My wife, who does not like technology and has been known to shout at the Sky remote control, invited me to take over the email conversion while she went off to swear at things in the living room. After some exchanges, I established that the company’s whizzy new document system is entirely cloud-based rather than relying on users to download documents and edit them using Microsoft Office in the conventional way. It is compatible with Windows 7 or 8 ONLY.
With a heavy heart, I put my own work on hold and set out to install Windows 7 in a Parallels virtual machine on my wife’s iMac. As soon as I run Parallels Desktop, it’s telling me to download the latest version. I do this. I double-click on the updater (hooray!) It doesn’t work (boo!) Hunting through the Parallels knowledge base, I discover that the latest version is not compatible with the version of Mac OS X running on my wife’s iMac. So why did the stupid arse tell me to update?
I run Apple Software Update. It tells me there are updated versions of the operating system (hooray!) but they are not compatible with my wife’s iMac (boo!) I walk into the living room to join my wife swearing. While there, I spot on a shelf an old boxed version of Parallels Desktop that’s still newer than the one already installed on my wife’s iMac. I run back and install it (hooray!) It works (b… hooray!)
Windows 7 follows, Chrome gets installed; I set up Coherence and some shortcuts; I’m on a roll. We log in to the company’s new system, click on a download and (boo!) it throws up the usual error, albeit this time in a blue-framed Windows message window rather than the Mac’s grey one. Support Minion tells me I need to install .NET 4.5. Why didn’t she mention this earlier?
By sunrise the next morning, I finally have all the bits working together. I invite my wife to try it out. She logs in, she accesses the system, she calls up a document, and I wander into the kitchen for a well-deserved decaff soya girly latte as she begins to type her first translation into the new system.
I look up from the coffee machine. Did you call, dearest? Back in the office, my wife has discovered that Windows does not let you type accented characters. I forgot about that. Accents tend to turn up quite often in French, so their absence is somewhat troublesome for a translator. This is why she uses a Mac: it lets you type accented characters in any language regardless of OS language or keyboard layout.
She has options, of course. She could switch Windows to a French keyboard layout, but then the keys on her physical keyboard won’t match what she’s typing. She could buy a French Windows keyboard for her iMac, but then it won’t match what she’s doing in the Mac OS – unless, of course, she switches the Mac to a French keyboard layout and learns to touch-type all over again.
Alternatively, I suggest, she could switch her entire operating system to French, but then she’d need to download an old version from somewhere and we can’t find it on the Apple site. Or I could pin up a printout of Windows ALT codes for her to use in order to produce accented characters, bearing in mind that it would mean a word such as bébé would require 12 key presses and the single-letter word à would require five.
Or she could buy a new computer – a Windows computer. I suggest Lenovo, they seem like a nice company, always willing to get involved with what users are up to.
But hang on, my wife is already using a perfectly good computer for email, web and document editing, and for those functions alone it should be good for another 10 years at least. Hate Apple all you like, but Mac OS also happens to be a popular choice for multi-linguists because of its direct support for accented characters while being OS language agnostic.
What in God’s name possessed a translation agency to devise an upgrade that makes working with languages harder? Why would it commission .NET boffins to write a system that’s Cloud-Based but eliminates all users of an OS developed by the world’s most successful computer business?
The old system of downloading Microsoft Office files, editing them and uploading them might have been clunky from an IT developer’s perspective but it worked fine from a user’s.
Bloody IT, it’s all crap.
I drop an email to the Minion asking if she has any ideas for getting accented characters into the new system. She responds that I could try copying them over from Microsoft Word.
Perhaps I could try sheep farming instead. It’s got to be easier than this.
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. The last time he came across strictly Windows-only software was in the last century. He apologises to those who believe he deserves all he gets for buying Apple, but asks: how does using a 13-year-old iMac make him a fanboi?
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