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).