Once again, I’m reminded why I hate Microsoft

I just spent about three hours this morning trying to debug something at work. It turns out the issue shows up in Excel 2003, which our customer is using, but not Excel 2007, which I have on my laptop. This just goes to show you how important it is to mimic the customer’s environment as closely as possible. Anyway, I figured that part out, so now I had to decipher the error message when I tried to open the file in Excel. XML Spreadsheet warning in Table Reason: Bad Value Okay, sounds simple enough. I just have to find the bad value, and fix it. Excel didn’t offer me any advice, so I figured I’d try MSDN, Microsoft’s developer reference. You’d think that, since I was using a Microsoft product on a Microsoft operating system, maybe Microsoft might have some idea what the error message meant. As an aside, can I tell you how frustrating it is to have Excel tell me that the error has been printed to a log file hidden deep inside some Windows hidden temporary directory? Not only does it fail to provide me with a link to the file, but because it’s hidden, I can’t navigate through Windows Explorer, and I have to actually type the file address in manually. I can’t even copy the text from the error window! It’s like someone intentionally made it as hard as possible to look at the log. Anyway, there were ZERO results on MSDN. Zero. I’m forced to conclude that I am the only person who has ever had this problem. There isn’t any other explanation. It’s inconceivable that Microsoft could possibly have just ignored this error message, never once mentioning it anywhere that their vaunted search engine was able to look. It turns out the error was reasonably simple – Excel 2003 only allows 30 values in a sum. It will handle more if you use the range (A1:A40), but you can’t list the cells individually (A1, A2, A3 . . .). Excel 2007 doesn’t have a problem. Interestingly, if you use plus signs instead of the sum function, the limit of 30 goes away. Which is probably how I’m going to work around this. But couldn’t that have been in the error message? “We’re sorry, you can only have 30 cells in a formula”. Look, that was really easy. So, I hope the next person who has trouble deciphering an Excel error message find this post and saves some time. And I hope the people responsible for the idiocy on which I wasted the last three hours are all hit by a bus. Well, not really. Not a real bus. A three hour bus of mental anguish. That sound perfect.

Blackberries are the devil

Sonda lik wrong file FRM svn Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

That’s an email I got from my boss this afternoon. I probably didn’t have to put that second line there – you knew it was from a Blackberry as soon as you read the first line. Now, I’m not bashing my boss. He’s a good guy, and I actually do know what he means by that. His spelling isn’t that great even when he’s got a full size keyboard. And it actually did answer the question I asked. I know everyone bashes the Blackberry. I do, too, although I also really want one. And they can be used for good – I borrowed a friend’s at a bar once to make sure I didn’t have a job interview the next day. That was before I got my current job. Anyway, the problem is that people are lazy. I’ve always found it, not amusing, but interesting that my mom uses complete sentences, proper capitalization, and proper punctuation in ALL instant messages. No one does that. Well, maybe your mom does, I don’t know. I don’t have her on my buddy list. But Blackberries are like the opposite of my mom. Because you’re “on the go”, you can’t spend thirty seconds actually typing out a sentence. It doesn’t take that long. So, next time you send an email, Blackberry or otherwise, take a moment to think. Are you responding to the email, or just making a written record of having received it? If you’re not responding, then don’t bother.

Bite me, Microsoft

The company I work for recently upgraded Outlook Web Access from “borderline intolerable” to “still pretty bad”. It’s still a piece of junk, light years behind Gmail, but it’s an improvement. Until I tried to save an attachment in Firefox. A coworker sent me this PowerPoint about the mortgage crisis. OWA gives you the option to “View as Web Page”. Cool, I thought. I don’t have to save this file to disk and open it. So I did that. It was too slow. The PowerPoint is 45 pages or something, and the page transition time was getting annoying. So I decided to download it after all. I mean, it’s not like hard drive space is at a premium these days. There’s a little hyperlink that says, “MortgageCrisis.pps(2MB)”. So I clicked it. Firefox will generally handle things like that well – if you click a link to a file type it can’t open itself, it gives you the option to open it with a program you have installed, or save it to disk. That’s fine. Not with the new OWA. It just gives me an error message that this type of attachment has to be saved to disk. This is annoying, but not unexpected. Microsoft has never played well with others. So I right-clicked the file to “Save Link As”. None of this should be shocking to anyone who spends a lot of time online. This is where Microsoft punched me in the face. “Save Link As” attempts to save “attachment.ashx” instead of the PowerPoint. For those who don’t know, .ashx files are idiotic proprietary Microsoft script files for handling HTTP requests. It doesn’t matter if that’s Greek to you. The point here is that, once again, Microsoft has decided that the way everyone transmits data on the internet is wrong, and the way to really serve the needs of internet users is rewrite the rules so that nothing else is compatible. There are agreed-upon standards for transmitting data on the internet. Microsoft repeatedly defies them in order to make competing technologies incompatible with Microsoft products. It’s absolutely unconscionable, and one of the primary reasons I switched to Ubuntu Linux as my home operating system. BTW, “unconscionable” is a totally awesome word. It may be Microsoft’s only redeeming quality that they create so many opportunities for me to use it. Well, only redeeming quality other than Bill Gates’ newfound philanthropy. That’s pretty cool, too.

Oops, I broke IE

Oops. I was playing around with CSS last night and never bothered to check the site in Internet Explorer 6. So if you’re using that contemptible piece of junk to view the site, you’re going to see the right sidebar in the wrong place. Unless you’re at work, or somewhere else where you can’t change your browser, you really, really should go get a real browser. I am a huge advocate of Firefox. It is a better browser than IE in almost every way, and it’s free. You should try it. Anyway, I’ll fix the CSS at some point, but it will probably be over the weekend. For now, you’re out of luck.

You suck, Microsoft

Featured Windows Download: Make Documents Readable Anywhere with Docx2Rtf

The latest editions of Microsoft Office might have made some welcome interface and functionality improvements, but the newer .docx file formats can leave your co-workers (and your other computers) struggling to open its files.

I guess my stubborn refusal to run Vista longer than it took to download and burn the Ubuntu 7.1 cd meant that I missed Microsoft’s new file format, .docx.  The above article on Lifehacker about how to deal with it was the first I’d heard of this wonderful, wonderful, super-awesome, customer-focused idea.  I mean, the people who use Office have been just clamoring for a new file format to meet their needs.  Now that most MS Office alternatives can deal pretty well with .doc files, of course we need a new format to once again throw interoperability out the window.

And of course, since so many people use Windows and MS Office, it will become the new standard.  And then the open source community will toil away and update all the software to deal with .docx.  And then Microsoft will undoubtedly come out with some other format, and we’ll start all over again.  I don’t know how this benefits anyone but Microsoft.  It certainly doesn’t help consumers.

I cant show you what we did this weekend

Stupid Comcast. They fixed part of our cable and internet problems. They’re claiming we have a weak signal. But our HD channels are coming in just fine. But we don’t get Comedy Central and the stations that rerun Law and Order: SVU all day, which makes the wife a little salty. And our internet doesn’t work at all. Which means I can’t post the pictures of our progress this weekend to Flickr. So, let me just say that our hallway/art gallery is looking fantastic. And it only took four drill bits and countless trips to Home Depot. We melted a titanium drill bit. I don’t know the chemical properties physical properties (Thanks, non-blogging-scientist-brother-in-law) of titanium, but you get the impression that it’s pretty tough, right? And you figure that melting it would be hard? Turns out it’s not as hard as you might think.

But it’s all finished now. The wife was putting a final coat of paint on this morning, and we’ll hang pictures tonight. Comcast is due back between 5-8PM to give it one more shot, so maybe I’ll even be able to upload pictures. If I do, you’ll get a sneak preview of the color we’re going to paint our bedroom next time we get a weekend with a little free time. I really like the color.


Is this a DC thing?  Every time I hear someone on a Metro loudspeaker mention the Judiciary Square Metro stop, they pronounce it “joo-DISH-oo-wary”.

I don’t often take the Red Line out that way, so I don’t hear it very often.  But today something was going on there, and they made an announcement at Pentagon City while I was waiting for my train.

I’m home early, by the way, because Satan’s Cable Company, Comcast, is supposed to come out again to fix our tv and internet.  I was told the other day that they had to do some work outside, and no one needed to be home.  Apparently that was a lie.

I really hate Comcast.  The service is bad.  I hear they’re much better in Maryland, but in DC the service is not good.  The guy who came to look at our connections the other day was very pleasant, but he couldn’t fix the problem.

Anyway, if there was any real competition in the cable and internet market here, I would switch.  But there currently isn’t.  A neighbor is trying out the DirecTV and Verizon DSL route.  I’m going to have to see how he likes it.  I’ve had bad experiences with satellite tv, and I’m sure Verizon is going to complain if I ask for DSL without a Verizon phone line (Although I think they have to provide it).

So, I’m at home, using my wireless internet card from work.  It’s AT&T, and it works occasionally.  Actually, the card says Cingular on it, but Cingular doesn’t exist anymore.

And now I’m just rambling, which usually means I should just stop and hit “Publish”.  So I think I’ll do that.

Everything is the devil

The Fictional Works of Joseph Shimerdla | Grass is the Devil

Look, You say, “I’m finally done”. But Satan says, “You’ve just begun”

Got a link from fellow Nanoer Joseph Shimerdla, so I thought I’d return the favor.  He got me thinking – how many things really can be the devil? We’ve already established that Internet Explorer is the devil.  It appears that grass is also the devil.  Women, of course.  I believe that at least one person has called George Bush the devil, and he was probably right, although otherwise he’s probably insane. So, the devil doesn’t really make sense if there’s no god.  I mean, if there is a force of pure evil, there must be an opposing force of good, or we’d all be in trouble.  It is widely accepted that the Judeo-Christian God is omnipresent.  Therefore, it is logical to assume that the devil is also omnipresent, or else he would have been kicked to the curb by now.  So we must come to the conclusion that, in fact, ALL THINGS are the devil. That’s either scary or it’s liberating.  Maybe both.