Thought for the day: Never on a Sunday

We like to kid ourselves that we live in a 24/7 society, but Simon Moores found out otherwise when he discovered that some...

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We like to kid ourselves that we live in a 24/7 society, but Simon Moores found out otherwise when he discovered that some helplines still consider Sunday to be a day of rest.

 

 

I was starting to think of myself as a keyboard virtuoso. On one side of me was the laptop that "died" recently, and on the other was my desktop PC on which I was installing some software upgrades, kindly provided by Microsoft to replace the applications that lost their licences when XP had a seizure on the laptop.

It had taken almost a week to bring the laptop back to the state it had been in before it crashed. Thirty-two megabytes of security updates alone take more than an hour and a quarter to install, even with a broadband connection. Without one, forget it.

Meanwhile, I tried installing Microsoft Money 2004 on my first machine. For me, the application is, in every sense, mission critical. So I was unpleasantly surprised when it decided that my Money 2003 files – which actually go back to 1993 – were unrecognisable.

Fortunately, I finally remembered where the Money 2003 disc was hidden, so having uninstalled Money 2004 and loaded the backup of my personal accounts file, I was back and working with Money 2003, but no wiser as to why the 18Mb file isn't recognised by the new version.

So, while the laptop is happily chugging along, reinstalling Encarta, the first machine is connected to the internet and downloading the latest Windows Update.

Eventually, a dialogue box appears and tells me that "Updates have been downloaded from Microsoft" and would I like to install these now? 

Now comes the big mistake. Never, never run an update of any kind over a weekend, you’ll see why in a moment.

I hit the "Yes" button and the update installs, asking me for a reboot when it’s finished its work.  Restart my system? Of course!

Now comes the fun part. The PC restarts, asks me for my login password and then tells me that my copy of Windows requires registering.  But how can this be so? This copy of Windows was actually installed by Microsoft engineers when they rescued the same system in January.

OK, so I choose to register over the phone and tap in the registration details from the screen in front of me. At the registration centre, a helpful chap reads backs seven, six-digit numbers for me to type into the boxes on my screen. So far so good, until I hit "Next" to finish the operation. "Invalid", says the message on the screen.

We both double-check but the number is right and the helpful chap at the registration centre is baffled. He suggests a I call the number he gives me. “It’s a single point of contact,” he says. I call but it’s Sunday and there’s only a recorded message encouraging me to try again during office hours.

I’m now writing this column on my rebuilt laptop, which works fine. The other machine refuses point blank to let me in to get at the last three days of work not yet backed up to my laptop.

This brings us around to the problem of patching again. Something somewhere has changed in my PC. What this might be is anyone’s guess, but a patch, the very last action which took place before the catastrophe, appears to have "broken" my Windows. 

I should have known better. There is something about weekends that makes any kind of update a risky business.

What do you think?

Should software helplines be available round the clock?  Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com

This was last published in October 2003

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