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February 07, 2003

Stupid, Stupid Microsoft

There's likely to be a brief pause in updating this site -- hopefully not more than a week or so -- because I need to change the software that I use to update. And therein hangs a tale.

Basically, well over a year ago I purchased Microsoft Front Page 2000 in order to keep this site reasonably well organized -- prior to that time I had been using a very basic html editor and wanted something that would actually be useful and make updating more simple. Everything was fine until my most recent computer implosion about two weeks ago. I bought a new computer and so had to load all my previous purchased software onto it, including Front Page.

Microsoft requires you to register Front Page -- if you do not you can only use it about 40 times before it shuts down. That's fine; I did buy the product and I don't really have a problem affirming the copy I have is legally mine. However, this time the registration process wasn't working. The program wouldn't register through the online or through the e-mail version, so I ended up having to register through the phone. And this is when the Microsoft support person told me that Microsoft was no longer accepting registrations for Front Page 2000, and that I would have to buy a new copy of the program (street price: $149.00).

Well, of course, I thought this was ridiculous. I had bought the program, and had been using it for over a year, and had not my computer fried in its own juices, I would still be able to use it. I explained this to the customer service person, and while she sympathized, there was little she could do. Which is not unreasonable -- customer service people are not typically empowered to act autonomously, so there's no reason for either they or the calling customer to pretend they can. I asked to speak to her supervisor.

Her supervisor was marginally more helpful (and here I note for the record that all representatives of Microsoft to whom I spoke were polite and courteous at all times, even as they were being mostly unhelpful) and asked me a couple of questions about the Front Page version I was using, and had an explanation as to why MS was denying my registration. It appears that I had been sold a version of Front Page that was meant for distribution to multi-license users: Big corporations and such. Since I was a personal user, this made red flags go up.

Again, fair enough. But I also told the Microsoft supervisor that I was unaware as to why this should be my problem. I'm not the one that let the wrong version of the program ship to the consumer market, I just happened to be the consumer that got the wrong version. Whether I had gotten the right version or not, I should still be allowed to use the software I had paid for.

The supervisor's solution, as it was, involved me jumping through some hoops. First, I would need to go to or phone the store at which I bought Front Page and try to convince the clerks there to replace the product. When that failed (as of course it would, since it was purchased over a year ago and I don't have a receipt), I could call their replacement department and get a new disc. This is obviously not an optimum solution for me, but again, fine. Let me try and see what I come up with.

The retailer, of course, passed on replacing the product, noting that above and beyond the objections that I had already suspected they would have, that Microsoft had a policy not not accepting any software that had been opened -- so the retailer (Staples, in case you were wondering) would have to eat the entire cost of the replacement. So as a consequence, Staples has a very strict policy regarding Microsoft returns. The manager (again, very helpful -- the service industry's manners were in fine display during this whole thing) was more than happy to give me his name and a contact number so I could point Microsoft in his direction; I had a feeling he liked the idea of being able to give a Minions of Bill a piece of his mind.

Back to Microsoft, and a phone call to the replacement department, whose representative told me that she would be more than happy to replace the software. But -- it would probably take three to four weeks to ship the replacement copy (although she did offer to have it sent overnight as soon as the order was processed, which I thought was considerate, if missing the point), and there would be a replacement copy charge of $23.95 (or some such) plus shipping. All to replace software I legally had purchased and which was running just fine (albeit only for a few more times), and which lacked only an easily replaceable confirmation code.

And so at that point I told her to forget it and that I would be going out to buy a competitor's product. Because we had passed into the realm of the ridiculous. I saw no reason why I should be penalized because Microsoft screwed up -- and I saw no reason to pay Microsoft an additional $30 when it could simply cough up a confirmation code.

So out goes Microsoft Front Page -- what you're reading here is the product of my last ever use of the product. Because, and I want to be clear here, I would rather go out and pay for a competitor's product -- even if it means paying a couple hundred dollars -- than pay Microsoft $30 it doesn't deserve to have because it is unwilling or unable to allow me to use the product I paid it for.

But wait, there's more. I plan to make this a more expansive boycott than that. I don't want to suggest that I won't ever use a Microsoft product again, because that's just silly, and in some cases impractical. I'm not switching my OS because I have too much invested in Windows at the moment (all my software is here, and I just bought this computer, so I'm not going to rush out to get a Mac). But short of that, I'll switch everything else. I'll start by going in and changing all my file associations to non-MS products (i.e., I'll use Real Player or Winamp rather than Media Windows Player, and Abiword or some other word processing product other than Word).

Given the choice of using a Microsoft product and a competing product, I'll pick the competing product. I already do this with some products -- I use Mozilla over IE because Mozilla is flatly better, and I use Eudora over Outlook because just about the only thing Outlook is good for is letting viruses and worms rampage all over your hard drives -- but now it'll be my default inclination. Microsoft will no longer get any money of mine so long as there is another competing product of roughly equal (or even slightly lesser) utility (I'll keep reading Slate, though. It's better than Salon. And it doesn't cost me anything).

Obviously, I'm aware that Microsoft will not be quivering in its boots about this. But it's not about Microsoft, it's about me. Microsoft might not miss my contribution to its bottom line, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that Microsoft's number of chances to screw me in a pointlessly greedy fashion are now greatly reduced. That's better than any microscopic dent I can kick into Bill Gates' compound interest.

Likewise, I'm not calling on anyone else to follow my example as it relates to Microsoft -- you may never have the same circumstances I had. But on the other hand, if you're exasperated by the hoops Microsoft (or anyone else) makes you jump through, for whatever reason, just stop jumping through the hoops. It's easier than you think.

Anyway, down for probably a week or so. See you on the other side.

Posted by john at February 7, 2003 05:39 PM

Comments

Marc Benedict | May 3, 2006 02:48 PM

I don't like Microsoft's activation schemes, period - for three years I delayed "upgrading" to XP for that reason alone. Like you and many others, if I didn't have so much invested in MS software (OS, apps, etc.), I'd switch (to Linux, probably).

I like your cat, by the way. It looks identical to one I have named Kang. Kang has white paws, though, and I can't see your cat's paws in the image. I have two other cats (one of which, Kodos, is one of Kang's litter mates), but I tend to favor Kang for his endearing quirks, from curling up for a nap in my guitar case when I play to boxing with his reflection in the window. I think he's part Ragdoll, but he and Kodos were a couple of young strays, so I'm not sure of the ancestry.

-Marc

Stephen | May 31, 2006 05:04 PM

Sorry to hear you had to delay your life for an typically uncaring monopoly. Microsoft has made my work experience painful. My company's IT drank the Bill Gates cool aid a long time ago and tortures everyone with excuses like, "Are you sure your mouse is working properly?" or,"Oh, you don't have the drivers for that so maybe we can take care of that later."

One other thing, MSWord is not a publishing program and certainly not suited for web publishing. The marketing people at Microsoft will try to make an unsuspecting consumer believe otherwise.

burnett | September 14, 2006 11:02 AM

I have had similar trouble with MS. What software did you replace Frontpage with and is it easy to learn?

Reuben | February 11, 2007 01:44 PM

Microsoft is so paranoid that they make life miserable for all the honest folks. As long as your computer doesn't crash things seem OK. But, have a little problem with your computer and you can find yourself in real trouble with reloading all your legally paid for Microsoft programs.

By the way, I have been warned never to use Front Page.

I have been using Net Objects Fusion for years and recently upgraded to v9. Try it you will like it.

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