14 July 2008

Cyberspace August 2008

Hilarity ensued

I spend a lot of time trying to make agreements logical, readable and concise. I suspect you do the same. However, some companies take a different approach... I recently purchased a subscription to Microsoft Technet (http://technet.microsoft.com) for AUD$307. If you are an IT tinkerer this is a good thing to do, as it provides you with access to almost every operating system, server and most business applications by Microsoft. The operating systems can be installed and activated up to 10 times, so it's not a bad investment every few years.

I installed Vista Ultimate which includes Windows Media Center (WMC). WMC is designed to display video, photos and music details on your TV. During set-up of my digital TV receiver (Compro U100 - AUD$75) in WMC I selected "Australia" as my region for local television guide services. It then displayed "downloading the most up-to-date TV setup options for your region." Next, I was asked to read 68 screens of licence information for the TV Program Guide, and was told I should print it out. Unfortunately WMC has no print function at all, so it is physically impossible to do what is required by the licence. Apparently the licence is available on the web, but that means you must write down the URL, quit WMC so you can access a web browser, and then start over (or go to another PC). There is also no guarantee that what is on the web is the same text as that you agree to in WMC.

It's obvious that most people are just going to click through without reading anything. I wonder if the licence would be set aside by the Court due to the unwieldy nature of the process? It also said (in all capitals -the equivalent of shouting) "ALL OF THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT ARE VERY IMPORTANT, SO YOU MUST READ AND AGREE TO THIS ENTIRE AGREEMENT." Unfortunately, this nugget of wisdom was on screen 5 of 68, so I remain the sole person on Earth who has seen it. "If you accept these terms and conditions we recommend that you print a copy for your records" (see above) and "Microsoft may prove your agreement of consent to the terms and conditions of this Agreement in any manner..." Oh really?

On screen 11 of 68 it told us where we might find the agreement (as amended, not as agreed during this procedure) on the Internet. So, we get out a pen and paper, write down the URL, go to another PC and type in the link to find out what was going on. I kept reading, AND THERE WERE LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS RANDOMLY distributed throughout THE AGREEMENT. On 60 of 68 it stated "The parties... confirm that this Agreement... has been and shall be drawn up in the English language only." On 61 of 68 it suddenly launches into one sentence which appears to be French. Hmm...

I eventually decided I could pretend I agreed with all this and clicked "I agree". I was then asked for my postal code (I had previously indicated I was in Australia), which I entered, and clicked "Next" and was told "TV Program Guide listings are not available for your country or region." Umm... they could have asked me that before spending time on the licence, and then aborted the whole procedure... Not only do we have a ridiculous agreement, we also have a ridiculous process that should never have been unleashed on the public.

Oh, and the privacy statement was a comparatively concise 38 screens. It also provided an address on the last screen to give privacy feedback, although you couldn't click on it - you had to write it down and wander off to another computer.