Yesterday I wasted a couple of hours trying to install Native Instruments Absynth 5 on my Windows PC. I have no doubt that it’s a great instrument — and overall, I’m consistently knocked out by NI. The installer for this particular synthesizer, however, left a bit to be desired.

I told it to install on the L: drive. That’s where I install all my software now, because C: is basically full. But it insisted that it needed a bunch of space on C:. Like, 2.5 GB in order to run a 650 MB installer. Weird. So I cleaned out a bunch of stuff from folders called Temp. Still not enough space. Next, I drag-copied a bunch of stuff from Program Files over to the M: drive temporarily and erased it from C:. Now I could run the installer.

At the end of the process, I found that Absynth had installed a 1.0 GB library of samples to the C: drive, even though I had specifically told the installer at every available opportunity that I wanted to install on L:. That meant I wouldn’t have enough room to copy the stuff from Program Files back onto C:.

Regretfully, I gave up. I ran the uninstaller for Absynth. But that’s not the end of the story.

The uninstaller did not remove the 1.0 GB library. If I were a less sophisticated computer guy, that huge folder would just sit there gathering dust forever, because I wouldn’t know where to look for it. Also left on the C: drive was 820 MB of installer files. So I deleted all that stuff, copied my Program Files stuff back to C:, alerted Native Instruments to the problems, resigned myself to not earning a few hundred bucks writing a review of Absynth for Keyboard, and that’s the end of the story. Right? No.

This morning, on turning on the computer, I get an alert box from HP Product Assistant — an alert box that will not go away. I’m told that I need to find hpproductassistant.msi. And humorously enough, the path where the HP printer driver is expecting to find this file is C:\Documents and Settings\Jim Aikin\Local Settings\Temp. Obviously, this is one of the files I deleted yesterday.

I thought it was useless, because it was in a folder called Temp. Silly me — I should have known that Hewlett Packard would store a file that was needed every time the computer starts in a folder called Temp.

And of course I can’t find the HP installer CD for the Officejet J5780. (Great little device, by the way. Printer, scanner, photocopier — I use it all the time.) So now I’m downloading a 237 MB installer file from the HP website.

Hewlett Packard gets double stupid points for this. Not only did they store a necessary file in a folder called Temp, they wrote the driver boot software in such a way that you can’t kill the alert box. It’s going to squat there on your screen until you set up your system the way THEY prefer.

God only knows what else I deleted. I may be recovering from this adventure for weeks. I was planning to work on my novel this morning … but right now I’m waiting for a 237 MB file to download. On some level this is infuriating. Do I really need three separate computers so I can be productive while being unproductive at the same time?

And of course, after I run the HP installer, the problem doesn’t go away. So now I’m online with an HP technician, in IM mode, chatting. He suggests that I remove a program called HP Update, using the Add or Remove Programs box. Only … the computer won’t let me do that, because it thinks it’s trying to install the Update program, and won’t uninstall it until the original dialog box goes away.

The underlying problem is this: The guys who design software (and installers) for companies like Native Instruments all have huge new computers and an IT infrastructure to maintain them. They don’t have any trouble installing a 1.0 GB folder to C:. If they have trouble, the IT guy swaps out their drive with a bigger one, reinstalls the system, and they’re ready to go. It never occurs to them that out here in the real world, people have to deal with older machines (my C: partition is only 20 GB — at the time that looked like it would be plenty) that already have a wide variety of useful stuff installed.

It’s called “failure to do a reality check.”

I’m still hoping I’ll be able to take Absynth 5 out for a spin, but I’m not holding my breath.

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