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The 1st (and possibly only) annual Rixstep Productivity and Appendix Awards presented to the most (and least) useful products in IT technology.

(As this is the first and possibly last such award, things may tend to be a bit retroactive. -Ed.)

The 2004 Rixstep Productivity Awards

1. To Linus Torwalds and the Linux kernel group for consistently giving the world a sound foundation on which the Linux distributions can be built. Linus made it to Mars; the only way Bill Gates will ever make it there is if it's in a one-way rocket low on fuel.

2. To the Apple Advanced Computing Group for their excellent Xserve and Xgrid products. These are the Rolls Royces of server hardware; one can only hope that the SMB sector finally catches on.

3. To CLIX, a Rixstep freeware product, and quite dinky at that, but it's accentuating the superiority in computing skills of the Mac user over the Windows user; simultaneously to the users of OS X for showing an interest in using the command line on a platform traditionally boastful of its absence.

The 2004 Rixstep Appendix Awards

1. To Microsoft for the backslash ('\'). Ever wanting to be different, and for no good reason either (certainly not innovation), Microsoft twisted the Unix path component separator ninety degrees and simultaneously set in motion the eternally recurring irritations the programming community has experienced ever since - not to mention the fact that the backslash is grossly difficult to access on many European keyboards. The irony is that most Microsoft functions will recognise the forward slash anyway.

2. To Microsoft for OLE2 and later ActiveX. OLE2 was such a lugubrious piece of exaggerated design that the official documentation took over 1,000 pages to print out. ISVs everywhere protested for years, but in vain. It wasn't until the Internet began its modern era of prominence that the wizards in Redmond were forced to reconsider. The result was ActiveX, one of the most net-vulnerable technologies ever.

3. To Microsoft for Outlook and Outlook Express. These email clients were at stage centre when the ILOVEYOU worm broke out, and they helped cause billions of dollars of damage world-wide. Microsoft knew of the inherent dangers but said nothing; it was more important to move product and establish the lock-in.

4. To Microsoft for Internet Explorer, the ultimate 'non-product'. Caught behind the times by the Internet and Netscape Navigator, Microsoft invested an estimated $5 billion not in making a good browser but in making one just good enough to be used (and branded) so their typical tactics could destroy the intruders and drive them out of the PC market. By the time the DOJ took Microsoft to trial Netscape was no more and IE development came to a full stop. Today IE is so far behind the times it's highly unlikely it will ever catch up - if indeed Microsoft even care.

Recipients are notified separately of their awards; the decisions of the judges are final.

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