In our last issue of the weekly newsletter, I complained about the latest update to Office 2001 for the Mac, particularly the Outlook email client. Although meant to provide a business-oriented replacement to Entourage, Microsoft's previous email app, Outlook started life in a very shaky condition. Several updates, culminating with the recent Service Pack 2 release, have fixed some stability and setup quirks, but performance problems remain.
Others have encountered even worse problems. One of our readers talked of losing local email folders after the upgrade. A client called me this past weekend wondering why he was suddenly being asked to reenter his Office product key, even though he'd been using the suite for months. So he was sent scurrying for that information among his software documentation. What a waste!
Worse, however, is the fact that you can't just reinstall an Office for Mac update. If something goes wrong, the updater won't redo the update. Instead, you have to reinstall Office from scratch, and run each update in succession to stay current. It doesn't seem there is a "combo" installer to be found, because Microsoft doesn't understand the concept of simple.
But that's Microsoft for you. Took a look at their efforts to make a go of Windows Phone, and the Metro tiled-based interface that will also grace Windows 8 later this year. There's already a big advertising campaign designed to entice you to buy the latest and greatest Windows Phone smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 900, which available from AT&T. A lot of money has been bet on that one, because if Nokia's latest and greatest goes down in flames, it will signal huge problems from Microsoft's attempts to get a decent share of the mobile marketplace.
Right now, it's not certain how the Lumia 900 will fare. It went on sale over the Easter weekend, which meant that many retailers were closed that Sunday, thus inhibiting potential sales. Somebody wasn't thinking of the consequences. Worse, a software bug of some sort impacted online connections, forcing AT&T to agree to give early adopters a $100 rebate. Since the product sold for $100 with the usual two-year service contract, that meant that AT&T was actually giving them away. I suppose if you wanted something real cheap, and were willing to put up with a smartphone with an OS that has so far failed to gain traction in the marketplace, you'd have a winner. Time will tell just how the Lumia 900 will fare, although AT&T's pathetic advertising campaign isn't going to lure customers to snake around their stores to get one.
If anything, if there's no immediate indication of success for the Lumia 900, and it doesn't seem as if that's happened so far, will there be a Lumia 1000 to replace it in a few months? How many times will Nokia and Microsoft continue to tout new Windows Phone handsets before they admit failure? Probably not in the foreseeable future. But I suppose there's always Windows 8, although the skepticism about the potential of that OS upgrade is fierce.
But Microsoft isn't the only tech company doing foolish things. I ran into a curious issue with Samsung a couple of weeks back, all with the goal of helping a long-time client replace a defective printer, an HP LaserJet 5MP black and white laser dating back to the 1990s. In order to be compatible with some very old software, the client was still using a Power Mac G4 running Mac OS 9.2. He also had an iMac running 10.5, so he hoped for a laser printer that would work with both systems.
A quick search produced a link to the Samsung ML-3312ND laser printer, a promising black and white machine touting 33 pages per minute, a resolution of 1200 dpi, duplex printing, with the first page appearing in a mere 6.5 pages. Output ports are USB and Ethernet. The "OS Compatibility" spec at Samsung's site specified "OS (8.6-9.2, 10.1-10.4)," which their support people assured me meant the Mac OS. Teach me to trust support people.
With a street price of roughly $150, how could he miss? Well, the Samsung arrived a few days later. Setup was quick enough. The software CD worked fine on his iMac, and the printer acquitted itself well with fast response in outputting simple text pages. But when I tried to set up the ML-3312ND on the G4, I ran into an immediate roadblock. The ancient Mac OS Chooser didn't see it on an AppleTalk or Ethernet network. The software didn't include Classic drivers, so I searched on Samsung's site, only to find that the driver download was limited to "MAC OS 10.3-10.6," basically the same installation package that came on the CD.
Over the next few days, I telephoned Samsung support and interacted with their live chat service in search of a solution. In both cases, I ran into roadblocks from support people who were simply clueless. One maintained over and over again that the existing installer would run on both the Classic Mac OS and OS X, not understanding that these were different OS platforms with different printing architectures. Each time I told him he was wrong, he said to run it on the OS 9.2 Mac, which, of course, I had already tried to do without success. The installer is for OS X only.
Finally, I found a support person who finally admitted the obvious. The spec was wrong. The printer was incapable of running on Mac OS 9.2 with any drivers I could find (and I wasn't going to waste time trying to force something that's not compatible to function). Curiously, I found yet another spec sheet for the ML-3312ND, available in PDF format, which correctly lists Mac compatibility as 10.3-10.6. So someone probably made an error, but there will be no apologies from Samsung. At least the dealer agreed to accept a return if it didn't work. On the other hand, if I needed a cheap laser printer -- and I don't -- the Samsung appears to be a promising candidate, assuming you can accept the fact that the manufacturer will be unable to provide competent support.
As to the client, he will probably end up with a refurbished HP laser printer from the 1990s that, in the end, will cost roughly the same as the Samsung. It won't be as fast, nor will the output quality be quite as good, but at least it'll work.
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