I have a dual-boot system that, on rare occasions, finds itself running windows. It used to be limited to taxes and GPS database programming, but now it is limited to taxes, GPS database programming, and logitech harmony programming.

Since I so rarely run windows, I keep forgetting or repressing how hard it is to use, and how easily it breaks, catastrophically. I rant loudly whenever things break under Linux about how unacceptable it is.

I just went through the exercise of doing my taxes in turbotax. It occasionally went unresponsive or would simply quit displaying some of its user interface elements, but a restart would bring it back. Once turbotax disappeared entirely right in the middle of using it. (Oh, that’s why it auto-saves so often. I guess they expect that.)

Then I wanted to print some forms. Of course, I don’t have a printer connected, so I figured I’d just print a PDF (or postscript, that would be OK too) and print it later.

Half an hour later, muttering, I went downstairs to plug my computer into the laserjet. It’s an HP LaserJet 1320 – supports PCL6 and Postscript, has USB, and has been trivially supported under Linux for years. I figured I’d just move the USB cable temporarily to the machine running windows.

Or maybe not.

I tried letting windows try to install the driver automatically. Several times. Then I went to the HP web site, and downloaded three different drivers to try (no help from HP on which drivers to use). None of them worked. I finally, in desperation, found the CD that shipped with the printer. No luck. An hour and twenty minutes later, you’d think that at least I’d still have a working system, even if I couldn’t print the tax forms.

I remember jokes about suspend/resume from years ago: “My laptop suspends fine, it’s just resume that doesn’t work so well.” Unfortunately, after these attempts to get printing working, the system no longer shuts down. It just hangs indefinitely with nothing displayed on a blue background. The only way to get it to shut down is to hold the power button down until the hardware timeout passes and the system is forcibly shut down. It’s not the “blue screen of death” – it’s the normal (for me) blue background shown during shutdown, it just never goes away. Call it the “blue screen of zombie”, I guess.

Of course, setting this printer up under Linux took all of about one minute some years ago, and it has worked flawlessly ever since.

And no, I’m not crazy enough to be running vista with all its performance and driver problems. This is a recent XP install as shipped on a thinkpad.

Afer all that trouble, I find (back on my trusty Linux system) that the IRS site has the form in PDF, that it is a fillable PDF, and that evince can fill it in. This will take all of a couple minutes; I don’t even have to use a pen except to sign the form.