Patchou's Cabana

The personal blog of Patchou

Welcome to the world of Beta

There are some things in this world that you can always count on to be true: summer comes after spring, rain after the sun, and people request intermediate versions of Messenger Plus! as soon as a beta version of a new Messenger is available. Invariably, negative answers trigger “but whhhhhhhy?!” comments, everybody gets used to the idea, Messenger Plus! gets updated along with the final release of Messenger and life goes on.

Today, something happened that will help shed some light on my no-beta-support policy. As some of you already know, Microsoft recently released a beta version of Windows Live Messenger “Wave 4”. This updated version of Messenger includes new social features, options like tabbed chats, noticebly larger advertisements, etc… Microsoft also modified their setup program, that same setup I downloaded this morning and ran on my computer.

After a quick installation, I was invited to restart my computer, which I did, promptly. This is where things started to get interesting to say the least. After the reboot, I was greeted by brand new error messages I had never seen before in Windows, one in particular saying that my profile, now located in “system32\config\systemprofile”, was not available. Basically, my whole user profile was gone, my desktop empty, the taskbar displayed default blank icons for my old shortcuts and none of my programs remembered who I was. Messenger’s new signin screen was nagging me, coming back after I closed it, and many of the things I tried to do in Windows while trying to figure out what happened displayed error messages. In user terms, my computer was completely “broken”.

After searching a bit about this issue on the web, the only thing I was able to find was posts confirming that this kind of error occurs when a user profile has been badly corrupted in the system and that, in such cases, there’s generally nothing to do but create a brand new profile. For all the tech geeks reading this, yes, I checked the user profile keys in the registry, I tried to clear up the default system profile, etc… I also don’t have anything out of the ordinary running on my station, no shell replacement software, no theming program, no nothing: just Windows 7, Office 2010, Visual Studio and a couple of work tools. I don’t even play games on that system.

Out of despair, I tried System Restore and I have to say it performed admirably. It finally reverted all the changes that the new Windows Live setup had done to my system and restored my user profile to a functionning state. I’ll definitively have to remember to rely more on this feature in the future. In any case, as I refused to admit defeat, I prepped my computer for another try. I erased all the files and settings of my existing version of Messenger (the current public release), did a clean reboot, re-downloaded the setup of the beta version and tried again. Guess what: after the restart, the same error occured, my profile was corrupted again and my computer was back to stone age.

Now, I hope you understand why supporting a beta may not be a good idea. As for Microsoft’s work on this new Messenger, I can say I’m not impressed, at all. I’ve never seen a program cause so many issues on my system and I certainely don’t expect that from an instant-messaging application. Beta or not, I assume that when Microsoft releases something to the public, it’s not going to cause mayhem. I don’t know what that new Messenger is trying to do on our systems but in my view, it’s wrong and uncalled for. Here’s a recommendation for everybody who’s reading this post is: stay away from Messenger beta versions, I certainely will.

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