Floppy in, floppy out, CD in, CD out: The Rat smells a Microsoft

With the election out of the way, things have returned to a sort of normalcy at the
Rat's agency, except in his own office, where the software upgrade wars have hit the
trenches.


Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 was anointed the agency's desktop environment of
choice for power users, and the side effects of Microsoft's Windows Ponzi scheme have
really begun to annoy the whiskered one.


He'd only just figured out Windows 95's quirks by the time NT 4.0 arrived at the
battlefront. Of course, the Rat was ready to move--it's not like he's emotionally attached
to Win95. In fact, he's been using the Win95 CD as his burrow's official beer coaster for
six months while he delayed putting it on users' PCs.


Naturally, the Cyberrodent can't reformat every hard drive that comes in on a new Win95
computer. He figured that when the time came, he could just migrate the work groups
gradually.


"Wrongo, cheese-breath," the Rat muttered as he scurried to upgrade yet
another workstation. It turns out that all members of a work group must move to NT 4.0 at
once.


In their infinite scheming wisdom, Microsoft's NT engineers didn't envision anyone at
an NT workstation ever wanting to browse computers running Win95. As the Rat soon
discovered, Win95 machines don't appear in the Network Neighborhood of NT machines. Sure,
you can get them to, but you must configure the connection manually.


This glaring omission came out of the same group of geniuses that thought up limiting
the number of concurrent network connections to five on an NT Workstation machine, which
is the other reason why the Rat is working so feverishly to migrate his users. Because of
the limit on the number of computers that can share files at the same time, the Rat can't
set up the Win95 systems to connect automatically to the NT workstations without hitting
the limit.


That means the hapless users must reconnect to each other each time they want to get to
a shared file. Which they can't do by browsing the Network Neighborhood and pointing and
clicking, because the other computers don't show up.


To put it mildly, the Rat is cheesed off at Microsoft. The final cracker on the
limburger is that you can't "upgrade" from Windows 95 to NT--you have to
reinstall all the applications. And if you've been using Win95's disk compression, you'll
soon find that NT doesn't support drives compressed with it.


For now, the Rat spends his evenings upgrading workstations so that work groups can be
up and running with each other the next morning. Floppy in, floppy out, CD in, CD out.


Meanwhile, Microsoft has taken a page out of the Pentagon's procurement book and
produced the Million-Dollar Paper Clip. "Or something even more expensive,"
mumbled the Rat as he loaded yet another workstation. The paper clip in question is
Microsoft's Office Assistant, the animated help utility in Office 97.


The default assistant is Clippit, a paper clip that sits in a small window next to an
Office application and blinks its clamlike eyelids at you. When you do something wrong,
the paper clip bounces toward you and knocks on the inside of the monitor glass to get
your attention; users with sound cards hear a metallic rapping.


The alternatives to Clippit aren't very amusing, either. There's a cat made out of
paper scraps and called Scribbles (the Rat didn't know whether to scream in terror or gag
at the name), a 3-D Einstein lookalike called Genius, a cartoon Shakespeare, a red rubber
ball called Dot and a cape-wearing dog called Power Pooch.


The packet chewer quickly chose another alternative--the spinning Office logo--lest
anyone think he was playing games at work.


Clippit and its pals are the latest incarnation of the Microsoft "Bob"
technology, the great R&D hole into which Bill Gates' minions have poured the
remaining licensing revenues from MS-DOS 5.0.


Microsoft's PR flunkies sent out a message explaining the market research behind this,
saying users found it helpful. The Rat thinks it's just another way to make a word
processor run slow on a Pentium Pro.


"Now a Rat Office Assistant, that would be a different matter," mused the
Cyberrodent, as his installation ordeal brought on delirious dreams of merchandise
licensing royalties galore.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace.



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