We Feel Safer And Safer (8/1/03)

Oh, here's a nice way to close out the week. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we pointed out the cruel yet oh-so-delectable irony of the Department of Homeland Security having signed a five-year, $90 million contract to outfit 140,000 government computers with Microsoft software-- known far and wide as the least secure software ever produced? Remember how the irony was compounded by the fact that, while the blood-- er, ink-- on that contract was still wet, Microsoft was forced to admit that "nearly all Windows software" contained a security hole so huge and gaping you could actually drive Australia through it? Well, it just keeps getting better...

Faithful viewer Dana Sutton pointed us toward an article in The Mercury News which reports that the DHS itself "has issued an unprecedented second warning" about said flaw-- you know, the flaw that it basically just paid $90 million for. Now, personally, we never even saw the first warning, but we tend to filter most of that stuff out, because trying to remember the color code for the threat levels gives us a headache ("Is Burnt Sienna higher or lower than Purple Mountain Majesty?"), but considering that this second warning is "unprecedented," apparently the DHS is really spooked by the idea that three-quarters of American computers are vulnerable to tech-savvy terrorists (or even bored kids) looking to "steal files, read emails, and launch wide-scale computer virus and 'worm' attacks that could seriously damage the Internet."

The article cites DHS spokesperson David Wray as justifying the second warning because "if hackers exploit the latest flaw, they could cause as much damage as the so-called Code Red virus two years ago," which caused "an estimated $2 billion in damage, primarily to U.S. businesses and government." But we're sure Microsoft cut 'em a check to cover the damages, right? Oh, wait, no-- it was the government who paid Microsoft $90 million for the privilege of using software that allows this kind of stuff to happen in the first place. Sorry, we just find that a little confusing.

As we said two weeks ago, a patch to fix the problem does exist, but the government wants to remind people that they actually need to download and apply it before it can do any good. Apparently Windows users who leave the auto-update feature on are pretty well covered, but those who don't "are at the most risk" because they just can't keep up; this is reportedly Microsoft's 100th such patch in the past 18 months. Yowza! We'll stop grumbling about the frequency of Security Updates from Apple, now. Besides, there are better ways to spend our time until terrorists exploit some other hole in Windows to seize control of the DHS network as a precursor to whatever nefarious scheme designed to bring us all to our knees. For instance, as faithful viewer Ben Dyer points out, Glider Pro is now free...

SceneLink (4116)
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The above scene was taken from the 8/1/03 episode:

August 1, 2003: Apple works overtime to stuff as much Microsoft compatibility into Panther as is humanly possible. Meanwhile, Pixar starts making the move to Mac OS X, and the Department of Homeland Security warns us all again that Windows will be the downfall of our nation...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4114: 10.3: Plays Well With Others (8/1/03)   We know the signs have been there for a while, now, but it still just seems so odd to us: Apple is finally targeting big business, albeit in a less obvious (and probably less doomed) manner than that ill-fated mid-nineties "Power Macintosh: The Business Macintosh" campaign...

  • 4115: A Match Made In Heaven (8/1/03)   Well, the issue of Pixar's chosen computing platform has been an ongoing plot thread for ages, now, but things are starting to take a turn for the inevitable. If you've followed the saga of Steve's other company and its desperate search to find a platform with which it can finally settle down with a house and a white picket fence and 2.4 computer-animated kids running around in the yard, you know that a few years back it relied on vast oceans of SGI and Sun UNIX systems to squeeze out its award-winning films, but in 2001 made a hefty switch to Linux workstations on the desktop-- which was itself a case of changing horses in mid-stream, since the studio was reportedly already in the process of switching to Windows NT...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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