Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Microsoft Hates Bug Reporters

At work yesterday, a printing error on one of our Websites was brought to my attention through our Tech Support guy. Basically, a single page in our Schedules of Classes wasn't printing correctly in Internet Explorer 7 (though it worked fine in Firefox). The page only print the Header and the Footer blocks, leaving the actual content blank. It was strange, because it was working fine on my computer, but not on the one used by our tech support. So, I buckled down to try to figure out this bug.

I set up our testing server to output the page with the Printing style-sheet, which if it was a problem in the CSS should have reproduced the error. It didn't. We did some further testing in Print Preview on IE7, and noticed that the error was only occuring when the scaling was set to "Shrink to Fit". Again, I was confused why the error wasn't apparent on my screen, as I shared Printer drivers with a machine where the error was occuring, and our IE versions were exactly the same. We proved that it wasn't a Microsoft Vista issue, as the error still occured on one of the Windows XP boxes in our office. At this point, I felt I had pretty conclusive evidence that this was a Bug in Internet Explorer 7, which clearly wasn't triggered very often.

I began my search to determine if the bug was already reported. The Microsoft Support Knowledge Base only contained two issues related to Shrink to Fit and IE7, and they seemed to be pretty specific to printing e-mail from Outlook and Outlook Express, and weren't "fails to render" errors. So, I began searching for how to submit a bug. I tried Microsoft Support's Contact Us page. I tried the Contact a Support Professional page. Which might have let me submit a report, but would have cost me (or my organization) $59.00 to even talk to someone about the Bug. Not acceptable. I understand that Microsoft wants to keep down the number of bogus bug reports, but hiring a team of triagers to filter through and translate the reports (for language issues) can't possibly that cost inneffective for Microsoft, especially since a good traiger could probably close most faulty bug reports without spending a lot of time on them. If the bug database was searchable and viewable by the public, that would help cut down on the faulty bug reports.

Next, I turned to Google. Surely, I wasn't the only person who ever wanted to report a bug with a Microsoft Product. What do I find? Not one, but two blog posts about people being completely unable to submit a bug report to Microsoft without jumping through a ton of hoops! Now, for us, this is only occuring on one of a hundred or so pages, and there is an easy work-around, so I'm not in favor of paying Microsoft to do their bug searching for them. One of the comments on that second Blog post suggested that "Microsoft was looking into improving it's Bug reporting processes," but given the amount of IM-style english used, I really, really doubt that the comment was from anyone who worked with Mircrosoft and certainly wasn't from anyone with the power to affect policy.

I am immensely glad that I don't buy Microsoft software, and that I've convinced my finacee to get an Ubuntu Linux powered laptop from Dell. I've often recommended Dell laptops to friends, and while the Linux offerings they have today don't fulfill my wants or needs, they're absolutely perfect for Catherine and her Molecular Phylogenetic processing. Plus, it's cheaper by a significant margin (~$700) that an identical hardware MacBook Pro. And that's with Dell Support.