Tech Annoyances #624

ISSUE #1:

Do you use the “Send to” folder in Windows? I do. In most cases, it’s easier to right-click a file and choose “Send to > Mail Recipient” than it is to open a new email and attach the file manually. And before I started using Notepad++ (which adds an “Open with Notepad++” entry to the context menu), I’d often add a shortcut to Notepad to the SendTo folder; this allowed me to open any type of file by right-clicking and choosing “Send to > Notepad”.

A couple of nights ago I was thinking about how often I drag and drop files from some folder on my computer to my Dropbox folder, and I thought how cool it would be to add Dropbox to the SendTo folder. But then I thought it would be even better to have a Dropbox folder in SendTo, with shortcuts to my different Dropbox folders, like “Photos” and “Public”. That way I could just right-click a file and choose “Send to > Dropbox > Public” to share a file with someone.

Only problem is, Microsoft completely screwed this up in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (and, if I could figure out how to test it, possibly Windows 8). In Windows XP, you could easily do such a thing by creating a subfolder in the SendTo folder and adding whatever shortcuts you wanted to that folder. The subfolder would expand and you’d could access the shortcuts there:

XP Send to
Click to enlarge

In Vista, Microsoft changed this so that you can still put a folder in SendTo, but it no longer expands… so no more cascading icons for you:

Win 7 Send to
click to enlarge

WHY would Microsoft remove such a handy feature from the “latest and greatest” versions of their operating system? I can’t imagine that it posed any kind of security threat, and the people who really used the feature must have really liked it. Say you’re a software\web developer of some kind, and you use several apps to edit various documents. In XP could could have them all in one handy SendTo subfolder; in Vista\7\8, you have to put every one in the root of SendTo, making it harder to use and a mile long. Good job, Microsoft!

ISSUE #2

Is anyone else getting sick of seeing this on Google results pages?

Google WTF
click to enlarge

I was searching for a place to buy those limited edition Lay’s potato chips, and Google “helpfully” corrected me by showing me the results for “Lays” chips instead of “Lay’s” chips. The only problem is… the brand name of the chips is Lay’s:

Lay's Chips

I also like how every result in my screen cap refers to them as “Lay’s” chips!

This is happening more and more often. Not long before Christmas, I thought I’d search for a friend from elementary school. His last name is “Saunders”. Google instead showed me “Sanders”. There is no famous person with my friend’s first name and the last name “Sanders” (no, his first name wasn’t “Colonel”). As near as I could tell, there are as many semi-famous “Sanders” as there are “Saunders”. So thanks, Google. Ever tried searching for the Petroleum Research Fund by its initials – PRF? You get “Showing results for PDF”. Thanks, jackass. Searching for Firefly actor Adam Baldwin? Surely you meant “Alec Baldwin”, right? Searching for info about Katy Perry’s birth name, “Katheryn Hudson”? We’ll show you the results for “Kate Hudson” instead!

I don’t get the blind love everyone has for Google. They’ve repeatedly shown that they don’t trust their users worth a damn. As author Andrew Blum (“Showing results for Andrew Bloom”) said: “Their stance is the corporate equivalent of a 1950s-era gynecologist who believes women can’t comprehend what’s being done to their own bodies.” And goddamn is it annoying.

ISSUE #3:

It doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to, but you still see stuff like this on message boards from time to time:

iTunes_wtf_02a

I’m not a big Apple fan, but COME ON, PEOPLE! Apple removed all DRM from iTunes music 4 years ago! From Wikipedia:

On 6 January 2009 Apple announced at the 2009 Macworld Conference & Expo that they had reached an agreement with major record labels to sell all music on the iTunes Store free of DRM restrictions. Eight million tracks were available with FairPlay restrictions removed from that day with the remainder of the music store to be DRM-free by the end of March 2009. However, movies, books, and television shows purchased from the iTunes Store still contain FairPlay restrictions.

Get with the times, folks! God, it chaps my ass to see people “blah blah blah iTunes blah blah blah DRM blah blah blah”. How about you SHUT THE BLAH BLAH BLAH THE HELL UP! George W. Bush was still in office when Apple removed DRM from iTunes music, you idiots!

ISSUE #4:

Two words: Office 2013.

Office 2013

Microsoft has sold two types of software to the general public over the years: retail and OEM.

Retail software – the kind you buy in a shrink-wrapped box at Office Depot or Best Buy – traditionally allowed you to install Office on as many consecutive computers as you wanted, as long as you uninstalled it as you went along. In other words, if you bought a retail copy of Office 2010, you could install it on your desktop computer. And then, six months later, when you bought a new computer, you could install Office 2010 on the new computer, provided you removed it from the old computer. And a year after that, after you bought yet another desktop computer, you could install Office 2010 on that computer too, just as long as you uninstalled it from the old computer.

OEM software is different. For one thing, the license technically belongs to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) like Dell or HP, not you. So if you bought a new computer from Dell with Office 2010 Professional pre-installed, that copy of Office “belonged” to that computer. You couldn’t install it on any other computers, and when\if you sold that computer, you were required to sell the Office license with it. Microsoft has traditionally offered its software to OEMs at a huge discount, partly due to the volume that OEMs like Dell and HP have, but also because OEMs agree to provide all support for the software (with retail copies of Office, you call Microsoft directly for support; with OEM copies you have to call your OEM).

But this week news came out that Microsoft has changed the licensing for Office 2013. Customers who buy the retail copy will be able to install it on just one computer. Forever. Without going into a lot of detail, Microsoft reps said that customers will be able to reinstall the software (in the case of a hard drive crash or motherboard failure, for instance). But the idea of uninstalling Office on an old computer and installing it on a new computer – part of Microsoft’s Office licensing from Office 95 to Office 2010 – is dead. If you buy a copy of Office 2013 and decide to upgrade your desktop PC six months later… cough up another $400, because your old copy of Office is no longer “good”.

As the linked article (by longtime Ars Technica enthusiast Peter Bright) notes, the vast majority of Microsoft Office sales are to companies, most of whom are on Microsoft’s “Software Assurance” plan (basically, a scheme where you pay a fraction of the price per year over a multi-year contract, with rights to upgrade to newer editions of Office or Windows over time for “free”. Basically, it’s like a car lease that would allow you to upgrade to a newer model car every year).

Of the 20% of Office sales to consumers, Bright estimates that the lion’s share of those are OEM customers who buy a Dell with Office pre-installed, use it for 5 years, then throw it away and buy a new one. Nerds like me – people who actually migrate their software from one desktop to another – make up a tiny fraction of Microsoft’s sales, but as Bright mentions, such “enthusiasts” are often the loudest. MS has gotten a ton of bad press about it this week, and Redmond just shrugged its shoulders and said “meh” about the whole business.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been a staunch defender of Microsoft over the years. And why wouldn’t I be? Every paycheck I’ve received since 1997 came directly or indirectly from Microsoft’s operating system and business software. But I’m getting pretty fed up with them lately. I don’t care what the apologists say, Windows 8 is a disaster (although I think it’s interesting that most Windows 8 complaints are about the “Modern” interface, and just the “Modern” interface, whereas Windows Me and Windows Vista were all-around disasters).

My GF has a Windows 8 computer, and although she’s not one of those “computer genius” types, she’s been using Windows for a couple of decades now, and is smart enough to know where to look for a solution to an issue. If she asks me question about Windows, it’s almost always of the Level 2 or Level 3 variety. But she doesn’t understand Windows 8 at all. So she asks me. And after 30 seconds of using Windows 8, I want to re-enact a scene from one of my favorite movies:

Office Space
“I swear to God, one of these days, I just kick this piece of shit out the window.”

So this news about Office 2013 doesn’t help. At all. I’m a huge fan of Outlook, especially since I can keep all my emails, tweets and RSS feeds in one location. But you know who is flirting with me these days? This girl. And I could soon be recommending her to all my friends clients, too.

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