Saturday, 25 July 2015

Microsoft now updating software remotely

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft asked me to change my PC login from the simple one-password login I had used for years - since I bought the new PC in 2013, that is - to a new login that I had actually set up some time before, when Microsoft bought Skype, one that involves an email address and a password. It was a bit annoying. I didn't really mind because I had made a record of the new login that I could bring to hand when I suddenly needed to use it. I didn't even make much of a fuss - apart from this blogpost - when Microsoft asked me if I wanted to back up all my files in the cloud. (Answer: a definitive NO!) But now other things have started to happen on my PC I didn't expect.

Yesterday as I was using the PC normally - for social media mainly, although I did do a blogpost as well - Facebook started to hang. I clicked out of Chrome to Outlook (which is always open), and found that this application, too, had started to hang. So I started clicking around between Chrome and Outlook to see where the problem might be, or to find a reason why these things had started to hang. I couldn't find anything but then I decided to reboot the modem in case the broadband system had fallen out for some reason.

When I got back to the computer it was clear however that things were going really wrong. Not only was Chrome whited-out (where the application goes white in the window because it cannot function any more) but so was Outlook. Also, Outlook's layout had changed to something I had not seem before. In the past, one of the menus was always visible along the top of the application window, but now it wasn't. I could only see the 'File' menu highlighted but no menu command icons showing. Normally I keep the 'Send/receive' menu icons showing because to check my email I need that 'Send-receive' icon to be visible all the time. It wasn't there anymore.

Because nothing was working at all now I rebooted the computer and brought Chrome and Outlook back up after logging on for the second time that day. I saw that Outlook had changed permanently. Although I had thought that the new menu configuration was part of the glitch that had brought my PC to a standstill, it turned out that the new configuration was the new normal. What had happened of course was that Microsoft had entered my computer and done an update to Outlook without telling me. That's why the computer hung. And the application that I was running now on my desktop was not the same application that I had bought in the box back in 2013 when I had bought the new PC on the Coast.

So Microsoft ad decided to update my software remotely without telling me it was going to do so. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I am very certain that I feel they should warn people before they take over their PCs and cause all their running applications to freeze. I hope in future Microsoft will let people know when they are about to do this kind of thing.

The main outcome of this little exercise by Microsoft might have been to make me learn to use the F9 key to do a "send/receive". Because the default menu in Outlook is now the 'File' menu - which has nothing in it along the top of the application, when selected - it might now have saved me time to use the shortcut key instead of first bringing up the 'Send-receive' menu and clicking on 'Send/receive'. If you leave the 'Send/receive' menu visible, in any case, the associated menu items inconveniently overlap the top email message in the feed, which of course you do not want. Also, once you bring up the 'Send/receive' menu and do a "send/receive" you can't just click back to Chrome, but instead a click out of the application closes the 'Send/receive' menu first, so you need two clicks to click back to Chrome.

However, there's still a lifesaving, small 'Send/receive' icon at the top of the window on the control bar which you can use. Thank goodness for that. (I almost didn't see it.) It's a bit small, though. I prefer a large icon to click on. Less margin for error.

[UPDATE 29 July 2015]: The same thing happened again, today. Again! In another event, I had earlier in the day contacted Microsoft help desk about a different matter and had asked them if they had remotely accessed my computer to update Outlook, and they said "No". However they did say that my version of Outlook was the latest version, and was different from the version I had installed in 2013 when I had originally purchased the PC.

[UPDATE 30 July 2015]: A technician came to look at the computer today and found that I had inadvertently changed the Outlook display options, probably while clicking around when the software froze. He checked for why the computer had behaved the way it had but could find nothing specific, but deleted some unnecessary functions running in the background.

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