What It Was Like to Be a Microsoft Customer


I installed Windows on my Macbook Pro so that I could use Word 2010 at home (Word 2011 is not 100% compatible with Word 2010, so collaborating on documents with Word 2010 users, especially documents where formatting matters, is impossible if you are the lone Word 2011 user).

It turns out that Word 2010’s performance is so much better than Word 2011’s that it runs faster and more responsively through Parallels than Word 2011 does in the native Mac environment. Once I learned this, I decided that for work I could be most productive using Word through Parallels but for fun, I could boot right into Windows and use Steam with maximum performance.

However, Microsoft’s licensing forbids such productive use of Windows, so instead of the convenience of loading Word when I'm on the OS X desktop, I have to save and close of my documents and reboot, not for any technical reasons, but merely because Microsoft doesn’t like me having the ability to use Parallels and Boot Camp.

Office 2011 Family Pack for Mac (Retail version)

I stress that this is the retail version, which is licensed for use on 3 computers at a time. In early 2014 I replaced a 2008 Mac Pro with a 2013 Mac Pro. I uninstalled Office from the 2008 Mac but since there is no deactivation feature in Office 2011 (equivalent to the deactivation feature in iTunes or in Adobe Creative Cloud) so it was not possible to use any software mechanism to free up a license spot ahead of the migration.

Once the new Mac was up and running, I installed Office and was prompted to activate. The activation failed. I was then advised to call the phone licensing line, which I was promised by my office’s IT guy was “not that bad”. So, I called the number using an old telephone, and after a number of tries, was able to get the phone system to understand my accent. The system at the other end of the phone waited for a bit and then announced that it was unable to activate my software. It asked how many computers Office was installed on, to which I responded 3 (exactly the number permitted under the license) and then Microsoft hung up on me.

I tried this several times, each time having the software fail to activate and have the automated Microsoft phone hang up on me.

After spending a bunch of time searching web forums, I eventually found a post that said there was a secret way to get hold of a real-live human on Microsoft’s phone system: no matter how much the system asks (or later pleads and bargains), refuse to speak to it. Eventually, it will (reluctantly) connect you to a person. Note that there is no hint that this secret way of speaking to a human exists if you just follow the instructions of the regular hang-up-on-you system.

I summoned all of my willpower and resolutely ignored the Microsoft voice system as, like a less fearsome version of HAL 9000, it repeatedly insisted that I would get better service from the hanging-up-on-you system than I would from the alternative. After what seemed like hours of resisting the pleas of the computer voice, I was indeed, finally connected to what might have been a human being. This human being, having only the most rudimentary grasp of the English language, communicated that their systems weren’t functioning and hence, he would not be able to assist me.

I now just use Excel on my laptop.

Fable III

Fable III is, apparently, a single-player RPG. I say “apparently” because the game, if there is one, is hidden behind the “Games for Windows Live” software enjoyment prohibition device. This “service” appears to be designed to ensure that paying customers learn to cease being paying customers.

So what now? Well, as long as I have my corporate stooge job I’ll have no choice but to use Excel 2010 on work’s Dell Windows 7 PC. At home, I just have to hope that more of Steam’s library makes its way to the Mac (or even Linux).

So Many iTunes Match Issues—Part 1

iTunes Match freezes at “Sending information to Apple” stage

This would be fine, except that attempting to change metadata of certain songs throws up the “iTunes Match has not yet blah blah blah this file yadda yadda yadda” message.

I tried following g8tecrasher’s tip at avforums.com to get past this first-stage error and, miraculously, it worked.



The way Match handles ‘duplicates’ is a whole bunch of crazy. It is not OK for iTunes to throw up its hands and protest that The Thrill is Gone from Completely Well is the same as The Thrill is Gone on a different album unless iTunes is also going to symbolically link the original version of The Thrill is Gone to Completely Well. Otherwise, the following clearly unacceptable behaviours can occur:

1. I have random 4* songs in a playlist. If the duplicate version of The Thrill is Gone finds itself in that playlist, the whole playlist becomes inaccessible from matched devices.

2. If I delete the “duplicate” version of The Thrill is Gone and then play the album Completely Well, guess what song doesn’t play? Now my Completely Well is, well, incomplete.

Presumably, the problem that Apple is (hamfistedly) attempting to fix is that I might fill up my 5 GB allowance of iCloud storage with a thousand files of the same song from different albums. Assuming that this is really a problem that is crying out for a solution, and given that iTunes already has done the work to link these two files together (in order to determine that one is a duplicate of the other) why not keep one physical copy of the file and as many symbolic links to the same file as the user wants. This avoids unnecessary storage consumption while not creating the horrendous user experience problems of Apple’s current ‘solution’. I believe this is what Condoleezza Rice’s NSA-sharing service, Dropbox, does already.

Occasionally, Match will insist that a particular song is a duplicate, but searching through iTunes will not reveal any same- (or similar-) named track that this song might be duplicating. Naturally, iTunes does not offer to show the other file, so you have to decide whether you trust iTunes’s judgement (recommendation: don’t).

Custom CSS Oh My!

Rendering of the page on Windows (Chrome Beta 35 and IE 11 on Windows 7) has continued to anger and sadden me. However, it turns out that a little bit of CSS jiggery-pokery can provide a world of improvements: specifically activating kerning and ligature support in Chrome and kerning support in IE.

Code snippets were accumulated from Recap and Kerning posts from Elliott Jay Stocks’ blog.

Fee-fi-fo-fum—Ligatures and Typekit

Recent viewers may have noticed that Effra, as rendered on this site, had some ugly characteristics (especially fi). At first I had concluded that Effra simply lacked ligatures for the web but a more exhaustive investigation led me to understand that the issue is actually down to Typekit settings. Specifically, all characters need to be selected in the Kit Editor.

Sure enough, once updated (and changes propagated), the text renders tolerably well (at least on the current version of Safari for iOS).

Typekit trauma

I was tweaking the font styles in the Squarespace control panel and noticed that when I selected Typekit fonts they were falling back to the system default Serif font.

Step 1: Check whether the problem is with the domain name

When the Kit was created at Typekit’s website it was registered with koumparos.ca but not the underlying Squarespace name, so when changing the site it is not pulling the Typekit fonts.

Step 2: Add squarespace name to Kit

Go to Typekit.com, log in, select Typekit Editor then Kit Settings.

Add squarespace name to list of domains, and then save.

Wait a few* moments for the changes to propagate.


* Where ‘few’ is defined as ‘more than an impatient person would like’.

Cellular data on wifi WTF?

Today I received an increasingly hysterical series of text messages from Telus warning me that I had exceeded my monthly data allowance, culminating in getting cut-off early this afternoon for going $50 over my allowance.

Logging into Telus's website revealed that my iPhone 5 had succeeded in burning through 3.5 GB of cellular data on App Store downloads while:

a) being connected to wifi;

b) without showing a single app being updated in the last 6 days;

c) while Use Cellular Data was disabled in iTunes & App Store settings (it's not clear how this setting is distinct from the “Use Cellular Data for…App Store” switch in Cellular settings (which had been enabled until about 5 minutes ago)).

Frist Psot!

This is a boring note-to-self post to serve as a reminder of how I did things. For what it's worth, most posts will be boring notes to self.

First permanent image uploaded. The process was as follows:

1. Edit image (remove a couple of distracting scuffs);

2. Prepare image for web;

3. Add to Squarespace.

Editing involved loading a PNG version of the image in Inpaint 5 (handy single-purpose app to remove unwanted stuff from photos), highlighting the scuffs and then pressing a single button to fix the image. Saved back as PNG, and then reimported to Aperture.

Preparing for web involved creating a custom export format (JPG, Q11 (to shrink file below Squarespace’s 20 MB max), watermark) and then dropping the file on the desktop.

Adding to Squarespace was the easiest bit: went to the Images page, selected add image and then picked the file from the desktop.