and the 1's and 0's of the web, I don't think they were betting enough to have much chance in winning. From what little I know, horse-racing is like playing craps in that you have to have a lot of bets on the table to have a good chance of winning.

The four of us came back to our place to watch Into the Wild and I ordered some pizzas with our winnings. The movie was just as good the second time through, but I had forgotten how long it was (2:27) and they didn't leave until almost 11pm at night. Vista had to wait until Sunday.

Sunday was Vista day. Kristin helped prepare me for my arduous quest with a plate full of french toast and a hot mug of coffee, then it was upstairs to my office to slay the dragon that tormented my dreams the previous two nights.

The install went smoothly, all things considered. Windows dumped my old stuff into a Windows.old file on the C drive that allowed quick access to some of the essentials. This came in handy to an extent, but I had nearly all of it already backed-up anyway. It would have been even more helpful if it had saved the "app data" folder, but it doesn't.

As for the problems, there were a few. For starters, Vista wouldn't recognize my printer and after much trial-and-error I learned that HP is refusing to release a driver update for the printer I had. The printer was over 5 years old but still worked very well. Other owners were told by HP to buy one of their new printers. I think it's pretty lousy that we can't even expect things to last more than 5 years anymore without the manufacturer deeming them obsolete. I was pretty ticked off about this and was determined to buy an Epson or Canon instead, but HP is running a program through May 3rd with Staples that gives you $50 off a new printer if you recycle an old one. I ended up getting the HP Deskjet 6988 which has built-in wireless networking -- Kristin is thrilled to be able to print without having to carry files on a memory stick to my PC. And, to be honest, the selection at Staples was pretty lacking in terms of non-HP printers.

Our mid-crisis trip to Staples did have the added benefit of introducing us to a barbecue place in Issaquah called Stan's. The owner grew up in Kansas City learning how to smoke meat from his father or grandfather or uncle or somebody and it definitely shows. I'm a big fan of barbecue and I had been wanting to eat at this place for a while and just never got a chance to. I knew it was going to be good before we even walked inside -- you could smell the smoke on the sidewalk. Kristin and I shared the Who's Your Daddy combo platter: 1/2 pound pulled pork, 3 ribs, 1/2 pound brisket, 2 hot links and 2 sides. We ate until we were full and still have enough for at least 2 more meals. Everything was delicious (the ribs were the low-point, If I had to pick one) and it only cost $24. I think I have a new favorite place in Issy to eat, even if it is decorated in Kansas City Chiefs memorabilia -- it's a good thing the Seahawks moved from the AFC West to the NFC West, otherwise I'd have to boycott this place. And that would be a shame.

Back home, I ran into a few other problems with the upgrade that stemmed from having purchased program upgrades online and forgetting to either burn the download file to a disk or saving the activation key. I also ran into other printer-related problems but a quick Google search found the answer -- I had to change the setttings in the "turn Windows features on and off" area of Control Panel. Oddly enough, I had to repeat this step in order to get the printer to work on our two laptops too.

All in all, everything went really well. Vista recognizes my 4gigs of RAM, all my programs installed easily, driver updates were easy to find online, and the computer is running very fast and appears very stable. The only really big hiccup that had me banging my head on the desk (other than the printer problem) was that I couldn't get the capture equipment I have for the Nintendo DS to work -- and I desperately need it to work. Long story short, I was emailed the Vista drivers for it this morning. That was a close one!

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