Microsoft Packaging 2007

The packaging for Microsoft Office 2007 sucks big time. It made my recent such acquisition traumatic and thoroughly unrewarding.

Whenever you buy an Apple product *, you know you’re in for a fabulous, rewarding experience when you open it. Every component is meticulously designed for pleasure and function. Irrespective of the product itself, you know that by the time you’ve got to it, you’ve enjoyed every moment of discovery—every unfolded box, every individually-wrapped component, every carefully crafted booklet. By the time I reached my Microsoft product (no more, no less than a holographic CD), I wanted to snap it in half out of sheer desperation and frustration. (I didn’t.)

Once I was through the ubiquitous cellophane wrapper, I was confronted with an inelegant frosted-plastic case about the size of a standard paperback fiction book, its only redeeming design feature being one rounded corner. Immediately beneath the plastic was some thick, glossy paper marketing the product therein. But the puzzle of how to get to the CD itself was confounding to say the least—something worthy of the Krypton Factor’s Intelligence round. A red tag seemed to indicate the intended direction of travel, but I was unable to figure out what it meant, or how it should be operated.

In the end, I prised apart the plastic packaging, breaking the hinge that I later discovered to be the critical part of the preferred method of opening, and tearing slightly the paper that supported the marketing blurb. I’d hope that the experience highlighted Microsoft’s lack of attention to product design, as opposed to my own intention. I’ll let you decide that.

A couple of shards of plastic later, I was confronted with the CD itself, but I took another five minutes to find the 25-character reference number that is crucial to the Office install. Looking in vain all over the outer part of the packaging, I eventually found it on a sticker on the rear of the inner portion of the packaging—not obvious at all.

Overall, a dreadful experience that has sullied the product itself.

* My Apple experience has been limited to iPods, but I understand the same to be true of the wider Apple range.

Period drama

The Clapham branch of Hamptons the estate agents underwent a revamp just before Christmas. Its new sign is shown below.


I’m always amazed that important signage gets through basic proof-reading with mistakes. Maybe the period after Lettings (and the lack of a corresponding one after Sales) sticks out more to me than to other people. But nonetheless, it’s something that should have been picked up in the proof-read, particularly as this is the only text on the sign.

Nice font though (Georgia), and well done on the phone-number grouping.

A fuckin’ fairytale, I tell ya

A story about the BBC’s decision (and subsequent reversal) to silence out slut and faggot from the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s fabulous track Fairy Tale of New York.

And they’re perhaps the most fabulous set of Christmas lyrics on offer, from what is perhaps the most wonderful Christmas song:

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

May the track rocket to number one in the Hit Parade as a result of the controversy. (It’s currently number two in the iTunes download chart behind Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, both of which have been boosted by my good self.)

Google Chart API

I’ve just found this fabulous little API from Google. It allows you to create parameterised charts of any size which display within a URL as a png file. Here are the details.

You provide the parameters, including data, as part of the URL and the PNG can be embedded wherever you like.


Promotional codes: moral dilemma?

Promotional codes are there for certain members of the public to benefit on certain commercial deals. For example, I keep getting offers from ocado for a few pounds off my shopping, as my account has lapsed. A code supplied in the email allows me to claim this discount at online check-out. (In actual fact, my wife now holds our ocado account, and she gets no such offers—frustrating.)

But often, the codes that are issued are not tied to specific user accounts, and are advertised on the web. While halfway through the process of registering a package online to send via Parcelforce the other day, I decided to Google for such a number, and easily found one that offered 15% off any Parcelforce order, taking the price down from £72 to £61.

I used the voucher, but is this morally wrong? Or should we be happy to exploit the fact that companies put generic vouchers out there for anyone to use.


I realised on Thursday that I look up when people mention Excel, as if answering to my name being called.

Slightly worrying.

The house that Satan built

Nauseatingly loving new couple on the bus, girl holding the finger of the guy.

Guy: oh, there’s a programme on tonight that I want to watch
Girl: what is it?
Guy: a documentary about Pink Floyd
Girl: oh, I want to watch that programme where Mark Philippousis gets to choose a woman.

‘Missing’ ‘canoeist’

It’s the story that’s gripped the nation for the last week or so: the story of the guy who allegedly went canoeing off the Humberside coast a few years ago, allegedly died in the process, and then showed up the other week suffering from forgetfulness, a condition that thankfully is subsiding by the day. The newspapers and their online equivalents keep putting the word missing in quotes, given the clear distance that separates the word from the facts at hand. Yet they don’t seem to be similarly compelled with respect to the word canoeist. Surely the veracity of this word is similarly quesionable, no? Did he go, or indeed as he ever been, near a canoe?

Christmas tree 2007

Here’s our Christmas tree 2007, our daughter’s first, complete with 500 lights. I’m excited. Very excited.

Christmas Tree 2007

Earphone sharing

If two guys share a single pair of earphones (one ear each), does it automatically mean that they’re gay, in additon to being ignorant of the importance of stereo? I’m not sure, but would like your views. For the record, I’m pretty sure the same is not true for women, lesbianism that it, not stereo-heathenry.

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