A very bad experience with Microsoft

Read over this poor man’s experiences (below the fold) and tell me what you think he should do. The options are:

1) Keep using Windows;

2) Switch to using a Mac or Linux;

3) Reboot himself.

Bonus question: Name the chump.

I am quite disappointed at how Windows Usability has been going backwards and the program management groups don’t drive usability issues.

Let me give you my experience from yesterday.

I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack … so I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download place so I went there.

The first 5 times I used the site it timed out while trying to bring up the download page. Then after an 8 second delay I got it to come up.

This site is so slow it is unusable.

It wasn’t in the top 5 so I expanded the other 45.

These 45 names are totally confusing. These names make stuff like: C:\Documents and Settings\billg\My Documents\My Pictures seem clear.

They are not filtered by the system … and so many of the things are strange.

I tried scoping to Media stuff. Still no moviemaker. I typed in movie. Nothing. I typed in movie maker. Nothing.

So I gave up and sent mail to Amir saying – where is this Moviemaker download? Does it exist?

So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated.

They told me to go to the main page search button and type movie maker (not moviemaker!).

I tried that. The site was pathetically slow but after 6 seconds of waiting up it came.

I thought for sure now I would see a button to just go do the download.

In fact it is more like a puzzle that you get to solve. It told me to go to Windows Update and do a bunch of incantations.

This struck me as completely odd. Why should I have to go somewhere else and do a scan to download moviemaker?

So I went to Windows update. Windows Update decides I need to download a bunch of controls. (Not) just once but multiple times where I get to see weird dialog boxes.

Doesn’t Windows update know some key to talk to Windows?

Then I did the scan. This took quite some time and I was told it was critical for me to download 17megs of stuff.

This is after I was told we were doing delta patches to things but instead just to get 6 things that are labeled in the SCARIEST possible way I had to download 17meg.

So I did the download. That part was fast. Then it wanted to do an install. This took 6 minutes and the machine was so slow I couldn’t use it for anything else during this time.

What the heck is going on during those 6 minutes? That is crazy. This is after the download was finished.

Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night — why should I reboot at that time?

So I did the reboot because it INSISTED on it. Of course that meant completely getting rid of all my Outlook state.

So I got back up and running and went to Windows Update again. I forgot why I was in Windows Update at all since all I wanted was to get Moviemaker.

So I went back to Microsoft.com and looked at the instructions. I have to click on a folder called WindowsXP. Why should I do that? Windows Update knows I am on Windows XP.

What does it mean to have to click on that folder? So I get a bunch of confusing stuff but sure enough one of them is Moviemaker.

So I do the download. The download is fast but the Install takes many minutes. Amazing how slow this thing is.

At some point I get told I need to go get Windows Media Series 9 to download.

So I decide I will go do that. This time I get dialogs saying things like “Open” or “Save”. No guidance in the instructions which to do. I have no clue which to do.

The download is fast and the install takes 7 minutes for this thing.

So now I think I am going to have Moviemaker. I go to my add/remove programs place to make sure it is there.

It is not there.

What is there? The following garbage is there. Microsoft Autoupdate Exclusive test package, Microsoft Autoupdate Reboot test package, Microsoft Autoupdate testpackage1. Microsoft AUtoupdate testpackage2, Microsoft Autoupdate Test package3.

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

But that is just the start of the crap. Later I have listed things like Windows XP Hotfix see Q329048 for more information. What is Q329048? Why are these series of patches listed here? Some of the patches just things like Q810655 instead of saying see Q329048 for more information.

What an absolute mess.

Moviemaker is just not there at all.

So I give up on Moviemaker and decide to download the Digital Plus Package.

I get told I need to go enter a bunch of information about myself.

I enter it all in and because it decides I have mistyped something I have to try again. Of course it has cleared out most of what I typed.

I try (typing) the right stuff in 5 times and it just keeps clearing things out for me to type them in again.

So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that Microsoft.com is a terrible website I haven’t run Moviemaker and I haven’t got the plus package.

The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind. I thought we had reached a low with Windows Network places or the messages I get when I try to use 802.11. (don’t you just love that root certificate message?)


  1. #1 steve s
    February 23, 2009

    I use Ubuntu these days but I’m a special case. For the majority of users Windows is much better than Linux if they’re going to manage the box themselves. Apple’s OS is better, but you have to pay a huge hardware premium. It’s pretty easy to see why Windows won the battle.

    I still recall have a frame buffer problem back somewhere around Red Had 4.1, and being told, by a guy at NCSU’s Centennial Campus who worked for Red Hat, “Did you recompile the kernel?” I had too much tact to reply, “I see you’re still smoking crack.”

  2. #2 ooofest
    February 23, 2009

    I suppose this user’s system was not yet at XP SP2 level, since Movie Maker is usually installed with that update.

    No wonder Windows Update was having a hissy fit about the lack of updates.

    This type of user might benefit from not knowing (or contemplating) about these esoterics and simply allow the USER FRIENDLY Automatic Updates to do its periodic thing.

  3. #3 Argon
    February 23, 2009

    Bill Gates.

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    February 23, 2009

    Ah, a post within my own scientific speciality!

    Well, I use Ubuntu as well, both at home and on a few work servers over which I have a free hand. (I am strongarmed into using Windows Server 2003 and 2008 on the others — not terribly much I can do about that, short of raging at them at every chance.)

    I can name the chump, however it’s only because I read the article on Slashdot yesterday evening. It’s a bit of a repost, but geeks never tire of that particular bit of schadenfreude.

  5. #5 gregd
    February 23, 2009

    it would be great if “billg” switched to a mac. after all, he invested in the company when it was on its last legs in the 90s.

  6. #6 Argon
    February 23, 2009

    …in 2003. The tip-off is that the $20 digital plus package is long gone. SP2 came out in 2004 and as ooofest noted, installed with the package of updates.

    It’s never a good idea running the first iteration of an OS. I didn’t upgrade my PCs from Win2K to XP until SP2 came out.

  7. #7 Lassi Hippeläinen
    February 24, 2009

    Borks happen also in better families, and in mature versions.

    A couple of weeks ago Kubuntu update killed networking. Had to switch back to an older kernel.

    Last weekend the update installed KDE 4.2, and graphics died. Out KDE, in XFCE…

  8. #8 Doug Alder
    February 24, 2009

    Lassi – exactly right. I just tried to upgrade Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10 and it killed wireless networking -still not certain how the hell I got it back but it’s working now for one of my routers but not the other. – it also completely screwed up video which I still haven’t solved – laptop screen fine, LCD external screen will only mirror the laptop screen even though I have set Nvidia controls to dual screens with separate properties, It’s ignoring that config file. If I try and do anything in that second screen it just locks the system up – the equivalent of a Windows BSOD as the only way out is hold down the power button. It’s truly borked –

    This is not something the average Windows or Mac user could cope with. nOt because they aren’t smart enough if someone were to walk them through it, but simply because they don’t care to. They have, what for them, are better things to do with their time than fiddle with their OS.

    Sorry Greg but for the most part Winddows and Macs just work. THe only BSODs I’ve had on my Win XP Pro SP2 partition have occured since I install Ubuntu which necessitated installing a boot manager (in this case GRUB) and the BSODs only occur, and infrequently at that, when doing a warm reboot from Linux to Windows. Other than that Windows has been flawless (have to say though that I think Macs are just effing awful to work on – I don’t find them intuitive at all – I hate it when my wife asks me to fix a problem on her iMac)

    Linux is not even within sight of the starting gate when it comes to being a desktop replacement for Win/Mac, nor will it be until you can just install and forget.

  9. #9 anonymous
    February 24, 2009

    Though microsoft is almost better than slamming a door on one’s fingers, most people seem to enjoy knowing nothing. The best solution is to find someone willing to deal with keeping the computer mostly functional and use whatever software that person prefers.

  10. #10 Wayne Robinson
    February 24, 2009

    I use a Mac at home and Windows at work. I have the urge to defenestrate my PC at work no more than 10 times per day, and that’s only with the bog standard programs. I much prefer the Mac OS (it seems to have far fewer glitches) and new applications install without difficulty. I have the capacity of running Windows on my Mac, but I prefer not to.

  11. #11 Spiv
    February 24, 2009

    Either the email is old, invented (most likely the case), or the user (billg) is just a moron. I popped onto microsoft site (loaded fast and easily) pushed “download center” then typed “movie maker” and it was the first thing in the list.

    I dunno, I live in a house full of macs- I see how many problems they have. I use ubuntu, xp, and xp64 for my machines. The regular xp seems to have a couple security holes that are easy to patch up, ubuntu is a pain to use but gets the job done, and xp64 is mostly a problem because it’s the redheaded stepchild of microsoft (not really xp, not really vista). As in, most places don’t think to make a 64 bit version of their drivers for XP. Otherwise, it’s a swiss watch in comparison to the mac and linux machines.

  12. #12 Jason Thibeault
    February 24, 2009

    A good old fashioned OS war post. It’s almost like you’re trolling your own blog, Greg.

    Doug: in my experience, major issues happen when upgrading Ubuntu from one distro to another, and it’s always better to reformat and reinstall, which is why I have my hard drive partitioned such that the Home folder is separate from the rest — that way I don’t lose any of my actual work and data when I do a reformat. You wouldn’t expect an upgrade from 2000 to XP or XP to Vista to work flawlessly either, would you? Wellll, you probably would, since you paid money for those OSs, but you’d certainly find out in a hurry that you were wrong to expect everything to “just work”.

    As for Linux locking up as its equivalent to a BSoD, most of the time when X locks up the rest of the system is still operational, and a simple Ctrl-Alt-Backspace will have you back to a login prompt in seconds. The real equivalent to a BSoD is a kernel panic, which usually dumps you to a text screen roughly explaining what’s happened. The biggest advantage in the Linux world, to my mind, is that when things go wrong, the information is readily available as to what exactly happened, and you don’t need a functional GUI to get at that information. dmesg > Event Viewer.

  13. #13 CyberLizard
    February 24, 2009

    My upgrade from MacOS X “Tiger” to “Leopard” went flawlessly, even on my several year old G4. Personally, for those that want it to “just work”, I would recommend Mac.

  14. #14 Dunc
    February 24, 2009

    I would diagnose this as PEBKAC, so switching OS isn’t likely to help. It also sounds like he’s connected to the internet via a long piece of damp string.

    If you need detailed instructions to help you choose between “Open” and “Save” when downloading software from the internet, you may not be a prospective Linux user.

  15. #15 xavier
    February 24, 2009

    Dunc: Right. Bill Gates (this is a widely distributed and not faked) email from Bill Gates) should really stop using his Windows computer, especially from his office at Microsoft Inc!!!!!!

  16. #16 Brent
    February 24, 2009

    Option 2!!!

  17. #17 JM
    February 24, 2009

    I think the problem is that MS took a path with usability that builds in complexity, while U*ix took a different approach.

    The microsofties came up with this slogan “usability needs to be built in from the ground up” and mixed up presentation (GUI) code with function. When combined with the very non-structured approach necessary when using non-OO languages (such as C) this lead to an unholy, unmanageable mess.

    That has since migrated into the huge blobs of updates and dependencies that plague Windows .

    U*ix on the other hand split presentation and function – create something that can be run from the command line to do the function, then put a GUI wrapper over the top. MUCH simpler and easier to manage. This is just an extension of the U*ix small tools philosophy.

    Spiv: “I live in a house full of macs- I see how many problems they have…”

    Ahh well I have to disagree. I used to live in an all windows household (apart from my Linux stuff) and was innundated daily with support calls from the family. About a year ago I gradually Mac’ified them and in each case ….

    … from the day they got their Mac the support calls stopped. For months at a time.

    I’m perfectly happy with my all-Mac (and linux) household thanks. You should try it sometime, you’ll have much more time to yourself.

  18. #18 DouglasG
    February 24, 2009

    I have learned a long time ago, if you want to download a Microsoft program, you look for it on Google. Google’s search engine is vastly superior to anything Microsoft has ever come up with.

  19. #19 eddie
    February 24, 2009

    What JM said about separating presentation and function.
    I’d also add that there’re separations between use of apps and managing the platform those apps run on, indeed between tinkering and productive work.
    The vast majority of PC users have dedicated support, because that is best for their employers.

    I support both macs and PCs and also various servers and get paid to tinker.

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    February 24, 2009

    I have a managed windows PC on my desk at work and a self managed Linux box at home.

    If I want to get serious work done on the computer I stay home.

  21. #21 Stu
    February 24, 2009

    I count 11 blatant lies. Greg, why do you assume your readers are stupid?

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    February 24, 2009

    Stu, it is well known that all but one or two of my readers are brilliant.

    Where are the lies?

  23. #23 Ellen
    February 24, 2009

    Actually, it was published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer in the context of an interview with Bill Gates when he exited Microsoft in 2003. Gates confirmed that he wrote it.

    This is a clear case of “It came around. Big time.”


  24. #24 Samia
    February 24, 2009

    I use my Mint 6 netbook for mere-mortal tasks like web browsing, e-mail, reading PDFs, taking notes in class, and watching the occasional silly music video. Mint installation took a few minutes, and I was good to go. Sweetness. I don’t see how Linux is more difficult to handle than Windows, but I’m not exactly a power user, either.

  25. #25 Webs
    February 24, 2009

    If you want to do anything media get a Mac. Media on Windose and Linux is pretty terrible. Mac is the easiest I’ve seen to date. If you want to be productive and get stuff done, go with Linux. Pretty solid and the only people I have seen have problems with it are long time Windows users that are used to their OS. So I can’t really blame them for having problems.

    If you are a Windows user, and are comfortable with it you might want to stick with it and figure out how to do media on it. Chances are that experience will be more rewarding. But, I know from reading your blog since it came to ScienceBlogs, that you are not a Windows user, so again I would have to recommend Mac. If you are going to learn a new system why learn Windows? It makes no sense to me when Macs are much more stable and easier to operate for new users.

  26. #26 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    “If you want to do anything media get a Mac.”

    Unless you want to do anything 3d:
    Maya, Studio Max, Lightwave. No mac implementations for any of the biggies.

    Same goes for engineering; no pro-e, no solidworks, no inventor, no autocad. Have fun with emulated versions of any of the above.

    Macs are not work machines unless you’re in publishing or video editing. Meanwhile I have a variety of choices for those things, among everything else you could want to do on a computer. I’d love to switch to linux for a primary machine, but I simply cannot. It’s basically the same issue for macs, except the price of them makes it undesirable on top of the other problems. What mac has is a good polish to the bits they do support, and for anyone whose primary use is one of those things, awesome.

    To clarify: my xp64 machine is my primary. I use it for 3d, engineering, 2d graphics, and the general stuff (music, writing, etc). I have a netbook with xp home on it, which I use for netbooky-ness, and tuning my car. My linux box is basically for running EMC2, though I’ve used it as a webserver in the past. Some time I’d like to set up a linuxMCE system and supporting components.

    Right now a mac couldn’t replace any of those computers.

    JM: I guess everyone’s experience is different. I used to have a guy who called me 3 times a week trying to figure out some problem with his network; eventually I changed everything over to PC’s plus a win2k server machine to host all his database stuff. Last time I went in there the server hadn’t been reset in almost 3 years, and I’m pretty sure I was the one that reset it then. He still calls me for car problems though.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    February 25, 2009

    The real 3D visual stuff is all done on Unix/Linux machines with proprietary software. When they put that box around the strike zone on MLB or the yellow line for a first down in NFL they are not playing with a Mack or dicking around with a PC.

  28. #28 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    no no, the 3d stuff is /rendered/ on unix/linux machines. The modeling, rigging, and animation is done on a PC, then spooled off to a renderman, mentalray, marionette, spider, or whatever on a render farm. Farms are mixed, pc and *nix. Just depends on what the network admin wants to screw with, but the farming software is readily available for both. I think most custom farms use *nix because it would be a stupid expense to get a windows license for 100 computers off the shelf.

    I really have no idea on the baseball or nfl lines/boxes. I’ll take your word for those. Cinematics are a whole other game.

    Pixar is far and away the exception to this, they have an army of programmers who crank out all sorts of mini applications made just for rigging or modeling, and ultimately (at the moment, it keeps changing) use renderman as the final output. Then again, we had a guy apply here from Pixar. His specialty? Maya3d. Who really knows what those guys are doing.

  29. #29 Dunc
    February 25, 2009

    The real 3D visual stuff is all done on Unix/Linux machines with proprietary software.

    Sure – nobody actually uses LightWave, right?

  30. #30 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    btw, there is a 32 bit version of maya for intel macs, which I understand is outright terrible, and a 64 bit version for linux, which I understand is just as stable as maya 6.

    Things are changing, but slowly.

    and Dunc: I still think lightwave’s modeler is better.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    February 25, 2009

    well, as far as I know, Maya is a Linux app. Is it also on other systems? Probably runs slower there. There is a project to pu lightwave on Linux.

    The reason these renderfarms use Linux (and Pixel uses it) is because the system is designed to not fuck you up all the time and to use resources very efficiently so the apps can fly. Eventually, all of this stuff will be done on Linux.

  32. #32 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    Maya was an Irix implementation back in the 90’s when it was owned by wavefront and/or Alias. After Autodesk picked up the product some 5 years ago all primary development has been in a windows enviroment- they even dropped irix support (this was around 6). That was about the last time I worked in an irix environment (also when this place got a ton of sun machines, which I miss, cause, well, I liked solaris). The windows implimentation was also about the time maya started kicking lightwave’s ass in everything but modeling.

    These days most of the 3rd party support outside of the renderers is windows first, then port it to linux. Just the opposite for the farming tools.

    IMO the main reason for renderfarms in a unix enviro is heritage. Back when SGI and SUN were still making hardware with gobs more floating point ability than anything intel could touch, it was the most cost effective thing to do (hardware wise). Now, well, linux is free, and it’s also possible to strip maya down to almost nothing if you need some specific part of it to run fast. Which is generally what the huge studios do. This can be done in any environment, but I imagine sometimes fighting windows APIs gets pretty lame for the coders.

    Also, is anyone actually working on the linux port for lightwave? I heard tale of it like 10 years ago and it has yet to materialize. I suspect it was in the works till maya got to be the big dog, then the relevant workers got distracted. Still, I hope it does crop up, the latest lightwave is starting to look like a competitor again.

    I started out in max, then lightwave, then went to maya as each evolved. In all 3 cases I’ve been working mostly in a windows environment with some type of *nix as a test or render out there on the network.

    I’m not glued to windows or anything. Some days it drives me nuts. It is, however, the OS that is best supported for a large number of uses. Tends to make everything else secondary, and purpose built.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    February 25, 2009

    To say that windows is the best supported in comparison to linux or mac is to say that Polish army had the best mobile divisions at the beginning of World War II because their horses were well kept.

    The ratio of linux users to linux suporters must be close to one-to-one. With Macs, well, they claim you don’t need support, but the truth is you do and you can go face to face to a Mac store and see a guru or take a class.

  34. #34 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    Yes, the ratio of linux users to linux support is higher to be certain. That does not, however, mean there are more linux supporters than there are windows supporters.

    1/5th of 90% is still more than 9/10ths of 4%. Of course, these are internet statistics which aren’t to be believed.

    Either way it wasn’t the point I was making: there are more major apps produced for windows than there are for linux and mac combined. It’s 90% of the market, as far as the producers are concerned.

  35. #35 xavier
    February 27, 2009

    I just had an application freeze, so I terminated it using the task list. Then no applications would start up. So I tried to reboot. Using just the software and not the off switch (or the wall socket or a nearby axe) I have been trying to shut down windows now for the last half hour. For ten minutes the screen has been saying “Windows is shutting down.”

    This will be the last time this windows install breaths. I’m tossing the computer through the actual window as soon as I finish measuring how long it takes to shut down.

    32 minutes and 34 seconds so far.

  36. #36 Dowcipy
    July 13, 2009

    That’s why I use OS X. I plan to learn linux but I’m designer so simplicity and stability is crucial. When I moved from win to os x I was so suprised. Everything works perfectly, nice and smooth. Yeah, we have to pay a lot for apple stuff. I spent a lot of money for mac pro and macbook pro but it worth that cost. I’m able to forget about any problems with software and hardware and just focus on my work.