Welcome to Orcmid's Lair, the playground for family connections, pastimes, and scholarly vocation -- the collected professional and recreational work of Dennis E. Hamilton
The Fate of Microsoft Outlier Customers
Technorati Tags: Microsoft, Encarta, OneCare, Money, software longevity, trustworthiness, Maps, Works, MSN
I recently noticed that three of my favorite Microsoft products are to be no more: Windows OneCare (why are they still selling it?) , Microsoft Encarta, and Microsoft Money. That was striking for me and I have created a contingency plan for each of those products.
On reflection, it is not a new thing for various Microsoft applications to transmogrify and eventually disappear. Although I have never had an interest in Flight Simulator, I am still a devoted user of Microsoft FrontPage. If Microsoft Works were as clean and simple as the MS-DOS version, I would still use it. I have also used a variety of picture editors and photo editors that were bundled in various Microsoft products and that seem to come and go with each new computer system and occasional Microsoft Office upgrade. Some day, I suppose I will have to do without Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker, especially as future versions/replacements demand hardware capabilities I don’t possess.
Now, Microsoft is not making a fortune for me as an occasional upgrader of these products (though I quietly paid my OneCare subscription renewal each year). It is interesting that not until the abandonment of FrontPage was announced did I begin to feel the squeeze and the lack of an appropriate replacement for abandoned Microsoft products. (E.g., Expression Web is both more and less than what suits my current web-development practices.) Now I now need to look for three more substitutions and also look at long-term measures for protecting my systems and my electronic financial records as well as maintaining my web sites. For the three latest-discontinued products, I find that I have three different contingency measures in place.
Wait, I Like Encarta
When I read that Encarta was to be no more, I resolved to go find a copy of the latest version. I have a version completely installed on my hard drive and it is a handy reference. I confess that I mainly use the dictionary (the default setting for the Encarta Search Bar kept handy in my Windows XP task bar). The encyclopedia is handy but it doesn’t get searched by Windows Desktop Search (a little incoherence there) and I find myself on the web (and Wikipedia) more often than in Encarta because that’s where Windows Desktop Search (and now bing) lead me best.
I’m currently running version 14 (Encarta 2005) and I actually had one monthly update that I didn’t install until last week. The reluctance to update has to do with needing to be administrator when I do it, and I usually forget Encarta updates when I am running as administrator for other maintenance purposes. It is a demonstration of my unnoticed waning interest that I didn’t know I had one update left from 2005.
Nevertheless, I wanted to have the latest and greatest if there were to be no more. Unfortunately, the latest version seems to be Encarta Premium 2007 and it is still pricey, even though pro-rated refunds were cut off on April 30.
I settled for the less-expensive Britannica 2009 Deluxe with the hope that the included dictionary and thesaurus is as easy to use as the one I am abandoning from Encarta.
Not Money Too. No, Not Money!
The shocker for me is last week’s announcement that Microsoft Money will also be no more. I checked, and my oldest Microsoft Money backup is dated 1999 and it has entries from 1998-01-01. I tended to hold onto versions of Microsoft Money. I didn’t switch to Money Plus 2007 until the version I was running under Windows 98 couldn’t be installed on Windows XP as I was off-loading the Windows 98 machine at the end of 2007.
I don’t like Money Plus 2007 as much as the older pure-desktop versions. The change of the user experience to one with integrated web features is mostly a nuisance. The software performs more slowly and I don’t do those on-line things. But I like the reports and the extensive history of purchases (and depreciation records) is important for me. I prepare my tax returns from records maintained in Microsoft Money, and I have had some success balancing my bank accounts using downloads that Money will rely on. (The experience is rather variable and I often simply balance statements manually instead rather than deal with what it takes to correct for a failed automatic account update.)
I discovered that my version of Money Plus “expires”
It seems like a no-brainer that what I want to do is install another downloaded version and continue to use it until I have a satisfactory replacement. I will also want to keep a copy around as long as possible to enable my use of existing records. I will need to discover how to export some of those for use in other products, or as spreadsheets that I can preserve in OOXML/ODF.
So I have another Money Plus Home and Business download and a product key for it. I will install it at a point this summer when I am carefully backed up, exported, and ready to risk an upgrade.
Goodbye OneCare, It’s Been Good to Know Ye
Microsoft OneCare arrived at just the right time for me. I had tired of Norton Antivirus upgrades and a growing drift from what worked just right for me starting before Norton/Symantec Systemworks and going back to a time when there really were Norton Utilities. I valued the simplicity all-in-oneness of OneCare for the following provisions:
It wasn’t the most wonderful product, but it was also steadily improved over the time I used it, right from the beginning of its availability. It did deal with my dominant computer security concerns.
OneCare also provided me with a great source of system-incoherence anecdotes, and I must recount some of those while I can still capture screen shots of the experience.
Actually doing backups onto DVDs was not the most exciting experience, as much as OneCare made that possible. Once backup functions were taken over by WHS, the cleverly-named HP Mediasmart Server (with its Windows Home Server version of Windows Server 2003) now on the network, that difficulty was mitigated and there are now automatic, incremental backups every night.
Still, OneCare works well and effortlessly for us, even if it reports that backups are woefully out of date (a new little incoherence on how OneCare has forgotten WHS is on the job).
It was also great that Microsoft announced that all OneCare support agreements will continue until their expiration. That means mid-September 2009 here.
On the other hand, the promised Microsoft replacements for OneCare are not in sight. I believe the last promise was for around August. I am beginning to squirm.
There appears time to find an adequate substitute, taking into consideration that Microsoft will offer some sort of solutions for some unknown degree of protection where I find it the most valuable for the computers here. Unfortunately, it is not clear that there is a decent non-Microsoft product that works here, regardless of the high reputation a number of Antivirus producers have achieved. The low reputation that is Microsoft’s automatic prize is apparently more myth than reality in my experience. On balance, OneCare works better than anything I have attempted to replace it with.
Here’s how my search is working out so far.
Since OneCare is to be no more, Windows 7 beta and Windows 7 RC not only had no provision for it, those releases were actually hostile to OneCare. So on Quadro7 I have been going through trials of other Antivirus products, partly to determine a good candidate to be installed uniformly on all of the systems here. None of the products tried so far seem to integrate well with Windows 7, which has apparently changed the rules enough that AV producers are having some difficulty. In particular, I have not found an AV product (even the Windows 7 directed beta releases) where Windows 7 reports that it is protected and the Windows Home Server concurs in reporting that my systems are protected.
Having tired of Symantec (and enjoying the liberation that OneCare provided), I haven’t gone back. My latest experience with McAfee was on WHS and that led me to prefer no AV there instead. (That experience also led me to be more cautious about the judgment of folks at Hewlett-Packard and the trial installations they chose to push to WHS.)
Meanwhile, on Quadro 7 I have gone through one trial of Kapersky and another of Trend Micro. I actually bought a retail copy of Trend Micro but Windows 7 chokes on that. Instead, I now possess an useless license since the Trend Micro beta for Windows 7 won’t accept the older-product registration code except when it installs as an update, and that doesn’t work on Windows 7. I’m moving on to F-Secure’s beta for Windows 7 right now and the trial lasts out past August. With luck, I might have a consistent Microsoft solution to deploy across all of the computers here. And if not, I will need to find a product that has an affordable multiple-machine license (as Trend does) and that doesn’t require me to use a web site to know my status (as McAfee Total Protection does).
There are clearly interoperability issues here, and the level of coherent integration is a challenge. It is a challenge for Microsoft too, but as one might expect, OneCare integrates more cleanly and, apart from an apparently-inescapable level of Microsoft paternalism, works most consistently and coherently than anything else I have attempted to use in its place.
Update 2009-06-15-04:06Z Correcting an expiration date for Microsoft Money.
Hey Dennis--it's Ray...yeah that Ray! Anyhoo, I linked here from 'just right of Attila The Hun' and read up on your woes with M$ products and AV in particular, I would suggest Bit Defender as a capable alternative. I use Bit Defender AV for our pc's (3) and it seems to get the job done...
I have been running Microsoft Security Essentials beta on my Windows 7 RC setup and it seems to have the best integration of any products that will even install on Windows 7.
Security Essentials (a.k.a Morro) is a little too hands-off with a bit too much "trust me" so I will have to wait to see how that works out as Security Essentials moves toward release.
As I said, there is a systems coherence and conceptual integrity story to be told here, by example, and that raises a number of issues around trustworthiness in the case of erstwhile security softwrae. As much as we want to make this a no-brainer, I don't think software that exudes "don't worry your little head about it" is the right call.
For someone as bad with names as myself, "that Ray" is a complete mystery. Sorry.
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