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Vanishing HQs, trendy hearing aids and buying Office 2003

You think we're hallucinating (again)

Letters Normally when it comes to be time to rummage through the emails you send us, looking for the funny, insightful or just plain interesting ones to use in the letters column, we tend to start serious, and get silly towards the end. For a change, we'll kick off with some daftness, spent a little time in the land of the sensible before drifting back to lunacy for the final few letters.

Yes, we're starting with MSN's Virtual Earth. First up is Mata who rightly berates us for missing such an obvious pun:

So, to get to the core of what you're telling us: MSN's google (sorry, 'search') for Apple is fruitless?

It's not like El Reg to pass up such an easy pun. You're slipping!

Cheers for all the fun stories,


Peter Nelson was among the politest to point out where the images really came from:

At the bottom of the MSN site it says "images provided by USGS." If you search TerraServer you'll see that the most recent USGS photo of Cupertino is 1991, before Apple's HQ was built. Here's the same picture with the date on it.


Some readers just wouldn't leave well alone:

Hmmm... having FAR too much time on my hands... See the difference with The Voles lair using 1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052-8300 in each


Some just take it all too seriously:

DUDE! What are you smoking?!?! your article is a bunch of crap. i hate Microsoft as much as the next guy, but COME ON look at the damn maps, the Microsoft map is simply OLDER. it shows the apple campus BEFORE it was built. there is also an ENTIRE DEVELOPEMENT of houses missing on top of it, they just were not built yet at the time the image was taken. remove your story its a lie!


As always, there's at least one reader who really knows - Mr Crouch who helped build Apple's Cupertino headquarters:


I saw your recent article on the differences between the aerial photographs of the Apple R&D Campus used by Google and Microsoft. I was part of the team that built the Apple R&D Campus, and the Microsoft photo looks like it was taken while construction was beginning on the new campus. This would place the photograph around 1993.

A more interesting question might be why Microsoft is using such old data for their service. Google obviously has more recent photographs.

Good luck with your continuing "investigation".

Charles Crouch, Brussels

And lastly thanks to Geoff Heaton who managed to find a picture of Concorde:

I wonder how old the aerial photography is on MSN Virtual Earth. I have had a close up look at JFK airport in New York and found Concorde parked at one of the gates.|-73.784507&style=h&lvl=17&v=1


Next up: the codename has been dropped. Yes, Longhorn has become Vista. You have lots of theories as to why:

Oh great, so now we can go from all the obligatory jokes about "Long" horn's development time and have a new raft of Arnie inspired "Hasta la Vista" instead when it doesn't ship on time.

Heyyy... I get it. Windows Vista is the view of the outside world from within Windows - where exists all those cool features which were let loose. If you're lucky, you can watch forlornly as a journalling SQL based storage wanders by, turn its head towards you and offers a fleeting glimpse of what could have been before sauntering off towards the setting sun...


Maybe some connotation of "infinitely receding Vistas"?


An interesting thought

Windows Vista could be shortened to Windows VI

'VI' in Roman Numerals is six, Windows Vista will be NT 6.


For a limited definition of 'interesting', Grant...

From Vista: A distant view or prospect, especially one seen through an opening, as between rows of buildings or trees.

An obstructed view of something very far away? Yep, sounds like Longhorn all right!

Tsu Dho Nimh

Hi Joe, after reading the story after Windows Vista, I thought I'd see if others agreed with me that it was a cack name... so I Googled Windows+Vista... interesting results! and

I wonder if they'll be getting a call from MS's attorneys - or could it shoot Redmond in the foot, what with the shaky ground of the Windows trademark (The Register and others passim).

Thought you might be interested, keep up the good work etc., Ross

More mayhem from MS, as the software giant struggles to shift copies of Office 2003 ahead of the launch of Office 12 next year:

Compatibility is a disincentive to use recent versions of Office. If I send someone a CV in Word 97, I'll be confident my they can read it.

If I use the latest and greatest version of Office, I'm risking they can't open it and have enough other, readable CVs to not bother with mine.




Your article has me rolling on the floor. Five years after its introduction, our company is _still_ using office 2000... Of about 100 users at my location, only five of us is using office 2003 - and that only because occasionally we need the file repair functions offered by this product - and nothing else. 2003 does a good job fixing corrupted word files.

I just last week looked at the price for Office 2003. I have the Select D level prices... for 100 users... yikes. Not this year. The license is bad enough, but they also make me buy 2 years if SA... And if Office 12 is only 18 months away, I can just as easily wait those 18 months and then buy.

Funny... by then the SA for the 10 Office 2003 licenses I have will also have expired. I wonder if they by chance did any statistical analysis on max revenue at introduction... At the time I bought Office2003, I was forced to buy three years of SA.



I think it will take more than keen pricing to get a significant number of users to shift to Office 2003. The reason for this is actually really simple:

It's CRAP.

My favourite version of the Office suite was back at version 2. Word 2 for example was light (ok, lighter than today), did most things that you wanted, didn't do lots of rubbish you didn't want, and you had a fair chance of disabling the bits you didn't need/want/like.

Coming forward to version(s) 6, the bloat was getting a bit worse, but (compared to 2003) it still did most of the things you wanted and didn't do the things you didn't want. Roll forward again through 95, 97 and 2000 and things are just slipping downhill. More bloat, more pointless "features", more difficult to configure (i.e. turn off the bits you detest with a fiery passion). XP and 2003 just move this decline to an exponential rate.

Office 2003 is huge, bloated, irritating, is still really bad at some things, more difficult to configure (impossible in the case of some "features") and simply not needed (and definitely not value for money) for the vast overwhelming volume of users.

I imagine I'll be forced into upgrading in a few years - at the point where my version of Office can't open documents from newer versions, and the newer version formats constitute the majority of what's being sent to me. Hopefully this is some considerable time away.


P.S. And all that without mentioning Clippy.

The ringtone business, the same people responsible for the bloody frog, have been complaining that punters are ripping them off by exploiting loopholes to effectively "shoplift" free choonz. Excuse us if our collective heart fails to bleed:

I do wonder, how many of these ringtones being "stolen" were pulled from public domain sources in the first place?

And frankly, to anyone with the nous to "shoplift" ringtone previews in the first place, delivering them as Flash will be no impediment to carrying on. All it takes is something that can record from the soundcard, and that's as rare as sndrec32.exe.


Interesting to hear about "Ringtone Shiplifting". My Sony Ericsson k750i actually has a built-in feature for doing just this: you can record any old sound using the phone's own microphone, and then use the recorded clip as a ringtone. Even my old Nokia 3210 allowed you to punch in a melody, note by note, on the keypad -- and then send it by SMS to any other Nokia user.

This gets around all artificial limits imposed by file formats. Who will buy a ringtone if the preview is unlistenable? And you can't very well have a phone without a mic. {Although I'd buy one for my mother, if they ever invented one}.

And there's another thing to consider before you go bandying about figures like £75 million. If the people who have successfully managed to obtain ringtones for free actually were unable to do so then, rather than actually pay for expensive ringtones, might they not simply use one of their telephone's factory-default alert sounds?

Ringtone companies should be grateful that anyone actually buys their overpriced and unnecessary product in the first place, and not bitch about "lost revenue" that never was.


While using flash for ringtone websites will slow the pilfering of sample tunes, it won't stop them.

There are already applications such as this

which will convert SWF files to mp3, and it's relatively easy to "view source" to find the location of the original SWF file and download that to play with.

I can't, actually, think of a solution.



Moving away from the very businessey stuff, this week we also considered the possibility of Life on Titan:

It seems the scientists are having problems explaining the large quantities of methane present in the Titan atmosphere.

Could not a very simple explanation be the former presence of huge herds of cows on Titan? There have for a long time been proposals to harness the \'output\' from cows on Earth to provide methane to power cars etc.!!!


We readied ourselves to find out what has been happening to the sea ice and ice sheets of the Arctic. Apparently the submarine gathered data is incomplete:

So what were the submarines so busy doing that they weren't allowed to break the ice in the 80's? nyuck nyuck nyuck! :)


The RNID wants hearing aids to be cool. But the more fashion forward among you reckon that is already last season's news:

Our littlest (hearing loss about 90dB in both ears) is getting hearing aids: the new digital ones can do the task of essentially being with you and SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY into your ear(s).

So they took moulds of the inside of his ear (which the hearing aid output will go into), and offered us the choice of about 20 different colours for the moulds to come back in. Green! Bright green! Blue! Red! Transparent! Transparent with blue/red/yellow glitter! (We chose transparent glitter. Next time, perhaps orange. For his goth period in a few years, no doubt it'll be black.)

I tell you, fashion is already there when it comes to the ear mould bits. OK, so the aids themselves could do with some sprucing up, but the RNID is definitely pushing on an open door.


And finally, we recognise that some of you might think this is not in the best of taste. And yet we thought that in some ways it was a fitting tribute to a man in his line of work:

From his Obituary -

Well known for his gratuitously enlarged anatomy, low cost pharmaceuticals, low interest rates and ability to stay solid in every situation.

He is survived by hot teen nymphomaniacs, sexy MILFs and the widow of the Nigerian finance minister.

Cheers, Shayne

Laters. ®

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