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Consumer Affairs
Friday, August 1, 2008
Work around

I really hate Microsoft. I’ve got good reasons. But before I get too carried away I must also acknowledge that I use many of its programs, not least of which is Windows XP, and achieve a great deal of productivity. I, and indeed, many of us, could not earn a living without using Microsoft products.

But what I hate so much about the company is its arrogant assumption that it can tell the world what it must have, what it must do with it, and that it should be allowed to control the whole process.
Take its Windows Update service. If you are online permanently (using ADSL) your PC can be updated at any time, unless you switch off. You don’t even know what the updates are or why Microsoft is changing your files; and there is a great deal of suspicion that the company is spying on its global users via its frequent, unsolicited software updates.
I had a recent annoyance when I was denied access to the Internet for three days. It became very frustrating. It turned out the cause was a Microsoft Update. Who knows what component was changed but it interfered with my firewall, which is Zonealarm. And that is often the case, if you do not use Microsoft’s products (in this case its own built-in and inferior firewall) but use a third party product, the company seems to screw around with it. Fortunately Zonealarm had a riposte, though it required a download of an update for its own firewall of 47 MB.
Then another thing happened that is the real reason for this article. I got sent a word document recently. But it was from the Microsoft Office version 2007 with a .docx extension. I had tried Office 2007 some months ago and it screwed up my Outlook, which took a day to unravel, and anyway I did not like the new interface. So I reverted back to Office 2003. But when I tried to open the docx file it came up with a message that I had to download a ‘compatibility reader for 2007’ of 27MB. I was reluctant to do this. I really don’t want anything to do with Office 2007 and why should Microsoft try and force me?
My son offered to take the file to school and convert it, as evidently Office 2007 has an export feature that will create a 2003 file. But I had another idea. I decided to download the compatibility file after all, but to another PC, which is not critical so I would not be worried if its programs/files got stuffed up.
However, there was another snag – well, two actually – in fact three, if you count the issue with being unable to read a 2007 file.
Office XP (otherwise dubbed 2002), which is on this particular machine, does not come up with the automated message about the compatibility file and just opens the docx to reveal gibberish. So I took a manual route to Microsoft’s site only to be told I had to ensure all the Office Updates for the XP version and 2003 version had been completed first.
So I tried that then got the message that I could only get updates if I use Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.5 or later. But I use Mozilla Firefox, and why not? I don’t want to use Internet Explorer so, once again, why should Microsoft try and force me to do so?
All I can say is if any of you are thinking of upgrading to Office 2007 please don’t; there’s very little in it that’s changed from the stable 2003 version, and anyway you’d have what I think is a confusing new interface to learn how to use.
The moral of this tale is, you can be very clever; you can even be very rich from being very clever. But it does not necessarily mean you will be admired, or that you will be popular if you are not nice to people. By all means compete for business, but do it fairly. I have a right to choose to use Office 2003 and Firefox, and a right to be accommodated. And that’s that. So my son converted the file at school. By Nigel Benetton

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:21.7 1st August, 2008
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