sábado, 16 de octubre de 2010

Windows Innovations and "Science Non-Fiction"

I've been reading about three new ideas from Microsoft; two of them have been implemented already and the last one is yet to be carried out. These three ideas are so innovative that actually resemble science-fiction and have motivated bloggers to step into the world of narrative. They also resemble short stories already published.

But Microsoft is for real; they don't like to stay in the world of imagination. Thus, I called the narrations spawned by these innovative ideas "science non-fiction."

Let's see examples of these ideas and the science non-fiction works they either resemble or have spawned:

1. EULA Reloaded: It IS Syzygy!
Theodore Sturgeon, in his book E Pluribus Unicorn, wrote the short story "It wasn't syzygy." It is a strange love? story in which the main character learned about the way single-celled life forms enter into a relationship so close that lets them exchange nucleic information so that the species may keep on living. This resembles so much the current pseudo-symbiotic state of hardware and software, all thanks to Microsoft's corrected version of the EULA for Windows Seven. Now, software and hardware have become one...not in this dimension, though. Their oneness works very strangely: if you reject the EULA, you are required to return the whole computer (software and hardware are one), but you are not entitled to alter the software the way you can with the hardware (they are different entities.) For more information, read Sturgeon.

2. E.T. Phone Home: Calling for a Check-up!
Lauren Weinstein put it this way:
You're sitting quietly in your living-room at your PC, perhaps watching YouTube. Suddenly, a pair of big, burly guys barge into your house and demand that you let them check your computer to make sure that it's "genuine" and not running pirated software. You protest that you bought it fair and square, but they're insistent -- so you give in and let them proceed.

Even though you insist that you bought your laptop from the retail computer store down the street many months ago, and didn't install any pirate software, the visitors declare that your computer "isn't genuine" according to their latest pirated systems lists, and they say that "while we'll let you keep using it, we're modified your system so that it will constantly nag in your face until you pay up for a legit system!" And they head out the door to drop in on the eBay-loving grandmother next door.

You then notice that the wallpaper on your PC has turned black, and these strange notifications keep popping up urging you to "come clean."


This narration refers to the seemingly innocent update for Microsoft Windows KB971033. If you install it, you must be prepared: Windows Seven will contact Microsoft every 90 days to check if you are running a genuine Windows copy...for as long as you have Windows installed. That means that if by any event your Windows fails the authentication process, you will be in trouble. But what if your Windows is indeed genuine? It doesn't matter, your software will contact Microsoft every 3 months "just to make sure." See? Microsoft cares for your safety! The good thing about this science non-fiction feature is that it can be uninstalled at least.

3. Computer Eugenics: Let's Do away with the Sick!
This blog's narrative goes like this:
"I know how to use Windows properly, so it's not my fault."

With that declaration and the particular stress on the possessive adjective, Mr. Valmers started his testimony before the inquiring eyes of a judge and the jury members, who began whispering and shaking their heads in disapproval. They had listened to the technical report of a software expert before the afflicted average computer user sat in front of them.

Sensing the effect that his initial words had on the atmosphere of the room, Mr. Valmers paused timidly and cleared his throat before the microphone, causing listeners to tilt their heads for a second that became awkwardly long. Pierced by the prying eyes of the prosecutor, the fifty-something owner of an infected PC wished he could have uttered something like: "I know how to use Windows. I took courses to learn how to use my Windows computer, you know, so do not patronize me, techie." However, he just sat there, mute, as a target for the questions that, sooner or later, would dart from the mouth of the implacable man in front of him.

Mr. Valmers thought for a second. How could he prove that he did nothing wrong according to what he learned in those Windows courses he took? In spite of the fact that the expert had made it clear that such action was a pre-requisite for a secure Windows computer, no instructor had ever told him that he was supposed to disable autorun. Darn pedantic guy! But then, why was it that the stupid autorun feature was enabled by default in Windows if it was so dangerous? Mr. Valmers had done what he was told in four courses to be safe from malware: he bought an expensive antivirus (what a poor investment!), he had that software installed along with MS Security Essentials, and he made sure that the Windows firewall was on as he browsed the Web. Religiously, the man had downloaded antivirus updates and the traitor software never gave a warning of the infection that had him sitting as a fool in front of all those people that looked down on him.


Even though this has not happened yet (fortunately!), Microsoft actually wants to ban all sick computers from the Web. In order to be able to surf the Web, users will have to undergo a "health check" and get a "certificate" proving that their PCs are healthy. That's pure eugenics applied to computers. Now, even though the idea seems great in principle, let's analyze it a bit further. What's "healthy"? Who defines what "healthy" means? How will that help catch the real offenders (the creators of the viruses and Trojans)? Who will be in charge of the check-ups and of issuing the certificates? How often will our PCs be scanned? (daily? wow! that adds up to the A/V daily scans and the resources it takes!) What happens if a healthy computer misses several scans and thus is not granted the certificate? Why don't Microsoft developers work on fortifying the security of their OS instead? Why do they blame users for the problems caused by the poor security of their software? If a computer has been denied the right to go online, how can it update its A/V so that it may come clean? All these questions remain to be answered. Will the answers be part of our world or of a fictional world?

Interesting...Microsoft comes with innovative ideas, all for our benefit...and it also brings out the artist in some of us!

1 comentario:

  1. For those of us who like reading/writing fiction, your post is greatly appreciated!

    By the way, nice image, too!