Monday, July 31, 2006

Microsoft & my own private hell

I generally do not care to partake in the sport of Microsoft bashing. [not only is it often misplaced (other vendors can be just as bad), but when it's not misplaced, it's all too easy a target!] But there are definitely some Microsoft-based headaches that I've been dealing with -- things that have made my hackles rise -- and they've all hit me at the same time:

(1) my home machine - WinXP SP2 - is booting ungodly slowly & then showing one of those lovely error dialogue boxes that pops up when an application refuses to behave properly - "Microsoft Genuine Advantage has generated an error". So I tried to figure out what on earth Microsoft Genuine Advantage was & how I could remove it. It turns out that Microsoft actually sent out a so-called security update that is uninstallable, known as - you guessed it - Genuine Advantage. It's a nasty little piece of spyware that is designed to counter piracy. That part would be fine if - (a) they'd informed me that they'd downloaded it; (b) had allowed me to opt out of it; or (c) when it started misbehaving, they'd allowed me to uninstall it. But there are no fixes. I've posted to a Microsoft tech forum to find out what to do. I've read that some users have had so many problems with the thing that they've reformatted their hard drives & reinstalled Windows - worse still, it hasn't fixed the problem! Strong argument for any OS other than Windows.
P.S. The G.A. product didn't find any problems (and I knew it wouldn't) with the genuineness of my software - so that's not why the thing is misbehaving. Not to worry, yup, I've spent plenty on licensing!
(2) both work & home machines - trying to run test web servers (one IIS, the other Apache). I'd followed the instructions assiduously. All should have been running well. But the security embedded in the SP2 - particularly the Windows Firewall - does not allow you to run a web server. You have to monkey around a bit if you want to leave the firewall on. Better still, turn it off. That's a heck of a security system, isn't it? Make it so unwieldy and anti-functional that everyone will disable it just to get their work done. Then, if they get hit by hackers, blame them for having turned off their firewall. It's a win-win for the Win folks, I guess. It'd be nice if - instead - they made flexible, functional, user-friendly security programs that still allowed people to do their jobs.
(3) we use database results wizards in FrontPage to pull information from Access dbs into many of our pages dynamically. These things are great when they work. Today, all I did was work in a separate subweb to try & create a form that would allow staff members to easily edit the Access databases in question. I did so in a separate, protected subweb, in hopes of not affecting other db pages. YET, of course, suddenly, all pages that use this functionality throughout the website started displaying an ugly yellow message "Database Results Wizard - Unspecified error" (or something close to that). I tried a couple of things to fix it, but the real fix would likely come from restarting IIS altogether. I'd do this, but all of our public access machines run on a program that lives on the same IIS server, so it would freeze patrons mid-session & frustrate the public services staff. So obviously, I can't even try this until after 5pm. If it doesn't work then, I'm in a heck of a pickle. Now, why on earth can I not work in one subweb, with its own global.asa, permissions, etc., etc., without affecting everything else?

So that's my Monday. Hope yours is going well & that you're staying cool.

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