Yes, I do get compulsive about these things. Why do you ask?
The misunderstanding about the machine was that the XP source disk that Dell shipped with it is not a "recovery" disk, i.e., one that wipes down your system then brings it back to the state it was in when it left the factory, with all your drivers and such pre-loaded. It's actually a "reinstall" disk, an honest-to-god copy of the Windows XP install disk. My confusion stemmed from the fact that the disk is Dell branded, rather than Microsoft, so I just assumed it was only a recovery disk. This is good, because it means I now have an operating system free of all the Dell hand-holding stuff, and all the trial versions of software that they installed that I have no use for.
On the other hand, the bad part is that it doesn't automatically load the correct drivers. In fact, XP doesn't seem to load any drivers on a clean install, which is a massive PITA. Windows 9x would detect your hardware during installation, and ask you to provide drivers as you went along. (I will note here that this didn't always work very well, and I used to only install the bare minimum drivers on the first pass of the process, then go back afterwards and install the real drivers one at a time.) XP apparently doesn't do that, and it took me a couple of reinstalls to figure that particular fact out. The misunderatanding was exacerbated by the fact that one of the progress messages stated that XP was installing the network. It, in fact, did no such thing. Feh.
Anyhow, finally figured all this out, loaded the drivers, and started the process of making the computer usable for someone who *isn't* a complete idiot. (Who the frell thought that having a zillion "helpful" attention balloons pop up each and every time the machine is turned on was a good idea? Does anyone at Microsoft actually *use* a computer?) That will be today's adventure.
Random wildlife note that I forgot to mention the other day. It was terribly cold in this part of the country over the weekend, with the temperatures down near zero all day despite the fact that it was very sunny. While driving through Manchester with Tom Saturday, I noticed a smallish bank building with a slanted, black-shingled roof, and on the side of the roof facing the sun sat every pigeon in town, basking in what little warmth they could find.