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Thing of the week:
Microsoft Tech Support
By Ian Grant
You may be aware that I'm a programmer (sorry, software engineer). You will, if our paths have crossed in recent weeks, also be aware that I'm currently up to my neck in the brown stuff. Anyway, the latest problem (which took a mere two and a half weeks to solve) ended up requiring some rather serious technical support.

At the end of this utterly horrendous process, I probably know the staff of Microsoft UK considerably better than Bill Gates does. I'm certainly familiar enough with their record collection - the music you get when you're on hold is an unholy combination of the Bangles, T'Pau and Michael Jackson (the nauseating one about making the world a better place for you and for me), plus a monumentally maudlin bit of music used by the contract services department.

I should point out that I've not just been giving Microsoft grief with my troubles. I posted the problem to a relevant newsgroup where it sat pathetically for a couple of days while the world looked on cluelessly. The Nice Man From Intel sent me a couple of emails, concluding with the phrase "I'm at a loss for words" (that really inspires confidence, y'know).

Even better was the encounter with Borland. I phoned them and, after the usual messing about, got through to development support. I described the problem (by that stage, I had gone through it so many times and in such detail that I should have just sat back and played a tape) and the bloke at the other end said, "Ouch" (never a particularly good sign, that). Then, after a suitably ponderous pause, he said, "So you know about palettes, do you?" and proceeded to ask me questions about someone else's palette code!

Then, finally, the solution. After a sleepless night spent thinking of palettes and video and brushes and lookups, I sussed it. I phoned Microsoft (again) and spent 45 minutes being passed from department to department before I found someone who had the faintest idea what I was talking about. And then, at last, the thing I'd been waiting to hear...the bug I'd spent two and a half weeks trying to fix was Microsoft's blasted undocumented bug all along.

I went down the pub. It seemed like the only thing to do.