Archive for June, 2012

Dear Microsoft –

Well, my old ThinkPad laptop finally got too long in the tooth to be useful, so I bought my first PC with Windows 7 installed.  Wow, what a difference.  Now I finally understand those “Windows 7 – it was my idea!” ads you were running awhile back.

I sell a software system I designed to law firms, so I was already aware of some of the fabulous Windows 7 features.  I want to thank you for those, because they keep me busy.  Once my clients started switching to Windows 7, I went from almost never receiving tech-support calls to receiving them on a regular basis.  That’s when first discovered that you had incorporated one of my favorite ideas:

When an installation program creates a new folder and writes files to that folder, the files should all default to being read-only with permissions denied to everyone.

“This is Tom Naughton, may I help you?”

“Yes, I’m trying to attach the database, and I know I’m doing it exactly like you showed in the tutorial, but I keep getting an access-denied message.”

“Hmm, let’s fire up TeamViewer so I can see your system.  Okay, the database files are in the correct folder … the script is pointing to that folder … what the? … Let me look at the permissions … Oh, boy, everything is set to read-only and permissions are denied to everybody.  You have to manually grant yourself permissions on the database files.”

“I have to give myself permission to use the database files I installed on my own PC?”

“Yes.”

“I have no idea how to do that.”

“Well, you right-click the files, then choose Properties, then Security, then you have to click the Continue button, then … ah, never mind, I’ll do it for you.  Let me take control for a few minutes.”

I never got that call when my clients were using Windows XP, and I have to tell you, it’s great to get to actually talk to so many of them on the phone.  With email and Facebook and Twitter and all that, people just don’t spend enough time actually talking.

Here’s another one of my ideas I already knew you had incorporated:

Some common folders should be automatically marked read-only, and when users de-select the read-only option, the folder should remain read-only even after they click the Apply button — with no warning that the read-only setting wasn’t removed, of course.

I learned about that terrific feature when I started hearing from clients that they could no longer use the mail-merge feature of my software.  As per your instructions, my software installs itself in the Program Files directory.  It’s been doing that for several years without creating any problems.

So you can imagine my surprise when (after several hours of detective work) I realized the mail-merges were failing because sub-folders created within the Program Files directory are read-only and – this is the fun part – that setting can’t be changed by anyone!  Since my software could no longer create a mail-merge data file in a permanently read-only folder, the merges failed.

Brilliant!  What kind of crazy software program would ever need to write a data file inside one of its own folders?  You must have had countless software vendors beg for that read-only feature – because again, that gives us the opportunity to spend time on the phone with our clients as we walk them through moving a program out of the Program Files folder.

But I didn’t realize just how many great ideas you incorporated into Windows 7 until I bought my own Windows 7 PC and started trying to install software.  I know from working in corporate environments that the corporate IT people in charge of PC security believe the ideal computer is one that doesn’t allow anyone to actually do anything (we all stay out of trouble that way), but I didn’t expect you’d apply that philosophy to an operating system with “HOME” in the version name.  Pure genius.

I really appreciate the multiple warnings whenever I try to do something that would make the computer useful.  For example, I double-click an installation program, select “I agree” on the license-agreement screen, enter my serial number, and then – BANG! – up pops a dialog box:

A program is attempting to make changes to your computer.  Do you want to allow this?

Thank goodness for that feature.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally double-clicked an installation file, agreed to a license and entered a serial number, only to discover to my great horror that this series of inadvertent mouse-clicks and keystrokes was about to make changes to my computer.  Always being given another chance to correct this situation was my idea.

And I especially appreciate the constant warnings that only an Administrator can do whatever it is I’m about to do.  Sure, I made myself an all-powerful Administrator on the PC immediately, but the ego-boost was disappointly brief.  So I enjoy being reminded of my lofty position when I’m presented with frequent dialog boxes that say, in effect:

Only someone in the powerful role you already occupy can do this.  Click OK to continue, Oh Mighty One.

That was definitely my idea … as was this one:

When people logged into the PC as an Administrator copy files from a backup drive, they should have to go through several steps to grant themselves permission to use the files before actually using them.

Again, even with an operating system clearly named as the “HOME” version, you can’t be too cautious about security.  Just because you’re an all-powerful Administrator, that doesn’t mean you should start accessing files willy-nilly without having to take a moment and reconsider whether or not you want to give yourself permission to do so.  You may just decide you’re not trustworthy and refuse to grant yourself access.

It was also my idea to keep Administrators on their toes by making them consciously run installation programs as an Administrator even though they’re already logged in as an Administrator.  You’d be surprised how often Administrators get lackadaisical about this.

Just today, for example, I was attempting to install a package of programming tools, only to see the installation roll back time after time after the progress bar had reached 90%.  So I had to get on the phone and call a tech-support person (who no doubt appreciated the opportunity to talk to someone for a change).

“Oh, in Windows 7 you have to install that package using Administrator privileges, or it will fail.”

“But I am an Administrator.”

“Yes, but if you just double-click the .exe, you’re not installing it with Administrator privileges.”

“Say what?  I am the Administrator.”

“I know, but instead of double-clicking the .exe you have to right-click it and choose Run As Administrator.”

“So I’m the Administrator, I’m logged in as the Administrator, but if I just run the installation program, I’m not installing it as an Administrator?”

“That’s right.  You have to choose to do that by right-clicking and then clicking Run As Administrator.  Otherwise you’re not installing as an Administrator.”

“Even though I am the Administrator?”

“That’s right.”

“Who the @#$% thought that was a good idea?”

Then I remembered:  I did.

Windows 7 … it was my idea.

Thank you, Microsoft.

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