Gang aft agley

I am neither mouse nor man but my plans for the evening did get agley-ayed rather unexpectedly. I was going to eat, and then I was going to play something for a little while; if you’ve got insomnia, you may as well use it by getting some evening playtime in, especially since my early-morning playtime has been nixed by said insomnia. I did the eating part, but the playing part got hijacked. And it’s all Microsoft’s fault; and saying that never gets old.

See, I haven’t had a copy of Office on my machine in several years, because we were too cheap to spring for the Professional copy I kept thinking I needed (I like to play with Access) and too ethical to get hold of a pirated copy. Besides, I’m told MS send black helicopters and licence-ninjas to chop off your ears if you do that.

Yesterday, therefore — and I suspect that only in America (oh well, and Canada) could I have gone to a shop and picked up anything other than spam and a packet of smokes on New Year’s Day — I went to Staples and purchased one of their fine, sale-marked MS Office Home & Student editions. It wasn’t cheap (nothing is when everyone is either half broke or halfway past broke), but it wasn’t horribly expensive and I can actually justify it from a work standpoint. Oh crap! I’m not supposed to use it for business! Is that ninjas I hear?

… False alarm. I installed it, that went well enough, and then I fired it up. And my eyes exploded. This isn’t Office! It’s some newfangled pastel blue thing with no menus where I expect them; with rounded, suspiciously Mac-looking corners, and nothing I recognise! Aaaaaaaaaah! (Note to the Mac aficionados — not counting the Vic20, oops, or the Atari (or was it an Amiga? – the one with the bees) — not counting those, a Mac was my first computer. My grades and those of all my college housemates went up an easy 5% once we started printing out our essays. Just for the record, I like Macs — I just can’t afford ’em.)

At this point I realised I’m getting old. I no longer embrace new software the instant it comes out, I certainly don’t read up on it beforehand, and I don’t even upgrade my machines every 18 months like I used to. Soon enough I’ll be getting a “Smash a cellphone if you’re proud to be a Luddite” bumper sticker.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but the most recent copy of Office I’ve been using is either 2000 or 2003 — whichever looks the most old-fashioned and not like 2007, that’s the one we got on Mort’s machine. Oh wait, it’s 2003, they didn’t even have XP back in 2000. They still used abacuses (abacii?) and string back then. It looked just fine to me, worked just fine, and since it hadn’t changed all that much in a decade plus of use I knew the damned software (especially Word) inside-out; hell, I used to train people in it.

I backed off in slack-jawed shock for the rest of the evening… and then spent today warily poking around to see what this new beast can do, under the guise of working (I did get some done; not much, but some). It’s slick. It’s actually quite nice. Word still handles graphics and proper element-based layout about as well as a rottweiler could give a haircut, but that’s what PowerPoint is for when you don’t have PageMaker (ahem — or whatever it is cool kids use for page layout these days). As far as work goes, it’ll do, since that’s mostly just text; there’s a little too much of the “heyyyy, aren’t I slick?” Office-Fonz thing going on, but give me a few weeks and I won’t even remember the old interface. Give me a month and I’ll probably resent having to use the old, crap Office version on Mort’s machine. Proto-Luddite I may be, but I still adapt pretty fast.

Here’s the thing: I can’t decide whether I’m hip– err, cool and down with it to be spending a few hours just putzing about with a new program, or incredibly uncool for a) not having upgraded years ago and b) putzing about with a Microsoft program. Changes, in software and computers? Who’da thunk it?

Tomorrow I will PLAY. With a game, not with a Microsoft interface (really, that’s almost kinky). Right after I finish work, anyway.

7 thoughts on “Gang aft agley

  1. Restraint is great if you have it.

    Mine is forced by poverty. πŸ™ I’d probably buy some games for my PC instead of the 360 if it wasn’t over 6 years old. I’m holding out for riches and my first Alienware!

  2. I have OpenOffice too, but it’s juuuust different enough to cause annoying layout problems when you’re swapping back and forth with someone who has Word. And it doesn’t handle foreign language stuff nearly as well.

    Office has its flaws, one of them being its idiot-robot way of trying to do what it thinks you want when that really, really *smack* really isn’t what you want (until you discover how to turn that off), and it’s horribly bloated for what it does — but it still does it pretty well, all things considered.

  3. PageMaker’s bastard grandchild is called InDesign, which is similar enough to use but different enough to make you go “huh??”. I’m pretty sure you can get a freebie trial version off Adobe’s website.

  4. The last couple months of my life have been spent working with friends of mine who live two doors down and wanted to upgrade their Windows 2000 Pro to Windows XP Home.

    I got pulled into said mess because I design web sites and play MMOs. So, obviously, that qualifies me as a computer tech. /sarcasmOff

    Well, anyone in the know knows that Pro does not upgrade to Home. Only Home upgrades to Home. But, I know how to trick Pro to Home. So, I’m good with that.

    Before I do so, it comes up in conversation that my friends do not like how OpenOffice “looks” or “feels” or “works” on their current machine. They are used to Word 2003. Well, who isn’t really? It’s still pretty standard.

    But this is a big ut oh. Because they also bought a copy of Office 2007 Home and School for when they were upgraded to XP. That means they probably won’t like the way it “looks” or “feels” or “works” or “isn’t fully compatible with the rest of the world yet”. Even though there are some settings to go “old school”.

    With this dilemma in mind, the wife amid the two friends says, “Should we just bite the bullet and get a whole new computer then?” Short answer, yes. But…it will likely have Office 2007 on it.

    They decide to go the new computer route. That just leaves me thinking that out of my two friends, the wife is really smart. Instill all sorts of confusion into a situation and walk away with what you really want – a new system.

    P.S. If you found all of this very confusing…try living next to them.

  5. I like Office 2007, but there are still days where I have to hunt around for something that I *know* is buried in a menu somewhere…I just have to find it!

  6. I love PageMaker. I will never understand those who prefer Quark.

    Oh, right, Office. I use OpenOffice, and an old 2004 version of Word only when I absolutely have to. The parallels to my Firefox/IE use are pretty strong.

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