Pop Quiz: When Is An Error Message Not An Error Message?

Answer: when it is a complete and utter pack of lies.

Yes, this is about Microsoft. How did you guess?

Back in 2012, after an Apple Time Capsule I’d previously purchased decided to die on me, I got serious about my data and purchased a QNAP TS459 Pro II NAS box. This turned out to be such a wise investment that I subsequently purchased a larger TS-670 and now use that as my “main” network storage device, with the original serving as a “daily backup” server for critical files, with a 7-generation set of backup scripts running at 02:00 every morning…

Peachy.

Except. Any time I try and open any Microsoft Office file that has macros in it, where that file is stored on a NAS, I get a little “warning strip” with a scary-looking message about the dangers of macro viruses. Never used to. This is another one of those Microsoft “improvements”.

Because I can just click the “OK” button and make the problem go away, I’ve ignored it for a while. This might have something to do with my reporting the issue to Microsoft [when I upgraded to Office 2016 for the princely sum of £389] and being told that although they couldn’t offer me the solution for free, I could buy the fix off of them.

Wait, what? No. Just: no.

Being a stubborn so-and-so, I’ve been returning to this problem from time to time, trying to figure out what needs to be done to fix it. This evening I was trawling the web, looking for suggestions, when I found this thread. Buried in there was a post from “philbo2112” [obviously a keen Rush fan] who suggested that the problem could be fixed by right-clicking on Access and selecting “Run as Administrator”.

Well, not quite. However, after doing this and then attempting once more to navigate my way through the Office “Trust Center” and “Trusted Locations”, I discovered that, as “Administrator”, I was no longer able to “see” my network-mapped drives that connect my desktop to my NAS boxes…

Meh. I’ll just use Network Browse and go in that way… And – there was the solution to the problem. Going in “the long way”, revealed that CIFS required the full [canonical?] path name of

\\NAS1\Public\Data\Office Files\

when, of course, Windows Explorer would show the exact same thing as

\\NAS1\Data\Office Files\

The “name of the share” [i.e. “Public”] is “lost” by Windows Explorer once the mapping is made. So… it turns out that all I had to do was hand-hack the path name back to the fill value and that looks to have solved the problem.

Clearly, the programmer[s] who wrote “Windows Explorer” felt they were being helpful by hiding/masking the name of the network share to which my network drive was being mapped. The programmer[s] who wrote the code for Office Trust Center were somewhat more pedantic and wanted the full network path to be explicitly recorded.

If these two products had been written by different vendors, you could sort-of understand how this might have happened. [i.e. because the OS vendor had failed to give clear guidelines on the mapping of network file systems.] But when the programmers for Office and Windows both work for Microsoft, this is inexcusable.

Idiots.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Amazon Parcel Shipping Announcements

On April 2nd this year, I ordered a copy of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on Bluray.

At 14:17 on Sunday April 8th, I received notification that it had shipped, via Amazon’s own, in-house courier service.

At noon on Monday April 9th, I checked the delivery status via the Amazon ordering page and was told that the parcel was out for delivery and would be with me by 20:00. I checked again at 19:55 – just 5 minutes before the deadline and was able to confirm that it was still expected.

At 20:05 (and, largely curious to see if stepping past the anticipated delivery date would cause anything to happen with the shipping details) I checked again. I was told that the parcel was now still in transit, but that Amazon were “sorry” that it was delayed and that if it had not arrived by Thursday, I should contact them for assistance. Uh-uh. Where’s my parcel?

So I contacted a representative via a chat window. Top tip – if you ever have to contact Amazon, use a chat window. You will get the chance to receive an email copy of the entire transcript – which is useful evidence.

As to be expected, the loyal Amazon helper fell over himself to apologise – and did really well. To be fair, this was a rather unusual event. However, coming hot on the heels of some flat out lying and deceptive practices from Amazon regarding a printer order, I was inclined to be careful… This was what I got from the Amazon helper:

Please allow me to explain what seems to have happened. We do our best to ensure that all orders are delivered by the date provided when you place your order, but occasionally due to the volume of orders dispatched, there are rare occasions when a carrier receives an order that wasn’t originally assigned to them. However, we still expect your order to arrive as expected.

Be assured, this is not an common occurrence and our transportation team is working hard to eliminate these issues and continually monitor instances like this.”

When I expressed relief that the helper suggested the parcel would arrive on Tuesday April 10th, I got a bit of a surprise:

I don’t want to set any false expectation to your but as the parcel arrive to the carrier facility which was not assign to the order so there might be 1-2 days of delay as we have to ask the carrier to locate your parcel which takes 1-2 days.”

Wait, what? What’s this “locate my parcel” lark? You’ve just spent 10 minutes telling me that the parcel is with the courier and is in the van that delivers to my local area. So there was quite a bit more bluff and bluster about how everything was all in hand, but, basically, that was it.

Or was it? Take a look at the photograph, below, which is the shipping envelope in which it arrived today… See the dispatch date, at the top? “09/04”. Monday. [You might notice I’ve blanked the delivery address, just for the sake of privacy…]

So all that lovely detail about how it had been dispatched on Sunday morning was just complete fabrication. Typical.

Bastards.

A Question of Earth-Shattering Importance

This last weekend I met some friends for lunch. Over a fantastic afternoon, one of the topics that came up for discussion was the movie “Blade Runner 2049“, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.

This led to the supremely important question from the original movie: Is Deckard (Harrison Ford’s Character) a Replicant?

Spoiler Alert:

In narrow, simplistic terms: yes, yes he is. But – it’s just a tad more complex than that.

Before we dive in to the complexity, however, here’s a brief explanation – and proof – that the above statement is at least partially true. In a televised interview, made after the release of BR2049, Ridley Scott explicitly confirms that the “movie version” of Deckard is a Replicant.

He explains that in the middle of the film there is a scene in which Deckard sits at a piano, in his apartment, where he dreams. The dream sequence is of a verdant, grassy meadow with a unicorn galloping gently towards the camera.

Then, in the closing scene of the film, where Deckard is “escaping” with Rachael, we see him scout the way as he escorts her to the elevator in his apartment building. He turns back to check that they are alone and spots a tiny origami unicorn, placed on the floor just outside Deckard’s apartment. At that moment we hear Gaff (the always-awesome Edward James Olmos) calling out as if from a distance, “It’s a pity she won’t live!”

The first scene mentioned here clearly shows the view that Deckard is experiencing a dream. The second also shows us that Gaff knows the content of the dream and has found a way to let Deckard “know that he knows”. Obviously, the only way that Gaff could know about Deckard’s dream would be if Deckard were a Replicant. Earlier in the movie the viewer is given another example of this – when Deckard applies the Voight-Kampf test to Rachael, they discuss her dream about the spiders – a “memory” implanted in Rachael but which Deckard had been briefed on. The unicorn dream is the same approach applied to Deckard and Gaff.  Given the perceived threat of rogue Replicants, it’s conceivable that Gaff would at some point have been asked to “retire” Deckard – the origami unicorn at the apartment was Gaff’s way of saying, “Get out of here – scram – I’m not going to ‘retire’ you…”

 

All of which – but in particular Ridley’s comments in the linked YouTube clip, give us a very definitive answer – for the movies. However, that’s not the whole story.

Blade Runner itself [the original] was based on a book, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”,  by Philip K. Dick. In the book, at least, this question was never definitively resolved. The origami we see in the film was a device added to the story, by Scott, with the specific intention of answering this question – but in a really subtle way.

I am still searching for a quotation from Philip K. Dick on the subject and will update this post if I find one I can link to.

Was Deckard a Replicant or a human? Yes, he was definitely one of those.