Tag Archives: Microsoft

An (upgraded) open letter to Microsoft

Microsoft wait times

Dear Microsoft,

You may recall my last open letter to you – more likely, you don’t. I never received any form of response. Unless, of course, the hasty cancellation of Windows 9/Blue was due entirely to my heartfelt plea to return control of the computer to the User, rather than making it simply a tool for you to impose your will upon? Thought not.

I came to grips with Windows 8.1 in the end, you know, making it do as much as 7 used to. Most of my peripherals adapted or died off, and I found a way to view all the files I had stored. And when Windows 10 was announced, I was actually quite enthusiastic about the chances of interacting with Cortana, with having a PC platform that might, perhaps, make the experience of owning a Windows phone more enjoyable, or convenient. Sure, I worried a little that some of my programs (not apps, please) might not run well, but I figured I could adapt enough to counter your intransigence.

There was a long wait, here in my part of British Columbia. I watched friends around the world downloading and installing, and heard various shrieks of horror or hums of approval. I still wasn’t discouraged, and when I finally got the nod (well, strictly speaking, I never ACTUALLY received notification that I could start the download – I did one of my daily checks and found it was ready…) I hit the install button with hardly a qualm.

The installation took a while, but that was no surprise. I wangled my way through the menus, selecting and unselecting, reminding you again and again that you collecting my data was a choice I should be making, not one you make for me. Targeted advertising is not a benefit for me, you understand, it’s a benefit for the advertiser. I know I haven’t caught all the permissions. I know there are a bunch hidden away that allow you to do all kinds of data harvesting, and I know this because if there weren’t you would have put them all in one convenient place, instead of scattering them through settings and setup and a bunch of other places. Microsoft, you have become a politician, lying by omission and presenting a false face. That’s pretty bad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Anyway, Windows 10 works. I still have all my old emails, still have my old calendar, can still find my photos, my documents. All the programs I use on a daily basis seem to work just fine. Except for one tiny, tiny thing.

When I go to save a file, the computer tells me I don;t have permission. because every day, when I turn on the computer, ALL THE FOLDERS have their permissions reset to “Read only”. Every single one. I know this because every single day I have to reset the permissions on any folder I want to use. I am the only registered user on the computer. I am, as far as I can tell, The Administrator. But every day Windows locks me out of my own folders. Why?

Well, Microsoft, that’s a good question. It’s a question I’d like to ask you. Today I went back through your “Contact me” page for the hundredth time. Look, I get it. You’re just rolling out the biggest software upgrade in History. You’re trying to help everyone get on board with Windows 10 and you’d really like to weed out the ones who just want to change their lock screen back to their photo of Miggsy the Hamster, or the ones who can’t find their passwords anymore and so on. I understand why I keep getting booted back to the same FAQ screen, but I really, really want an answer to this because it is making my working day HARDER. I have upgraded the software and it is making my work more difficult. This is not how it should go.

I have used Windows for a long time, and I am barely more than competent. I CAN change these permissions to use the folders. I know where to go to do that. I don’t know where to go to stop your upgraded OS from changing them back again. I don’t know why it’s doing it, I don’t know why it started, whether it will stop, or who can help me if you won’t. Unfortunately, I don’t ave 336 minutes to sit here and wait for your poor chat line operator to tell me he doesn’t know why that’s happening either.

I’m not giving up. I’ll keep looking for a solution, and looking for a way to contact you that will actually result in contact. If you could be ready with an answer for me, that would be cool.

Oh, and it would be nice if I’d known ahead of time that Cortana would NOT be available to Canada until some-undisclosed-time-in-the-future. It would definitely have affected my decision to go ahead with the install this early. I realised we’re not as technologically advanced as the Spanish or French here in BC, and our accents can make us tricky to understand. I just wonder if the folks in the Microsoft building downtown in Vancouver have Cortana as part of their Windows 10?

Anyway, thanks for your time. I’m sure you’ll read this when you’re sifting through my drafts folder for information to sell to advertisers.


Dear Microsoft (an open letter)

I’ve been a Windows user since Windows 95. Though I’ve had the chance to work on Macs and enjoyed them, they’ve never been the logical choice for my home computer. I’ve written dozens of plays and a few ebooks on PCs, and I store all my music and photos on one.

Like of a lot of people who are users but not programmers, I hate upgrades. I want my computer to be fast again, want it to work without making all those groaning noises, but a new machine will always mean a new version of Windows, and I’ll have a steep learning curve again. This time it was the big step from Windows Seven to Windows 8.

The salesman was good, and encouraged me to get a touchscreen machine. This would make navigating the start screen much easier. He enthused about the various features of 8, and how they were fun and intuitive.

I don’t want to complain about the setup of 8. It was easy to find the way to revert to desktop and have the machine look very like my old computer. What I want to talk about is the issue of choice and control.

In the early days, a big feature of Windows was the ability to customise. You could choose your colour scheme, your background, alter your screensaver, rename folders…. It was as if you were in charge of your machine. Windows provided the architecture, but you could arrange the interior and exterior of your house as you saw fit.

As I went through the setup process for Windows 8, I began to wonder whose machine this was. I couldn’t assign my own password for sign in, I had to sign in with my Windows Live id. The only use I have for my Windows Live id is confirming that it is ME buying the new application or music or whatever. But YOU, Microsoft, want me to use it to tell everyone everything about my life. You want me to have a profile, to automatically link up to Live every time I want to play a game and broadcast scores and “achievements” across the web.

Sometimes, I play games. But when I do, it’s because I want to play a game. I don’t want to send that news to my friends and family. I would love the ability to play these games without being connected to Windows Live, but you know what Microsoft? You’ve made it so that some of these games won’t save my progress unless I’m signed in. If I want to play the game without starting from the beginning every time, I have to sign in to Windows Live. And that makes me think this isn’t MY game, this isn’t MY computer, it’s yours. Your rules.

I live in Canada, and my parents live in the UK. We talk by Skype every week, and it’s great for them to see my family as we grow and change, and wonderful for us to see them. Setting up Windows 8, I was asked to activate the Skype app. And then I was told I would have to change my Skype password to my Windows Live id sign in. Have to. Because this isn’t MY computer, this isn’t MY application, it’s YOURS.

I understand that some people do live their lives on the internet, that they fill out every section of their profiles on Facebook, post pictures of every meal and update their location wherever they go. I understand that some people want the validation of their friends being told their high scores, or that they just bought a certain track. I don’t mind that kind of functionality being built in to Windows. It’s wonderful that we live in a time where these things are possible.

What I would like is the control. The option to opt out. Just a radio button somewhere that’s easy to find, something that lets me choose what I update others about, when I play games and where I save progress.

I’d like this to be my computer again.

An open letter seems a little daft, a little desperate, but I’ve tried approaching large companies like Microsoft and Amazon with general comments before. Their Customer Care sections are not set up for queries and comments like this. If you find a “Contact Us” page, your comment is subject to a series of drop down menus that gradually filter you out of the system unless you’re looking for a technical or financial answer.

I don’t expect Microsoft to answer me, or change the way they work. Like many other big companies, the service they offer their consumers is geared towards providing them with more information to generate more business opportunities, not provide a better service for the customer. As time goes by, I’m sure newer versions of Windows will appear that have many, many more “options” that cover the fact that we’re being gently herded into fewer and fewer actual choices, and handing over more and more control and information.