Microsoft Misery

Bill Gates has re-joined the workforce at Microsoft HQ.  Not because he needs the money but because the behemoth he created is going backwards.  As I write he’s no doubt wrestling with the mess that is Windows 8.  (If you didn’t know about the continuing joke that is Windows 8 just Google “Windows 8 mess”.) So hopefully Bill will sort it out.

But there is so much else and we would all like Microsoft to become like so many other techies – friendly and helpful instead of hostile and aggressive.

Microsoft has done the world – I do mean, literally, all the people on our planet – with Windows (I’m confident they’ll sort out Windows 8, they’ve had to pull off the same trick with several of their versions over the years), and Microsoft Office.  Everyone (that’s in “planet” again) since Office 97 can send Word documents or Excel spreadsheets to anyone without checking if the recipient can load them, read them and work with them.  They’ve created what in other circumstances would be regarded as a dangerous monopoly but most of us are mighty pleased about it and just take it for granted.

But, dear oh dear, its behaviour over Windows XP is not good.   Windows XP is (not “was”, note) an excellent product and the longest running version until its replacement by the ghastly Windows Vista (which thankfully soon gave way to the excellent Windows 7).

Because of its longevity and the increasing longevity of computing kit XP is still the operating system of tens of thousands of computers including 95% of the UK’s cash machines.  This week Microsoft stopped supporting it, which means it will be increasingly vulnerable to hackers.  Banks are reported to have done a deal with Microsoft worth over £50,000,000 to continue XP support for the cash machines.  (Hands up those who think the banks, if they ever get round to medium-term planning, could have spent the money more wisely on their own operating system.)

The XP situation has hit home here on my equipment as well.  I bought an excellent Toshiba laptop about five years ago and it came equipped with Windows Vista which soon started giving trouble – it was collapsing in front of my eyes.  So I played the card which, as far as I know, came with all Vista installations and that was exercising the option to downgrade it to XP and I’ve been happy ever since.  Until this week, of course, when I was faced with the same problem as NatWest et al and had to replace it.

Windows 7 isn’t as cheap as you think it might be for a product that’s supposed to be obsolete.  So 70-odd quid went down the drain – what other way would you describe the unnecessary replacement of an operating system?   At the behest of Microsoft.

I’ve now installed it and, again, Microsoft gratuitously makes life over-complicated.  As recommended by all the toffs  I did a wipe-the-lot-and-start-with-a-clean-slate installation of the replacement system.  That meant re-installing Microsoft Office.  No probs, you’d think.  Download the latest version from the Microsoft site and validate with my licence card.

Go to Microsoft site and find download area.  Select “Office Professional 2007” (I’ve felt no urge to help Bill’s now-suspended pension by upgrading to the 2010 or the 2013 versions) and click the Download button.  Up pop three choices – Professional, something-or-other and Student.  First Microsoft-induced spoiler of the day.  Why does it make me choose “Professional” from three choices including “Professional” when I’d just chosen “Professional”?   (Answer for those not used to Microsoft shenanigans is lazy programming.)  So off we went.

Download came down and installation began.  Up popped a message:  “You are about to install Microsoft Office 2007 Hybrid Edition in accordance with your request”.  Eh?  Hybrid?

Not only did I not request the Hybrid edition, I’d never heard of it.  And I go back to the beginning with Office 97.  So off to Google to find out.  It’s apparently a composite version from which all the flavours that Office 2007 can come in, can be selected.  So why all that fuss about which sub-flavour of Professional I wanted?  (And mark the solecism: “hybrid” means the fusing of two originals not more than two.)

Before the installation I was asked for my 25-character licence key.  Fair enough.  On we went, click-click-click and shortly after that there was another dialogue box asking for the frigging licence key again in order to register the installation with Microsoft. Had Microsoft somehow lost it in the 25 seconds since it was given it? And the request came with the rather menacing observation that completing he licence key again wasn’t compulsory but it would “help” if I did.  I felt like a Mafia target that could become a victim if I didn’t co-operate.

Etc, etc

So, Bill, all power to your elbow.  This time round please make your baby more cuddly.


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