Summary: Promises made, promises broken. Maybe Microsoft is big enough to get away with it, but Paul is going to call them on it anyways. See what dastardly deeds were dealt, and what may come of them.
Floating The Line
Over the last few months, I’ve been criticized for being paranoid in my articles, particularly in regards to Microsoft and Windows XP. I rant about secrecy, privacy, security and things like Passport and Messenger, and I get a flood of mail taking me to task for being so unreasonable with no actual foundation. But experience has taught me to trust my instincts, so I usually hang in there and wait for the dust to settle. In this case, now that the dust has settled, I think it is time to take a look at the industry and see what lines these companies have been floating, and seeing how many consumers took the bait.
Words Of Prophecy
The Scorpions are one of the best rock bands I’ve heard in the last 30 years. Of course you have Zep, Van Halen and others, but the lyrics of the Scorpions seem to sum life up so perfectly. In this place we call the Zoo, there are bad boys running wild and sometimes, revelations can rock you like a hurricane.
Well, Windows XP seems to be rebooting randomly on some systems. Instead of presenting the user with a blue screen that they may be able to recover from, XP simply restarts itself with no word to the user. Take the hard-to-diagnose but well documented “Infinite Loop” problem that people are having with their Nvidia drivers under XP. The problem has become so pervasive that an actual petition has been created so users can mass together as a force to ask Nvidia to correct the issue. Quoting from the petition:
As you can see from the text above, Windows XP can indeed be brought down by a simple driver issue. Nvidia has stated repeatedly that the problem lies with Windows XP, not their drivers. As much as I like to rag on drivers, Nvidia has a pretty good track record in being up front about any issues they may have. They also have a pretty good track record in terms of stability. Believe it or not, it may be that XP is the culprit here.
SIDEBAR: It is strange that XP seems to have more issues than Windows 2000 Professional ever did. It is also strange they never bothered to fix that 60hz video refresh bug, even though they said XP was going to be very “Video Game Friendly”. So much for progress...
Don’t Panic The Natives
After the release of XP into the retail stream, the veneer of invulnerability slowly began to crack. A lot of users, including myself, found driver issues with our existing hardware that could not easily be solved. What was so frustrating to me was how these driver issues were able to undermine the stability of the operating system itself. For months we had been told that XP would not be like the other operating systems, that it could not be brought down by bad drivers. But as the “Infinite Loop” bug clearly demonstrates, it is still pretty darn easy to lock XP up so tight that a restart is the only way to fix it.
Taking The Wraps Off
Instead of hashing over every little fault, let’s just say that XP turned out to be a bit less than was promoted in terms of stability. Stability, however, turns out to be the least of the worries surrounding Windows XP. One of the first big issues turned out to be around security and Universal Plug And Play. In late December of 2001, it was like a wind blew the veil of secrecy away and suddenly, a major flaw was exposed for everyone to see.
Angering The Wrong Crowd
The fact that Microsoft had been aware of the problem and said nothing for weeks got the attention of one of their biggest and best customers: The United States Government. Immediately after Microsoft made the disclosure public, they were contacted by representatives of the Department Of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI). This direct contact is certainly uncommon, but it was perhaps the tone of the conversation that got the most attention. The DOD and FBI were said to be fairly furious at Microsoft for withholding this information from them and maintaining a shroud of secrecy while they worked on a solution in private. They felt that if anyone had the right to know about such a major flaw, it was the government agencies charged with protecting this nation. After the events of 9/11, I’m not about to chastise the government for being concerned.
Won’t They Ever Learn?
You figure after getting caught red-handed, MS would eat some humble pie and try to work the issues out in public. You’d figure wrong. Microsoft began pressing people who did find security leaks in the software to keep their discoveries under wraps. People who tried to do the right thing and notify Microsoft of such leaks were often made targets of intimidation to keep them quiet. Of course, now that the genie was out of the bottle and Microsoft had been denounced by the US government, people began to feel emboldened and decided it was time to put Microsoft in their place. So, more security leaks were discovered and announced and one by one, dents appeared in the Microsoft armor. Bill Gates had put it all on the line, declaring XP as secure as they came. However, the Microsoft Public Relations machine kept trying to deny and minimize the problem. The stakes were simply too high, and this time, Microsoft lost. Big time.
A New Direction
As many of you now know, Bill Gates, in a stunning reversal, admitted the security flaws in Windows XP and has vowed to refocus the efforts from adding fancy features with flash and sizzle to ensuring that security concerns are put at the very top of the wish list for every program Microsoft creates. New ideas would not be allowed to go forth until they were found not to pose a security risk to the consumer.
Two Left Feet
Here we have a new edict from the founder of the company. He has stated clearly that he wants things to change and has expressed publicly that he has been embarrassed by the latest turn of events and wants to change the culture at Microsoft to make them better. When people like me, who tend to be cynical about such things, hear something so profound and passionate from the founder of a company, we want to believe them. We want to hope that they mean it and that things are going to change. Unfortunately, reality often smacks us hard in the face and forces us to wake up from our dream world.
You want to believe in the goodness of people, but in this industry, as in many other industries, it is not about being honest and being sincere. It is about perception. It is about the spin. It is about controlling the flow of information. It is about putting out your propaganda and covering your tail at the same time. Make no mistake about it,it’s about the sound the bite and the headline. Do what you can to maximize profit and keep the stock high, and don’t let anything get in your way. If you get caught, deny. If that doesn’t work, deny some more. If you really get caught, fess up, play nice and let it blow over, but by no means come clean because the truth will not set you free, it will drive your stock down and hurt the bottom line, regardless of whether it is the right thing to do or not.
As the years have progressed, I’ve seen the lengths some of these companies will go to. I’ve covered the ATI driver thing to death, so I won’t go on about that, but the concept of cheat and cover-up is pervasive. I have learned that companies pay people to monitor popular sites and newsgroups, always on the lookout for negative criticism. Most of these ‘trolls’ as people call them, not only report back to the “mother ship” but also take the time to attack posters who make negative comments about their product. You slam Windows, they come right at you with a barrage of prepared statements designed to cut you off at the knees. They seek to discredit you and undermine your arguments to help their company come out looking as good as they can.
Summing It Up
Let us know how you feel in our Comments Section.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|