Thought for the day: Damned if you do and damned if you don't

Updating software is an arduous task often resulting in getting something no better than the last version, says Simon Moores.

Simon Moores  

Updating software is an arduous task often resulting in getting something no better than the last version, says Simon Moores.





It was only last week, that I read a piece by a US columnist in which he declared that Microsoft’s Word, the software that is, had passed its sell-by date and that the world deserved something rather better to type its thoughts on over the next decade.

I didn’t think too much more about it until Sunday night, when I sat to write my midweek "Thought for the Day".

My own copy of Windows XP on my laptop has been very flaky over the past six months or so. Cumulative patch fatigue I suspect. It normally requires a reboot at least once a day as applications, normally starting with Word or Outlook, "hang" one after the other for no visible reason.

This time, it was Outlook which stubbornly refused to respond. When I finally managed to shut it down with the Windows Task Manager, I was directed to the Microsoft update site which told me that the latest Service Pack for Office 2003 might prevent the problem re-occurring. This had to be good news. So at 18:45 I opted for the 17mbyte download, expecting all my problems to be solved.

Half way through the installation of the Office Service Pack, a message on the screen demands that I insert my original CD in drive D:

I hadn’t bargained on this and should have known better. This is one of the most irritating aspects of the product. Change anything and it will insist on checking that you have the proper licensed CD.

Having moved house recently, all my master CDs had been "tidied" away by my wife in the attic.

As a male, I rely on memory and random access searches - the garden shed principle - so anything properly arranged and filed is invisible to me. But I did finally locate the Office 2003 disc set and continued with the installation.

When the installation had finished, did Office start perfectly? No. Outlook hung twice and after two re-boots and a full registry mechanic software check, I finally managed to reload my e-mail and carry on with my work. The time now was 19:50. A whole hour of wasted time, which included an assault on my attic, had passed.

Alright, nothing is perfect. But why does Microsoft have to make it so difficult for all of us or is this the very best it can do? Will the rest of my life be spent carrying my Office CD around with me, just in case the product falls over again, which it will, I’m sure.

Then there’s Windows XP Service Pack 2. Microsoft has conveniently forgotten to send me a copy but having followed its progress so far, I don’t know if I dare risk installing this critical update to Windows.

I simply can’t risk the business interruption threat but like it or not, Microsoft, which concedes that some of its own applications would require "tweaking" in order to work correctly with SP2, is going to start pushing it in my direction as part of the Automatic Update and Software Update Services patch-management services this week.

Like many others in a software-dependent world, I’m confronted with the classic Microsoft dilemma: "Damned if you do and damned if you don’t." Perhaps I should go on holiday in protest.

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 e-government and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit

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