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Shoulders of Giants

Week of December 18, 2004

They took isolated desktop systems and put them on the net.
 - Bill Joy

Microsoft have done it again: demonstrated that the biggest software company on the planet are totally inept when it comes to creating quality software and totally incompetent when it comes to understanding what a good operating system makes.

This past week the Redmond monster swallowed up a small twelve man team, buying their anti-spyware utility. The thought is that Microsoft Windows must be beefed up against this ever-growing threat of viruses, worms, trojans, zombie recruiters, keystroke loggers, password stealers - and whatever comes next week.

But the product they acquired is currently licensed as a subscription on a yearly basis, and pundits believe Microsoft will continue to exact fees for its use.

Something that leaves serious IT professionals speechless. The world's worst operating system, a standalone catastrophe that should never have been allowed on the net, a product which has already resulted in class action lawsuits, will now be saved by yet another purchase. If ever anyone doubted Bill Gates was about heroin economics, they need not stay undecided any longer.

Chasing trojans inside a system is the most helpless, most pathetic strategy imaginable - and no company in any field has ever been lamer about providing quality to customers than Microsoft. Bill Gates has even gone so far as to ask Internet backbone providers to beef up filtering so as to protect his pathetic Windows.

This is not banner waving: the choice is not one of personal taste or preference. Those days are unfortunately long behind. Today it is a question of pure security, pure safety, and any system out of the box as open as Microsoft Windows should not be allowed on a network, much less the Internet.

The software market of Microsoft Windows is rampant and overrun with cottage industries that all seek to compensate for inherent flaws in the operating system. No operating system worthy of the name should allow viruses to be downloaded to the local machine and run, or let rogue web pages put files in the local file system, ready for startup at next boot; any decent operating system would be ripe with speed bumps and authentication procedures to prevent intrusion.

Microsoft Windows has none of this.

Even Bruce Schneier is saying today that people must abandon Windows. The game is over, there is no turning back: all the spin blood sweat and tears cannot make such a hopeless product any better. Windows is not a ship sinking with a leak in the hull; Windows is a ship with no hull at all.

Perhaps it is easier for a software engineer to appreciate the situation than it is for a kitchen table aficionado, but almost everyone should be able to understand the not so subtle difference between discretionary rights and frenetic chasing of bad programs. Windows allows everything, and this is in its bone marrow; if any bad things happen, Microsoft's so called software engineers scramble to plug a leak whilst Ballmer and his brown shirts spin the media, claiming they know more about security than any other company.

But Microsoft Windows by definition allows everything. There is no on disk control. There are no guarded accounts. Files, both good and bad, can be placed anywhere. Microsoft 'engineers' have too long played with 'technologies' which in effect give malfeasant programs a pat on the back as they break through the perimeter.

Most of the worst worm outbreaks of the New Millennium were caused not so much by inventive attacks as by operating procedures already provided by Microsoft Windows itself.

The audacity of the greedy beady eyed Bill Gates knows no bounds. Apologising for his crappy products was only a way to spin into digital rights management; coming before the US government he showed nothing but a total lack of respect for all that is ethical and for lawful institutions. Getting sued or fined is to him just the cost of doing business. He might as well - and most likely already has - politicians in his pocket.

But the Internet belongs to the world, not to Bill Gates. This of course comes as a shocker to the snotty snooty wanker from Seattle, but it is not his and never will be. The people using the Internet must however assert their rights.

The fortune of Bill Gates is based on the value of his stock. Should that stock plummet, his fortune will be destroyed. Should something bad happen to his company, his stock will plummet.

What needs to happen has actually already happened: the world has condemned Bill Gates, and not just once, just as the world has now condemned Windows.

All that remains is that each and every computer user, whether in a shop or in a kitchen, follow suit and abandon the both.

Microsoft Windows PCs are not cheap: they are much more expensive than Apple OS X Unix boxes. And that's before one factors in the cost of additional software to even attempt to provide the safety of computing found on that latter platform.

When 'commoners' realise Bill Gates will now charge for a feeble attempt to fix yet another flaw which should never have existed in the first place, they might finally be pushed over the edge.

Footnote: 6 January 2005

Microsoft have now announced the availability of a beta version of their recent acquisition now called Microsoft® Windows® AntiSpyware [sic]. The product supports Windows 2000 and later (not 9x).

Although initially free, it is expected to require a subscription to keep signature lists up to date.

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