WLM LogoMy installation of Windows Live Messenger has been pretty slow lately, so I figured I might as well upgrade to the latest version.

Of course, the product website does not give any information whatsoever as to the current version number so I had to go through the motions and figure out later if there even is a version more up-to-date than the one I'm currently running. Then I'll be running the most up-to-date client, Microsoft will get their advertising revenue from all the in-client spam and everyone's happy.

Once I'd spent a few moments unticking the "install Windows Live toolbar", "set default search to Live Search", "set homepage to MSN.com" and "spy on me" options that I never asked for in the first place, my download commenced and ended.

And I ran WLInstall.exe. Just what is it that prohibits Microsoft from releasing files with informative, descriptive names?

The first thing I was told was that I'd need to install Microsoft's "critical update" named "Windows Live Update Agent 5.8.02469". Since they only offer it via Windows Update and I haven't patched my system in many blue moons, I realised there and then that installing this Messenger upgrade would involve system updates too.

So, sighing, I headed to windowsupdate.com. Oh, what's that? Firefox is not supported. Of course it isn't. I spent another few moments brushing the dust of my copy of IE6 and getting that to behave properly.

Naturally, though, all my Windows Update ActiveX controls haven't been used in months so they're totally out of date. I was told I'd have to "install Windows Update ActiveX control", and then I was given the sole option to "get the latest Windows Update software."

A message within the web interface proudly proclaimed, "we've made improvements to our website. To download the new version of the software and begin using Windows Update, please click Install Now." About now I was wondering why it is so difficult to stick their "critical update" on the web underneath a normal hyperlink for the world to enjoy. Instead, Microsoft seem to enjoy really wasting my time, requiring bloated system services to be running just to download components.

I updated Windows Update, nearly having a fit when my computer began threatening immediate reboots. I keep Automatic Updates disabled because I like being in control of my own machine, but suddenly Microsoft's yellow security shield was all over the damned place, giving me a right bollocking for my audacity.

Plus, I could have predicted that something would go wrong. "The website has encountered a problem and cannot display the page you are trying to view [Error number: 0x80070020]." This incredibly helpful message greeted me at what was supposed to be the finality of Windows's Windows Update update process.

After closing the non-semantic WU interface and returning directly to windowsupdate.com, I was granted the privilege of a little more information:

"The site cannot continue because one or more of these Windows services is not running: Automatic Updates, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), Event Log." Of course, they all were. However, it didn't take long to deduce that Microsoft were opposed to my having set the "Automatic Updates" service from "automatic" to "manual". Temporarily reversing this personal choice finally allowed me into their website.

About now was when Windows Live Messenger helpfully informed me, for the first time in almost a year, an update was available. Thanks.

Finally within grasp of the sticky bowels of Windows Update, I was presented with only one possible download for the time being: a secretive, unidentified upgrade to Microsoft's controversial "Windows Genuine Advantage validation tool". No thanks.

So I gave up. One day I'll move on from WLM entirely, but for the time being Microsoft will continue to reap in revenue from the advertisements clumsily strewn across my IM client. In the meantime, they will have to make do with feelings of hatred directed at them, over the pond and over the horizon.

Bastards. All this for a frakking instant messenger.