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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

Windows: It's Broken
September 30th, 2003

Here's an easy riddle: What do the Swiss and Microsoft have in common? They both make products that are full of holes.

OK, you say that wasn't so funny? I absolutely agree, it isn't funny at all. I don't find it funny that hardly a week goes by without another serious security hole discovered in a Microsoft product. I find no humor in the fact that companies, and our government, insist on turning a blind eye to the problem plaguing IT to a point where an appreciable portion of IT man-hours must be dedicated to fighting digital infections, a problem that is costing this country many millions of dollars daily in lost revenue and lost production.

There is no levity in the barrage of virus and worm attacks that keep home computer users so busy fixing their computers that they hardly have time to use them; and I cannot laugh at the seemingly endless succession of patches, updates, fixes, and service packs that 95% of the computing public must contend with in order to use their machines.

See if you find this funny: A new hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer can leave your computer so open that crackers can run up dial-up phone tabs through porn sites, erase your data, or keep tabs on what you type, all in the background with out you knowing it. The thing is, Microsoft had patches for the hole that allows that mischievous activity, but the company has found that the patch only covers part of the hole, and now it has created a new patch to patch the old patch.

I don't know about you, but I'm not laughing.

This is a real problem, ladies and gentlemen, a problem that cannot be patched away, nor can the legal beagles fix it; patches and legal action only swipe at the symptoms while ignoring the root cause of the problem.

Windows is broken.

It is high time Mr. Gates and his crew stop dancing around the subject and admit that they've made a mistake; they need to come clean and publicly announce that Windows, in all its current forms, cannot be made secure enough to lessen the problems we face with digital infections.

I say that 'we face' these problems because, in truth, what affects Microsoft products, because they are so pervasive, affects nearly ever computer user regardless of machine or OS type.

This is not a matter of which OS is best, as this issue goes far beyond any infantile adherence to meaningless beliefs and persuasions; Windows is broken and it cannot be fixed. It's time to put it aside and find something else.

Here's why Windows will continue to plague users for years to come: Corporate IT managers won't abandon Windows because they've invested millions in it. Think of all of the thousands of hours of costly training, the millions of dollars in licensing fees, the millions in salaries for support staff, and the millions in hardware, and you can begin to see that swapping Windows out for something else just won't happen overnight.

Heck, it took companies years to migrate from their Unix and Mainframe world to Windows in the first place. It will take as long, if not longer, to incorporate other OSes into the IT landscape in meaningful numbers.

Our government won't nix Microsoft because the people in power couldn't take a decent stand if our lives depended on it. Our government is too fractured to put forth a solid face and push for a stable computing environment. The thing is, it would take an organization as large and as powerful as our government to make any meaningful difference in our computing environment.

Finally, regular people are too unwilling to change and abandon Microsoft in any real numbers. People, in general, are resistant to change; they will put up with a lot of discomfort if it means that things will stay the same and they won't have to learn something new. This is something I've never understood. There is a line of philosophy that believes that change is the only universal constant. In our narrow view of the world around us, such a notion rings very true.

In the 60s, when mainframes were the only real form of computing, IBM was king. It took 20 years to whittle away IBM's total dominance of the computing world to what it is today. Sure, that's nothing to sneeze at, but even that slow pace of change was too fast for IBM, and it was forced to realize that it is just as susceptible to change as everyone and everything. If IBM had embraced change fully, it may still be on top of the computing food chain; a spot now occupied by Microsoft.

Microsoft could learn from IBM's mistakes and welcome change. The company could take a few steps back and look at the horizon and see that one way or the other they too must change.

OK, so I've bitched about how bad Windows is, but what can Big Redmond do to fix it? That's easy: Dump Windows and start fresh. Maybe that's why Longhorn is being so delayed, perhaps Microsoft has realized that Windows is a mess and decided to start from scratch. If so it would be the smartest move Microsoft has ever made.

As for the apology, that would require more class than the Boyz@Redmond can muster, and such a thought may be something to laugh about.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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