Saturday, May 20, 2006

Goodbye Microsoft Office, hello OpenOffice

Eureka, CA

May 16, 2005.

The Times-Standard Tech Beat
by Rene Agredano

This article is being written using's “Writer” program. It's a software application so similar to Microsoft Word that anyone who's always used Microsoft Word can get the hang of it within minutes.

It's being written in Writer because of one simple fact: I'm done with Microsoft Office. Fed up and tired of the bugs and problems related to this expensive software that's dominated our world for far too long. Last week, the straw broke the camel's back, and with the help of a fellow Redwood Technology Consortium member, I made the switch to the OpenOffice software suite that's changing the world, one geek at a time. Here's why I did it.

I have DSL, and my computer is always hooked up to the Internet (with a firewall in place). As long as I can remember I've dutifully had my computer's settings adjusted so that automatic Microsoft system updates will occur behind the scenes as they become available.

The first time I realized this was a dumb thing to do was about a year and a half ago, when my machine automatically downloaded Microsoft's Service Pack Two. Funny things started happening to my computer, which was becoming old and was already experiencing its own aging problems. Microsoft's update sped up the aging process, and Service Pack Two turned my machine into a decrepit vegetable that had to be put out of its misery. No problem, I needed a new machine anyway.

So I had a fellow RTC member build me a fabulous new machine. It was running beautifully, until an automatic update that occurred two weeks ago. You should know about this update, because if you've downloaded it, your machine will start running like poo-poo (a technical term). It's called Security update MS06-015.

The damage that occurred was like this. Whenever I tried to perform a “Save As,” either when saving an e-mail attachment to my hard drive, or from within any Office Application's Explorer window, my machine would completely stall. I had to force quit the application and restart. The only way to perform a “Save As” was to open the document and do it from the drop down “File” menu. Within a day, my performance was slowed down by 99 percent.

I had to find a way to fix it. But if you've ever tried to tunnel your way through Microsoft's support pages, you know it's like digging your way to China with a spoon. After too much time spent searching for this issue and making futile attempts to use one of my two “free” e-mail support options,


I gave up.

So I made a leap of faith, and my friend installed OpenOffice. It's changed my world. It's so easy to use, and so far, bug free. My machine hums like a dream. What is OpenOffice and why is it so great? OpenOffice is a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Programmers around the world, with no money-making incentives whatsoever, are constantly fine tuning and building the program. This gives equal office suite access to everyone in the world, regardless of how much they can pay. It's compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use and distribute. OpenOffice is built in the true spirit of the Internet; it is the great equalizer. Much has been said about it in other Tech Beat articles. For more information, please visit the RTC's Newsletter section at www.redwood, and search for “Open Office” to learn more.

Today I received a reply from Microsoft's automated system. They sent me this technical information about the problem:

Article: “Problems in Windows Explorer or the Windows shell after you install security update MS06-015” and is located at

The solution? Hack the registry code and install a new shell extension. Do you even know what this means? I do, sort of, and I wouldn't dare go there. Why on earth would Microsoft think that the average user would even attempt this? Do they think we want to fork over at least $100 to fix their stupid problem that should've been fixed before the update was released to the unsuspecting public?

So consider yourself warned, their flawed update will wreak havoc on your system. Don't do it! Or if you have, call up your favorite geek and get them over to install OpenOffice on your machine, fast. Trust me, you'll never look back.

Rene Agredano is an RTC member and co-owner of Agreda Communications, founder of www.MarcomAndPOP, an online storefront with point-of-purchase and marketing communications solutions of every sort under the sun.

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