Grandpa’s Guide to IT (offense three)

Windows 10 is not as bad as Windows 8
And why you should still be pissed off.

(Warning to the readers who may have been more gently reared than others, strong language follows. Children had better not be an issue, I am a firm believer that a child should not find out about Microsoft business practices until they are at least eighteen, or have spent 36 consecutive hours on 4chan/b/.)

I made the mistake of approaching the Windows 10 technical preview with hope. The signup and download process was easy and user friendly, installation was quick and painless – even on a weaker machine, and then the first disappointment hit me. I had to provide an email address or I could not continue with setup.

Considering the vitriol on the forums for the windows 8 debacle, especially about this very issue, I had hoped that Microsoft would stop making this a condition of installation and instead make it an option to link your operating system with your Microsoft services account later if you want to. I was not forced to type in my phone number the last time I opened a can of Pringles. I did not have to create a free online dating profile the last time I bought a box of Kleenex. Imagine the poor bastard dripping snot on his lap because he can’t find a decent photograph of himself for his profile. Or imagine the other reasons a single, lonely man desperately needs a box of Kleenex and an internet connection. He is certainly reluctant to identify himself. I am not happy with tying anything personal to a computer until I have had a chance to evaluate how that information is going to be used. Not this “I am sorry sir, you can’t leave your house until you tell me your name” bullshit.

What if I had been one of those idealistic fools who had boycotted Microsoft services in protest of one or more of the terrible, unethical things they have done over the years? Can I still boycott Walmart for paying their employees shit wages and treating them like criminals? Or will that bite me on the ass in the future when the Consumer Enforcement Police come to my house someday with a search warrant and arrest me for not owning enough cheap plastic crap?

Sadly, this entry will focus more on principle rather than tech, and for that I apologize. I only tested the installation and if the software my users need will install, connect to the network and fulfill the functions they need to do their jobs. I even let a number of my users try it out. And to be fair, they represented the whole spectrum of my user base. I invited some of my technophobes and technophiles to come and play with it. There were some surprising successes and some rather odd failures. But this is a beta, finding these issues and reporting them to the developers is the right thing to do. Reporting them as flaws to the public now would be irresponsible and unfair in the extreme.

The flaws I have chosen to report are design flaws and examples of Microsoft’s arrogance and utter contempt for its customers and why you should not hold your breath, hoping against hope that you won’t have to retrain and suffer the frustrated abuse of your users if they ever get their filthy mitts on this dog.

The second and for me, final disappointment came when I clicked on the start button. Hope blossomed, relief released the dread clouding my heart when it completely failed to switch my screen to the horrid tile interface that windows 8 insisted was all we needed. The tiles were there, off to the right, but I still had a list of options going up the left, which made me happy.

Happily, I brought out my checklist of minor changes I need to make to get a PC on my domain. Ok, internet options first – where is the damned control panel? That should be there. I clicked around aimlessly and did not find it. Disgustedly, I typed it in search and pinned it to my taskbar. (I honestly want to avoid the Windows-X keyboard shortcut for this test.) I felt a lingering embarrassment at this cowardly tactic and decided to stop what I was doing and actually learn where the damn thing was. If I have to guide users to it, I need at least 3 ways to get them there. That rule has always served me well.

Lo and behold, the absolute first tip that the mighty Google found for me was, “use search and pin it to your taskbar.” Jesus, this is acceptable? People agree that this is a good way to do things? How the hell will I get some of my users to type ‘control panel’ in that box? I mean, I have users that could not spell their own names correctly if I was pointing flash cards and a 9mm at them.

Next, I have to admit to a bad habit. From supporting Windows 98, ME, XP, and now 7 (I dropped out of IT to learn a metalworking trade during the “Vista Disasta” so I never had to support it. To this day, I still think that was the smartest thing I have ever done. It was certainly fun, enlightening and deeply satisfying, especially when I consider that my full time job for those years would have been apologizing profusely on Microsoft’s behalf.) I have the completely automatic habit of right clicking ‘My Computer’. I know, I know, I should have learned the proper way to do things years ago, but it is a habit that has always worked for me. Until now. Where the hell is ‘My Computer’? Off to the wonderful world of Google and the carefully collected ignorance of homophobic and racist strangers.

I gave up at this point. Oh, I finished my test, got most of the software and services I needed running. The stuff that didn’t work, I figured was due to either my mistakes or the unfinished build. But I gave up on thinking of it as a viable upgrade for Windows 7.

The kindest thing my users said about their experience with Windows 10 was, “It sucks, but it doesn’t suck as much as windows 8. This thing still pisses me off, I still can’t find anything.”

Microsoft’s attitude during Windows 8 was to blame the user for their dislike. I have seen several technical representatives on support forums these past few years saying essentially, “Stop being so negative, it’s really great once you get used to it.” That’s nice. Ever hear the old saying, “A man can get used to anything, even hanging, if he hangs long enough.”? But I do not believe that being hanged will ever eventually be considered a growth experience for anyone involved, so why bother suffering to get used to it?

But that attitude did hit me where I am most vulnerable. I try to be honest with myself. I am getting older, time goes by quicker and I am more forgetful. I do not like change. I hate that part of myself and I try to be more positive about embracing change. I am willing to accept that my hatred of Windows 8 was simply because I hated and feared change and did not want to do all the work necessary to overturn fifteen years of habit with new habits.

So I was ashamed of myself. I kept quiet out of embarrassment. My work laptop has windows 8 on it, and has done for years. I don’t use the blasted thing as much as I should because I hate the damned operating system. But I figured that if I could not avoid using it at times, I would eventually become familiar with it and hate it less. But after two years, I still hate it. I still refuse to use it if any other option is available. Which is a shame as it’s a damned nice machine.

Along comes Windows 10, which looked like a very careful apology for Windows 8 without actually having to publicly accept that people hated it. I feel sorry for the developers. Management came thundering down to the lair of the code monkeys and bellowed, “People hate Windows 8! Make them hate it less! But we are not giving up on the unified device experience!” Windows 10 is a decent, well meaning attempt to address these divergent goals. Customers who want to buy one thing, and a supplier who wants to sell them something else.

The unified device experience is the problem. Microsoft does not understand its users, customers, or people in general. Windows 8 was supposed to provide an easy to use interface that addressed the needs of smartphone, tablet, and desktop owners. Locking users into a Windows experience across all devices so they can prepare the consuming public to start buying their phones and tablets as well as selling their privacy rights for access to cloud services that are nowhere near as good as their competitors and likely never will be.

Who the hell wants a windows phone? Young people drive the adoption of new technology. What earnest teenage boy wants to hear from the young lady he is infatuated with that she didn’t get his text because her phone blue screened? Who the hell wants a Surface Pro? Three times the price of any other tablet on the market and does not have access to the Android software ecosystem. Anyone who wants to spend that much money on a tablet will buy an ipad to show other people that they can afford to buy an ipad.

If Microsoft is trying to force this change on us and they can’t understand why we refuse to accept it, then they need to understand a fact that we have all learned the hard way for over twenty years now. Microsoft does not make decisions to benefit the customer, Microsoft only does things to benefit itself. Then spends millions of dollars in marketing and brainwashing to make us believe the reverse is true. We all know this. The computing public does not trust Microsoft and never has. The shocking thing about the Windows 10 experience is not that the interface sucks just a little less, but the fact that it still sucks is a clear indication of Microsoft’s attitude toward us.

Sell me what I want, don’t sell me what you want me to buy. Is this fundamental tenet of capitalism so hard to understand? The truly terrifying thing is that they will get away with it.

If any other company tried this on the public, it would look like this:

The cigar smoke shrouding the Starbucks boardroom began to dissipate as the shadowy figures around the table put the remains of another expensive lunch aside and prepared themselves for the ordeal of guiding their empire.

“Sales are where they should be, but growth is not where it needs to be.”

Several grunts of assent greet this statement.

“We need to expand our product range to bring in new sales.”

“Yes sire, but we are a bit full as it were. We need new coffee ideas, and so far, none have presented themselves.”

“Well, there is one idea that we have yet to try. What about that coffee from cat poop thing I have heard about? Supposed to be rare and very expensive.”

“Kopi Luwak, sire. And yes, it is rare and expensive. I have heard of people paying up to eighty dollars for a single cup.”

“That is wonderful. Basically you are saying is that someone else already created a premium market for this stuff and that customers are prepared to pay up to eighty dollars for something that costs pennies to produce?”

“Well yes and no sire. Connoisseurs are prepared to pay up to eighty dollars for a cup of rare, difficult to produce coffee, yes. But it does not cost pennies a cup to produce. Quite a bit more than that, I am afraid. The cat is a very specific breed of animal and the beans are also quite specific. Supply is limited, hence the price.”

“Well, there you go. If we can lower production costs, we can still charge eighty dollars a cup until someone notices.”

“How do you propose we do that?”

“Think outside the box son. How many cats do you think end up in animal shelters every year in this city alone?”

“I don’t know, thousands?”

“I don’t fucking know either, but it’s a lot. We round ‘em all up, say we are adopting them, don’t bother with the expense of spaying and neutering and watch our workforce grow. Then we feed ‘em regular old Columbian beans, harvest the results and sell it as our own premium blend.”

“That’s brilliant sire.”

“I know! The wear and tear on tooling would be minimal too! How hard is it to grind up dried cat shit?”

And thus Starbuck’s bold new venture was born. The Seattle Humane Society was understandably suspicious at first at all the young, well dressed professionals descending on them, insisting on adopting every miserable little hairball that couldn’t escape their grasping hands. And they notified PETA that something fishy was going on with the local adoption rate. PETA investigated and found the Starbucks production facility and were understandably shocked. But the protest campaign was doomed to failure from the start. The protest signs with the proud slogan of “Stop the Shitfarms” were not appropriate for local news and the poster campaign featuring a nude model smeared in cat excrement attracted a rather….specific kind of supporter. PETA gave up in embarrassment and production continued uninterrupted.

Labor Watch sent a representative to investigate the working conditions but he was laughing too hard to file a report. The image of thousands of heavily caffeinated cats with severe bowel disorders being followed nervously around by migrant workers carrying little plastic buckets was an image that haunted his dreams for years. Often, he would burst out giggling at the most inappropriate times.

The barista who offered to sell me a cup of this new blend did it with the weariness of a young man forced to tell the same awful joke over and over again for years. Though it was possible that some of his world weariness was rooted in the fact that he had a master’s degree in art history and was stuck working in a Starbucks. He told me that I needed to be more open to change and that I should be grateful that Starbucks was giving me this opportunity to expand my horizons. Guiltily, I handed over the eighty dollars and by the time I got to my car, I was experiencing anger, resentment, and the suspicion that I had just been ripped off by damn near a hundred bucks. I looked at my Venti Shitte Latte and could not bring myself to drink it. I also vowed never to come here again. I wanted a coffee and instead I allowed them to sell me something horrible. It is partly my fault, but the point is, my trust was abused. It is exactly the same as my feelings about Windows 10.

No other company could do what Microsoft is doing. No other company would get away with it. The very idea that it is completely my fault that I hate their product is so insidious and attractive that I might end up buying into it one day.

If given the choice, I am still not sure what direction I would take to improve myself and stave off the intellectual ossification of middle age. Try to enjoy a hot cup of liquid cat feces or roll out windows 10 on production machines?

Ah, who am I kidding?