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29 Reasons to Not Get Vista

Microsoft Windows Vista hits (assaults) consumers on 30 January 2007. Starting with New Years Day that gives you twenty nine days to think about the big mistake you're about to make.

Every day of January 2007 until Microsoft Windows Vista is released you can read yet another good reason why it's not a good idea to get it.

9 January 2007 Reason #9: ActiveX.

ActiveX is one of those Microsoft non-standard technologies that not only is clumsy and insecure - it's also a kludge to have around. And it's a direct attempt by Bill Gates to corrupt the openness of the Internet.

ActiveX is actually an abortion. It's based on and is a subset of something called 'OLE2'. OLE2 in turn is, unsurprisingly, the 2nd version of something called 'OLE'.

'OLE' stands for 'object linking and embedding': it's the Microsoft attempt to do all those fancy things already found on most other platforms - things such as having a part of spreadsheet or a graphics image inside a word processing document.

While it's not really germane to the topic, there is a difference between 'linking' and 'embedding': when you use part of another file - such as a spreadsheet file or a graphics file - in, for example, a word processing document, that so called 'object' is 'linked' in: if the object is edited further, the copy in the word processing document would reflect those changes. The opposite then is 'embedding': a copy is made once only. Changes in the object do not result in changes in the word processing document.

After Microsoft patted themselves on their collective head for that one, they started to peer again into their crystal ball and saw a day when that rudimentary technology could be used for almost anything. They especially liked the thought that small segments of code in program files could help other programs to run.

This wasn't an original idea. [Few ideas at Microsoft are.] The idea came from the Multics project which preceded the Unix project at Bell Systems Laboratories. It involved a wearisome (and 'busy') broadcasting of services client applications might want to use. [Which gives rise to the Registry, a blooper discussed elsewhere in this series.]

And so fueled by their own sense of greatness and originality, Microsoft sat down to draw up a specification for their new baby OLE2. OLE2 would be based on what they called 'COM' - a binary 'component object model' which functions best with lugubrious user hostile programming languages like C++.

The resulting OLE2 specification was over 1,000 printed pages. Naturally the industry were in an uproar. Was it to be so difficult to use this crap? Microsoft evidently thought so.

And so for a while the OLE2 standard stood. And then something called the Internet came along.

Or rather the World Wide Web. For the Internet had been around for a while. But it was the 'web' which made use of OLE2 interesting: getting fancy effects in a web page, for example. There was only one problem. The monster truly was a monster.

When you have a bloody spec of over 1,000 printed pages you're not about to get lean and mean code. And back then everyone was on dial-up. Trying to get a whiz-bang page with OLE2 cruft in it to load took ages.

Back to the drawing boards, and the result of these further deliberations was ActiveX - a lipo version of OLE2.

And yet the thought of downloading all this junk onto one's disk just to see the Web As Microsoft See It was considered a bit over the top for most surfers. And the web is for everyone - not just Windows users. And no one really could consider porting the awful ActiveX to alternative platforms.

Not that it bothered Bill Gates: on the contrary, Gates pushed for ActiveX precisely because it worked only on you-know-what-platform. Imagine coming to a cool site and being told 'you have to run Windows to see this page'. Perhaps Bill Gates' only wet dream ever.

But at the end of the day ActiveX is not only a clumsy kludge and a headache to developers - it's a Microsoft product. With all that implies. Crappy code open for attacks. And so forth.

Here we have the 'free' Internet with free technologies that serve everyone well - and would serve Microsoft well too - but that's not good enough for Microsoft. That's not good enough for Bill Gates.

The vision of Bill Gates is to destroy the 'free' Internet - and replace it with his own technologies - which even he's forced to admit are vastly inferior. That's the kind of dirty tactics you can try when you're a 'monopoly'.

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