Few New Zealanders outside Microsoft would be as intimately acquainted with the last three versions of Windows as Aucklander Daniel O’Connell.
The 21-year-old Bachelor of Information Science student is accredited by Microsoft as a Windows XP “associate expert”, part of a team of 600 volunteers around the world helping XP beta users.
When he’s not doing university assignments, O’Connell is busy with technical beta-testing of Windows XP and answering user questions on the ExpertZone, an online community for XP enthusiasts on Microsoft’s website.
Asked what’s in it for him, O’Connell, who is half way through an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) course, says it’s mainly the satisfaction of helping people, the chance to work closely with Microsoft and the opportunity to improve job prospects.
While two former America Online volunteers in the US have filed a lawsuit in hopes of getting paid for their efforts, O’Connell is dismissive of such a move. “Microsoft treats us very well,” he says.
Last month he travelled to Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters to meet 160 other associate experts at an XP briefing. He paid for his airfare and Microsoft picked up the tab for accommodation and other expenses.
Highlights of the trip were touring Microsoft’s headquarters, seeing where XP is developed and talking to the Microsoft employees.
O’Connell dispenses advice on the ExpertZone when he has the time but of the eight to 10 hours he spends daily on his PC, a large chunk is spent testing XP. To begin with he was finding plenty of bugs in the software but they’re becoming fewer and fewer, he says.
It was O’Connell’s aptitude for bug hunting that brought him to Microsoft’s attention in the first place. He had subscribed to Microsoft’s developer network and started reporting bugs in Windows 2000. From there he was invited to become a technical beta tester.
After W2K he became a technical beta-tester for Windows ME though Windows XP, which launches on October 25, appears to be his favourite.
Features which especially appeal are the new user interface, the new media player and backwards compatibility with Windows 98 and Windows 95 applications.
New Zealand has one other associate expert on XP, Colin Hopper of Hamilton.