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The Holmes Page THE SOAP BOX 1997/11/05



1997/11/05: Why Software Sucks   A while ago, I connected to the Microsoft Web site and requested a free pre-release CD of Windows NT version 4. I received it a few weeks later. The free CD cost me CA$6.46 in tax and "handling fees". Recently, I received another CD called "Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack Beta 3", which also cost me money. 
But this time the word "beta" caught my eye. 
I took a closer look at the letters that accompanied both CDs. They were addressed "Dear Microsoft Beta Tester". Are they saying that I am a beta tester? Ha! I have't even installed it yet! I have certainly not given any feedback, other than grumbling to myself... 
I wonder how many other people are "beta testers" without knowing it? 
I'll bet that everyone who downloaded a copy of IE 4 from the Microsoft Web site is considered -- by Microsoft -- to be a beta tester. It looks like none of them even knew that they were beta testers! 
Microsoft is fond of stating the vast number of people that "beta tested" its products. Now I know where these numbers come from. 
I remember the "good old days" (only a few years ago) when you had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and commit to providing feedback in order to be a beta tester. You couldn't even tell anyone that you were a beta tester. Now, you don't sign anything or commit to anything because you don't even know about it! 
Update 1999/08: Now Microsoft is charging something like US$60 for the beta version of Windows 2000. Besides the fact that it does not operate correctly (by definition), it is secretly crippled so that everyone will have to buy the release version anyway. Who are these people who have the time and money to fool around with a beta version? Boy, I'd like to have the easy life that they have. They obviously don't do anything useful with their computers, since they are messing around with a beta OS. All of which reinforces my earlier comment: 
It's no wonder that software these days has so many bugs -- it's hard to tell the difference between the beta and the release version.

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