I try to avoid The Vole, as Microsoft is referred to by one of my favorite tech sites, The Inquirer, but, much like Chun The Unavoidable in Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, it sometimes is, well, unavoidable. One reason I can’t completely cut the tie to Bill Gates et al. is the electronic medical records (EMR) system used by my practice: Allscripts Touchworks (I don’t provide a link, unless you are rolling in dough you can’t afford to buy it). As far as I can tell, it is inextricably tied to Internet Explorer, which only runs on Microsoft Windows. It seems to use several proprietary Microsoft technologies, including .NET, ActiveX controls, and other closed-source slop that basically grafts itself to your computer, acting as a supposedly benevolent virus so that you can look up medical records anywhere there is
a computer a Microsoft Windows computer with Internet access with Internet Explorer. But don’t expect to just sit down at a computer with the above specs, just start up IE and immediately login to see your task list. Be prepared to sit through logging in repeatedly at least a half dozen times as the program reloads each time it downloads another ActiveX control.
Well, my computer is already set up, and, having been on vacation, I decided to fire up Touchworks to do some tasks. I run Windows 7 in a VirtualBox under Linux which works just as well as running it natively, meaning not so well. I also have Windows XP under VirtualBox, and I tried to do my tasks yesterday, but for some reason Touchworks wouldn’t connect — I think it was a problem on the server end. Today I tried via Windows 7.
After logging in to Windows 7, a box appeared asking to update the VirtualBox Guest Editions. Fair enough. This is what allows the mouse cursor to travel seamlessly from one OS (Linux) to another (Windows) without a hiccup — like a wormhole between two neighboring universes. So I installed it. Now a mandatory reboot. Ok ready for Touchworks — whoa! A message box had popped from Microsoft Security Extensions saying I did not have a Genuine Copy Of Windows! There was a link in the box to fix this. I clicked on it. It went to a website that had a big turning circle on it with a warning not to do anything else, scarcely even breathe, but don’t touch anything until this web site had thoroughly investigated my copy of Windows. Then – bing! – the big announcement: My Copy Of Windows Is Genuine! Of course I already knew that, having shelled out a few hundred bucks for the privilege of installing an OS that then proceeds to question my integrity and basically accuse me of theft. So, whew!, my honor was vindicated. The site then instructed my to reinstall Microsoft Security Essentials, the free virus program offered by Windows only to genuine customers. I downloaded it, installed it — Error Message: Microsoft Security Essentials Already Installed. It Cannot Be Installed Twice. Ok, my bad. I was just following orders. So, I opened Microsoft Security Essentials. It again told me my Windows was fraudulent. But then it gave me an out: “Click Run Validation if you have fixed this.” Except I didn’t see any Run Validation button. So I went ahead and updated my virus definitions. A few minutes later, still the evil Illegal Windows!!! message. But another message had popped up at the lower right corner of the virtual screen: New Updates Available. Maybe I just needed some new updates to fix everything. I clicked, found myself at the Microsoft Updates website, where there was a solemn pronouncement that there were 2 essential and something like 255 “other” updates available. Rather than just clicking through the essential updates, I asked for details. Hmm. One essential update was a Microsoft Office 2003 program to validate Office files as being genuine. Not sure I needed another validation program to accuse me of theft. The other “essential” update was Internet Explorer version 9. Great! I have no idea if Touchworks with all its crankiness can run on IE9. I had been one click away from possibly making Touchworks unworkable. So I ignored the updates.
Turning back to Microsoft Security Essentials, I now noticed a small font web-link-like text tucked away in an odd corner of the dialog box offering to “run validation check.” I clicked. A couple minutes later Microsoft Security Essentials was satisfied that I had not pirated my copy of Windows, and all was well. Except I had wasted about 45 minutes that I could have been working at my Task list in Touchworks. Oh well. Ignoring some other other update messages that were nattering at me in the corner of my eye (Update Java!, Update Flash!, etc.) I opened Touchworks and stared at the 255 tasks on my task list. Hmm. Time for my coffee break.