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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Microsoft Project 2007

My wife is taking a history course at UMass Lowell, looking at the Holocaust.  The Professor's term is "the twisted road to Auschwitz." A good term.  It comes from historian Karl A. Schleunes.

And, there are a lot of threads, including the German T4 program, that killed thousands of the disabled--people characterized as "Useless Eaters."  This was a Euthanasia Program that took 70,000 lives, regardless of race, creed or class.  There are the various starts and stops in programs to marginalize the Jews, before the Germans got down to killing 6 million.  Then there is the whole GeneralPlanOst, which would have displaced or killed up to 40 million people.  That is 40 as in forty.

How to capture all this and lay it out and see the interconnectedness? Having used Microsoft Project at work, I thought it would be a good tool.  My wife could get a copy through the University for one year for $80.  If it turned out to be the Cat's Meow, we could buy a full up copy.

The program arrived yesterday and I installed it on my wife laptop this evening. Then I tried to set up a simple set of activities, like the timeline of major foreign affairs and wartime events (Munich, War with Poland, Attack on France, Attack on USSR, etc).  Another timeline for the Anti-Jewish efforts--Nuremberg Laws, Assassination in Paris, Krystallnacht.  Not perfect--it cascades down, for instance--but it seemed to me to be easier than doing it in Powerpoint.

My problem was that Microsoft Project only runs from 1 January 1984 to the last day of 2049.  I dummied the data up by projecting it forward 100 years, but still, it looks funny and the days of the week are off.

My first question is why?

My next question is if there is a patch out there to overcome this.  So, of course I went to the Microsoft Help facility.  Nothing in Help itself, so I went to the Microsoft home page. What a rat's nest of misdirection.  I kept looking for a phone number to call and could not find one, although there were statements that it existed.  Finally, I followed the line toward contract help services, which could cost up from $250 a day. A non-starter.  I want to talk to someone before I offer to fork over that kind of money.

So, I am (1) unhappy with Microsoft Project and believe I was sold a poorly designed product.  Put another way, the people that wrote the requirements live in a small cage and are unable to think about the larger uses to which their product could be adapted.

And, I am (2) very unhappy with customer support from Microsoft.  Sure, Microsquish makes pretty good and pretty robust products, but customer support leaves a lot to be desired.

If anyone out in the real world has a work-around (besides my bumping everything forward a century), please let me know--crk@theworld.com.

Thanks and Rant Off.

Regards  --  Cliff

1 comment:

kad barma said...

Just say NO to Microsoft. Their software, by displacing better alternatives, often and arguably does more to inhibit productivity than it ever has to enhance it. Your experience is just the tip of that iceberg.

Openoffice.org is one place to go for (free!) open-source alternatives for much of the "Office" suite, though I don't believe it offers project management functions. There's a page in Wikipedia that has a pretty good list of options and links for you, so perhaps you might start there for your next project phase:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_project_management_software

Firefox for web browsing, and OpenOffice for presentations, word processing and spreadsheets, are, as they say, "no-brainers". I'm sure you'll find plenty of others.