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2/20/2004
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Best Of Listening Post

Microsoft misplaces some source code and posters see the pettiness of the human spirit, an allegory for genetically altered crops, and a marketing conspiracy

Looking At A Leak
Microsoft says about 15% of Windows 2000's full source code is AWOL. A decompressed 600-Mbyte file, complete with text files, executable programs, scripts, and even notes from programmers, is making the Internet rounds.

At deadline, it wasn't known how the code "leaked" out (some XP source code has gone missing, too), but it's being traded online like a common Radiohead song. You can almost picture Bill Gates ordering someone to "release the hounds." In any event, the leak sparked some thoughtful and surprising comments in the Listening Post. Unlike in previous columns in which I've taken snippets from posted messages, this time, I'm going let the posts speak more for themselves, running more fully.

Let's start with one "Ganesh Iyer": "I don't know why people do such things. Is it just to prove they have a smarter brain than Bill Gates and the other developers or to show that they can bring anything in the PC world down in seconds?

"Imagine if the person who did this would have made something useful or powerful like [Windows 2000]. He would have received a lot of praise. ...

"But some people who have got super brains don't use them in the right manner. What [we] Indians believe is 'work is God.' You should not destroy something, which earns you [and] other people their source of livelihood. Now if someone causes some kind of havoc on computer networks around the world, many will suffer."

To which "Andre Radnoti" replies: "Ganesh, I've read your previous postings dealing with hackers. You used to praise these folks for their service at exploiting weakness in systems. I believe you said that the guy who hacked into the N.Y. Times' system should not have been punished--that he did them a favor. Now you understand. Security is no laughing matter. ... This is the problem when one company dominates the industry. It's the same argument that was used against genetically altered crops. When all the variants of crops have been changed to a single structure, all that is required is one disease to wipe out the whole crop. The less variation, the weaker it becomes."

"Andy Flagg" sees a darker subtext to the code-leak story: "Leaking Windows 2000 source code could be strategic as well as a mistake. The Microsoft public-relations and marketing group I am sure is going to spin this into a public win.

"If it's true that the code affected possibly only home users, then are XP Home sales weak? [Would the] leak [cause] more users and companies to switch to XP Pro? Do the XP Home and Pro source code really derive from Windows 2000, and if so, how much? We all could worry, but we need to enable our firewalls on non-Microsoft routers and products and continue to work and watch InformationWeek for more validated and credible reports." (On my honor, Andy wrote that last part. Really.)

"Doesn't this sound like the start of Open Source Microsoft Windows? This leak could be part of the ... bad press to crank up sales [and] prep for a full rendition of a new Microsoft operating system in the wings, to pressure companies to migrate to ... something like Microsoft Fedora. Who knows?

"I wish Microsoft good luck in spinning this bad news into good news and increasing their share of innovation toward stronger and faster, lighter and meaner solutions. Let's just hope Bill and his team [remain] calm. ... They have so many more important issues surrounding [the fusion of] business and technology [that] helps their investors, their customers, and academia improve."

Leak supportive, paranoid, or reproving messages, but do be civil in the Listening Post.

Jim Nash,
managing editor, news and interactive products


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit the Talk Shop.

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