Curse You, Microsoft!

Another day, another rant at Microsoft…

Christmas is coming, so the Christmas Card production line has started here at the Witte Wand. We’ve got about 100 cards to send out to friends and family each year, and I use mailing labels to save a bit of time, rather than addressing each envelope by hand. My everyday printer is an Canon inkjet printer, but because I want waterproof labels, I prefer to print them on my trusty (20 year-old) HP Laserjet 5/5MP printer.

So I duly fired up the printer, opened the Word document containing the mailing labels and attempted to print them. Nothing happened, apart from Windows 10 giving me a singularly unhelpful error message: “Printer in an error state”. The printer was fine, a selftest worked as expected, but Windows was insisting that there was an error. After some further detective work I discover that the cause of the problem is not the printer, nor the printer driver, but the Windows 10 software driver for the LPT (parallel) port.

It turns out that the November update to Windows 10, to bring it up to the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1511), has a brand new version of the driver for the LPT port – and it doesn’t bloody well work.

Apparently, one of the first things that Satya Nadella did on becoming the new CEO of Microsoft, was to let go a large portion of testers in favour of the programmers doing their own testing. While I’m sure that this saved Microsoft a chunk of money, did no-one bother to point out to Nadella that programmers do not always make good testers? Testing is a skill in its own right, and often programmers will miss bugs in their own code because they are too close to it.

It seems to me that the end result is that Windows 10 was released in July both buggy and incomplete, and now with the November update, we, the customers, have a brand new batch of bugs to deal with.

I am not a happy bunny at the moment.

Addendum 2 March 2016: Well, three months after Microsoft broke the LPT driver, it appears that they have finally fixed it. No apologies, and no acknowledgement from Microsoft that there ever was a problem until this one sentence announcement buried away in the Microsoft Answers forum. Bad show, Microsoft, bad show.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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10 Responses to Curse You, Microsoft!

  1. TomT says:

    Posts like this give me pause. I’m running Windows 7 Pro and am considering installing the free upgrade to Windows 10. Do you see much real benefit to Windows 10? I have a few legacy devices (scanner, etc.) that work well enough under 7 and I wonder if it’s really worth the risk of upgrading.

    Not to mention that before upgrading I’d need to replace my C drive as I currently have a 120 GB SSD that is running out of space! Seemed like a good idea at the time…

    I think that part of the appeal of upgrading is simply trying something new as well as running the “latest and greatest” but I wonder if there are any real world benefits beyond that. I trust you to give me a fair assessment; your blog has proven to me that you really pay close attention to such matters!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      You’re quite right that part of the appeal to me of upgrading is simply trying something new as well as running the “latest and greatest”. Guilty as charged.

      There are improvements in 10 over 7 under the covers, mainly in the security architecture. There is also much that is completely new, such as the Universal Windows Apps architecture and the tight integration with Cloud services. Whether these all add up to a clinching argument to upgrade is ultimately down to you.

      I think a key aspect of 10 is the change from point releases of the OS every couple of years to the concept of the OS as a service. There is also the fact that if you run Windows 10 Home, you can’t defer updates – they are automatically applied. At least if you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro you can defer upgrades. That way you can wait to see whether the rest of the community reports issues before applying upgrades. But even that won’t catch everything, as my post illustrates.

      This shift from extensive internal testing by dedicated testing teams to pushing it out and let the Windows Insiders catch issues is not necessarily a good one, I feel. Clearly, some pretty fundamental bugs are slipping through the net, or stuff is being released to end-users before it’s really ready for primetime. An example of this is the driver for the latest generation of Intel’s integrated graphics engine in Skylake. The forums have been full of complaints about the new Surface 4 Pro, Surface Book, and other laptops using Skylake as a result. Nadella may have saved some money in testing, but it will cost him in reputation.

      So, do you upgrade or not? You could always try it. You will have 30 days to check that all your legacy stuff still works, and rollback to 7 if it doesn’t. The problem is that because 10 is now a service, there’s now no guarantee that it will continue to work in future, and that’s an issue that I think Microsoft needs to address.

      • TomT says:

        Knowing myself as I do, I suspect the appeal of “the new” will be too strong to resist. And I suppose moving to Windows 10 will ensure a longer period of support from Microsoft.

        Honestly I should be more concerned about support for legacy software than for hardware. I really don’t terribly mind buying a new scanner if I must, but I’d be upset if I were forced to move away from certain programs I use frequently. For example I tend to use Nikon’s own image capture and editing software, Nikon ViewNX and Capture NX 2. I should probably consult the appropriate forums to see if other users have had any issues running these programs under Windows 10.

        (This is to say nothing of the fact that Nikon itself no longer supports NX2 and instead are apparently moving users towards a new program called NX-D which I have not had an opportunity to test. In the meantime I’d like to make sure I can continue using NX2.)

        In any case, as I mentioned earlier my immediate concern is simply hard drive space. My 120 GB SSD boot drive is almost full. I am no longer so smitten with the idea of having an SSD for a boot drive, so I think I will replace it with a plain old HDD. I have been told (reliably, I hope) that I should be able to image the SSD (including my Windows 7 installation) and restore the image to a new HDD without any problem. First, though I need to buy the new HDD, as well as a new backup drive with enough room for the image!

        As an aside, I don’t often comment but I love reading your blog. (Though it took me a while today to realize that your on-screen snow drifts down over the text; I thought I was having some sort of cerebral event!)

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Yes, legacy can be either hardware or software, and in their pursuit of the new, Microsoft does have a worrying tendency to break either or both… Good luck with the upgrades. I use a combination of SDD and HDD on my (home-built) desktop system. I have an SDD for the boot drive, and the majority of programs, but user data is held on a 1TB HDD (which is becoming worryingly full).

          The snow is courtesy of WordPress – they switch it on every December for the month. I have no say in the matter. I quite like it, and change my header picture to reflect the situation, but I often wonder what would happen if I lived in the Southern Hemisphere?

  2. coffeemike says:

    I can see it now; the year you finally break and just mass-email everybody instead of sending physical cards. 🙂

    That is an odd portion of the system to be affecting – one would have thought that by now parallel ports were pretty well known, not changing much, and as such code and drivers are fairly robust. One is clearly mistaken, it seems.

    I’ve also just received word that our corporate rollout begins mid-next year, and that it’s not coming with full internal testing of all of our desktop apps with the new Windows version. While I support that approach – we have a LOT of apps to test – it would appear that the “just enough” testing philosophy is catching.

    In any event, have a lovely holiday!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hmm, I was just in the process of writing a long reply to TomT, when WordPress decided it was going to refresh the page to display your comment, so my reply has disappeared into the ether. Curse you, WordPress!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      The conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether Microsoft would like to drop support for legacy stuff such as the parallel port completely…

  3. Matt Healy says:

    I’m still refusing the increasingly insistent offers of a Windows 10 upgrade precisely because of issues like this with my legacy hardware. In my experience it’s better to switch to a new OS only when getting new hardware; even though MS claims my hardware is supported by Windows 10.

    I wish there were a way to say No and STOP asking to the upgrade offer dialog box.

    • Ian says:

      I think there is, if you google “GWX control panel” that may help (not tried it myself, yet, but friends recommend)

  4. Pingback: Media in the Home – The Journey Continues, and Roon is Discovered | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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