Untrustworthy computing

Someone once asked me why I trust Debian enough to do apt-get update && apt-get upgrade, which automatically updates most software installed on my Linux machine, but I don’t trust Microsoft enough to run Windows Update, which ostensibly does the same thing. My answer was that Microsoft has an absolutely terrible track record when it comes to new patches introducing new bugs, security holes, privacy violations, and new software installed without your knowledge. And they just keep getting worse.

Service Pack 3 for Windows 2000 was just released to fix a large number of bugs. What they don’t mention — at least not where someone is likely to see it — is that this patch also slips in new software that Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, thinks everyone should have installed, namely Windows Update. Windows Update, when running, periodically contacts MS servers to look for OS and software updates for you. It also sends them a good amount of information about you, including version and serial numbers of Windows and other installed software, and plug and play ID numbers of your hardware. WinXP users should probably expect to have their product registration number reported as well. Needless to say, WU cannot be uninstalled without removing all SP3 updates (and even then there’s some question about whether it’s really gone). This is interesting because MS has been making a lot of noise lately about Palladium and “trustworthy computing“. It seems their definition of “trusted computing” differs greatly from mine. I think people have very good reason to not trust them, and this new development further illustrates that.

Comments

hexed says:

ugh… I hate to say it, but… I really think this is my last version of Windows. I just need them to perfect Wine or for one of the Linux versions that will supposedly natively run Windows programs to come out. Unfortunately, in my line of work… I’m stuck with using windows stuff.

kchrist says:

I just need them to perfect Wine or for one of the Linux versions that will supposedly natively run Windows programs to come out.

Unfortunately, I think real working compatibility is still a way off. Those Windows binary friendly Linux distros are just using Wine themselves. And once it does happen, you can bet Microsoft will introduce subtle changes that will break Wine compatibility again, so keeping up-to-date might be difficult.

Unfortunately, in my line of work… I’m stuck with using windows stuff.

No you’re not, you can always do your work on Linux and keep an old Windows machine around for testing (or dual-boot it). Or get a Mac. It’s not like you’re an ASP/VB/ActiveX developer or something where you really have to use Windows.

I agree, BTW. I’ve already decided that this laptop will be my last Windows PC.

hexed says:

grrr… stupid LiveJurinal errored on me and my response got lost. So you get the cliffs notes.

1) Yeah, I’m totally not as stuck as ASP developers, that’s for sure.

2) Switching machines 18-20 times an hour is bad enough.[yes I've really done this on many projects. cross-browser compatibility is a bitch when they also require the site to be really slick.] Dual-boot? Can you imagine rebooting your machine that often?

3) With 97%[or more] of the audience using windows, it makes much more sense to develop on their platform as a good portion of the design process is really done on the fly [shh... don't tell the graphic design dept.] as you try something, have it fail, retry, have it work, move on. So the real effort needs to be to make it work for the 97% and then tweak to make it work for the 3%. Naturally, you’re best off and going to be more efficient using the 97% machine for this rather than the 3% machine.

4) So I totally could do sites on a Mac or Linux machine, but it would be more work. Of all my collegues… all but two that started out total MacHeads have converted to PC purely for the reasoning in #3. They all said it was like writing right handed on a left handed school desk. Not impossible but more work and not nearly as comfortable.

So there’s my reasoning why I feel stuck on a PC until there’s another platform that can run all the browsers and dev tools of both PC and Mac. It’s not really “stuck” in the proper sense as much as in the sense of “I’d rather drive to work than take five different busses.”

Well, this was gonna’ be the short version. =P