Saturday, April 21, 2012

Microsoft Office 2011 SP2 Update Pulled


After first advising users on how to work around the flaw, Microsoft today pulled the Service Pack 2 update for its Office 2011 Mac software in order to find the cause of an issue that was corrupting identity databases in its Outlook e-mail client. Though the SP2 update is still available for manual download, the company has stopped pushing SP2 out using AutoUpdate until it resolves the problem, according to a post on its Office for Mac blog.

I’ve received reports from customers that the update corrupted their Outlook database, broke Sync Services, and more. SpamSieve users who have already updated to SP2 should see this thread.

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I have no idea about what those people ended up experiencing, but let me tell you a tale of the kind of bug that the update apparently roots out. This didn't happen to me, but I did have to clean this up for someone else.

So Outlook all of a sudden hangs. Kill that after a good while, start up Outlook again and it wants to rebuild the database. OK, fine. It goes for a bit and then hangs. Whoops. With the Identities folder backed up recently, kill the rebuilder and reboot for good measure.

Start up Outlook once more. It can read the partially rebuilt databases just fine, but it figures out that some of the newest messages are there on the server and not there locally in the database. Now, what happens now is my best conjecture based on the only thing that can possibly make sense, despite it not making any sense: Outlook figures "ah, those messages I've gotten from the server but aren't in my database? Must have just deleted them. Let's do that again."

Yes, that's what it did. Visit Outlook Web Access, use iOS Mail, those new messages are not there, they are being revoked from the server because you deleted them, you moron. And no, thanks for playing, but they're not in the trash can and they're not in Deleted Items.

Now follows a several hours long farce, where we try restoring the Identities folder from Time Machine. This works, although it takes a good 20 minutes each time. The deleted messages exist in the database, so they were not just dreamt up. But if Outlook is allowed to sync with the server again, it will start out by leveling any sync disparities, meaning that it will delete the messages once again.

You have to restore, then disconnect from the network, then power up Outlook and manually export those important messages. And then you have to contact some IT support service and ask them to manually piece together the mailbox database for a bucketload of urgent and necessary surgery, which they will charge accordingly.

Outlook for Mac is surprisingly good in many regards (and you couldn't have paid me enough severance to have forced Entourage down my throat), but in just the wrong places, it is buggy to the point of being dangerous. It did some variant of this jig to the aforementioned person's contacts just two or three weeks before. This level of software quality is what the friendly uppercase lettering in the EULA is for, or Microsoft would be rifling through its couch to meet its operating budget right now.

Another joke of this SP2 is the change for the location of the script menu items. The new location is better but the update does not move the scripts from the old location to the new one.


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