Technology

Bloody Microsoft

Aside from being a geek, I make web pages for a living. As a consequence of this I need multiple browsers to test my work on. So Microsoft has caused me no end of headaches with their dodgy coding that only allow one version of Internet Explorer to be loaded on a computer at a time — I want them all.

About six months back the copy of IE on my computer at home ceased being able to access secure sites. No Hotmail, no internet banking, no DVDs from Amazon. Not happy.

I tweaked the settings, I compared the settings to functions browsers, I harassed a couple of sysadmin friends, all to no avail. The damn thing still wouldn’t access the secure sites. As Netscape was functioning happily, fixing the problem was not that much of a priority. But still, it would have been nice to be running cleanly again.

I thought I’d try the Microsoft site, surely somebody else has experienced this problem and I could find an answer on their knowledge base. There were lots of answers — all of them complete bollocks.

Time to up the ante and deal with the devil, it was time to call Microsoft Technical Support.

Microsoft Technical Support: “What’s your problem?”

Me: “I can’t access secure sites. I’m getting an error 403.”

MTS: “It’s your cookies. Turn them on.”

Me: “They are on.”

MTS: “What version of IE are you running?”

Me: “IE6.”

MTS: “That’s a beta version and we don’t support beta software. You’re on your own.”

Me: “The problem occurred before I installed IE 6. I upgraded from IE5, hoping to fix the problem, but it followed the upgrade.”

MTS: “We don’t support beta software.”

Me: “Even if the problem happened pre-beta?”

MTS: “That’s correct.”

Me: “So what would you recommend that I try?”

MTS: “Install IE5.5. It has settings that will correct the problem.”

Me: “But I don’t want IE5.5. It is not standards compliant. And I need a standards compliant browser.”

MTS: “You’re on your own. Goodbye.”

Great. Idiots. No help and no answers. But I did feel a burning desire to turn up at the Microsoft Technical Support centre armed with a heavy blunt object.

Moving on to a couple of weeks ago at work. I was struck by the urge to download the latest IE6 Preview, after all, the first one rocked, so surely this one would be much better. Wrong. Loads of proprietary Microsoft add-ons and a whole heap of standards compliancy removed. Delete.

Well, not delete exactly. Microsoft doesn’t allow that. If I could delete the program completely, I could reinstall and my problem probably would have been sorted. In lieu of removing the program completely, Microsoft allows you to rollback to a previous version. So now I have IE4 — with no access to secure sites. Bugger.

I downloaded a copy of IE5 and installed it. Still no secure site access. Time to harass tech support again.

Microsoft Technical Support: “Marcos speaking. What’s your problem?”

Me: “I can’t access secure sites. I’m getting an error 403.”

Marcos: “It’s your cookies. Turn them.”

Me: “They are on.”

Marcos: “What version of IE are you running?”

Me: “IE5. I had the same problem with IE4.”

Marcos: “Do you know what caused the problem?”

Me: “Yes. I deleted IE6.”

Marcos: “That’s a beta version and we don’t support beta software. You’re on your own.”

Me: “But I’ve removed the beta software.”

Marcos: “We don’t support beta software.”

Me: “I’m not using beta software any more. Your crappy software has damaged my accessibility, what do I do now?”

Marcos: “Install IE5.5. It has settings that will correct the problem.”

Me: “But I don’t want IE5.5. It is not standards compliant. And I need a standards compliant browser.”

Marcos: “Well the problem will be in the registry settings and you’ll have to speak to Super Technical Support and that will be a $46 fee.”

Me: “So I either install a dodgy IE5.5 browser that I don’t want or I pay a fee.”

Marcos: “That is correct.”

Me: “Your software has damaged my computer and you want me to pay for it to be fixed. That’s extortion.”

Marcos: “Would you like to speak to my supervisor.”

Me: “Yes.”

Ten minutes later Todd appears. He’s much chirpier than the sullen and uncooperative Marcos, but no more helpful.

After explaining the problem, Todd offered to e-mail me some documents from the Microsoft Knowledge Base that he thought would help me. He sent them to my Hotmail account… the site I’d just used as an example of something I couldn’t access. I thanked Todd and hung up. When I finally did get a chance to read the Knowledge Base documents, they weren’t even about IE.

I suspect tech support is a sheltered workshop for the terminally stupid. I also had that familiar urge to reach for a blunt object again.

I took one more look at IE and I discovered something strange. My proxy setting were wrong. They had suddenly decided to rest themselves to settings used over a year ago. I’d never thought to check this at home, because I never use proxy settings, but I found IE had screwed with those settings as well. Setting them back to normal fixed the problem. I ran a few tests installing and uninstalling different versions and found the same problem — every time I rolled back to a previous version, my proxy settings were corrupted.

So over a period of two days at work I managed to have six different flavours of IE installed and solved a problem that had been bugging me for months. The reset proxies bug happened with every version of IE I rolled back.

It was an interesting experience to say the least. But it really reinforced the notion that not only do Microsoft create sub-standard software, but they can’t even manage to supply an answer to a rather nasty bug that has been kicking around for a good couple of years.

This is just one example of why I hate Microsoft so much. What can I do about it? Unfortunately I’m tied to their operating systems thanks to the software I use, but for most other things I have a choice. Sun’s StarOffice is not only a nice alternative to Microsoft Office, it’s free. On the browser side of things, I while need IE for testing, I certainly wouldn’t use it for e-mail, that’s what Mozilla is for.

So next time you feel yourself falling for that slick Microsoft sales pitch, remember the pain and suffering all their other products have caused you in the past and start looking out for alternatives instead.


Published Epinions — 06.08.2001
Published WrittenByMe — 06.08.2001
Published Nytewolf — 13.07.2001

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