Brown outs from Powerpoint (and our Microsoft deliverance)

Thunderbird When I was in my early twenties, I resolved to hitch hike across Canada.  Like much of my generation, I was enamored of beat poets and life "on the road."

I made through BC and Alberta quickly enough, but things got tricky when I hit the prairies.  Somewhere on the outskirts of Regina, I got stuck outside a road side cafe and stayed there with my thumb out for 24 hours.

So when a Thunderbird stopped, I didn’t hesitate.  The guy looked a bit dodgy, blood shot eyes, a tremor in his hand, a certain vacancy in his eyes. What the f*ck, I was on the road again.

I didn’t even mind when the driver offered me a pill from the match box on the console.  And I didn’t mind when the headlights kept shorting out.  "Don’t worry," he said, "they’ll come back."  And sure enough, after about 6 seconds, they did.  He was nonplussed, but I was plenty plussed, I can tell you.  When you’re on the highway, travelling 60 or 70 miles an hour into the pitch dark, 6 seconds is an incredibly long time.  I was all I could do to keep from screaming.  (I was pretty sure that screaming was not in the beat poet handbook.)

Eventually we ran out of gas.  Good, I thought, Nietzche was right.  "What doesn’t kill me makes me happy." 

Sort of a long preamble for a bit of Microsoft bashing, I realize.  And I’m sorry.  Next time you won’t take a ride with this stranger and I don’t blame you.  (It’s just that I am on the plane to Guangzhou, and I have a little extra time.)

Ok, here’s the Microsoft bashing:

The thing I was prepared to endure from perfect strangers driving Thunderbirds, I am not prepared to endure from a corporation with a market cap of several billion dollars.

Headlights shorting out.  This is precisely what happens to me routinely when I am using Powerpoint.  (I have three presentations due by the end of the week so I am using Powerpoint a lot.)  I am typing away and suddenly no letters appear on the screen.  I can keep typing like a demented, pill popping, Thunderbird pilot, and eventually my input puts out and letters appear on the screen. 

Six seconds is an incredibly long time not to see letters on the screen.  If you were in the throes of idea capture, too bad.  Chances are the thing is gone.  You might have a trace, but the unfolding has stopped. 

If you were in the throes of air traffic control, too bad too.  You know, when you have lots of little ideas flying about in your head and you are trying to get some down, so that you can get others down, so that you can get still others down.  When the headlights fail, the entire "stack" crashes, and you have to start again.

So, no, it is not ok for Powerpoint to take a little f*cking holiday in the middle of slide.  How old is Powerpoint software?  How long has Microsoft had to solve this problem?  Could we not have a stripped down version, a stall-proof version of this  software?  Could we not have a composition mode that’s all about capture, and not encumbered by the bells and whistles needed for formatting.

I have a sneeking suspicion why Powerpoint has not fixed this flaw.  It is to do with a button that Micrsoft employees used to wear in the 1990s.  (They might wear it still but I can only speak for the 1990s.)  The button read "FYIV." This stood for "F*ck you, I’m vested."  When one Microsoft employee asked another Microsoft employee to do something he or she did not want to do, the button’s message was clear.  The wearer didn’t have to do anything he or she didn’t want to.

Apparently, the corporation believes in large what the employee believes in small.  FYIV.  We have your business.  When it comes to presentation software, we have everyone’s business.  We would like to help you.  Wait a second, we couldn’t give a sh*t about helping you.  You see, we’re vested. 

Isn’t that sweet?  I have been in full flight from Microsoft for some time now: Mozilla Firefox for my browser, gmail for my email, Google even has a spreadsheet now.  But Windows OS, Word and Powerpoint, these are sticking points.  I know there is presentation software available from Sun (Star), Lotus (Freelance), Harvard Graphics, and so on.  I have looked at most all of them.  I know Apple has Keynote.  I also know that they will never surrender it to the PC world.  There are Web 2.0 software suites out there, including Thinkfree.  The best of them, I think, is  Google is supplying a version of presentation software.  Lenovo is promising to install Linux. 

God almighty, it won’t be long before we’re free at last.

7 thoughts on “Brown outs from Powerpoint (and our Microsoft deliverance)

  1. Carol Gee

    Grant, good luck with all your presentations. Before I retired I was a media specialist for a university, and remember the particular pungency of Murphy’s Law on crucial days. With new software it need not be inevitable. I just discovered Mozilla Firefox and love it-love it!

  2. Ennis

    That’s probably not quite powerpoints fault, but more of windows fault. If you just inserted a large file, or if there is something else slowing down the system, you might get such behavior.

    You could always try open office’s powerpoint clone (but it’s not as good), and then open it up and finalize it in powerpoint.

    I’m surprised, actually, PP has been one of the more reliable Office products out there for me.

    Oh, lastly, you can have pp import from word (in outline form), so if you really have to get something up and going, you could write it all out in word.

    Or heck, write it in anything else, like word, and present it in word.

  3. Auto

    Grant, what you’re experiencing is God’s way of telling you not to live a life where you have to do PowerPoint presentations.

    I think the comparisons of crappy products from Bill G. to crappy cars is off the mark. Cars have been around more or less for the last century but it’s been only in the last decade or so that they’ve gotten so reliable that breakdowns are a thing of the past.

    Give Microsoft a century and they too will deliver something as reliable as a Toyota.

    True, Steve J. seems to be able to do it today, but his stuff comes with its own set of issues and shortcomings.

  4. Oskar Shapley

    Just print it to PDF with PDFCreator. Most PCs will have a PDF reader even if there is no MS PPT. I’ve seen a lot of academic presentations like that.

    The only downside you will have is that you won’t edit it in an emergency case immediately, but will have to print-to-pdf it again.

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