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The Vista Screenshots

Most likely you'll find nothing.


We're in the wake of Worm War II. ABC News used electric typewriters to prepare an evening news show. Disneyland was completely wiped out, with guests unable to buy food and employees not knowing where to go (their schedules are provided realtime by the computer network running Windows). The Financial Times of London was wiped out. Boeing was clobbered. San Diego county had all of their 12,000 Windows PCs in a state of confusion. And so forth. We're in the wake of that now.

And in that wake we can look ahead to Vista. Vista will bring clarity to our world. Clarity from what? It can't be much but from Microsoft themselves, and it can't be much but yet another empty promise.

Microsoft are counting on you the kitchen table user and you the corporate purchasing agent not having enough guts and self-esteem to get out. To keep on buying their third rate products and convincing yourselves you feel good about it. But you know you'll never feel good about it. You know that already today.

Screenshots of Vista are circulating on the web. One such collection can be found at the Graphical User Interface Gallery. It may not be the most up to date of collections but it is representative of what's going on - and what's not going on - in the World of Windows.

Application windows in Windows are composed of two major elements: the non-client area and the client area. 'Client' in this context refers to the application, and 'non-client' refers to the operating system itself.

The borders of all windows - their title bars, the edges, the doodads for minimising, closing, etc - are all handled by the operating system. The individual applications have nothing to do with that.

But that's the only place one sees any change in Windows with their new already over-hyped Vista.

Microsoft have learned to make round corners - something Apple did over twenty years ago with the Lisa. They've learned to make things translucent - but evidently not understood why this is a good idea. They've polished up their menus and they've removed those horrid red buttons on that ugly blue background, but now use an even uglier lighter blue background guaranteed to aggravate. There's no thought about functionality there. They're only trying to show you 'we can do it too'.


Microsoft attention to detail ®: notice how the playing board is centred on the client area before the third dimension and shading are added, and notice the flawed edges where the playing pieces have been set out.

The applications themselves - in the 'client area' - are exactly the same. They have the same flawed, ugly toolbar glyphs. The code won't have changed for a single line. Notepad is now almost twenty three years old - and it still doesn't have a toolbar. (Every one of the nine Radsoft editors has a toolbar because that's what people want and need - see here, here, and here.)

Notepad's scroll bars aren't even part of the text view in the middle. The application was written before Microsoft figured out how to integrate them. The Notepad code is hard-wired all over the place and hasn't changed even to this day. Bill Gates simply doesn't see a need to review code at any time for any reason, so it's just not done.

There's a famous case of this dating back to the Chicago (Windows 95) betas. Microsoft finally released the source code to Reversi, their ten year old variant of Othello. Avid players had long been able to exploit a bug in the game and now they could see it for themselves.

The Reversi programmer, working in typical Microsoft fashion, piling more and more code into the same source file with no thought for organisation, logic, or order, made an enormous blooper in the game strategy table. Evidently trying to use copy and paste to save time, he got one square in the lower right hand corner all wrong. Alert players could suss this out and beat the game almost every time.

Ten years later in 1995 the code still had the same error. Microsoft hadn't checked the Reversi code in all those years.

Microsoft never review code. They have no standards for testing either. The only time they go over dusty code is when yet another vulnerability hits the web. Then they scramble. And the results are often not particularly good: they screw that up too.

Clearly not everyone coming to Redmond is dumb at the outset. Some people must have brains somewhere. Some higher ups in the company are recruited externally as well.

But the brunt of recruiting in Redmond is from the hordes of inexperienced not too savvy programmers with little - or preferably no prior - experience because Microsoft want it that way. Their famous head of human resources Charles Simonyi even went on the record about his enthusiasm for this approach. 'We can form them into anything we want', he blurted, meaning they could be brainwashed.

Microsoft have product managers who admit they never even look at other operating systems. The cult is so strong in Redmond that employees know what they're getting into if they even so much as breathe a word about the competitors.

Yet some people do peek - ostensibly, as so many ideas are stolen outright from other corporations and other systems. Ironically they have a chance to succeed because their superiors have seen so little and would be afraid to admit it if they did. And so the charade continues, along with the blatant theft.

But Microsoft don't steal ideas - they steal appearances. They make rough copies of them without understanding what's really going on.

They come up with the ideas themselves - to the eternal detriment of the planet.

Microsoft want to secure Windows - to a certain extent at least. Most of all they don't want to lose their hegemony in existing markets and they want to establish themselves as sole rulers of the new ones. They work well in boardrooms. And people will listen to them and deal with them not because they're good but because they're Microsoft.

People are afraid to contradict Microsoft. If Microsoft want to deal with you, it's time to fear and tremble, because they might be planning to eat you alive. But either way you have no choice but to play along: any which way you look at it, your days are numbered.

Microsoft will get the cooperation of Hollywood and thousands of other cottage industries which exist solely because Microsoft Windows is so crappy. Anti-virus vendors need Windows to stay in business. Without Windows there is no market for their goods. With anti-spyware companies it's the same.

Microsoft have more third party software for their platform than anyone else, but if you count the 'utilitarian' software and ignore the 'compensatory' stuff, you have less than anyone else. Far less.

And any program, any supposed killer app Microsoft come out with is guaranteed to be a copy of someone else's work. That's how Microsoft work. The others don't get the saturation they do. Not many people see what's out there. Microsoft make bastardised copies and then swarm the masses with them. And Mr and Mrs Clueless User are never the wiser.

They're doing it again. They're trying to dangle half-assed screen shots of a deplorably second or third rate attempt to imitate their competitors with little or no change in the actual innards of their system.

They don't have a system anyway. At most they have one line of defence. And that line is easy to penetrate - something like poking a hole in onion paper with a sharp pencil. Puncture it and you're in. With nothing more stopping you.

While the Vista geeks work on the non-client area, the rest of them scramble as yet another hole is poked in the incredibly thin single line of defence. They patch and they patch and they patch - and with tens of millions of lines of code they have no chance of ever looking into it and pre-empting future vulnerabilities.

Windows Vista code will have thousands of vulnerabilities just like its predecessors. Holes yet to be found. But consider: if Microsoft can't update their text editor in twenty three years, or take a bug out of their very first Windows game, do you really expect them to be able to review - and fix - tens of millions of lines of Windows code?

Look twice at those supposedly 'fabulous' screen shots of Vista. Use the link above to see where they got their appearances from. Look at what's happening inside the programs, and look at what's happening inside the 'operating system'.

Most likely you'll find nothing.

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