By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
A member of the Central New York PC Users Group asked me during my recent talk there what I thought of Hurricane 98. That's a set of programs designed to make Windows 95 and Windows 98 run smoother and faster.
I said then I didn't think Hurricane 98 would do much for Windows 98. I was wrong.
I bought a copy of Hurricane 98 a few weeks ago. I found out right away it does do something for Windows 98. It crashes.
I have no idea how Hurricane 98 fares under Windows 95. It might cook your breakfast and pay all your bad gambling debts. I do know that Hurricane 98 is a bust under Windows 98.
As if that weren't enough—after all, right on the box, in big letters, it says "for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98"—Hurricane 98 has one more trick to play on the unsuspecting buyer. When you try to run it for the first time, the main program crashes, and when you finally decide to uninstall it, the uninstall program can't run the main Hurricane program, so it, too, bombs out.
In other words, Hurricane 98 has a main program that won't work under Windows 98 (and that means very little of Hurricane works). To uninstall itself, Hurricane 98 needs to run the main program to see what settings it has to take out during the removal operation. (Clever programming, wouldn't you say?)
I sent a note to the Hurricane 98 technical support address and got an answer back almost immediately. It was from an automated doohickey. It was no help at all. I never heard from anyone at the company that makes Hurricane 98, Helix Software.
A few days later I found a text file in the uninstalled (and uninstallable) folder where the Hurricane programs were taking up space. It had been put on the Hurricane CD by Helix at the last minute. It said some of Hurricane 98's functions won't work under the beta versions of Windows 98.
Fair enough, but I'm running a non-beta version of Windows 98. And so I'm left with a non-functioning program, a hole in my wallet and a big chunk of my hard drive taken up by something I can't easily get rid of.
I'm telling you this not to pick on Helix Software—it's a good company and has been around a long time—but to assure you that people who know their way around PCs as I do, people who write about computers and software, get the short end of the program stick just like you do. Having a pulpit in the Sunday newspaper doesn't protect me from bytes that bite back.
The Broadway producer David Merrick once bought a tiny ad at the bottom of Page One in the New York Times. "My Chrysler Imperial is a piece of junk," his ad said. That got attention, but Chrysler kept making cars that disintegrated while you watched for many more years. Helix will no doubt see a copy of this article and it will get attention at the company, but Hurricane 98 probably won't get fixed any sooner than it would otherwise. The world of software just plain works that way.
Report a bug to Microsoft and the company tries hard to confirm the problem and fix it. But does the fix get rolled into the currently selling version of Windows? No. Then it would surely get coded into the next version of Windows, right? Usually, it does not. Microsoft and most of the other software companies don't work that way. They post patches on their Web sites. If those patches don't work right, they post new ones, all the while pressing CDs with the original bugs.
It's crazy. But it's the way things happen. I'll keep looking for a patch for Hurricane 98, and, when I find one, I'll let you know about it. It might be a great program—when it runs.