Friday, July 12, 2013

Part 37.1: Signatures in 2010

You gotta hand it to Microsoft. They try. Back in the day I wrote about how impossible it was to figure out where signatures lived in Outlook 2007. There were menus to open and click through to find a major feature buried six levels down.

So in 2010, which I was just upgraded to, I had to find my signature. I was in the main mail window, and started looking. I looked at every bleeding menu. Nowhere to be seen. Finally, I asked a coworker for guidance. He told me to open a new window.


If you open a new window, "signatures" is right out in the open, and easy to see and find. This is an improvement. The issue, however, is that this is counterintuitive in two manners. First, it is accessed from a completely different place as in 2007 and before. How hard would it to have a link to signatures out of the main window without opening a new message? So, you know, we can find it. Second, when I start with a new program, I want to set up my signature before I send my first message, not after. Now, I have to open a message, set up my signature, and is it in the message? No. I have to close the message and open another.

So with thousands of hours and lines of code, they have gone from having something completely buried but accessed from the main window, to something not buried at all, but accessed unintuitively from the new message window.

Progress. Maybe by 2020 they'll have signatures readily available in the main window of the program.

Or maybe we'll all be on Gmail.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Part 43: When I copy something, I should be able to paste it

I'm somewhat used to sane operating systems. In other words, I'm used to the fact that, on an Apple machine, when you copy something—be it an image, or a string of text, or what have you—if you go to paste it, it will paste.

Even if you've been doing something else for a while. Even if you pasted it and then clicked on another cell in Excel.

Which brings me to Excel: for some inconceivable reason, if you copy something in Excel and run an operation and then go to paste it—it's gone! Disappeared in to thin air. Poof!

Now, I've had this as a known problem for years. But, believe it or not, people were whining about this in 2004, and even then saying that Microsoft knew it was a bug then, and didn't seem to care. So it's been going on for more than a decade!

(There's some technical nonsense about Excel having "move and copy" but a) that seems fixable and b) I can't think of any application where a user would want to have something they copied disappear.)

What rubbish. And I'd contend that Excel is one of Microsoft's better products.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Part 42: CTRL-F should do one thing and one thing only

Ctrl-F = find. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

Except, of course, in outlook, where Ctrl-F forwards a copy of the selected message. That's a nice shortcut to have, but considering that Outlook has a find feature (a particularly braindead one, but a find feature nonetheless) it should be called by Ctrl-F. For some unfathomable reason, "Find" is called by Ctrl-E. Let's see where E is in the word "find." F, well, that's not an E. I, it's a vowel, but not an E. N is not an E, and D is close, but as close as F, which is not an E. There is no "E" in Find! Oh, and then, of course, "advanced find" is shift-ctrl-F. Makes a world of sense. Almost as much sense a the underlined letters in

The "w" is underlined in forward, so obviously ctrl-W has nothing to do with forwarding. And the "i" is underlined in find, so "i" makes things italic. Yeah that makes sense. It's nice of them to make alt-I a shortcut for find, but there's still no cross-application compatibility. In other words, ctrl-F should always call the find function. The program-random alt-underlined shortcuts are just annoying.

To recap: to use the "find" function you can use either ctrl-E or alt-I. In a just and loving world, this would not be allowed.

So, maybe Redmond realizes how bad their search is and doesn't want people to find it. It turns out that a surprisingly high number of people have no idea how to use the find function. Probably because they've been using Outlook. (Now, in Gmail, Find actually works, you know, to find things. But that's an entire other post.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Part 41: When Windows cripples other people

As I wallow in funemployment (Give me a job!) I sometimes find time to help out other people. For instance, a friend of mine works for a local non-profit. Now, before I go any further, let me take a quick second to rail against non-profit IT people. Non-profit IT people, as far as I can tell, really need to learn something about, uh, information technology. I'm sure that they are nice people, but if you manage an organization with satellite offices, you really should be able to set up a secure wireless router over the phone. It's not hard!

The second thing I am going to get out there before I start my story: buying PCs because they are cheaper is penny-wise and pound-foolish. The Times just wrote about how businesses are turning more to Apple products. The money quote:

Information technology departments, though, may find working with Apple a challenge. Historically among I.T. managers, Apple Macs were largely shunned as too expensive, and the company was viewed as not serious about making the computers blend well in corporate environments.
Basically double that for non-profits. For instance: I have a friend who works with GIS a lot, which pretty much only runs in a Windows environment. He had had enough trouble with PCs, and realized that the best computer was a graphics-laden MacBook Pro, running Boot Camp to run Windows. And he has not regretted it. I'm not sure how he got that through his IT department, but it just plain works.

Now let's get back to my friend. I went by her office to grab lunch, and she was complaining about how stressful it was to have a computer which wouldn't connect to wireless. I started troubleshooting. They'd done the obvious (restarting the router) but it was obviously her computer since it was occurring with multiple wireless networks and no other computers on these networks were compromised. The first thing I asked was for the password for their wireless. "Oh, we don't have one." Now, I doubt that was the reason her DNS lookup and wireless is all screwed up, but she said it was slow from time to time, and I went about logging in.

They'd basically plugged in a Linksys box and logged in, as did, apparently, everyone else in the neighborhood. The hardest part was figuring out which username and password combination to use; once I had I pretty quickly gave their network an appropriate name and WEP encryption (with the office phone number as the password, of course). Next it was time to see if the computer could be fixed. The long and short of it was that I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I didn't bug my dad, but there was obviously something non-trivial wrong with it. The connection would frequently cut out, especially when trying to send data (very weird). Basically, she needs to take the computer (brand new and very much still warranted) and get it fixed or replaced. With Apple, I assume even for enterprise a quick trip to the nearest Apple Store would have them fixing or replacing the machine. With Windows, she had to go through whatever IT distributor her organization uses, entailing a trip elsewhere or a wait for the mail (and I doubt they have overnight turnaround like Apple).

In any case, I asked how much productivity she thinks this cost her. "Oh, about a week." Eight hours a day, for five days? "Yup." I said that since she could still convolutedly send email (by writing it in Word and then doing something) she hadn't lost all productivity and she agreed. I said it was maybe half productivity. 20 hours. At $20 per hour (give or take, not counting the IT department's time on the phone). One random crash and she'd whittled away $400 of time, which could certainly have been used to buy a Mac which would probably be faster and last longer.

The upshot? It will probably be solved bluntly, with a full reinstall of the OS. My friend didn't have the ability to back up her data or the time to reinstall windows (i.e. the whole day). So, for now, she'll beg time off of people with desktops (she's on the road a lot) and lose more productivity with subpar equipment.

So, dear IT departments of the world: just because you don't know how to use a certain product doesn't mean your employees don't, either. Don't just buy the cheapest crap you can get your hands on. Invest in a quality product, and then you're job will be easier. And your employees more productive. And everyone wins.

Oh, and learn how to set up a goddamn wireless router., admin, admin …

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not using Windows for a while = pure bliss

Pure bliss = $8/hour = a good way to go broke

About a year and a half ago, I quit my job. It wasn't a bad job, but I was ready to not work in an office, not use a computer which was supremely outdated* (yeah, non-profits) and not deal with Windows on a daily basis. I took off to work in the mountains (for the Appalachian Mountain Club) where the use of a computer required putting a laptop on a frame pack, hoping to not break it (best idea: surround it in a down comforter and shove the whole thing in a brew bucket), carry it several miles (say, 4 miles and 3500 feet) uphill and still have very little (if any) internet on the mountaintop. So, not a lot of screen time, and not a lot of fails.

Oh, yeah, and I have a Mac. This summer I treated myself to a new MacBook Air (it's dreamy, and weighs less than 3 pounds) and I even bought a new version of Office—Microsoft's most functional product (it's a low bar). Still, Office '11 works pretty well, is slightly more intuitive than old versions (again, a low bar) and has better cross-compatibility with Windows versions than previous. (Of course, one would think MSFT would be able to actually make them completely compatible. But, no!)

In any case, I'm out of the mountains now and looking for a job. Like, maybe, a "real" job, one where you sit at a desk and use computers. Even computers with Windows. I'm willing to do so, if for no other reason than that I am running out of fodder for this blog. Oh, and a paycheck. Benefits would be nice too. I picked the perfect economy for this, right?

So, you can find my CV on my personal website, check out my other websites (, and if you have any ideas, email me at ari dot ofsevit at gmail.
You can even follow me at

Thanks! I hope I can find some broken Windows crap to blog about soon.

* Apparently, my replacement made it about a week before demanding a new computer—which I was about to do when I quit and figured it wouldn't be worth it to waste my breath. It got to the point of taking minutes to open Word. Of course, it was a 2003 machine in 2010.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part 40a: when bloggers call me out

I saw that I had twelve followers. Weird. Someone must have mentioned me somewhere. Well, someone did. In this thread, someone calls me out for blaming a hardware problem on Windows. I'm way too lazy to sign up for that message board, but I will explain why this is, actually, a problem aided and abetted by Windows (or, at the very least, Microsoft):

  1. Windows allows shoddy hardware. Say what you want, but the only hardware which runs Mac OS is, drumroll, Apples. They can be made to run Windows, or whatever else, but Apple has a lot of control over which keys are placed where. And, no, there's no single key I have to hit to turn off wireless (actually, I have to use my mouse). So I never inadvertently turn it off.
  2. Windows does not ask me if I am sure I want to turn off wireless. This is a company who will, when you type "June …" ask if you are typing the current date, or when you type a letter will say "it looks like you are trying to …" (okay, lord be praised they killed Clippy, but still) But when a stray keystroke turns off one of the main features of my computer (since, you know, we live in the internet age), crickets.
  3. It's done in the background, or at least in the margins. There's nothing which comes up in the center of the screen and broadcasts what is going on. Hell, when I change the brightness or even the screen backlight brightness in OS X a transparent image pops up in the center of my screen for a second. The backlight keyboard! That didn't happen on this Dell, because it didn't have a backlight keyboard.
  4. The icon for wireless is decidedly tiny. And if it is off, it appears with an even tinier X through it. Perhaps Apple copyrighted their empty pie icon, but, come on, Windows. It looks like it's clip art from 2002, too.
  5. There's no way to disable the key. If there were, I wouldn't be writing this. Maybe I could have just, you know, pried it off the keyboard. "It looks like you are trying to disfigure your keyboard. Can I help?"
Just for fun, here's the unbelievably funny clip about Clippy from Wait Wait, don't tell me.

And, no, Mr. Thepcguy, I'm not a Stupid User.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Part 40: when wireless goes wrong

After a blissful summer away from the wide world of Windows, I have been forced to return. Rather than fight for my right to have cross-platform compatibility, I succumbed and had someone buy me a PC. Windows 7. It's sort of okay, although changing the menus in Office is really unnecessary (since "add a row" is now under the "home" menu, which makes no sense of course) and since the UI is still several years and iterations behind OS X. (For instance; in Mac OS I can use "pretzel"-tab to change programs and "pretzel"-` to change windows within a program. Windows 7: I can only change amongst all open windows. Although the nested window view is somewhat useful.)

Anyway, all was going somewhat well until, with no prior warning, my wireless connection today went completely kaput. It just ran dry. When I click on the little wireless icon, it tells me that it is not connected, and that "no connections are available."

Okay, well, I have a trusty-if-elderly (nearly four years old) Mac, and can turn to the Googles. If I search for the no connections phrase and windows 7, I get a Microsoft Help page. Oh, that's lovely. There must be a nice, easy fix for this, right? Wrong.

There are six steps, the first of which is power-cycling your computer, wireless router and modem. I haven't read the others yet. All I know is I first have to deal with the email I wrote and now have to save elsewhere (and hope the formatting doesn't get messed up) and then go through several annoying steps so my computer will, you know, connect to the internet.

It's amazing that in 2010 Microsoft has a product which will lose its internet connection and not easily get it back. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I'm writing this on my Mac. Connected to the internet.

(Oh, and when you try to connect to the internet, you click the "open network and sharing center"—at least they don't call them wizards anymore—and then click "connect to a network, which takes you back to the same window where you clicked open network and sharing center. Which circle of hell is this, again?)

Update 1: Power cycled the machine. It did nothing. Except give me a few glorious seconds when Windows was off.

Update 2: The ever-so-helpful Microsoft website tells me "Update the drivers for your wireless network adapter via Windows Update, or by using the website for either the company you bought your PC/Laptop from or the manufacturer of your networking device." And how the fuck am I supposed to do that without an internet connection?

Update 3: I hit troubleshoot. It tells me that wireless capability is turned off. Why? Lord only knows. Why it went off in the middle of using the computer? Lord only knows. Can I click on the little wireless icon and turn it on? That would be intuitive. Of course not. It won't tell me how, only that there is a switch on the front or side of my computer, or a function key.

Hello? Is it 2002? Is anyone there?

Update 4: Apparently, if you hit F2—which, as it happens, is located conveniently above the 2 key—it toggles on and of the wireless. Now, why on earth would I want to be able to turn on and off my wireless with an errant keystroke? Wouldn't it make a whole lot more sense to, say, have a drop-down menu with the option to turn off my wireless, so that an errant slip of the finger wouldn't do it? Yes. It would. That's why the good lord created OS 10. I believe that was a feature on Apple products, oh, 9 or 10 years ago.

If anyone knows how to disable F2 as the toggle key for wireless, please let me know. I'd like to be able to turn off wireless, I guess, but I'd like it to be a bit more of a barrier than hitting one key. Maybe function keys should be left for things like screen brightness and volume; you know, things I use more than once in a blue moon.