Microsoft

Microsoft's Office 2013 licensing changes

I recently gave a few price quotes for a client and in that process, I did some background research regarding the new Office 2013.

The licensing for Microsoft Office 2013 states that copies are installable on a single PC only, non-transferable. If your disk or motherboard fails, that Office installation was tied to the PC and you must purchase another.

I just don't know what Microsoft was thinking. As of last week, Newegg.ca was selling copies of Office 2010 Home & Student (3 user) DVD media for $144.99 and Office 2013 Home & Student (single user, non-transferable) for $139.99. If you ignore the non-transferability of Office 2013 and just consider the raw cost per user-license, then Office 2013 is 2.89 times more expensive! Then consider in the fact that should your PC ever fail, you would have to get another brand new copy for $139.99... The cost per user-license of Office 2013 could therefore rise to nearly 6 times as expensive per user-license compared to Office 2010 after your first PC failure.

Many (myself included) saw this as a money-grab and an attempt to force users to their Office 365 subscription-based service, a $99.99 per year subscription grants access to the latest Microsoft Office software for up to 5 users in a household. The pricing scheme for this is a little more reasonable per-user, but a static fee each year means that Microsoft inevitably makes more money... Say a PC lasts 5 years, then they're making 5 x $99.99 instead of selling a single copy of Office for ~$150.

Last week it look like Microsoft gave in to the massive outcry from users and announced an updated clause for the Office 2013 license agreement:

You may transfer the software to another computer that belongs to you, but not more than one time every 90 days (except due to hardware failure, in which case you may transfer sooner).

Well, at least that's a little more reasonable.

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Boot Camp 3.0 + Windows XP Service Pack 3 = installation error

Seeing as I completely reformatted my MacBook Pro's hard disk, I also had to reinstall Windows via Boot Camp 3.0 today. Everything went well, however when the time came to install Service Pack 3 (my copy of XP is an SP2 OEM disc), I received an odd error I had never seen before:

An error occured while copying file osloader.ntd.  Cannot copy file to destination directory.  Click Retry to retry the operation or click Cancel.

A Google revealed that this error is caused by an Apple's new HFS+ drivers for Windows, as detailed here. Simply following the instructions and renaming the driver fixes the problem. After installing SP3, I restored the HFS+ driver to it's original state and all is well.

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Vista + Loose SATA cable = Bad news

So... Here's what I have been doing during the past 5 hours:

I was noticing some odd behavior from my PC, which runs Fedora Linux as its primary OS but it also has Windows Vista installed for gaming. The machine would boot without any indication of trouble, but once it had been up & running for about 5 minutes, the system would hang and the hard disk activity light on the case would stay permanently on. A soft reboot wouldn't fix the problem either - a complete shutdown was required. At first I thought it was an OS problem, so I rebooted into Vista but found it was affected too. I immediately thought, "hardware". I tried leaving the computer alone for an hour to see if it it would eventually come out of the freeze, but it clearly wasn't doing anything with the disk because the system remained frozen and I could not hear the disk heads moving (and on a 10K RPM drive, those are pretty loud). I ran memtest86+ and did a 3 minute S.M.A.R.T self-test on /dev/sda in Fedora, but oddly enough both came up clean.

Since my hardware seemed OK, I powered down the PC, opened the case and made sure there were no loose cables. Sure enough, the problem was the SATA cable which connected my motherboard to my hard disk. After disconnecting it, blowing off some excess dust and reconnecting it, everything was fine. But that's not where the story ends.

By the time I had reproduced the problem, tested the RAM & hard disk and reconnected the SATA cable, I had done about 15 power cycles. Linux handled the whole situation pretty gracefully - it logged the specific SATA errors (Result: hostbyte=DID_BAD_TARGET driverbyte=DRIVER_OK,SUGGEST_OK) and put the root filesystem into read-only mode. After reconnecting the cable, Fedora was up and running as if nothing had happened (it did do an automatic fsck upon booting, but the check came up clean). Vista, on the other hand, didn't take it so well - it informed me that I need to run CHKDISK upon starting up, so I let it repair C:\ and it orphans thousands and thousands of files... After CHKDISK completed I was (surprisingly) able to boot up, but many programs - including explorer.exe - were crashing. Judging by the amount of orphaned files, I'm guessing that quite a few system files were missing or corrupted.

So, long story short, if you have any SATA problems and Vista starts orphaning a tons of files during CHKDISK, save yourself some time by canceling the CHKDISK and make sure you have your Vista installation DVD handy.

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