Who Wants To Live Forever? (9/7/04)

Man, what is it about seafaring military organizations that gives them a blind spot as far as the dangers of Windows are concerned? (Okay, fine, roughly nine-tenths of the tech-using entities on the planet have a blind spot of that sort, but most of them aren't in charge of handling weapons of mass destruction.) You may recall way back in the mists of time when we expressed a tricky combination of glee and horror-- we call it "glorror"-- at the original Smart Ship incident, in which the systems running a U.S. Navy warship failed utterly, and the craft lolled dead in the water for three hours before it eventually had to be towed back to base.

The system that failed? Windows, of course, which choked like a kitten swallowing a bowling ball when it encountered something as mundane as a divide-by-zero error. And yet despite the Atlantic Fleet Technical Support Center stating that if the ship had been running UNIX (you know, like that stuff in Mac OS X) the shutdown would never have occurred, the Navy still committed to use a "futuristic version" of Windows in "next-generation aircraft carriers" two years later. We can only surmise that either bribery or some sort of Memento-style inability to convert experience into memory is at play, here. Maybe both.

Well, guess what? Apparently it's not just our navy making boneheaded decisions like this. Faithful viewer Daniel Blanken tipped us off to an article in The Register which reports that despite having been warned in a "50 page dossier detailing the unsuitability of Windows as a foundation for a naval command system" and reminded that Windows is "proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation," has "many and continuing security flaws," and "is not even warranted by Microsoft itself for safety-related use," the Royal Navy (you know, in the UK) has decided to use Windows instead of the open source Linux as "a foundation for future combat systems" and use it to run, among other things, their attack submarines. That includes Vanguard-class boats which just happen to tote "Trident thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles."

And get it straight, here: this is not merely a case of Windows being used near nuclear missiles, which is already a whole class of apocalyptic nightmare we could well do without. Windows won't just be steering the boats, here, kiddies; reportedly this decision "really is committing the Royal Navy to Windows-based command, control and combat management systems," meaning that Windows has its twitchy finger on the button. So whereas twenty years ago we worried about a nuclear strike by the Russians, now we worry about a nuclear strike by a General Protection Fault or a Blue Screen of Death (the latter of which takes on all sorts of fun new meanings). We've come a long way, baby.

By the way, the only reason we're assuming that this isn't all a massive plot by Bill Gates to gain control of the world's nukes via secret Windows backdoors (see "proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation" above) is because the man's rich enough to buy his own. Trust us, if the man wanted to bomb you you'd already be vapor. Unless, of course, he used Windows to steer his missiles, in which case some guy roughly 300 miles to the west of you would be vapor. But you get the picture.

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The above scene was taken from the 9/7/04 episode:

September 7, 2004: 30-inch Cinema Displays are delayed, sort of-- but as usual, it's not Apple's fault. Meanwhile, rumors of upcoming Apple retail store closures make the rounds (albeit not very convincingly), and the Royal Navy opts to put its attack submarines under the control of Windows, so duck and cover...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4903: Everyone's Fault But Ours (9/7/04)   Ah, the Product Shipping Delay: plot device #11, and an old standby used almost as often in Apple-flavored melodramas as sitcoms rely on Feckless Landlord Overhears Part of a Tenant's Conversation Which Leads To a Great Misunderstanding About Carnal Activity, or They Almost Make It Off the Island But Dimwit In Stupid Hat Ruins Everything At the Last Minute...

  • 4904: Worrisome If You Work At It (9/7/04)   Not enough angst for you out there? Looking for something more to worry about? We know how you feel; sure, things aren't perfect with Apple right now, but the company really does seem to be in a good place, what with the iPod still stomping the competition into a watery paste and the iMac G5 poised to take back some long-awaited market share...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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