Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hey, Bill - Fix Your Own Goddamned Products Before You Turn Your Hand To Education

Bill Gates styles himself an educrat. He's thrown lots of money into the small schools movement here in NYC (wherein the chancellor closes "big schools" - regardless of whether they work or not - because they're too "big" and opens seventeen smaller ones in the same school building and calls them successes) and is bankrolling a major "issue campaign " for the '08 election (longer school days/longer school year, national standards, additional standardized testing are the major issues he's pushing.) Gates consistently pushes for "accountability" for teachers, which means undercutting teachers unions and collective bargaining, as these two things undermine accountability in Gates' eyes.

But given the shit Microsoft produces on a daily basis, I wonder if Gates shouldn't institute some "accountability standards" for himself and his company. First, here's the latest problems Microsoft is having with it's incredibly troubled Xbox 360 console:

Three flashing red lights are joining the blue-screen of death atop the list of things that Microsoft Corp. customers dread.

Troubled by a high rate of malfunctions in its Xbox 360 game consoles, Microsoft said today that it would extend its warranty from one year to three years for consoles that experienced the "three red flashing lights" error message.

The company also plans to fix or replace all game systems that go on the fritz and to reimburse customers who had their broken consoles fixed.


Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft plans to take a financial charge of more than $1 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended June 30, to pay for the repairs and extended warranty program.

Microsoft said the glitch, which causes the console to freeze up, affects a small percentage of units. But analysts say the financial effect was substantial, effectively adding $100 in cost for each of the nearly 12 million consoles the company has sold since the Xbox 360's debut in November 2005.

Now how about all the fun you can have with the "glitches" in Microsoft's latest operating system. Here's the tech writer from USA Today discussing how Vista crippled his computer (and if you Google "Vista" and "problems" and/or "consumer complaints," you will find that he is not alone by a long shot):

First came the little things.

I had been warned ahead of time that some of my software would suddenly report that it needed to be activated, which turned out to be the case. That wasn't too bad; I just dug up my various serial numbers.

And although I have nothing to sync, Vista's Sync Center insists on putting an icon on my Start bar's notification area. Worse, I couldn't even start it; clicking "Open Sync Center" did nothing. The icon just sat there, taking up space.

Then the real problems started. When I opened a folder that contained both pictures and video files, Windows Explorer crashed. I had to wait several seconds for it to reload, at which point all my desktop icons were rearranged. Turns out it's a problem with how Vista tries to create thumbnail of videos.

Then I discovered that Vista would not allow Firefox to be my default browser no matter how hard I insisted. I even turned off Internet Explorer through the Default Programs control. Still, any link I clicked in an e-mail message would open in IE, while Firefox confidently told me it was set as my default browser.

I finally fixed this by not only disabling IE through Default Programs, but by delving into Vista's Registry and manually changing some keys, replacing IE with Firefox. (If you don't know about editing the Registry, don't worry — it's not something for the casual user.)

It worked, but there is no way I should have to resort to editing the Registry to use Firefox the way I wanted to.

But that was nothing compared to what happened next.


I was trying to set up a daily backup, simply copying all my stuff from one hard drive to a second one, without any kind of compression.

Vista stores all my documents and settings in a single folder called /users/AK. So all I had to do was back up that entire folder.

I tried Microsoft's own (and excellent) RoboCopy tool. It gave me an error. I tried 2BrightSparks's (also excellent) SyncBack. Another error. I tried a neat one I found called Karen's Replicator. Ditto.

All three had the same problem: A path was too long. I apparently had too many nested folders.

I looked more closely and found the problem. They were all trying to back up C:\users\AK\Application Data \Application Data \Application Data \Application Data … and so on, ad infinitum.


I Googled and found the answer. Vista stores its application data in a folder called AppData. Previous version of Windows used \Local Settings\Application Data.

To make sure old programs can find the new folder, Microsoft added hidden files called "junctions." If a program tries to access "Application Data" path, the junction sends it to "AppData."

I had run into an infinite loop. The Application Data folder redirected the software to the AppData folder, where somehow there was some reference back to Application Data. It looped forever.

The only way to fix a screwy junction was by using one of a handful of obscure programs some obscure programmers have created, all of which warn you, essentially, not to use them. Ironic, but true. Still, I messed and removed the troublesome hidden file and my backup software started working.

Other problems ranged from the mildly annoying (there's no simple way to remove items from the "New" context menu) to the absolutely frustrating.

In that latter category is the latest bugaboo: Photoshop suddenly decided to stop working. It told me "an error has been detected with a required application library" and refused to run. No amount of coaxing would change things, and neither running the program as Administrator nor reinstalling helped.

Finally, after much searching, I found the only solution that worked: I got Vista to reveal its hidden Administrator account, which I logged into. Now Photoshop works. So I moved all my stuff and now I log in as Administrator. I'm not supposed to – it's a security risk – but it's that or do without Photoshop.

Even as Administrator, minor problems persist. Shortcuts to search folders cause Windows Explorer to crash. Photo Gallery doesn't rotate images properly. In short, unlike with XP, when I sit down I'm never 100% sure things are going to work properly.

If someone out there feels like spotting me the cash for a 20-inch, 2.33-GHz iMac and Photoshop, I'd be grateful.

I myself have had a nightmare of a time because of the Microsoft Genuine Validation program. Microsoft instituted the program to derail people running pirated copies of Windows, but unfortunately for many people running genuine copies of Windows, the Microsoft Genuine Validation program reads some genuine copies as "pirated". This happened to my machine and the upshot was that I cannot download many Microsoft updates (some security ones), cannot update Windows Media Player and other Microsoft apps (which means no purchasing legal music as wmv's because they only play on the latest Media Player) and have had to turn off the Automatic Updates and try and download the Security updates manually when they are issued. Also, my machine used to lock up and my hard drive crashed until I figured out what the problem was (and believe me, I had to figure it out myself - the clowns who work for Microsoft NEVER figured out what the problem was even after I communicated with them by email no less than 30 times!)

As for other problems Microsoft problems have caused people, just Google "Microsoft" and "Consumer Complaints" and you'll see that they're literally in the hundreds of thousands. Clearly Bill Gates puts out some pretty shitty products, though given the hard-ass business tactics he's used over the years, he's been able to either buy out or destroy almost all of his competition in various areas and create a near monopoly, which is why people actually buys Gates' crapola. Nonetheless, I wish Gates would turn away from the one area he seems to know less about than computers (which is education) and just try and put out some products that fucking do what they're supposed to do.

Gates is just a Robber Baron scumbag, so I'm not surprised that he doesn't give a shit about the crap his company produces or the trouble he causes people. But I wish the fawning media would bring up the ineptitude and incompetence with which he runs his own company (and yes, I know technically he has stepped down from day-to-day running of the company, but you and I know he still calls the shots) when he shows up to talk about the ineptitude and incompetence he sees in the school systems all across this nation.

I recently bought a computer with Vista.

You have to specially instruct the Microsoft Office 2007 program to make your documents compatible with former Microsoft application documents, each and every time, or they aren't compatible, and no one can read them.
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