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No Turning Back

It was only last week, that I read a piece by a US columnist, in which he declared that Microsoft’s Word, the software that is, had passed its sell-by-date and that the world deserved something rather better to type its thoughts on over the next decade.

"Trust me, the chances of yours critical apps being broken are only this big"

I didn’t think too much more about it until Sunday night, the time when I normally write my midweek ‘Thought for the Day’. My own copy of Windows XP on my laptop has been very flaky over the last six months or so; cumulative patch fatigue I suspect and normally requires a reboot at least once a day as applications, normally starting with Word or Outlook, ‘Hang’ one after the other, for no visible reason.

This time, it was Outlook which stubbornly refused to respond and when I finally managed to shut it down with the Windows Task Manager, I was directed to the Microsoft update site where a message told me that the latest Service Pack for Office 2003 might prevent the problem re-occurring. This had to be good news and at 18:45 I opted for the 17mb download, expecting all my problems to be solved.

Own-up then. Where do you keep your original Microsoft Office CDs then? You mean to say that you don’t carry these around with you all the time?

Half way through the installation of the Office Service Pack, a message on the screen demands that I insert my original CD in drive D: I hadn’t bargained on this and should have known better. This is one of the most irritating aspects of the product. Change anything and it will insist on checking that you have the proper licensed CD. Why I don’t know, perhaps it reports the result back to Redmond or perhaps it’s simply there to annoy people?

I moved house recently and my master CDs are in the attic. Half way through the installation then, I had to pull down a ladder, climb into my roof and look among the piles of boxes that my wife had ‘tidied’. As a male, I rely on memory and random access searches, the garden shed principle, so anything properly arranged and filed is invisible to me but I did finally locate the Office 2003 disk set climbed back down the ladder and continued with the installation.

When this process had finished, did Office start perfectly? No. Outlook hung twice and after two re-boots and full Registry Mechanic software check, I finally managed to reload my email and carry on with my work. The time now was 19:50. A whole hour of wasted time, which included an assault on my attic, had passed.

Alright, I hear you saying that nothing’s perfect but why do Microsoft have to make it so difficult for all of us or is this the very best they can do? Will the rest of my life be spent carrying my Office CD around with me, just in case the product falls over again, which it will, I’m sure?

Then there’s Windows XP Service Pack 2. Microsoft have conveniently forgotten to send me a copy but having followed its progress so far, I don’t know if I dare risk installing this critical update to Windows, on this, my ‘production’ system, however secure it may be. I simply can’t risk the business interruption threat but like it or not, Microsoft, who concede that some of its own applications would require ‘tweaking’ in order to work correctly with SP2, are going to start pushing it in my direction as part of the Automatic Update and Software Update Services patch-management services this week..

Like many others in a software-dependent world, I’m confronted with the classic Microsoft Dilemma. ‘Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.’ Perhaps I should go on holiday in protest.


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