In last month’s Technical Support column, I outlined my concerns regarding the Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage Tool and the effect it’s having on some people’s PCs. I frequently look at the latest betas of major software products because I need to keep in touch with what’s going on and get up to speed quickly once the shipping product hits the shelves – hence, I’m currently testing Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, of which Beta 3 recently shipped. I received an email from Microsoft to say the beta was available, so I toddled off to download it, at which point I was told I couldn’t download it until my copy of Windows had been validated as genuine.
I beg your pardon? You know perfectly well that my copy of Windows is genuine because you’ve installed around nine billion copies of the damned validation tool on it over the last few months – you’re either capable of reading your own installed tools or you’re not, and judging by this you’re not (which makes me wonder why it’s on my system in the first place). I went through the validation process and downloaded the software, but as soon as I ran the installation program, stone me if it didn’t insist on (you’ve guessed it) validating my copy of Microsoft Windows again just to be sure it’s genuine.
Come on guys, wake up, this is way beyond a joke. Either install a validation tool that works and can be read by your own systems for the purposes of validating my system on-the-fly, or else kindly uninstall your validation tool from my systems because it clearly isn’t doing anything useful at all. Oh, and before someone pipes up with “remember this is beta software”, this lunacy now takes place on all downloads, whether they’re beta or not. It’s like the Microsoft Update site insisting on checking whether I have the correct version of the update software on my system before it can even run a check. Why do you need to do that every time? Can’t you just read a Registry value that tells you? It takes ages to decide if all’s well every time. Not impressed.
I do notice, however, that the howls of outrage over what many folk saw as invalid use of the critical/high-priority update systems appear to have reached Microsoft and sunk in. It seems that IE7 is going to be made available as a high-priority update to “help our customers become more secure and up to date”, which can be justified on the grounds that its security enhancements are so significant. However, before people start screaming “foul play”, Microsoft has set this up so that when it first tries to install via Automatic Updates, a welcome screen will appear telling you all about it and you get the choice of “Install”, “Don’t Install” or “Ask Me Later”. Quite what that means for people who have their systems set for hands-off automatic updates will be interesting to see.
On the corporate front, Microsoft has prepared a free IE7 Blocker Toolkit for those who wish to block its automatic installation on an organisation-wide basis, which includes a Group Policy template and an executable script. Download this toolkit now to see how it works, and there’s an FAQ about it at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/server145a.
Two columns ago, I promised to let you know how I got on with my e-learning course on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. I mentioned then that having downloaded the free course from Microsoft and set it up nicely to run in the Offline Player (which runs everything except the labs, for which you have to be online) I made the silly mistake of opting to upgrade the player when the opportunity was presented. The upgrade worked fine inasmuch as it gave me a new version of the player, but for some reason that I still haven’t discovered it was the German language version. It so happens I did learn German when I was stationed there with the Army, but it’s been 22 years since I’ve had to speak it, so I wasn’t exactly pleased. When I finally resolved that situation, I discovered I could no longer see the free course, no matter how many times I downloaded it again, so I had to run the whole course online, which was hardly ideal. However, the online course did work very well, so here’s what I thought of it.