Microsoft Support, Round 2!

Jeff writes as a reply to my previous blog about Microsoft Support:

I found an actual bug in the framework (one of the RewritePath() overloads) and had a nice exchange started via the online support ticket system, finished by a member of the .NET team. It's one of three times I've had to contact MS directly, and every time my problem was resolved or at the very least explained. At the company level, I think they do a fine job.

The bug he talks about actually is fixed, in an ASP.NET hotfix roll-up (released june 2003). Now, I'm very happy for Jeff that his bug got fixed and the patch actually is released to the public and that the bug is documented in the knowledge base. However, are there any "hotfix rollup"s of winforms? (I know the Oracle provider in .NET has some serious issues)? VS.NET designers? No.

While I can see the point of why Jeff looks differently at Microsoft's support, I hope he also sees how other people who have supplied perhaps a dozen bugs never got a reply back from Microsoft nor did their bug end up in the KB as being documented nor was there a fix released to help the developer and other developers. You see, there is nothing so frustrating as to find out after spending a lot of time debugging your software the framework contains a bug so your software would never work and the patch for that is not available.

I can live with feature requests not being granted, I can also accept that very silly little tiny bugs aren't patched individually and not before a next major release (like the winforms label text alignment misery), all fine. I can't live with the fact that I don't know about bugs being present and if they are recognized, that I can't download a fix so I don't have to write work-around code. The only resource helping the developer a bit is Google. If Google would die, MS developers would loose the number 1 source for information about bugs in Microsoft software.

Another reader, James Arendt, writes:

Microsoft could learn a thing or to from their competitors about providing useful access to bugs:
I think this is the nail on the head. Developers are now left in the dark: "Is it a bug in my code or in the framework?" in other words: "Should I spend a lot of time finding this bug, while it could be in the framework?". You can't tell if it's in the framework other than to really spend that time. The frustrating part is that you probably are the 24,789th developer doing that. But you don't know that. You could search in Google groups, and often it offers you postings of fellow developers fighting the same issue, sometimes there is a workaround posted, but not in all cases. When you finally find out it is the framework and you report the bug, 10 to 1 you never ever hear from Microsoft (it happened to me 10 out of 10 times), left alone a patch for your problem.

Apparently Microsoft is very afraid of what we, customers, might get to know about the real quality of their software if the full bug database is exposed. If not, why isn't the bug database open for us, customers? Why do we, developers, have to fight with unexpected behaviour while it might be caused by a bug in the framework? Or does Microsoft think "Let Google serve them"? I hardly doubt that.

There also seem to be two types of support: the freebee give-away support and the raw 'product support'. I don't see them as two things: the customer buys a license of a product, he expects a given amount of quality, which includes support. As the producer of a piece of software you might think that giving a lot of freebee give-away support is helping customers enough that they think they got enough support for their money, but that's a skewed view on reality. Support is about helping someone. Support also means that if you as a producer, scr*wed up big time because you included some bugs, you have to fix them to give the customer the quality the customer thought he/she bought. But perhaps I'm thinking in weird ways. I've always learned that if you sell something you have to stand by the quality of the product you are selling, and if the product apparently isn't of the quality you think it is, you should do everything you can to make it the quality you think it is.

Microsoft can give away as much examples and free beta's at a show like Devdays (which was mostly about what will come and not about today's technology), that doesn't make up for the total lack of fixes for products like Visual Studio.NET and also .NET 1.x. because when you get home after visiting these shows, when you finish reading the examples, the hard reality of today kicks back in and won't simply go away: you have to finish the software you are working on with the technology available today, you can't do that with technology which isn't available yet, so it does hurt every day's work when fixes are not available, when essential bug information is not available. The KB has a page with .NET bugs listed. It's the same page as 6 months ago. Are all bugs ever found in .NET 1.1 on that page and in the last 6 months there haven't been found any new bugs? How naive must a person be to buy that? After all, the bugs I found are not on that list. Does it mean those bugs do not exist, or does it mean the page is outdated?

If this is the kind of support that is the best of the industry, I really feel sorry for the customers of competing products. Microsoft, you have the resources to do something about it, why aren't you doing something about it?


  • You wouldn't happen to know the KB article number, would you? :)

    I do realize that other people have had different experiences, but keep in mind that I best know my own view only. What you read in forums, newsgroups and blogs can frequently snowball into something much more sinister than it actually is.

  • I have to say, you make a good point.

    I'm a big big fan of dotnet, and I prefer it over the other options out there. The MSDN site is a fantastic resource, and whenever I have to code in anther language beggining with a J, I really miss that one source of information. BUT... I use google to find solutions to everything - I don't think I've ever found a solution on MSDN unless I've been pointed to it from google groups. The current hype over the next generation whidbey etc really has gone insane... No service packs to fix the simple bugs is just rude. I get the feeling MS have made some high level decisions about this, and decided that the only way to open up a gap on the opposition is to do the least maintenance on current versions so they can devote all resource too the next generation systems. Unfortunately, by the time they get there, the majority of major investment banks and high profile clients will be happily entrenched in the world of J. Maybe they should just hire some more coders... I'm sure there must be some spare cash under Bill's bed :)

  • Alex: devdays 2004 are already over in The Netherlands, Europe (they were in January). :) That's why I referred to them :) (but perhaps these devdays are a bit more 'marketish' then the USA versions)

  • Alex is right on. The main four sessions for both the smartclient and web tracks at the US DevDays are geared toward security/deployment/best practices for current technology. There will be some future bits, but that's not the emphasis for the core part of the event which is why I'm quite excited to be presenting at it. (shameless plug, I know).

    Back to the topic...

    Frans: "Apparently Microsoft is very afraid of what we, customers, might get to know about the real quality of their software if the full bug database is exposed."

    They shouldn't be afraid. Their competitors aren't. Most developers realize software and APIs of the complexity of these development platforms are bound to have flaws -- thousands if not millions of them. But, that's no reason to leave your developers feeling and being powerless about them.

  • About all the example code you are referring to, back in the VB/ASP/any other language, we had NOTHING like or gotdotnet. Everything you wanted you had to pay for. My only good resource at the time was planetsourcecode for free examples, code included.

    Although I always was very pro Microsoft, since the .NET reality check article and these two about support, I can do nothing but realize this is totally true. I haven't had real bugs yet that I couldn't find quite soon enough on forums or google, but it definitly sucks bigtime that (A) I can't find them on the KB and (B) I can't download them right away.

  • How exactly do you request support (you need to go through support to get the Asp.Net patch) on a product they do not offer support for (the .Net framework)? Would anyone please let me know how to go about obtaining the fix?

  • Ah, I forgot (stupid American) that they kicked them off earlier in other areas.

    That is very unfortunate if they were not about todays' technology. I was EXTREMELY HAPPY to find out that the three I am responsible for here in the United States are very focused on todays' technology.

  • Alex, I tried, but they don't list .Net framework as one of the products you can get support on. That was my question - how do I get support on something that's not supported? I guess most people will tell me to go through VS support but I can't exactly tell my customers to buy VS just so they can contact Microsoft to get a patch for an unrelated product and run my apps, now can I?

  • Alex, for what I remember about the dutch Devdays program is that it was merely about next-gen tech, and therefore I decided not to go (although it was 500meters from my house ;)) THere were sessions about todays tech though if I remember right. I can't find the program back, though...

  • I must say I agree.

    When I submitted one of the bugs I found a while back (that Visual Studio.NET 2003's design time support is unable to render the "override" keyword for methods), I was answered with a "we know it's there, sucks to be you" kind of reply...

  • Frans,

    While I don't agree with the sweeping statement about MS support, the bug list/database/fixes is one that I completely agree with. The June 2003 ASP.NET hotfix needs to be distributed. Having to call to get it is crazy.


  • My fault, I was trying to submit an online support request for .Net Framework. Time to find the phone...

  • Yves,

    Just so we are clear, the hotfixes that you have to call for rarely cost money (assuming you need a hotfix for something that is actually a bug). Microsoft is not trying to make money issuing hotfixes over the phone.


  • ::PSS is the first line of contact for issues

    ::and if you contact them and tell them about

    ::your issue we will look into it

    This is already what is wrong.

    Why do I have to DISCOVER this stupid errors myself? I spend hours trying to figure out FIRST whether an issue is my code or a MS bug, then I spend hours trying to locate a KB article - rarely you get a sensefull hint at once - and THEN I have to get out and ask nicely as PSS.

    This process is wrong.

    The ASP.NET 1.1 hotfix rollup is from JULY 2003. by now someone should have rolled this into ASP.NET 1.1 SP 1.

  • "Now, to get to the point: If MS were to set up a site where I could subscribe to a newsletter or rss feed which publishes new hotfixes/patches regularly, I could click on the hotfix I want, enter my credit card number, pay, and download it. That would be a heck of lot easier than having to call someone at support services. Ofcourse, maybe they make more money if I call support services. "

    Erm, that's totally backwards :) If you buy a radio and at home it has a knob that's broken, you expect warranty, right? So when you go back to the store, you expect them to say "Oh, sorry, we'll fix that for free, its in the warranty". You don't expect them to say: "ah, a broken knob, sorry mate, but that will cost you".

    Same with software. I don't expect Microsoft to supply me for free a consultant I can call 24/7 to fix my problems. I do expect from Microsoft that they supply me with fixes for defects in their products. That's warranty, and by law they have to fix my problems for free, at least for a period of time (1 year) in The Netherlands, and if the product is more expensive, even longer. Think about it: you buy a Dell server WITH win2k3 server on it. When something is not right with the dell server, you expect the warranty you got from Dell is sufficient enough to get things fixed (and they do.) When something is wrong with the software running on the server, you suddenly have to pay for a fix? While the software is more expensive than the server? I don't see that :)

  • I checked that link, and actually the bug I had is NOT fixed. My bug involved using RewritePath and throwing 404's when Trace was enabled at the app level (from web.config) and the number of requests specified in the trace element had been exceeded, while a query string was specified in with the path for the rewrite. It was "fixed" by using the overload of RewritePath that had its own place for query strings as another parameter. Weird bug, I know, but not fixed.

  • 1. Hotfixes are FREE. You don't pay for them.

    You call you press option 4 if I remember right, you tell the person what hotfix # you need, you get them.

    2. Yes I want a "all KB articles published this month page. helps, but it's not enough.

    3. Why do we have to call for hotfixes anyway? Give me a page and send me through passport and give them to me.

    Yes the issue of hotfixes needs fixing.

  • I am looking for the OCM fix for 821758 ( Server.Transfer Does Not Invoke IsPostBack in .NET Framework 1.1). I cannot install the msi hotfix on WIndows Server 2003 (I have VS.NET ENterprise 2003) as it requires a seperate OCM install. Where on earth do I get this?? Any help would be greatly appreciated!! I am totally at a loss as to what to do as I need this asap.. Thanks

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