Software // Information Management
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6/26/2008
02:01 PM
Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto
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Don't Troubleshoot. Change The Way You Work

Many of us computer users suffer in silence. Yes, there are the outspoken people we see complaining on message boards, but in general, we put up with the quirks of applications because the alternatives are not worthwhile. And sometimes, we have to go along to get along, which means forced updates to the latest version of software for no other reason than you have to be able to share files easily. Computers should change to fit our needs, not the other way around.

Many of us computer users suffer in silence. Yes, there are the outspoken people we see complaining on message boards, but in general, we put up with the quirks of applications because the alternatives are not worthwhile. And sometimes, we have to go along to get along, which means forced updates to the latest version of software for no other reason than you have to be able to share files easily. Computers should change to fit our needs, not the other way around.I upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007 a few months back. My company standardized on Microsoft Office 2007, so I did, too. For the most part, Office 2007 has been OK. I am not a fan of the ribbon, but I can see why folks like it. What has started happening, however, is that every once in a while when using the newest Word document format with the extension .docx, sometimes when I save, I get a permissions error that seems to indicate that I don't have the rights to save the document that I created. Stranger still, once I clear that dialog, I can then save the file. It seems to be pretty random.

So imagine my panic when, on the day before I take off for vacation, I sit down to put the final touches on a research report I spent the last 10 days writing. I try to open the file and I can't. There seems to be a file lock and the file won't open. I can copy it to a new file. I can move it around the disk. I just can't open it. Searches on Google and MSDN yielded no useful results. The dialog tells me to try the Word recovery tool. I can't find that, either. So I start searching for anything that will let me open the file. I need to get to the text. I haven't done a full back-up for a while, but I do use MozyHome and I had a back-up from the day before. I recover that file and I have the same problem.

Thinking there may be a process that has the file open, I fired up FileMon to see if any processes had the document open, but all was fine. When all else fails, reboot. Same problem. Reboot into recovery as Administrator. No joy. OK, panic time. I start to think this isn't an OS issue, it's a Word issue. If I open it in another application like OpenOffice, I will be OK. But OpenOffice doesn't import docx. Novell's version does, but this path looks like a long and winding one. OK, alternatives? Google Docs! No, Google Docs doesn't support docx. It's now about 3 in the afternoon and I have to have this in by 5.

While IMing with a collegue, he asks me to send him the file. Maybe he can open it. He has the same troubles with Word 2007 that I have. I head back to OpenOffice.org and start digging through the help files until I get to the FAQ "How do I open Microsoft Office 2007 files." Adobe Buzzword! I tried that out a while back. Couldn't hurt to see if it can open the file. I log in, import the file, and there is my precious cargo. Meanwhile, my buddy I was IMing with opened the file in a HEX editor and copied out the text. (I opened the document in Notepad++, but the format ain't any XML I am familiar with).

So now I have two copies. My first step is to save it as a Word 2003 file. Then I set my Word 2007 installation to always save as Word 2003. Problems gone. I make my edits, send the report in, and get ready for my trip. I didn't expect to spend 2+ hours trying to open a file and I don't have a whole lot of confidence in Word any longer to even provide basic functions like open, close, and save. I could look at alternative office applications, but all my co-workers use Office 2007 and I have no interest or no time to mess with file format conversions and the like. I did that long ago when I was a steadfast WordPerfect user, but I lost too much time converting files back and forth. It was a burden to me and my co-workers.

I didn't reach out to Microsoft support directly. I did search Microsoft's support site, but came up empty. That could simply be what I searched for, I don't know. I do know I didn't want to sit on a support call to figure out why Word 2007 was behaving strangely. I wanted to get my data and get onto the next agenda item of the day. I have since deleted the offending files, so even if I could carve out time to pursue this issue with Microsoft, I am unable.

It's not just Microsoft applications, either. After a recent Windows XP update, I started getting a blue screen of death after my laptop came out of suspend mode. After checking out the MiniDump with Win Debug, I found that some Symantec process was causing the BSOD. I started to troubleshoot that but didn't get too far. I just so happened to be talking to guy from Eset and he suggested I try their AV. So I have had that running for over a week, but with my CPU nailed at 50%, I have it disabled until support can work out the issue. Update: 6/30/2008 Seems the problem with the Eset Nod32 was because my Lenovo Connection manager was writing out a connection log several times a second and Nod32 was scanning that file each time it was opened.

I want to get work done. I don't want to sit on the phone with support, go through a laborious process of turning stuff off, on, or re-configuring to find the magic fix. So instead, I downgrade file formats, disable applications, and now I will have to figure out how to back up my "text," not the file, in the case of another file problem. Changing my behavior is the only thing that works.

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