Ripping Yarns
Are Microsoft certifiable?
We explain why the words "intelligent" and "Microsoft" should never be used in the same sentence
By our resident rat catcher, Derek Tree

Is this the world's dumbest mouse?One of the many perils to which those of us who are known to possess a working knowledge of IT, are exposed, is the role of unpaid technical support to those among our circle of friends whose knowledge of computers is only slightly greater than GDubya's knowledge of English grammar. It was just such an individual, whom we will call "Michelle" (not her real name) who telephoned me yesterday morning in some desperation. "Damian's broken my Pee Cee'!" she exclaimed tearfully. "And I need to finish a report by two o'clock today. Please come and fix it!" I should explain that 'Damian' (not his real name either) is her eight year old son, and living proof that not only should women not breed, but that children should be sent down a very deep coal mine from the age of six, and kept in that employ until they are eighteen. But I digress. Suffice it to say that Damian was a precocious little monster with the manners of game show contender, the personality of Atilla the Hun and all the charm of something you've just stepped in with your best shoes.

After a somewhat incoherent conversation it became clear that it was not Michelle's Dell (no relation) Pee Cee that was 'broken', but the mouse attached to it. In short, Damian had flung the rodent against a convenient wall in a fit of pique occasioned by his inability to get to the next level of whatever mindless computer game he was embroiled in at the time.

Having enquired about the make and type of mouse that had so ignominiously expired, I popped into my nearest 'PC World', picked up a 'Microsoft Optical Intellimouse' and hastened to the rescue of the damsel in distress. Had I been only half-awake I would have realised sooner that buying anything that combined the words "Microsoft" and "intelligence" in one sentence was asking for trouble. All was well until Michelle inserted the shiny installation CD into what she likes to call her 'Pee Cee's' "cup holder". When the machine had re-booted the gaudy rodent lit up with a lurid red light and proceeded to work as advertised. Unfortunately, the driver Redmond's finest operating system - Windoze XP Pro - had installed for the rodent, was not the advertised "Intellimouse 4.x" with all its pant-wettingly exciting programmable features, but a generic driver for a 'Microsoft PS2 mouse". A fact only too painfully confirmed, when Michelle observed in a somewhat surly tone, that: "These little buttons on the sides don't work!"

So I did what any unpaid Technical supporter does; I re-inserted the supplied CD-ROM disk and went looking for the correct drivers. After several unsuccessful attempts to locate and load the Microsoft drivers that would provide the 'advanced functionality' claimed on the box, I eventually found the correct one and instructed the operating system to install it. Guess what? Mr Gate's finest product refused to comply. Those of a nervous or excitable disposition should now sit down and place any cups containing hot beverages out of harms way.

Those of you who own a computer manufactured by a corporation run by a certain Mr S Jobs will be able to congratulate yourselves on your good sense at this point. Unfortunately Michelle was not in this enviable position as I quickly discovered when Windoze curtly informed me that the 'intelligent' drivers for this 'intelligent' mouse were not certified! Yes, that's right, folks; here was a Microsoft product provided with Microsoft drivers being installed on a computer running a Microsoft operating system, and Microsoft had not certified its own drivers!

When I had calmed down and re-assured Michelle that my profanity was in no way directed at her, I unplugged the disgusting little rodent, dropped it onto her parquet floor, and ceremoniously ground the heel of my handmade Cuban boot down upon it until it disintegrated with a satisfying series of harsh squeaks. I then sent her off to make a cup of tea while I hastened back home to fetch a proper mouse. When I returned a half hour later, Damian accosted me in the hall with the unusual greeting of: "You're a f*cking idiot!" Not wishing to add further to the strain under which his poor mother was labouring, I taped up his mouth with parcel tape and locked him in the downstairs toilet with a copy of 'Visual Basic for Dummies'.

the slickest rodent in the galaxyMy discerning readers will have guessed that the 'proper mouse' that I now proceeded to attach to Michelle's 'Pee Cee' was none other a Logitech 3 button Pilot Mouse; quite rightly known among the cognoscenti as the 'the slickest rodent in the galaxy'. Needless to add, the Logitech drivers *were* fully certified by Microsoft and installed in less time that it takes to say "End user license agreement.' After some 'hands on' instruction, Michelle was eventually persuaded that the rather dull grey rodent reclining on her Tom Cruise mousemat, was actually a very serviceable pointing device that entirely eliminated the need to double-click anything in order to open it. However, she expressed some surprise, accompanied by a nervous giggle, when I explained the procedure for keeping her mouse in perfect working order.
"You mean I can clean it while it's still connected to my 'Pee Cee?" she asked breathlessly.

"Certainly," I replied. "All you need to do is to unscrew its little bottom and remove its little ball. Then you can clean this white wheel, and these two little shiny black rollers with your finger nails."
"Ohh!" she replied delightedly.
Unfortunately, her pleasure was soon replaced by a frown that puckered her forehead and turned down the corners of her pretty mouth.
"But how do I scroll web-thingies?" she asked anxiously.
"See these little arrow buttons on your keyboard?"
"Well - look; when you press this one the web page scrolls up and when you press this one the webpage scrolls down."

I was on the point of leaving when her son came into the room and said in a surly tone: "This isn't a proper mouse, Mum! It doesn't glow in the dark!"
What could I say? There simply is no pleasing some people, short of putting a dummy in their mouths and feeding them mashed banana.

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© 2004
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