Posted by: patenttranslator | July 16, 2013

What Is the Best Way to Break Out of the Microsoft Software Prison?

“Your Majesty, they have stormed the Bastille”, exclaimed an aide of King Louis XVI.”Is this a revolt?” asked the King. “No, Sire, it’s a revolution.”

I am so mad at Microsoft that I am looking for a way to break out of the Microsoft prison. Without ending up in the Apple prison, of course, which is even worse than the Microsoft prison, and certainly more expensive. Microsoft is a prison for regular inmates like me. Apple is a prison for uppity inmates who don’t mind paying extra for special prison privileges.

I have been a loyal user of Microsoft products, first DOS, then Windows and Office, for about three decades now. But at this point, the wise leaders of Microsoft somehow managed to make me hate their guts with vengeance.

As far as I can tell, the Windows 8 upgrade is a disaster that was born in the mind of an arrogant slave master. The “tile system” is a completely useless, primitive and counterintuitive collection of dumb icons if you use it on a PC rather than on a smart phone. My mouse often hangs over a corner of the monitor for what seems like an eternity before something that I can click on finally appears, if it ever does. And when I try to use a track pad on my laptop, the screen simply disappears and is suddenly replaced by one of those tiles that I will never use.

It took me months to discover how to access commands and functions that I was used to in the Tower of Babel created by the new system of Tiles for Idiots in Windows 8. Of course, with Windows 8, first you have to set up a Microsoft e-mail account to even be able to use the system so that your government and hundreds of greedy, ruthless corporations could better spy on you with every mouse click you make.

If Microsoft’s plan was to piss off as many people as possible with the Windows 8 upgrade, they have succeeded already beyond their wildest dreams. I remember that when I first bought a new PC with Window 8 on it, I was thinking to myself that next time I should probably switch from iPhone to a phone that has the Microsoft operating system on it since I will learn all about it on my PC anyway. That was probably the main (and the only) idea behind the Windows 8 upgrade.

But in the meantime I have grown to hate this arrogant dictate of Microsoft that somehow manages to completely ignore what hundreds of millions of PC users might actually really want by trying to leverage their near monopoly of the PC operating system and in this manner extend their market dominance also to tablets and smart phones in the name of ever greater profits. Based on Microsoft’s results so far, Microsoft only managed to shoot itself in the foot with the Windows 8 upgrade, which I consider a downgrade.

I may or may not continue using my iPhone when my contract expires in 5 months. It is very expensive and I don’t really need a smart cell phone that much, especially since it is used to spy on me. But after my experience with Windows 8, I would not touch a phone that has the Microsoft logo on it with a ten foot pole.

For me the last straw was when Microsoft announced that licenses for new Microsoft Office products would have to be repurchased, again, again, and again, every year. So how much will Microsoft Word, which used to cost less than 150 dollars in the old Microsoft Office package, cost now?

I bought my Microsoft Office package on a CD for about $150 in 2007 and I am still using it now. Which means that it cost me so far a little over 20 dollars per year. The 2007 version of Microsoft Office came with a license for up to 3 PCs, but as I was replacing old computers with new ones, I discovered that I was able to use it on more than 3 PCs. Every time when I junked an old computer and installed Microsoft Office on the new one, I was able to register it without any problems. Until the last time, when about two months ago, I got a message that this product cannot be registered. But when I tried to register it for about the 7th time, I was finally successful, which is why I am still writing this post with MS Word.

Most people may no longer remember it, but Microsoft was the first corporation that came up with the innovative idea of obligatory registration of software packages online something like 15 years ago. Up until that point, a single user was able to register a single piece of software on as many computers as this single user was using until the same user decided to purchase an upgrade of the same software package. Which means that up until that time, software manufacturers had to try to sell upgrades based on new features and better functionality.

That simply is not true anymore.

I will definitely not buy a new version of Microsoft Office if it means that every year, I would have to spend a hundred dollars for a product that I already purchased and paid for on every PC and laptop that I use. It is more than just highway robbery. How is this different from being forced to pay protection money, again and again, to a mafia bagman? Tony Soprano himself would have been proud of this ingenious racket.

I think that even people running the Microsoft Corporation understand that there will be serious blowback from Microsoft Office users who just might become former Microsoft Office users. I also think that the Microsoft Corporation may be just testing the market at this point to see to what extent captive consumers can be manipulated while preparing a plan B in case the inmates in the Microsoft Bastille prison start making too much noise.

The chances are that once the 2007 version of Microsoft Word that I legally own becomes “uninstallable” on a computer that I also legally own and thus unusable, I will need to replace it with something else.

I know that there are free products that I can use, like the and products. I looked at the word processing modules in them, and they are not bad. I still prefer Microsoft Word, but probably mostly because I am used to it by now, although it has a lot of truly unexplainable features. For instance why are “Greek and Coptic” characters bundled together in special characters? There are only about 5 million Copts on this planet, while Greek characters are used probably a billion times every day in mathematical formulas. Which Microsoft genius came up with that idea?

It looks like within a few years I will have to learn the word processor that comes with openoffice software because so far I like it better than libreoffice.

Unless, of course, I go back to WordPerfect, which is a much better word processor than Microsoft Word. I have already downloaded the WordPerfect X6 trial version with built-in PDF software, and so far I mostly like what I see. Of course, it may be again mostly because I am very familiar with it as I have been using WordPerfect from 1987 to about 2004.

But I have not been able to find out on how many computers I can install WordPerfect X6. I am willing to pay a hundred dollars for the WordPerfect X6 package. That is a fair price. But I have 3 desktops and 2 laptops.

Does anybody know on how many computers I can install the new WordPerfect Office? I have not been able to find an answer to this question, possibly because WordPerfect does not want me to know.  If it works only on one computer, I will probably start using openoffice and then convert files to MS Word.

I am not interested in being moved by the software prison warden from the Microsoft prison to a WordPerfect prison.


  1. Presuming that most clients will be sticking with MS Word out of habit, do you happen to know how manipulable WordPerfect X6 documents are in Word?


  2. With the free copy that I will be testing for another two weeks before I make a decision, the conversion from WordPerfect format to MS Word format works very well, except if you have a very complicated format, such as the title page of WIPO (PCT) patent applications.

    The ability to convert text files to PDF files is also very handy, especially for people who don’t have a full version of the Adobe PDF Writer (not just the Reader) software, which is very expensive.

    But I do have this software, so I don’t really need this function.

    A really good feature of WordPerfect is the “reveal codes” function. If something is messing up the format and you don’t know what it is, you can usually find the problem easily with “reveal codes”, which is something that Microsoft Word does not have and probably never will.


  3. Interesting that you wrote, “I am so mad at Microsoft that I am looking for a way to break out of the Microsoft prison. Without ending up in the Apple prison, of course, which is even worse than the Microsoft prison, and certainly more expensive. Microsoft is a prison for regular inmates like me. Apple is a prison for uppity inmates who don’t mind paying extra for special prison privileges.”

    This reminds me of Groucho Marx saying, “I intend to live forever, or die trying.” I guess we can try like he did, even with Microsoft or Apple, and both you and me don’t have much time trying.


    • I saw your picture somewhere, on LinkedIn, I think, and you seem to be in good shape, no doubt thanks to Asian food and tai-chi and stuff like that.

      So you should be fine for another 26 years or so, unless that picture was 26 years old.

      Me, on the other hand …..

      Oh, well, I did my thing already, time to make way for the young generation.


      • Ah, I have 20 years to go, as you estimate. The picture was taken during a translator meeting in 2007.

        I live about 400 meters from a public library and go for books from time to time. There I found a book recently: Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers – Tales of Bitter Rivalry That Fueled the Advancement of Science and Technology. (by Michael White) A very interesting book, indeed, which I’d like to recommend you reading. Chapter 8, The Battle of the Cyber-Kings, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, 1995-, is relevent to our imprisonment. You shall take a read of it.

        Larry wanted to provide school kids with computer worth less than 500 dollars. His idea was to have softwares somewhere in the cyberspace and everybody can make use of them for free or something like that, so that Microsoft’s OS would be obsolete.

        Nowadays, kids buy smartphones for less than 500 dollars and use softwares for free fetched from somewhere in the cyberspace, but they are imprisoned in a bigger prison. Microsoft takes a big part in building the prison, too. (What did Snowden said? If they want to get you, you have no way to escape.) A prison of Microsoft or a prison of Google, which one is more likely to hurt us when it turns to doing evil?

        In a certain sense, life is a prison. You cannot escape whatever happens in life unless you die. That’s why I remember Groucho Marx. We have no other way as to accept that Microsoft has us translators in check mate. But we shall be glad that we don’t have to cyberstreetwalk somewhere at those translator workplaces, because we know how to make use of computers, Microsoft or Apple, smartphones, Internet to work for our benefits of being translators.

        Nice to have another 20 years, a cycle of the shift of fengshui, even when I am preparing to make space for the next generation.


  4. This edition of your blog is particularly reassuring to one dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age, only to find out that it is worse than I thought, needlessly so, and costly at that.


  5. Unfortunately, like many others probably, I am not just a prisoner of MS but a prisoner of many of Microsoft’s prisoners. Breaking out is not going to be easy unless I can convince my clients to break away from MS as well. I don’t trust that the conversions from and back to MS Word are flawless and I don’t want to spend the time cleaning up the conversions – which I would have to do in MS Word.
    I too long for the days of WordPerfect but then again, all of my customers right now demand MS Word (except for the few that use FrameMaker or InDesign).
    PS: I do appreciate your blog very much.


  6. Here is to hoping that you will be able to use the old version of MS Word that you already have paid for until the abominable Microsoft Prison is just another page in history books and on Wikipedia.


  7. Great post, read by a fellow inmate! It will be interesting to see how Google Docs develops. I would have thought the freshening competition might have nudged MS towards a more value based approach for its users but sadly…no.


  8. Thank you so much, fellow inmate.

    But if Google Docs documents are going to be stored in cloud, which I think is the case, I would not touch it with a 20 foot pole.

    I don’t think my clients would even let me use something like that because they are very particular about things like confidentiality and privacy.


    • Quite agree and I do not use GDocs myself for translation work but I suspect that this is the way things will go.

      Still, I have read some very positive reports about cloud options & they seem to suggest your data is more secure in the cloud (but then they would wouldn´t they!).

      Keep up the good work / posts!

      By the way I just had to re-activate my Word 2010, for no apparent reason and it still has old bugs like the infamous sudden change to “Read Only”!


  9. “In a certain sense, life is a prison.”

    True, but only if we let them treat us like inmates.

    Within less then four years from the moment when Louis XVI was wondering whether the storming of the Bastille was just another revolt (supposedly he called it “une émeute”), the former inmates changed his name to citizen Louis Capet and beheaded him with a guillotine.

    It takes a long time to build a prison, but the thing is, sometime the former inmates end up taking over the prison and the former prison guards end up as inmates.


    • “It takes a long time to build a prison, but the thing is, sometime the former inmates end up taking over the prison and the former prison guards end up as inmates.”

      And there it goes all over again with the signs reversed and the horror and atrocities remain the same. Well, what people experience before and after a revolt or a revolution is to be described as “Jacke wie Hose.” Sadly, we have to take it as is if we don’t have the guts and methods to maintain a sustainable power balance.

      Microsoft, Apple or Oracle? Yahoo! or Google? The USA, Russia or China? It would be better to keep them staying in “and” and not in “or.” It is always good to have competition, so that someone like Snowden can also become a Christmas gift for some country. Right?

      Power balance is the key for survival of the mankind.


  10. Steve, you can reduce the time you have to wait for the side bars to appear. And you can change the settings to use a local account instead of a Microsoft account.

    The main problem with Windows is that one has to spend hours customizing it to fit one’s needs, but at least it is possible to do so.


    • I hear you.

      Windows 8 is definitely a downgrade, not an upgrade.


  11. I’m speaking to you from inside the Apple prison. I was in the Microsoft prison until about five years ago, when I decided to transfer to the Apple prison. I have to say, I’ve been much happier and more comfortable ever since and have never looked back.


  12. My heart goes out to you, Rob.

    I was in the Apple prison for a few years in the nineties, but then I got transferred again to the Microsoft prison.

    The main difference between the two penitentiary institutions is that Apple charges close to three times the cost of various prison privileges at Microsoft, which is why I asked the warden to transfer me back to Microsoft.

    But the new pricing of Microsoft Office seems to be heavily Apple-inspired. Looks like Microsoft is finally catching up with Apple, at least in this respect.


    • What I’ve paid for in hard cash, I reckon I’ve more than made up for in increased peace of mind. (And I reckon I could make a case for having benefited financially through productivity gains.) But hey, it’s my prison, I’m happy in it for the time being, and you don’t have to like it 😉


  13. De gustibus non est disputandum, especially when it comes to things like who we marry, or which prison we prefer.


    • Indeed 😉


  14. It certainly did piss a lot of people and I found it hard to work with.

    But I think the key initiative for MS was not imprisonment, but a zealous attempt for a design ideal (called metro design) and philosophy which is meant to prove, maybe to themselves, that Apple was not the only brand that would be famous for outstanding design (subjective I know).

    How user-unfriendly Windows 8 turned out to be was unfortunately lost during it’s development phase.

    They did regret –


  15. Thanks for the link to the Belfast Telegraph article.

    None of the previous upgrades of windows made me mad. I hardly noticed them.

    But this one seems to bring out the worst in me.


  16. This might be a dumb question, but have you considered switching to Linux? 🙂

    It has gone a long way from the old (mis)perceptions depicting it as a command-line only system for “hackers” – there are multiple, feature-rich desktop environments available. They’re all highly customizable (I dare say, even more than Windows) yet easy to understand, even for beginners. I always recommend Linux Mint when I want to introduce people to Linux, but there are many other distributions to choose from.

    If you have some Windows-only software for which you can’t find a Linux alternative, it’s worth trying to run it through WINE (on any Linux distribution). It’s basically an implementation of Windows which makes it possible to run Windows apps on Linux.

    Linux is free and open source, the community is helpful and supportive (for the most part), and the developers keep up with the latest hardware trends so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your hardware to work. Unlike Windows, Linux rarely requires driver installation because nearly all hardware is supported out of the box. You don’t even have to install a Linux distribution – just download the ISO, put it on a USB stick and run it in live mode, just to see if you like it 🙂


  17. Thank you for your suggestion, Jenna, but I really don’t want to have to install and learn a whole new operating system after all these years.

    I just ordered the latest WordPerfect Office (X6) from Amazon on a CD for a whopping 48 dollars. If I can install it on several PCs, which I hope will be the case, I will just use that and boycott all upgrades of MS Office.

    I can always proofread translations created in WordPerfect, which I know very well and which in my opinion beats MS Word hands down, in MS Word before I send them to clients to make sure that there are no issues with compatibility.

    Microsoft is supposed to come up by the fall with a new upgrade of Windows 8 that will hopefully make an operating system designed for a tablet or phone easier to use on a PC.


  18. The only reason to upgrade windows product is when an ugly guy with a shotgun points to your head and asks you to upgrade, and even then I would like to talk myself out of it. I am still using Windows XP and Czech Office 2003 and I will continue for some time. Why to fix it if it is not broken.
    I tried W8 and I returned it with the computer several months ago. You can always downgrade to W7, which is the next XP I believe and I will upgrade to it soon or later.


  19. Hey, Radek, good to talk to you online again after so many years.

    I really enjoyed our contentious arguments (mostly arguments “o nesmrtelnosti chroustu”, not sure how to translate that into English) on Compuserve so many years years ago.

    I hope you will find the time to leave a comment on my silly blog every now and then.


  20. There is a German expression for “o nesmrtelnosti chroustu”: “über die Unsterblichkeit der Maikäfer nachdenken/debattieren.”

    For your English translation, Steve, The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life may be of some help (


  21. Thanks for the translation, Wenjer. No doubt you used Google Translate and a German idiom instantly sprang to your learned mind, hopefully accompanied by one or two Chinese or Japanese equivalents.

    After the battle of Mohacz in 1526, where Bohemia and Hungary were defeated by the Ottoman Empire (led by Suleiman the Magnificent), Hungary was integrated into the Ottoman Empire and Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Austrian Empire.

    This meant that the Czech language and culture were under under a constant assault by the German language and culture, including Austrian and German cuisine, for almost the next 400 years until the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1917. This also meant for example that up until that time, Czech children could only go to a high school or a university where the language of instruction was German.

    The university where I started learning Japanese, Charles University in Prague, is in fact in the oldest “German” university in Europe, although the language of instruction when it was founded was Latin (in 1347).

    This is the main reason why 90% of Czech idioms can be translated very easily into German, but often not easily into English, or French, or Japanese.

    Empires come, and empires go. As Elvis Costello put it in one of his immortal songs: “Bye bye, empire, empire, bye bye.”

    Fortunately for our civilization, most languages usually adapt and survive, and later flourish again when yet another empire bites the dust.

    (End of history lesson).


    • Ah, I like history. The Empire nowadays is the US. Her language penetrates all languages, even Russian. But nice that we make a decent living mostly with her Modern Latin.

      Take a look of the last paragraph of the news article in the above links. There you find a translation for “o nesmrtelnosti chroustu.”

      You are right. Google Translate is a nice tool if one does not take it for the final solution and do some more research.


      • It’s interesting that in the French translation of those articles, the phrase that is rendered “powerless and unnecessary” in English is given as “un enfant non désiré” in French. Go figure…


      • Rob, the Czech original reads “nechtěné dítě” and the Polish translation reads “niechciane dziecko,” while the French one reads “un enfant non désiré” and the Spanish one reads “un hijo no deseado.”

        Besides, “diskutovala o nesmrtelnosti chrousta” in Czech original is correctly rendered in German “nur über die Unsterblichkeit der Maikäfer debattiert,” in Spanish “no ha discutido de otra cosa que no sea la inmortalidad del cangrejo,” in French “n’a débattu que du sexe des anges” and in Polish “debatował wyłącznie o nieśmiertelności chrabąszczy,” while in English simply “pointless discussions.”

        I guess the English translation is more liberal and concise. It isn’t necessarily a post-edited work of Google Translate.


      • Interesting. So it seems it is the French and Spanish translations that are somewhat off base. I wonder how you get from the original to an “unwanted child”… Steve may be right that Google translate has something to do with it.


      • No, Rob, I don’t think the French and the Spanish translations are off base.

        Isn’t debating over the immortality of beetles or cockchafers exactly as pointless as debating over the sex of angels (anges) or the immortality of the crab (cangrejo)?

        Google Translate does not invent translation. It takes translations from human translators and put them in (most of the time) wrong orders or assign wrong grammatical attributes to words that wrong sentence structures. Post-editing wouldn’t do much good in such a case.

        The translations of the mentioned Czech news article seem to be from human hands, maybe from manual-translators’ hands. ;o


      • You said “Isn’t debating over the immortality of beetles or cockchafers exactly as pointless as debating over the sex of angels (anges) or the immortality of the crab (cangrejo)?”

        Yes, but what has that to do with unwanted children?


      • In fact, as I pointed out, the Czech original reads “nechtěné dítě” and the Polish translation reads “niechciane dziecko,” I was expecting that Steve would clarify the quesiton why the French, Spanish and German translations contain “unwanted child” while the English translation says something else.

        I can only figure out that the German translation is all right, but I cannot be certain which of the French, Spanish and English translations does not make the correct sense in accordance with the Czech original. This is probably because my knowledge of those languages and cultures is insufficient. I’d appreciate any enlightenment from those brilliant colleagues very much.


  22. Maybe it was first translated by Google Translate and then post-edited.

    It’s much cheaper to do it that way.

    On a different note: Is it really hot in UK now? And are people starting to put air conditioning units in new houses?


    • Perhaps you are right.

      To answer your question, the UK is enjoying its longest heat wave for 7 years. Temperatures have been around 90 or above for the last week and a half. Today is a little cooler, but it should hot up again after the weekend. We haven’t had much summer weather here the last few years, so this is very welcome.

      To answer your second question, no, I know of no one putting air con in new houses. It’s just not worth it for the small amount of hot weather we get.


  23. My air conditioning bill during the summer months is about 300 dollars a month.

    And I try not to use it too much and I turn it off at night for about 6 hours.


    • That sounds like quite a lot, but not extortionate. I would be glad to have weather hot enough to require air conditioning.


  24. Absolutely the best weather in the most scenic part of the world for me personally was in Sonoma Wine Country, about 1 hour north of San Francisco. I lived there for 9 years.

    But traveling from there to Prague was murder. First you had to drive or take a bus to SF airport, which is about 90 minutes away, then fly all the way to East Coast, wait for a transfer (for which there was usually barely time enough to make it from terminal A to terminal C, or they would let you wait 3.5 hours).

    I go there about every other year and traveling only from Virginia is a piece of cake, relatively speaking.


    • Anywhere in any kind of wine country sounds like a place I would like to live 😉


  25. I once went to a winery tour in Otaru, which is a small port town on the coast of Hokkaido. This too was a wine country, sort of, but in the center of the island we could still see snow at the end of May.

    It would probably be too cold most of the year there even for people who are used to invigorating English weather.


    • A word that is often used to describe weather in countries like England is “bracing”. It’s one of those positive-sounding words that is really just an attempt to put a positive gloss on something that isn’t great.


  26. Mr. Vitek, thanks for your history lesson about Bohemia/Czechoslovakia, the language, integration into the Austrian Empire, etc. So-called minority groups here in the Bay Area, Latin Americans in particular, think they are the only ones ever to have “endured” the immigrant/exclusionary/inclusionary experience. To Brandon: The expression in English is “to piss off,” not just “to piss.” This reminds me of translations/subtitles by Red Bee Media (on TV5Monde), which often render “Tu te fous de ma guele?” as “Are you taking the piss?” The first time I heard it, I nearly fell off the couch. As for the “enfant non désiré,” somewhere on Google I saw the US Congress referred to as “powerless and unnecessary.”


  27. Unfortunately, the Académie française does not believe that French should change, but fortunately for us, usage continues to thumb its nose. Some of the now-French phrases I have recently heard include: ” un passing shot” (note masculine gender), “hash tag,” “sponsorisé,” “un mobile home” (masculine again, which probably explains why it was pronounced “a mobeel homme”), “bluffeur” (Thomas Voekler, Tour de France), “les skins” (skinheads), “un groupe de rock,” and best of all, perhaps: “Faîtes-nous le teasing” (which I never figured out, unless it referred to “teasers”). Actually, maybe I agree with the Académie!


    • Some of those anglicisms have been around for years, especially “mobile home”, “groupe de rock”, “skins” and “sponsorisé”. One of my favourites from recent years is “le footing” – clearly “le jogging” was no longer “cool” and had to be updated.


  28. @Wenjer

    All the translations in all the languages mentioned (Czech, German, Polish, French) mean “unwanted child”.

    Somebody decided to render this as “powerless and unnecessary” in English for reasons that I cannot even begin to fathom.

    If this is what they call artistic license, I think it is completely unnecessary and I don’t like it too much. I think that unwanted child makes more sense.


    • Interesting, Steve – thanks for confirming.


    • So, Steve, my assertion that “I don’t think the French and the Spanish translations are off base” is not off the mark at all.

      I don’t think “powerless and unnecessary” corresponds to “unwanted child” at all. The French translation is all right, but the English one is too much a poetic license that I cannot appreciate, either.

      However, the “pointless discussions” is in accordance with other translations. Google Translate wouldn’t show such poetic licenses. So, the translations must have gone through human minds and hands.


  29. […] "Your Majesty, they have stormed the Bastille", exclaimed an aide of King Louis XVI."Is this a revolt?" asked the King. "No, Sire, it's a revolution." I am so mad at Microsoft that I am looking for…  […]


  30. […] In a previous post, I was wondering what was the difference between having to pay protection money t… and having to pay, every year, again and again, 100 dollars to Microsoft for the current edition of Microsoft Office. […]


  31. […] But if your all-important files and applications are stored on the Internet, you are simply asking for trouble. As Richard Stallman warns in this article, cloud computing is a trap designed to force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. Just because something is free or very cheap today does not mean that it will be free or cheap tomorrow. Once  a company determines that it has reached a near monopoly in the market, it will start jacking up the prices, shamelessly and ruthlessly, as evidenced by the current pricing of Microsoft Office 2013 (100 hundred dollars per 1 computer per 1 year) discussed in this post. […]


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