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08/25/2003 Archived Entry: "Microsoft acting like the government"

"EVERY CORPORATION WANTS TO BE A GOVERNMENT WHEN IT GROWS UP." My friend Charles Curley is always saying that. Nothing shows the truth of it better than Microsoft's response to the problem of Windows viruses and worms.

As everybody knows, and as Rob Pegoraro wrote eloquently and explicitly in the Washington Post yesterday, Windows is "Insecure by Design." But instead of redesigning its software to have fewer vulnerabilities ... or instead of delivering the Windows OS with key ports closed instead of open ... Microsoft's proposed solution is to force future Windows users to submit to automatic installation of patches.

It's just like the government: set up a flawed system, rely on patches instead of returning to solid fundamentals no matter how bad the problems become, then finally, when it's obvious that endless patches aren't solving the problem ... simply get tough and shove the patches down people's throats.

Of course, Microsoft can't send a SWAT team to your house if you refuse. Well, maybe that'll be Phase III.

But somehow, as Linux and Mac users sit here unbothered by Blaster, SoBig.F, and all the other critters designed to exploit the weaknesses of MS Outlook or Internet Explorer, it never occurs to Microsoft that the problem might be fundamental and systemic -- and up to them to fix via better code. No, little peasant. The problem is yours because you're too dumb and lazy to watch for every newly discovered vulnerability and every hastily written patch, and spend hours installing bits and snips of software whose effect on your system may be hard to predict. So we'll have to do it for you "for your own good."

Now, isn't that just a perfect government attitude, if you've ever heard one?

Okay, part of the reason Linux and Mac aren't as attack prone is because they're only a small percentage of the OS world. And about the time we get too smug, somebody'll come up with a rousingly effective Linux virus. But then, some Linux guru will smack it down, too -- not with a patch force-fed to us from On High whose effects on our software are unknown -- but with a nice, clean bit of code that anyone with the knowhow is free to examine and free to propose improvements upon, and which might then be incorporated into the Linux kernel once its quality is ascertained.

I suspect my yapping about it is no more pleasant or useful than the noise made by a 10-pound Peka-Pom. But the most popular versions of Linux, like Mandrake, RedHat, and SusE, are so easy even a non-geek girl can use them. You can download 'em free, pay $30-$70 bucks for them in a package (complete with manuals), or order them on CD from my favorite and very reliable budget source. Why mess with either installing your own endless patches or sitting back and letting Mama Microsoft do it for you?

Posted by Claire @ 01:19 PM CST

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