As a very ancient, early adopter of digital technology, I recently experienced first hand, how Microsoft abuses its immense corporate digital power. Let me tell you about it, so being forewarned is being forearmed.
I caught computing fever in the 1960’s, and now it is chronic. We got our first professional home computer, when MSDOS was the operating system. We hopped from there to Windows, and religiously from version to version thereafter. Around 2015 I finally became fed up being manipulated by Microsoft, and switched to Linux.
Of the six computers in our house, not counting smart phones and eReaders, four run Linux. The other two, a second hand Mini-Mac, and an old Asus laptop are used to compile native versions of a scientific open-source, platform independent software, I am distributing. The laptop also assists my exercise bicycle to provide virtual reality rides, using Rouvy software, which only runs on Windows and Mac platforms. It is this Windows laptop, that has become the focus of our trouble.
Last week I found a charge by Microsoft in my VISA account for CAD 89.27 with an explanation “Microsoft*Microsoft 365 P”. I googled that term, and apparently it is for Microsoft Office. I can’t remember, when I last used Microsoft Office. My Linux desktop gives me all the Office functionality, I’d ever want.
I had never received an invoice for this charge. I checked my antediluvian MS Account, and it showed no active license for MS Office. And to make things even worse, My MS account only listed an extinct VISA account number, quite distinct from the one the current charge was actually placed on.
I contacted Microsoft, asking for an explanation. They immediately returned me a case number, and since then I haven’t heard from them, despite several reminders. But most revealing was the reaction from VISA. Contacting them gave no concrete answer for three days, except that they cancelled my VISA account. When I went to my local bank branch, I finally got action. The manager was on the phone for over half an hour.
Apparently, there exists a hush-hush agreement called ‘Token’ between the banking industry, and the major corporations, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc., which gives these giants access to confidential banking data, inaccessible to anybody else! This fact was apparently also news for the local branch staff.
Unfortunately, it was not the only bad news: For the past days my exercise program Rouvy was malfunctioning. When I tried to download data for a ride, it started at full speed, then slowed down to a crawl, and finally stopped altogether. I couldn’t exercise anymore. Eventually, after one download failure too many, I opened the Windows task manager, and found a great deal of Microsoft activity involving CPU, disk and network, chocking out Rouvy. I then spent an hour cleansing the laptop from anything that spelled “ms…”, except for Windows itself. That solved the problem, and I am happily cycling again in the virtual Alps.
But here is the major lesson: not only Royalty and former Presidents are above the law – so are also “corporations too big to fail”!