Dear Sir Bill Gates: invoice enclosed
Prompt payment is expected
Please find enclosed my invoice for £1,200 sterling for administrative and consulting work, caused by the need to repair Microsoft sabotage. I dare say you'd like details:
Last night, your organisation destroyed about three hours worth of work I'd done.
The work was a set of notes being made in a text editor which I am required to use by one of my clients. All the files were open last night, when a family emergency occurred, and I was unable to devote the 10 minutes required to closing them down. I was logged into a remote system with a one-time login, which I cannot get clearance for again till Tuesday. And I had several websites open on my desktop.
During the night, Microsoft took it upon itself to update my computer. I arrived at work to find a message stating: "Windows recently downloaded and installed an important security update to help protect your computer. This update required an automatic restart of your computer."
I have gone to some trouble to ensure that this doesn't happen. I have set Windows Update to "custom" - meaning that I will decide which updates I need to install, and how the update will be handled. And when an update says "this requires a restart" I have always specified that I will restart the machine at a time of my own choosing.
When you chose, on your own initiative, to disregard all my precautions and reboot this PC last night, I not only had several notes in progress; I also had about a half-dozen web browser windows open. It has taken me the best part of three hours to try to recall what I had discovered, and where - and I honestly doubt I will be able to recover the majority of those URLs. They took considerable research to find.
This event isn't the only example of Microsoft's assumption that my own preferences can be disregarded in favour of Redmond's whims.
I could quote the behaviour of my mouse. When I first had a Windows machine, it was a 12 MHz 386 computer. The mouse was a real-time peripheral. I mean by that, that if I moved the mouse, the pointer on the screen moved.
These days, I have a machine with a processor of 1.2 GHz clock speed. Just to make that clear: it's exactly a hundred times faster in its operations than that old 386. Where the 386 had one meg of memory, this one has exactly a thousand times as much. The disk on that one was around 50 megabytes: this one is 30 Gigabytes.
And yet, if I move the mouse, the software which now runs on this machine cannot keep up with it! The pointer starts to move, then hits a patch on the screen. "Hang on a moment! I have no idea where to move the pointer," says Windows. "I'll have to go and search my disk for the data which creates the images on the screen - I may be some time..."
Indeed, it may be. Typically, if I haven't used the mouse for a minute or so, it will be 10 to 20 seconds before the pointer stops lurching randomly around the screen, trying to work out, approximately, where I might have expected it to be if it had been able to follow the impulses from the device.
And if I inadvertently click it! - well, the fact that I saw, clearly, that the mouse was on a button I urgently needed to click, is irrelevant to Redmond. Redmond knows best; it will pretty randomly find a group of pixels, assign a purpose and function to them, and start doing whatever that seems to indicate.
Shall we talk about file downloads?
When I ask Internet Explorer to download a file, I expect it to arrive on my disk. It may take some time, and so, since Windows is supposed to be able to make this possible, I'll get on with some other work in some other program. I might, for example, write a letter.
In the middle of my typing, there is a flicker on the screen. What was it?
It was Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer. The one signalled the end of the download. The other popped up a modal dialogue box, asking me if I wanted to cancel the download? - and the next time I pressed the space bar, it took this as "yes, cancel!"
I only know this because I've seen the dialogue box before. While typing, the message appears, and disappears, too fast for the eye to register. Again we have my computer doing, not what I want it to do, but what Redmond has decided is most convenient for Redmond.
Of course, the file may be corrupted even if it does get downloaded. I can tell Internet Explorer to download it again. "File exists - replace?" it asks. "Yes." Does it replace it? No! - it checks to see if the file appears to be on the disk, and it then pretends to download it. But in fact, the "download" takes place in a fraction of a second, and the same, corrupt file is left on the disk. The only way of getting the correct file is to go to the disk directly, delete the corrupt file, and then go back and download. Again, Redmond knows what is best, and my opinions, as the operator of the machine, can be safely disregarded.
I really could offer another dozen examples, including the Language Bar, the task bar, the behaviour of "standard" shortcuts...and if you're interested, I can forward the list...no?
With the invoice for my consulting time, please find a message from me, and from many of my readers, who assure me they feel the same way. The message says: "You are not making any friends like this."
Your programmers need to be reminded that the convenience of Redmond is not our purpose in buying a computer. They should recall that these apparently irritating procedural trivia (to them) are things that matter to us.
The fact that they feel able to ignore this sort of complaint (indeed, this isn't the first time I've written along these lines, and I'm not alone) shows clearly that Redmond regards itself as above criticism.
The word for this behaviour is "arrogant". It will come back to haunt you.
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