We had a quality system audit scheduled for today, but the auditor wasn't able to fly into PVD last night because of the storm, so I had some time to kill this morning while waiting for him to arrive. I spent it confirming a nasty suspicion I'd had about Microsoft Office 97. About a year ago I got a new WinXP computer at work to replace my seven year-old Win95 machine. When I installed Office 97 on it, I ran into a huge problem. The programs installed okay, but when I went to apply the service packs, things got wonky. A little history here. When Office 97 shipped it was terribly buggy, even by Microsoft standards. Gates and Co. issued a service release that made things even worse. You know how when you close a file in Word or Excel, the program asks you if you want to save it, and you're shown three buttons, [Yes], [No], and [Cancel]? After you applied SR-1, they said, in order, [No], [Cancel], and [Yes]. However, if you clicked on [No], you discovered that it still matched up with [yes]. Nice bit of quality control there. So they issued a second service release, but SR-2 would only work if you had already installed SR-1. The problem I had was that I would install SR-1, but then SR-2 would tell me that I hadn't. I tried it again and again, and I just couldn't get it to work. I chalked it up to Office 97 not playing nice with WinXP. I did manage to eventually get Excel 97 and Word 97 to work properly on the new machine by manually copying the patched files over from my old computer, but that didn't work for Access 97. That's a big deal, because I have several Access 97 databases that I need to maintain. I wound up having to keep my old Win95 machine around just to be able to do the Access work.
(For those of you wondering why I didn't just upgrade to Office 2000, which works perfectly well in WinXP, well it's because I think the user interface changes they made in Office 2000 suck big hairy rocks. Also, Access 2000 can't be used to maintain Access 97 databases. The files must be converted, which risks breaking parts of the application.)
Anyway, that's the way things remained for the last ten months or so. Then I replaced the primary harddrive on my home computer, which also required reinstalling Office 97. Now my home computer runs Win98, both before and after the drive swap. The thing is, when I reinstalled Office 97 on the new drive, and then tried to install the service releases, the same thing happened to me that happened on my machine at work. SR-1 installed, and SR-2 refused to believe it. Drove me frelling crazy for about a month. I couldn't think of any reason why the service packs should behave this way. Then I had an epiphany. It occurred to me that perhaps the good folks at Microsoft had built an expiration date into the service packs, so that they wouldn't work after a certain date. Granted, only low-life motherfucking worms would do something like that, but I had a hunch. I removed Office 97 from my home machine, changed the system date from 2005 to 2001, and reinstalled Office, followed by the two service packs, then reset the date. This time both service packs installed properly. Bill Gates is a low-life, motherfucking, cheap-ass prick who, if I ever catch the little runt in a dark alley, shall know my wrath. This morning, I repeated the process on my WinXP machine, and it went swimmingly. Bastards.
While I was doing all this, I had the Office 97 CD in the CD burner on my XP machine. I'd had the CD for a long time, and it had developed a small crack radiating from the center hole, about a third of an inch long. I didn't think much of this, because it wasn't giving me any file errors. I'd made a backup copy, just in case the crack got worse. However, for all that, I never expected what happened shortly after I finished reinstalling Office. I heard a very loud crack come from the CD burner. I pushed the eject button, but it only opened about a quarter inch, then stopped. I pulled the drawer out the rest of the way and was amazed at what I found. The CD had shattered like Waterford crystal on a marble floor. There were tiny shards of it everywhere inside the drive. The drive itself is toast, as the disk broke off at least one of the hold-downs on the drawer when it exploded. Bother.
I spent yesterday finishing off the last half of one of the books I've been working on, The Shadow of Saganami, David Weber's latest novel set in the Honorverse. Harrington isn't actually in the book, except for occasional references from other characters. That's actually a good thing. Besides the fact that Harrington's such an incredible Mary Sue, Weber is realizing what Roddenberry and company learned a long time ago. Captains are interesting. Admirals aren't. This one follows the crew of a single cruiser on patrol, and was way more fun than the last Harrington centric book.