Bruce Lawson's personal site

Goodbye Microsoft

I’ve always been a bit of an apologist for Microsoft, but the experience I’ve had upgrading my Windows XP operating system has left me determined never to buy their damn products again.

I used to defend Microsoft against the rantings of beardie-weardie Open Source types on these rather spurious grounds:

(Doubtless someone will comment “The Mac had all of this in Mac OS 0.7 beta”, and some beardie-weardie will tell me that you shouldn’t be allowed to use the Web unless you can hack a kernal. Please don’t. I’m close to tears of rage and frustration as it is).

You don’t bring me flowers any more

Here’s how I found my Damascene conversion.

Last night, four days before a career-defining web launch, I decided to test some pages in IE7. Unfortunately, Windows had unilaterally decided that my version of XP is a pirate and won’t allow me the update that installs IE7 (note, I have no way to challenge this; I bought my computer in good faith with the operating system pre-loaded).

So, I got a shiny, hologrammed legitimate box of Windows XP and inserted the CD, choosing “upgrade” as the manual told me to do. After a long period of churning disc and screenfuls of marketing puff (“Your computer will be faster and more reliable!”), the system rebooted and asked me if I want to activate my Operating System.

When I indicated that, yes, I wasn’t doing this purely for the sheer joy of installing software, but quite fancied using it later too, it told me that

Activate Windows cannot run because local scripting has been disabled … Once local scripting has been enabled, run Activate Windows again.

Death murder kill kill kill hate

What the fuck does that mean? What is local scripting and how did I disable it? What are the steps to enabling it? More to the point: how can I enable it when I cannot boot my machine until Windows is Activated?????.

Why no dialogue box saying “Do you want to enable local scripting and try again”?

I remembered something called Safe Mode – so went there. “You can’t Activate Windows in Safe Mode”, I was told. System Restore? “There are no restore points”.

So: I now have several hundred pounds worth of inert metal because I tried to upgrade my system legally. I have how three days until launch, and, having just returned from holiday, have no money to buy another machine.

I hereby pledge never to buy another Microsoft product again. I don’t play video games or do anything apart from develop websites. So, Apple Mac, here I come.

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17 Responses to “ Goodbye Microsoft ”

Comment by holly

I have to say that i think Windows 2000 Professional was the best it got on the windows platform. Macs may have been ahead of their time in 1984, but OS 9 was a joke compared to Windows 95 and Windows 2000. Thank goodness Apple moved to a Unix platform – it has made the Mac fun and usable. It really makes me sad that Microsoft can’t see beyond their bellybuttons lately – there is so much talent in that company and they waste it bowing to the RIAA instead of doing some really innovative things. I still have my Win2K box, but i work on my mac.

Comment by David Joseph

Hi Bruce let me know if you want test some pages in IE7 ๐Ÿ˜‰ or if not and you have another machine available (I assume not but…) then download the Windows XP virtual machine (for testing IE6) and upgrade it to IE 7, I’ve read reports that it doesn’t work but it did for me

Comment by Rob Kirton


I would recommend that you do persevere with windows as a bootable operating system on whatever machine you end up with. Build it it, patch it, take all the upgrades and only ever use it for IE /Windows testing. Then enjoy your mac / Linux / whatever experience for all of your other stuff. Mr Jospeh (above) already knows about my thoughts about emulation and virtual machines (More bloody software to go wrong)

PS he is actually a beardie-weardie Open Source type who persuaded me to run linux :0)

I occasionally use Macs at a client site and believe me, they also have their fair share of problems.

I think we’re all with you, with respect to your problems with Microsoft, the authors of Windoze and Internet Expirer. Hope this hasn’t blown too big a whole in your plans

Comment by bruce

Well, I did what was recommended on the site Weiran found (editing the registry in Safe Mode). Now it tells me that “this copy of Windows XP is already activated”.

And boots me out.

So, a full reinstall for me, after getting hold of an external hard-drive to back up all my data.

Two days before web launch. Thanks Microsoft!

Comment by Shez

Go on Bruce, by yourself a nice G5 iMac with duel core Intel processors and run both OSX, and through the use of Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop, install that legitimate copy of Windoze XP on your Mac and have it run natively on the machine – then you can flit between both OS’s on the same machine – and it’ll run far more reliably. Plus you’ll have access to all the iApps that come free with your new Mac (which are fantastic and useable, unlike most of the shit thrown in with XP).

Comment by Ian Sparham

Bruce, it’s easy to bin off Windows (and it feels really good). But I agree with Rob – you do need Windows at times.

What I do is this – I live in Ubuntu. It’s great, totally configurable, crucially the online support forums are well populated and you usually get a fast response.

I also have Windows XP installed – and it’s second choice on my boot menu – but I recently learned that you can use VMWARE, for free, to make a bootable Windows partition work as a virtual machine in Linux. So if I want/need to use Windows for a particular piece of software (say IE7) sure, I can choose to reboot into it, but more often than not I just fire up VMWARE, do what I want then close it again.

It works extremely well for me – well worth a thought.

Comment by Daniel Walker

Maybe it’s because I have never actually used a Microsoft product, in a non-work related context, in over six years, that makes me feel all soft and charitable towards them, but…. putting on the (hugely unlikely, I know) hat of “Microsoft apologist”, Bruce… have you tried to contact Microsoft about this, to try and get it rectified?

After all, you’ve paid more money than I would for (say) two *really nice* new outdoor rugs, for my horse, and yet all you have, to show for it, is a defunct and unusable computer. (If you ever feel like throwing money down the toilet, “Dan’s Outdoor Rugs for His Horse Fund” is always happy to act as an alternative outlet for your generous flushings :o) ).

But I ask in all serious: have you tried contacting them? I’m not for a moment suggesting that those Dixons-dropout-drongos, they employ at Microsoft Reading’s UK support branch, would be able to help, but at least you’d be able to add your name to the list of people whose perfectly legal copies of Windows have been borked, by WGA.

I recall talking to someone from Microsoft, back in the Wrox days, who admitted that, by their own figures WGA – or rather the prototype WGA system, as it was, then, since this was 2001/2002, we’re talking about, here, and WGA was still a pipedream of someone in COSD (Who? Soma?) – anyway, WGA was throwing up something like a 5.0% rate of false-positives, against legitimate copies of Windows – especially OEM copies (latest MIcrosoft figures show that this has been tightened to about a 0.5% failure rate in the live version of WGA.

If you ever doubted you were a statistic, Bruce, there’s your statistical evidence, to show that you are.

Anyway, I remembe this guy saying to me that his team knew that WGA was potentially ‘borked’ (his word) – especially for some key hardware and software combinations. However, he also said that without enough feedback from enough customers to show that it was a ‘genuine’TM problem, WGA would be pushed through, as it was, by a management that simply “wasn’t receptive to bad news” (again, to use his expression).

Since go-live, for WGA, it’s harder to quantify how big the problem really is, largely because of the customer’s own unwillingness to actually report problems (again, to quote our beleaguered friend from Microsoft: “People just think we do this stuff, simply to be mean to them.”)

Even a 0.5% false-positive rate in WGA against all Windows users, worldwide, is something like half a million people. If they were willing to ship WGA with that sort of failure rate, then perhaps they need a wake up call from those very Microsoft developers who were trying, even back then, to say that it was a bad idea (at least, as it was being implemented) – especially if we could arm those developers with some figures that showed that the real figure is potentially much higher than 0.5%?

I mean, Bruce: you’ve had two failures in a row… You’re almost in danger of not being a statistic, any more, and ventuing into the realms of the ‘statistically significant’. Could yours be one of those ‘special’ hardware/software combinations that caused unusual levels of grief, way back when I spoke to my friend from Redmond about this?

In summary, by all means, put Ubuntu onto your otherwise useless PC and press it back into work as a test webserver, or something: by all means buy a Mac… But until those people trying to genuinely change Microsoft from the inside are given enough amunition to show management that something is seriously wrong, in Microsoft land, then those people are faced with the stark choice of either: a) Whining in corners with ‘Minimsft’ and co. b) ‘doing a Scobel’ and simply jumping ship, one quie weekend, instead, or c) srewing over their colleagues in order to rise to the top of the ‘yes man’ pile, in endorsing their boss’s ever more hairbrained schemes to treat those few people who DO still buy Microsoft products, with a willing heart, as potential pirates.

Comment by Bruce

You’re absolutely right, Dan. A message to Microsoft will not only make me feel better, but is a civic duty.

(It’s interesting to watch your metamorphosis into “Voice of Reason Man”)!

Comment by Joel

There might not be config file hacking, but compared to the amount of registry hacking I’ve had to do in my Windows days I welcome the relative simplicity of config files. The worst thing Microsoft did for Win95+ (and, IMO, Gnome’s potential biggest mistake) is the creation of the Registry (and keeping it!). Having a huge binary file (or 5) that I can’t edit by hand with one change carrying the potential to make the whole system a big paperweight frankly scares me. If I do that to a Linux kernel, I can boot into single user mode (or if I want graphics, a bootable CD) and fix the problem. That, and in most cases changes to the Registry require a logout or reboot, while most config file changes in Linux require me to send SIGHUP to the process and carry on.

Comment by Daniel Walker

Anyway, on a lighter note: “Goodbye Jim Allchin”, who retires, from Co-President of Platform Products and Services, at Microsoft today 0 ot without a sigh of relief, no doubt.

It would be churlish and predicatble, of me (so I’ll do it), to lift one of Mr Allchin’s most famous quotes (from an email to el. Gates and Balmer, leaked in the Comes v. Microsoft case of last year, and drop it into this context…

Quoth Allchin:
“I am not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers (both business and home) the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that doesnโ€™t translate into great products.

I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft… “

Comment by Adam

I know I am a bit late on this one but I too was stung (in my view) buy the almighty XP.
To cut a long story short I was getting told I was a scurvy ridden pirate when atempting to activate XP. I thought it might actually be an over used key so I went out and got a pretty copy of XP in a box. Now, on they had 2 versions that were of use to me:

Windows XP Home
Windows Xp Home OEM

After a quick Google I realised if I got the OEM version I could save a few bob whilst loosing some rights to support. I thought that was a fair trade.

A year into running XP with this new key, I had to reinstall XP (again) for maybe the 5th time. Sometimes a reinstall fixes everything! I went to activate XP only to be told that this copy had been activated too many times!

It turns out you have to buy the none-OEM version to activate more than 5 times.

I suppose this makes sense; after all people like Dell create an image of the XP install for you to restore which is already activated.

I suppose the advice is buy OEM to save a few quid if you are confident that you can fix most problems without support howver, crucially, ensure that you take an image of the install once done, with something like Norton Ghost (or whatever its called now- RollBack?), Acronis True Image or similar tool.

I tried to ditch MS as my main operating system however it fell down when trying to do some gaming on Linux. But for general duties, I am sure Linux will be ok. Must admit a Mac will be even nicer ๐Ÿ™‚

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