There Will Never be a Secure Version of Windows

You may have heard the announcements recently about a new version of Windows, “Longhorn”, and how it will incorporate all kinds of new security features, including something called “Secure Startup”. At a demonstration in Seattle in April, Microsoft demonstrated this new feature which allegedly makes it impossible to see any files on your computer unless the “Platform Configuration Registers” (PCR) match something called a SRTM (Static Root of Trust Measurement”). The article in ComputerWorld is a bit oblique about where the SRTM (how they do love acronyms in the computer world) is located. In a chip, I would presume. On your motherboard, it would seem likely.

The ostensible purpose of these security measures is to protect your data. That’s what Microsoft wants you to believe. It’s not true. The real purpose is absorb you into the borg. All right– partly kidding. What is the borg. in this case? The online world of customer-purchase-charge.

Microsoft might be evil but they are not clueless. They know that the computer is destined to replace the television. When it does, whoever controls the feed of information to your eyeballs controls an unbelievably immense resource.

Anyone who is familiar with the real world of Microsoft operating systems can only just begin to imagine a plethora of scenarios in which you wake up one day to find that all of these “security measures” have gone wrong and instead of protecting your computers from hackers is now protecting your data from you.

More likely, however, you will wake up to find your computer has been hijacked once again by any of a dozen legal or illegal users, all trying to stick their fangs into your infoblood. Yes– “legal” users too, like AOL or Real Networks, or Adobe or Microsoft itself. Yes, even after all the promises and all the claims, Microsoft will once again have sold you a house with giant symbolic locks on the doors– and no glass in the windows. Because, after all, if you want to let the summer breeze blow through your living room, you shouldn’t actually have to get up off the sofa and open a window yourself.

Someone once mentioned that governments react quickly and decisively to terrorism primarily for this reason: it attacks their monopoly on violence. It’s an interesting observation, and at least partly, if not wholly, true. The secret of pervasive government power is that whenever they really, really don’t like what you are doing, they can bust you, violently, if necessary. On the other hand, no matter how convinced I am that Bush is a lying, scheming dupe, I can’t go find myself a beat cop, stroll into the White House, and arrest him. I can’t even suspend the normal rules of due process and evidence– as Bush has done– in order to expedite the incarceration of the man. I can’t because the state doesn’t allow me to exercise coercive power. The state wants a monopoly on violence, the way Microsoft wants a monopoly on internet connectivity.

In the same way, Microsoft wants to stop pirates and hackers from getting onto your computer because they threaten its monopoly on your eyeballs. Microsoft wants to control what you see, where you go to, what information you read. When your TV finally gets linked to your computer, Microsoft’s logo is going to be on the corner of your screen, and you will use Microsoft search engines to find the tv schedule, and Microsoft will collect fees from Hollywood to ensure that you cannot skip through a commercial.

Microsoft’s solution is NOT — I repeat, because this is profoundly true– is NOT to stop your system from being hijacked, because the only way they could do that effectively would be to give the user control over his own computer.

Microsoft’s goal is to facilitate on-line commerce and to force your eyeballs onto the websites belonging to Microsoft itself, or it’s corporate partners.

If you don’t believe this is true, try to delete Internet Explorer or MSN. Or try to prevent Microsoft from contacting it’s own web site and checking for “updates”. Try to install a version of media player that does not refuse to play certain files because it deems them to be in violation of copyright laws. (If you think the competition might be better, try to install Real Player and tell it not to take control over all your media files.)

Try to tell Windows explorer not to try to automatically play files when the cursor lands on or hovers over their names.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to do these things (some aren’t). But it’s difficult, and you will often find that the minute you have to patch your operating system, Microsoft makes everything revert back to the defaults.

Ever get the message that some files are not the official Microsoft versions? Ever try to fix that problem?

Microsoft Windows is NEVER going to be secure, because the only way to make Windows secure is to let you go where you want to go with your browser, and choose what you actually see on your screen.

It’s not going to happen.

You might some day be duped into thinking that Windows has solved the security problem. You will be duped into thinking that because Microsoft will pop up on your screen with this news. That will be like a man walking into your living room as you sit there watching your tv to tell you that your house is now safe and secure.

You will not have asked to see this news, just as you will not have asked Windows to check for security updates at the Microsoft web site, and you will not have asked for Real Networks to monitor your browsing habits and you will not have asked for Adobe to send information back to it’s website when you start Premiere, and you will not have asked for a new version of Windows Media Player that no longer plays “unauthorized” digital music or video even if you recorded it yourself.

Windows will never be secure because Microsoft is not stupid. In fact, the marketing people at Microsoft are way smarter than you or I and they see the future and they know that big money in the future belongs to sites like Google who can attract your eyeballs. But I suspect they won’t genuinely believe in Google, which was very successful by taking the high road.

The original computer was a tool, which a powerful, knowledgeable user used to accomplish tasks he or she had chosen to perform. But since Microsoft began to dominate the PC world, there has been a very steady, very consistent trajectory to the development of hardware and software from the major corporations. That trajectory leads us directly to the opposite of the computer, television.

What made the computer revolutionary was that it actually gave the user control over information. And that is a revolution that cannot and will not be allowed to stand. You– meaning the large body of computer users and consumers that now have computers in their homes–cannot be permitted to obtain the information you want without a corporation carefully screening, manipulating, and controlling it. Because the goal is to convince you that Tucker Carlson “arguing” with Wolf Bitzer is about as diverse as your news sources need to be.

Tucker: So, you think Hilary is a control-freak, free-spending, pinko, feminazi?
Wolf: I disagree. I think she is a control-freak, free-spending, pinko, fembot.
Hilary: But I basically agree with all of President Bush’s policies!
Tucker: It’s working.

They will trumpet your power of choice. Did you want your news from CNN, NBC, MSN, or ABC, or USA Today? Do you want to buy your books at Amazon or Chapters? Do you want to go to a movie at Silver City or Galaxy? Do you want to buy Nikes or Adidas? A GM or Ford? Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson? Spiderman or Batman?

And they only way they can limit your choices to the array of acceptable corporate co-sponsors and flacks, is never, ever, ever give you control over your network connection.

Think about this. Seriously– don’t pass over this point, it’s a very, very important one: how do you shut off your internet connection? Do you know?

If your only answer is “disconnect the cable”, congratulations. You have entered a world in which your access to the internet is controlled by Microsoft. Your computer is now a television. The only difference is, while you’re watching it, it’s watching you.

Microsoft is not the only Jerk Out There:

When I downloaded and installed QuickTime so I could look at some videos, I was given the option of not installing certain features, like iTunes. Then Apple completely ignored my preferences and went ahead and installed iTunes and several other options anyway. Am I displeased? Are you kidding…

Grey’s Atomic

Not sure why “Gray’s Anatomy” ever bothered with the hospital setting in the first place. Why not just have it among a bunch of nuclear physicists somewhere. They could fall in love, out of love, break each others’ hearts, romance each other while experimenting with atoms, and then, every once in a while, a bomb goes off and they kill a million people and one of them says, “you broke my heart. You never believed in me.”