Monday, December 28, 2009

Dear Microsoft: please DIAF

I will start this post by admitting up front that I do not like unnecessary changes. I am obsessive-compulsive, and I like things to be a certain way, and I don't like it when things that I'm used to change for no good reason. My reaction to such changes varies from annoyance to anger to distress, depending on what has changed and how much. The time it takes for my annoyance/anger/distress to abate varies likewise. For example, when a website I frequently visit changed the way it looks, it took maybe a week for the annoyance to subside. The site didn't really work any differently; it just looked different, and after a few days, I got used to it. On the other hand, I still haven't gotten over the changes in my university's periodicals search. The functionality has changed so much that almost a year later, I still hate it, and I'm angry at it every time I have to use it. I realize that my reaction to change is not always reasonable. I know this, OK? But this time I think I have a legitimate gripe.

The laptop I've had for about five years is starting to get a little worn, in a physical sense. It's got some alarmingly large cracks in the case, all kinds of cruft under the keyboard, and the DVD drive puts a circular scratch on any disc I try to play in it. The machine is essentially sound (or was until very recently) and it's more powerful than the box the kids use, so Glen proposed that I get a new laptop, and relegate the old one to the kitchen for the kids. I agreed, and sometime around the beginning of December, a new laptop arrived. Glen opened the box and set up the new machine for me, after which time I studiously ignored it until this morning.

The old laptop still has malware lurking in it, so today I'm using the new one. The new one is running Windows 7. Based on my previously mentioned disdain for unnecessary changes, you can guess how much I like W7 (hint: not at all). They've changed the way everything looks, right down to the graphics on the solitaire cards, for absolutely no reason that I can ascertain. Also, what the heck happened to my Control Panel? It now has an "Action Center" (what?) as well as various other crap that does not look familiar, and they've changed the names of some of the things I'm used to using. For example, the printer utility used to be called something like "Printers and Faxes," so I could find it in the Control Panel by looking for stuff that starts with the letter P. Now it's called "Devices and Printers," which means that when I went to look for it in the Control Panel, I couldn't find it, because it no longer starts with P.

So I was somewhat annoyed by that, but not completely freaking out by any means. Apparently they've chosen to reorganize the things that belong in the Control Panel, and decided that "devices" and printers (which are apparently two different things) belong together. Fair enough. Possibly they have a good reason for putting those things together. I really don't see why they need something called "Device Manager" AND something called "Devices and Printers," but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. And really, this is more of an annoyance than anything else: the functionality is still there, in approximately the same place; it's just called something slightly different.

And then I encountered the abomination that is Microsoft Word in Office 2007 and oh my gosh I hate this thing with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. They have apparently taken every single function this program performs, assigned each one to a random category which would previously have been called a menu, and then hidden these sets of functions in the most counterintuitive places possible. I spent so long looking for some of these functions that by the time I found them, I couldn't remember what I had wanted to do with them. Frequently when I searched the help file, it wanted me to go through some sort of tutorial (possibly with video?) to learn how to use Word. Each time, I declined to use the tutorial, because I didn't need to know everything about the program, just the particular thing I wanted to use at the moment. At the point when I had had to search the help file so often that I was seriously considering walking through the tutorial before doing anything else, I realized the true extent of the travesty that is Word 2007.

I have been using Windows, in its various iterations, for approximately fifteen years. I have been using Microsoft Word for about the same length of time. I never needed a tutorial to figure out how to use it. It seemed pretty intuitive, and if I wanted to do something complicated or out of the ordinary, the help file usually sufficed. Over the years I've gotten fairly proficient with Word, in the sense that when I want to do something with it, I know how to make it happen. And now, after I've spent fifteen years learning the ins and outs and ups and downs of this software, Microsoft has $%#&ed it up SO BADLY that I need a tutorial before I can perform even the most basic functions. Nice going, Microsoft. I hope you die in a fire.

For those of you who would say that I should quit my whining, learn how to use the new version, and get on with my life, I say to you very sincerely, "Shut up." Obviously this is not the kind of issue over which the entire world grinds to a halt. My point is that the stupid thing worked JUST FINE the way it was, and they have changed it for NO GOOD REASON. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park, "Your software engineers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Well. This is embarrassing.

I'm writing this at the clunky old desktop computer in my kitchen, because my beloved laptop appears to have picked some malware. I'm not exactly an internet naïf: I know better than to click on attachments, even if they're from people I know; I don't download "free" stuff like smileys or fun animated cursors or toolbars or Zwinkys or other software; I don't click on links in emails. I have an antivirus program and a firewall, and I don't hang out in shady parts of the internet. And yet my machine is undeniably afflicted with Antivirus 2008. I have no idea where it came from. Glen already tried to remove it once, and Symantec also found it and supposedly took it out yesterday, but it just ... won't ... die. It's annoying, disconcerting, and also a little embarrassing.
Why yes, that is a Yersinia pestis on my keyboard.