My upgrade to OS X "Lion"

For those of us who live on Apple-brand devices, there’s rarely an OS release that goes by without a rush of excitement that should normally require followups with a physician. While the majority come in the iOS (read: iPhone, iPod, iPad) space, there are the odd ones that come out for the desktop hardware.
One such example is the recent OS X “Lion” release, hailed by Apple as the next coming of operating systems, and anyone foolish enough not to install it might as well ship themselves off to a leper colony. Of course, anyone who has done systems support in their life (i.e. me) knows that upgrading to any “new” OS just begs for things to go wrong.
Which is why I volunteered to be a guinea pig.
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Greed kills innovation

I was sitting at my kitchen table, poring over recommendations I’m writing for my client (partially communicative, partially CYA), when I had one of those sudden thoughts: I need tea.  While I was drinking my tea — a pomegranate green tea, if you must know — I had one of those epiphanal moments when something becomes radically clear.
Greed kills innovation.
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sure to raise the ire of a lot of people, but it’s also a major problem we’re seeing lately, especially in internet technologies. It’s a problem that’s dogged humanity for generations. And it’s getting worse.
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Copyrights are the new Colonialism

The late 16th Century was the dawn of the British Empire. England had triumphed on the seas, and had set its eyes on colonising the New World (before its enemies did). Patents were issued, companies were founded, and flotillas of ships dispatched to every corner — known and unknown — of the planet in the name of Queen/King and country. Colonies were born out of determination, slavery, and blood extracted from those too weak to defend themselves from British will.
In time, a phrase was born: The sun never sets on the British Empire. Great Britain’s influence extended far beyond its native shores, its power unquestionable. A few thrived under the colonial system, but the majority — the people living under colonial rule — were marginalised as being little more than the ignorant masses; significant numbers suffered horribly.
It’s really no wonder that the Empire collapsed under its own weight.
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The "Power" of Word in Outlook

You may have come across a URL for a webpage that is (effectively) building a petition to Microsoft to correct HTML support in Outlook — and if you haven’t, just click on the link. The petition’s purpose is quite simple: Please, Dear Microsoft, replace the HTML rendering present in Microsoft Outlook 2010 with something better.
Microsoft, to their credit, has seen this petition and has authored their own response: The Power of Word in Outlook.  The sad reality is that, even though written by William Kennedy,  Corporate Vice President, Office Communications and Forms Team, that  team has completely missed the point of the petition.
And it raises the question: Why is Microsoft — yet again — refusing to listen to the people who know best? Not the developers of a system, but its users.
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Why the right tools matter

A few years ago, I went off to Japan to visit my friend Chris. I took along my (at the time) fancy digital camera: a Canon Pro 90 IS. Fancy in that it was big mega-pixels (for the time) and had an image stabiliser built-in (that’s what the “IS” stands for). Like I do now, I used it to document the heck out of my trip.
One thing Canon had on its prosumer cameras at the time that they took out of the DSLR line was the panorama assist mode (I don’t think it exists in any of their models now — does it?). A handy feature, it let you create panoramic views by being able to line up your previous shot. Then you used some included software, and BOOM!, you had a panorama.
Or that’s how it was supposed to work.
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Why I pick on Microsoft

You’ve probably noticed a few posts about Microsoft on this site. Most of them are rants. And, indeed, there are those who’ve noticed me picking on Microsoft on Experience Matters as well. (Certainly, Neil‘s noticed it and taken me to task on that.)
But I don’t do it for the sake of doing it. Ranting (bitching, complaining, whatever you want to call it) is pointless without reason. And it’s only with a bit of retrospect that I’ve come to the root of my problem with Microsoft.
In short, Microsoft doesn’t suck. But it could be a whole lot better.
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I hate Microsoft Word

[Warning: Objectionable language within.]
I can’t really think of much more frustrating than to find out that two days — 16 hours of hard thinking — has suddenly vanished before your eyes. Not because someone stole your work (though I admit that would be very troubling) or because of something you’ve done yourself.
It’s because Microsoft Word decided to “forget” all the changes I’d made — and saved — effectively erasing everything I’ve done.
No history, trace, or anything.
This is not the first time I’ve run into issues with Microsoft Word. I’ve hated this software for a very long time. I used to be a Technical Writer in a previous life. I used to find all sorts of annoying formatting bugs that would continually stump even the Development Engineers.
This is far from annoying. I want to fucking kill someone. I don’t work without saving. And it’s all gone.
Hey Ballmer — here’s a thought: You want to rant against all the open source software out there? You want Microsoft to be the big, shining star of the software world?
Then get your shit together and writing a fucking word processor that doesn’t delete my fucking work.

Will Microsoft ever admit that Vista was a bad idea?

It takes a big person to admit that they’ve made a mistake. Companies, regardless of how large they become, were reticent until recent years to come clean with their blunders.
Microsoft ain’t one of them. They still think Vista is good. And why not — they’ve sold 60 million licenses for it. But I’d be really curious to know how many of those people would have preferred Windows XP.
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Aunt Brenda's birthday and my hatred of Microsoft Word

The weekend past was the August long weekend. Well, it was the long weekend for most people. For me, it was one of three things: painting the house, spending time with family, or being at work.
Four things, if you count sleeping.
Mom arrived in town Wednesday afternoon. Her arrival was what had fuelled my desire to paint the house. The idea was to have the whole thing painted in time for her arrival. Yeah, my ambition’s pretty sizeable. I figure: Go big, or go home. I might have made it, had it not been for a couple of work-related things that came up and threw me off-target for time.
Wednesday night I spent with Mom, Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Jen. Thursday night was here at the office, dealing with project work. For the first time since I started doing overtime at Critical Mass (on my second day on the job — see [[My First Entry from Critical Mass]]), I wasn’t programming. I was doing the things I used to do before I came to Critical Mass: document editing and formatting (and a little writing and editing).
What was I working on? We’re doing the single largest pitch in the history of Critical Mass. And I can’t tell you who it’s for, so don’t ask. All I can tell you is that if we do win it, the contract will fundamentally change Critical Mass. It’s that big.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t I Mercedes-Benz Boy? I’m still working on our single largest account, no worries about that. But it’s been a slow year for us, and I had the opportunity to contribute. I also offered to assist with the document construction.
Why did I do that? Well, for those of you who know what I used to do, it’s probably a bit of a surprise. For those of you who don’t, allow me to tell you why I’m a web developer. After graduating university, I became a Technical Writer (something I’d started doing on co-op work terms). I did technical writing for six years in total. Towards the end, I hated it so much I sometimes felt like a coyote caught in a trap, and wanted to gnaw my own hands off.
While at Radical Entertainment, I started pushing myself more towards web development. I’d already been doing it for a number of years, so it wasn’t that big a stretch. Owing to a need to leave Vancouver, I came here. Based on a recommendation from my friend Scott, I applied at Critical Mass and the rest is history. But what isn’t commonly known is that while I was waiting for word from Critical Mass about my position, I was actively avoiding several technical writing positions.
That’s how much this pitch means to Critical Mass. That’s how much I was driven to go back to doing what I used to do. That’s how I ended up in the office on Thursday night, most of Saturday, and all of Monday (8:00 to well after 22:00).
That’s how I remembered how much I hate Microsoft Word.
Friday night was the first of what will likely be many family dinners while Mom is out visiting. (Not that I’m complaining in any way.) But it was Saturday that was the big event — the birthday party for my Aunt Brenda. I won’t tell you how old she is, but it’s the one that causes people to put 50 pink flamingos on your front lawn.
It was supposed to be a surprise party. It was supposed to be a grand little affair where we get her to scream in delight, etc. But I seem the only living person in my family able to organize these things without the guests of honour finding out. Aunt Brenda almost planned her entire party. Were it not for me being a royal pain-the-ass, she would have spent a good portion of it in the kitchen preparing food. I started banning her from the kitchen.
It wasn’t easy, either. Aunt Brenda’s kitchen is a magnet for her. Every time I turned my back, she was back in there. I actually uttered: “Don’t make me come in there!”
She did.
I ended up finally kicking her out and handling the things she would have done, like making the best darn corn bread on the planet. It’s a heart attack in a pan, but it’s worth the potential coronary. I have *got* to get that recipe one of these days.
The next day, I woke up a little early (for a weekend) to resume painting. It’s finally cooled off a bit, and it allowed me to tackle painting the front of the house — the only side I wanted to do before Mom saw the house. (I still have to do the west wall, but you can’t see it unless you’re in my neighbour’s yard.) I even got several of the windows finished up.
Painting a house can be a bit of a Zen thing. (“Zen and the Art of Decorative Trim”?) I’ve had several people tell me that it might be great to have tunes blaring while slapping down a coat of paint. I have yet to have a radio turned on. And when I’m using the paint sprayer, I can’t hear anything else.
House painting, in some ways, returns you to your youth. Especially when you use latex paints. It doesn’t stick to glass, plastic, or skin. It makes you feel like that creepy kid in second grade who put Elmer’s Glue all over their hands so they could peel it off like a layer of skin. It’s especially fun in the shower. Doesn’t matter how dried the paint is — a little warm water and soap, and *poof* there’s a clump of sloughed-off paint skin on the shower floor.
Mom, Aunt Brenda, and Jen appeared around 14:00. Mom was being dropped off while the other two checked out “Johnny English”. Mom, Tamara and I chatted in the backyard for a while, listening to some jerk across the alley scream his head off at another tenant about unpaid bills and broken windows. It was an argument I wasn’t particularly interested in listening to, but had little choice.
Mom half-guilted me into cleaning up the yard a bit while we sat out back. Mostly cutting back all the suckers growing from two trees and the lilac bush. Admittedly, though, it did look better. Then it was back to painting.
As Sunday was Aunt Brenda’s actual birthday, we all went out for dinner at a nice homey Italian restaurant along 17th Ave., Buon Giorno. Definitely not the swankiest restaurant in Calgary, but they make a good meal. Try the scallops — their chef cooks them to absolute perfection.
My cell phone rang at 7:33 Monday morning. It was Chicago. Although I’d been on call all weekend, this was *the* call I’d been expecting. I was in the office 10 minutes later and editing. I had hoped to paint that morning. No matter. The worst that would happen was I’d be editing until 16:00, at which time the documents were off to Kinko’s for copying.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
The morning was sheer chaos and panic, especially when I saw the state of the appendix. It would take a phone call with Heather to put my mind at ease, especially when I realized that not everything in the appendix was supposed to be formatted.
More problems with Word trying to do things I didn’t want it to do. These are problems that Microsoft has never removed. And before you go saying: “Must be a problem with the user”, when I first detected them with Word 97, I stumped the tech support guys in Redmond, WA who were unable to solve the problem. You’d think after six years, they’d fix the damn thing.
Final call came sometime after 22:00 last night. I was tired. I hadn’t felt that tired as a result of office work in a very long time. But the pitch is off to the hopeful client-to-be. Now we just have to wait a half a month to find out if they want to take us to the second round or not. I hope there’s not as much pressure as the first round.
My idea of pressure on the second round is the kind sealed by bottle cap.