That’s Not A Bug, It’s a Feature (But We’ll Charge You To “Fix” It)

So the trials and tribulations [and costs] of being a Microsoft customer continue unabated…

Having now purchased my second copy of Office, [quick recap: purchased a copy of 2013 Professional from Amazon last October, turned out the seller illegally copied the license key and re-used it; license got revoked, yours truly left £235 out of pocket] which cost me the delightful sum of £389 in download-only form from the Microsoft store, plus the £199 cost of the Windows 10 OS to run it on, my recent tech expenditure (with Microsoft alone) now sits at the not unimpressive total of £825, give or take.

And we’re off…

Err, no. In looking for help with a technical issue, I stumble across the fact that Office 2016 is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. The latter runs faster, handles larger files than the former. A quick check and I establish that I’ve been given the 32-bit version, even though I’m running the 64-bit OS. Duh? I call Microsoft Support and spend 30 minutes discussing the issue with the Help Desk person, pointing out that the on-line store does not give me any choice between which version to download. I’m asked to link into a chat window, at which point the technician shares a link with me [that could have been sent via email] to a 64-bit downloader. I’m instructed to un-installed the previous edition, then re-install using the new downloader. OK, having overcome that…

I try and load in an Access database that was stored on my NAS box. Except I get a new error message, “SECURITY WARNING – Some active content has been disabled. Click for more details.” And, on digging further, I discover that a new feature of Office 2016, the “Trust Centre” basically treats any file not on the actual hard drives of the actual computer on which office is running – to be hostile. So if – like me – you have a small personal NAS box that grants a network share that a Windows computer can map to… well, you’re sh1t out of luck, sunshine. I resort to Google and various web pages. Like this one. Now, if you follow that link, you will see that it takes you to a Microsoft-hosted help page for Office 2016, explaining how to set up “Trust Locations”.

Brilliant, sorted…

Err, no. You see, none of that information actually works. It does absolutely nothing. Nor do any of the other pages Microsoft host, nor the 20 or so pages from various third parties that I explored in search of a fix. Um… So, back on to Microsoft’s support line. I explained that something that used to work perfectly with an earlier version of Office has stopped working. I explained that I had followed all of the on-line Microsoft advice [because this is the 21st century and Microsoft don’t ship manuals any more, not even PDF copies. Oh no, if you want a *book* you can buy that separately]. I got put on to a technician, who had me spend an hour trying various solutions. Nope. So the person offered to get back to me. I subsequently received an email with a link to a page I’d already found, tried and discounted. Microsoft sent me a “Did we fix your problem?” survey form. I gave a polite reply, to “Liz”. Received an email in response, and sent a much more detailed explanation of the issue. Today, I received a call from “Liz”, wanting to put me through to a “Tier 2” support person. So I was handed across to “Catrina”, who was desperate to help fix my issue. For two minutes.

At that point Catrina announced that this was a “complex issue” and “not covered” by the basic help desk. But I should worry not, because she would be only too pleased to walk me through a process of getting Tier 3 help from a product specialist. Wait, what? You mean *you’re not* a product specialist? Apparently not. Her job, it seems, was to listen to my fault description, tell me it was complicated, then direct me to a web page from which I could *buy more Professional Support* from Microsoft. Wait, what?

Let’s get this straight…

1. I want to load an Access Database from a network drive. I’ve been doing this for years, and it has worked for years, without any issues.
2. I upgrade to Office 2016, and now the process of loading a network-hosted file generates a warning/error message.
3. I follow *all* the on-line Microsoft documentation, but the problem is not resolved. [In other words, the documentation is defective].
4. I call in for help, asking why this “upgrade” has broken something that used to work, and if someone can please tell me how to configure the new product to not throw up this error…
5. I am told that Microsoft will be happy to help me, but *at a cost for professional services support*.

Um. Let’s get this right. I had an Office Product that worked. I upgraded to a later edition, which broke normally acceptable practices, (like loading a ####ing file) and now I have to *pay you* to fix this?

How do you spell shake-down? Why does this feel like the digital equivalent of having a “visit” from a couple of extremely large gentlemen who want me to buy their insurance policy so that “something bad” doesn’t happen? With us entering the world of “automatic updates” [that can no longer be disabled or tested], there is nothing stopping an unscrupulous vendor from using this to extort money from clients by randomly “breaking things” and then charging to fix them?

Absolutely ####ing disgusting.

£825 of Microsoft product spend in the last 2 months, and they want me to spend more money to fix a problem they caused, and for which their own published documentation simply doesn’t work? Why, how very convenient.

Does anyone know when “negligence” and “incompetence” stop and “extortion” begins?


Your Review Has Been “Moderated” …

As discussed in the previous post, I recently found myself in the rather difficult position of having been ripped off by an Amazon reseller and – as a result – of being down one licensed copy of Microsoft Office.

Now, I’m not Microsoft’s biggest fan; I use their technology where I have to, but no more than that. However, I also respect copyright, so having been disenfranchised one copy of Office, I decided to purchase myself a shiny new copy of Office 2016 professional… How hard can it be? Here’s the short version: very hard. The installer fights you, the default security settings are completely obtrusive and dysfunctional – and most of what you want or need to do now comes hidden by several layers of menus.

So, somewhat disappointed, I wrote the following review for Microsoft’s own store-front web site:-

Good Basic Features Undone By False Limitations
I’ve been using Office since Version 3.0 (released in 1993). In the 25+ years it has been available, MS have continued to develop and add features to the core toolset, to the point where it has become an incredibly powerful resource. On the whole it does all that you need of an office suite, although since the 2007 release features have become steadily hidden, obfuscated behind “animations” and deep, non-intuitive menus. However, despite all that Microsoft have added, it is the things they take away that define this release… For example, you have *no choice* about where to install it. C: and that’s it. If you are using a small, ultra-fast SSD for your C: drive and
don’t want to spend 3Gb of it on Office? Tough. Or how about if you want to store all your documents on a RAID-5 or RAID-6 NAS box, instead of a local drive? Well, you can, but don’t expect anything with macros to be trusted. And don’t espect the Trust Center to work either. [ Spent a chunk of time on the phone with MS support today –
they couldn’t fix it either]. In summary, then, if you *have* to have MS Office, it’s a rich, solid offering that will do all you want and more. But if you need it to work *your way*; if you expect to find features in logical places; if you want a product that gets on with it instead of cluttering up the place and drowning you in options, you
will be disappointed. Microsoft continue to develop and change Office.

But not all change is progress. This is a solid and well developed solution from a bunch of programmers who don’t live in the real world. If you fit their test model, you’ll do fine. But if your needs are even a little unusual, be very, very careful. £400 is a lot of money to spend on a product that will fight you every step of the way…

Well, funny old thing, I got the following message back from Microsoft after submitting the review:-

“Our staff has read your review and values your contribution even though it did not meet all our website guidelines. Thanks for sharing, and we hope to publish next time!”

Um, OK… but: where are the website guidelines? Hint: they don’t have any… Well, “thanks” Microsoft… for not publishing my review.

Treat The Victim Like A Criminal

In October 2015, I bought myself a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 Professional. From Amazon.

I was doing some Office-related work in my professional life and – despite using Open Source software pretty much exclusively at home – I decided that it would be useful to get some experience – and develop some skills – working with the more arcane features of Microsoft Office.

One month after I installed the product, and my work life changed again, putting the Office activities out of reach for the short term. However, things recently changed again and I returned to the task of installing and configuring Office. Since then, of course, I’d moved from Windows 7 [fast, reliable, safe and relatively privacy-respecting] to Windows 10 [slow, unreliable, sells-your-soul-to-advertisers – and not *remotely* privacy-respecting]. Thus, a new installation of my Office 2013 Pro was called for.

It didn’t work.

Well, it worked, but it refused to activate. I called Microsoft. “Sorry, Sir, but our records show that you have been installing illegal copies of Office. We will not activate that license key.” I tried to explain how that was not the case, how the Microsoft presentation pack, key and DVD had been sitting on a shelf next to my computer since last October. No dice. I offered to bring them all the original materials for them to verify authenticity. Nope. I offered to prepare and send a screen-shot of my Amazon account, showing the purchase. Not interested.

Eventually, I got on the phone to a guy in the UK who explained to me that shortly after my first installation back last year, Microsoft had registered another 25 activations from my license key, from IP addresses all across the UK. This was why they decided to revoke my license. When I explained that I had made a legitimate purchase and had *never* shared my key, I was told, “Yes, Sir. Except that you purchased that software from an Amazon Reseller, not Amazon direct. Likely the reseller stole and then re-used the key.”

“But I received original Microsoft packaging, sealed in cellophane. With a hologram. I come to London quite regularly – if you have an office in town I can bring the media in for someone to inspect if you like…”

“No good Sir. What has happened is that the reseller, a criminal, has purchased a legitimate copy of Office 2013. They have then split open the pack, copied the DVD and the license key, and then re-sealed the pack using a commercial wrapping machine. We cannot help you. Next time, can I suggest that you purchase your software direct from the Microsoft Store? Have a nice day…”

At this point I decided to challenge… “Hang on. If you know that this happens, why don’t you ship your license key information in a tamper-proof form? My bank uses tamper-proof, peel-off labels any time it has to send me a Credit Card PIN Number. Why don’t you do that?”

No answer.

“OK. How about this reseller business? If you know that some resellers are criminals, why don’t you stop using the reseller channel completely?”

No answer.

So I got in touch with the reseller. Explained my predicament…

The reseller was prompt and helpful – and sent me an email that basically tried to get me to go to a “” address and download an office binary, which I was then required to unpack using WinRAR. The same email then included a new Product Key… In other words, the reseller was definitely a criminal. Legitimate providers simply don’t host “downloads” behind a tinyurl – and most absolutely definitely don’t send license keys in unprotected emails…

Back to Microsoft…

“Can you help… This is what I’ve got… I was hoping that in exchange for information leading you to the identification and apprehension of a software thief – someone actively duplicating your product – you might be inclined to re-activate my license key, or give me a new one?”


Way to go, Microsoft. Thanks for treating this victim like a criminal. Thanks for leaving me out of pocket to the tune of £235. Thanks for refusing to help even when I went out of my way to help you identify someone who is clearly defrauding you.