Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Round 2 with Windows 8.x

“I can’t get my email!”

An elderly friend called me in a panic … needing help, once again, with her new Windows 8 based email. “I can’t get my email,” she repeated.

Patiently, I asked her what happens when she tries to get her email. “I can’t get it.”

“Can you walk me through it?”

“When I click the Windows Mail tile a window pops up telling me to add my account. When I do so, it tells me I already have that account.”

“I’ll stop by tomorrow morning, everything will be fine,” I tell her.

Plan A: notice something important that she had missed. No such luck; it’s as she told me.

Plan B: delete her account from the email program and then put it back. This is more tenuous, as last time I was here I experienced what I had only heard and read about: Microsoft – in either a fit of pique or mild dementia – had changed the user interface, including how users close programs, shut the computer off, and get to the configuration windows for most programs. An experienced tech, I am not sure I know how to configure her email program.

After much difficulty, I find the correct screen … it lists two identical accounts. “Aha,” I sniff triumphantly, “this surely confuses Windows Mail.” I remove one and Windows Mail behaves like it’s supposed to. I turn it off, click the icon again, and it starts as it should. It’s repeatable. I am so happy congratulating myself I nearly break my arm.

Being anal, I return to the configuration screen … I see two accounts, again. The configuration is just as I found it, with content that “surely confuses the program.” The program, though, doesn’t know it’s confused; through numerous restarts, it behaves just like it’s supposed to. Can’t quarrel with success, I figure.

I shut the computer off completely. Windows does an update prior to shutting down … an event that is always a bit scary as one never knows what the update involves. I put my friend in control, wanting to see her do what I have been doing. She restarts; everything goes well; she’s happy.

I suggest shutting down her mail. She moves the cursor to the top of the monitor screen expecting the mouse icon to turn into a hand. It doesn’t happen. Rather a narrow band of black appears across the entire top of the Window Mail screen with a small minus sign at the right and an x a bit further to the right, making the window suspiciously resemble a pre Windows 8 window. Puzzled, I say, “Click the X.” The application closes.

I am dumbfounded … speechless … what th’?? It appears that Microsoft realized it had screwed up when changing the close application procedure. And continued its folly by stealthily changing it back. I now understand the Windows update just completed.

[ Full Disclosure: I don’t know Microsoft did this stealthily; I do not follow internet locations where Microsoft might have announced it. ]

We pay closer attention … there is another change: her tile screen contains a Power OFF icon. A moment ago I had to go to the Charms Bar to get a Power OFF icon.
Amazing … I am dumbfounded … and irked realizing how Microsoft’s engineers went about this. They made the Windows 8 computer desktop look ( and feel ) like a tablet. They did this with little regard to whether users might like it, or even understand it. And then, like a spineless thief, they changed it back. Without fanfare. Sneakily.

Reminds me of what an ex-colleague used to say, in his best Borg impersonation: “We are Microsoft. Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.”

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