Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact|
I've been trying very hard to find non-Microsoft topics to write about this
week, but it's become a real challenge -- Bill and his boys have "kick me"
written all over them.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Since rolling out their "Trustworthy Computing" initiative with much fanfare
and some very bold claims, a virtual tsunami of holes and vulnerabilities
have been reported.
The latest, and perhaps most embarrassing example is a new hole that has
turned up in the company's C++ compiler, an integral part of the .NET toolkit
which was officially released just this week. (see the news links below)
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The most worrying thing about this latest hole is that if it hadn't been
discovered and reported by an independent security expert, it could have resulted
in many "insecure" applications being unknowingly launched by other developers.
Now one must assume that this new compiler must have passed the stringent
new security auditing that Microsoft has made so much noise about -- uh-oh!
It would appear the assertion I made recently, suggesting that Microsoft
was simply out of its depth here and that no amount of goodwill could
compensate for a lack of understanding or raw ability in the area of
security, is already looking pretty damned accurate.
Then there's the way that a security update for IE6 was posted to the company's
website -- and pulled down again within 24 hours due to "problems."
I wonder who audited that one?
Now surely Microsoft's clear inability to back up its promises over
security with some real results must spell the death of its long-planned
intention to become a universal authenticator and repository of people's
data on the Net?
Don't bank on it -- my money is still on the average punter being so dull and
stupid as to ignore the obvious and rely on the company's inevitable claims
that "we are now secure."
An Aardvark reader asked an interesting question: why do people keep buying
Microsoft's bloated, expensive, insecure software when there are equivalent
open-source alternatives available absolutely free of charge?
Well the answer is simple...
Microsoft, like most big companies, spends a shirtload of money on very
clever marketing -- downplaying bugs and problems while simultaneously
hyping up the newest features on offer.
Take the release of Windows XP for example. The incredibly expensive and
thorough advertising campaign that accompanied the product's launch created
a massive level of awareness amongst your "average" computer user. There
probably isn't a single person between the ages of 10 and 60 who doesn't know
that XP is a Microsoft product which is [allegedly] better, faster and
more fun to use than anything else.
Ask those same people "what is Linux?" or "what is Star Office?" and 90 percent
of them will stare blankly at you and say "I dunno."
Unfortunately, open-source software's biggest strength is also its biggest
weakness. When you're giving a product away, nobody can afford to spend a similar shirtload
of money to that which Microsoft allocates to marketing.
That so many users of open-source software are very satisfied with the products
is a clear indication that the reason most people are using MS Windows/Office
is simply a lack of awareness and understanding. Sadly, there is no
simple (aka "cheap") way to address this problem.
PC World, Netguide and other computer/Net magazines can publish pro-open-source
software articles until they're blue in the face -- but the vast majority
of computer users, the masses which give Microsoft its control of the desktop,
prefer to read the Woman's Weekly, the Listener or NZ Fishing magazine. To
them, computers are just a tool -- like their cellphone or toaster.
People prefer to buy brands they've heard of and know something about -- this
is why some products command an unreasonable premium -- simply because the
manufacturer has spent their own shirtload of money promoting their name in
Example: Why on earth to people continue to spend huge amounts of money buying
Coca Cola when it's really just a bottle of sugared water with some flavouring?
Why do people pay huge amounts of money for Nike or other "brand name"
sports shoes when we know that other, equally good "no-name" products can be
had for half the price?
The answer: Both Coca Cola and Nike spend incredibly large amounts of money
marketing their products and brands as being somehow "better" than the cheaper
alternatives -- and people are stupid enough to believe them!
Now, do you really think that the "average" computer user is going to believe
that any "free" software can be as good as the expensive Microsoft product
they've just paid hundreds of dollars for?
And, after all, Microsoft must know all about security because they are
the world's most successful software company aren't they?
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