Microsoft is externalising costs on to their customers. They are externalising the financial costs of quality assurance and testing. They are externalising the political costs of setting standards, sticking to them and enforcing them amongst developers.
Microsoft is shifting the burden of support to the end users by demanding an unrealistic level of compliance with constantly evolving standards and specifications that still move faster than developers can cope.
We not only let Microsoft get away with this, millions of people regularly savage digital laggards using social media on Microsoft’s behalf. There’s an army of True Believers out there piling up the wood, matchbooks at the ready.
After three attempts, my employer has finally managed to
upgrade switch my laptop from Windows XP to Windows 7. Consequently, I have spent much of the morning achieving a zen-like state of frustration as I attempt to decrapify my desktop.
I mean, how hard should it be to point a text editor at a syntax file? Very hard indeed, it appears, because Windows 7 insists on obscuring the file locations behind libraries and ‘helpfully’ shortened path names, thus turning a simple file copy into a never-ending nightmare.
But I got there, eventually, and managed to turn off most of the notifications and other annoyware that comes as standard with Windows and I even changed my desktop background to a nice relaxing landscape. And, boy, do I need to be looking at a lot of relaxing landscapes right now.
Then I noticed that some of the applications weren’t using the Windows 7 themes deciding, instead, to do something completely different. A bit of flipping back and forth between windows confirmed that the software responsible for this unpleasantly jarring effect was… Microsoft office.
Or, to put it another way, the only company unable to properly write Windows applications is Microsoft.
So, back to the internet I went to see if there was any (no-obvious, wholly unintuitive) way of fixing this. As far as I can tell, there isn’t, but I did find this:
All I can see is “White”, “Light Grey”, and “Dark Grey”…which is equivalent to “Stormtrooper White”, Stormtrooper Light Grey”, and “Stormtrooper Dark Grey”. Did the Adams Family design the Office 2013…
Or better still:
Then, you launch the Excel 2013 app…and all the life is instantly sucked right out of Windows 8. You can feel it in your bones. The Office apps are a barren, Boot Hill-esque, cold wasteland….with grey and white tumbleweeds and gravestones. Then, you go back into Metro…and WHAM…it’s the Skittles rainbow monster voraciously attacking everything in sight. Nom nom nom nom. Big blocks of color coming at you….it’s crazy like…wow man…what a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas trip crazy! You are flying sky high with the bats and stingrays. Life is groovy. You then launch Outlook 2013 and WHAM…there you are…slammed down to the ground…back in Frankenweenie land ready to raise some dead animals or something.
Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like.
Odilon Redon once said:
What distinguishes the artist from the dilettante? Only the pain the artist feels. The dilettante looks only for pleasure in art.
May I suggest a new slogan for Windows 7, Microsoft Office and – I suspect – the whole stable of Redmondware: It’s not for dilettantes.
Today’s XKCD comic is an inspiration. Click on the image to see the full size cartoon and then come back here to wallow in nerdiness.
Of course, I had to see whether the formula would actually work so, I plugged it into Excel and it looks like this:
Hopefully it is obvious that cell A2 contains the current date and cell B2 is the percentage completion expressed as a fraction.
It works, after a fashion, although the date acceleration is nothing like that suggested by the cartoon. More amusingly, though, is the fact that the Excel date function breaks when I exceed 72.0857% completed. This is obviously because nothing can ever be more than 72.0857% complete when Microsoft are involved.
It’s not entirely unexpected, but I do like this quote from Steve Ballmer:
Together we will create the future of real-time communications
And if you were wondering what the future of real-time communications looks like, here’s a prediction:
According to the Swiss Open Systems User Group, /ch/open, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has rejected a complaint by several open source vendors against the awarding of contracts to Microsoft without prior invitation to tender. Last summer, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court had ruled in a first instance decision that only the vendors of Microsoft software could object against the awarded contracts because only they offer the Microsoft products chosen by the Swiss Federal Government.
So if Microsoft finds itself receiving preferential treatment from the Swiss government, the only people that are allowed to object are… Microsoft.
And yes, I do think it’s a shame. Nokia have been the great innovators in the mobile phone space – my N810 is still a useful device and, before anyone starts rewriting history, it is worth remembering that Nokia is the company that pioneered smart phones. For a long time, Nokia was a market leader and could still be one if inability of the company’s management to commit to a decision hadn’t completely flushed their chances.
Symbian. A solid, mobile operating system lumbered with an increasingly messy user interface. If Nokia had bet on Symbian and put some serious investment into cleaning up the UI, they would still be the dominant smart phone company today.
Then there was Maemo. This is a gorgeous OS, well designed, flexible and very easy to use. A smart phone and tablet strategy based around putting Maemo devices into people’s hands (long before either Apple or Google had thought about going mobile) would have allmost certainly maintained Nokia’s market lead.
Even a combined strategy – Symbian at the low end to squeeze every ounce of performance out of cheap hardware, and Maemo at the high end to justify high prices for high functionality – would have worked. In fact, this may well have been the most effective direction for Nokia to take.
Instead they flipped from one platform to the next, back again and on again until no-one – not even Nokia – knew what they were going to do next. It is the company’s indecision that killed Nokia.
According to The Register, the state of North Carolina has become the first US state to implement the Microsoft IT Academy Program for its 628 high schools.
The program offers students and teachers the latest Microsoft software for classrooms and labs, Microsoft e-learning materials, discounts on courseware, access to Tech Net, and marketing resources to help promote the institutions’ association with Microsoft, along with certification in Microsoft technologies.
So Microsoft are giving the schools a bunch of freebies and a certification and, in return, expects the schools to do their marketing for them.
To deal with the last bit first, asking schools to do marketing strikes me as fundamentally dodgy and something that is likely to lead to a range of conflicts of interest. But what of the Microsoft technologies that the students will be learning.
North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction June Atkinson said in a statement:
The ability to effectively use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access is an essential skill in most businesses and offices today. I am pleased that North Carolina can provide this opportunity for teachers to improve their skills and for students to be career-ready.
In other words, the state of North Carolina will do Microsoft’s marketing for tham and, in return, Microsoft will these unfortunate students certificates proving that they are capable of rote-lerarning an interface that is supposed to be so intuitive that it needs no training.
The state is not making these students “career-ready”, it is setting them up for failure as soon as their employer introduces an application not on the course list.
Some of the 2,700 attendees at the event grumbled that the half-naked ladies’ presence objectified women. One of the key talks at the conference had been a discussion about getting more women to join the IT industry.
Microsoft initially claimed that they had somehow managed to book the Meter Maids without actually looking at their website and that they had no idea what the beach beauties would be wearing until the day of the conference. Which brings me to my favourite part of this article:
But Microsoft’s decision to claim innocence about the booking has angered chief Meter Maid Roberta Aitchison.
She told the SMH that Microsoft in fact chose what outfits the women should wear at the event.
“The garments were chosen specifically by them over a period of two to three weeks of them looking at photographs of the girls,” she claimed.
So someone at Microsoft was being paid to spend two to three weeks looking at photos of scantily clad women. Nice work if you can get it.